Free photo editing tools for nonprofits

PIXLR

Visual content is online gold, especially for social media. But lots of nonprofits don’t have the money to hire great photographers or buy Photoshop, so they end up using lacklustre photos or no photos at all. But there are great free photo editing tools out there that can turn your photos into masterpieces, and allow you to do very creative things with them.

I’ve been using these a lot myself, so I wanted to let you know about them!

Quick and dirty photo enhancement: PICMONKEY

This replaced Picnik for me when it moved to Google+. It doesn’t require any download and it very quickly and slickly lets you fine tune photographs and add some interesting creative effects. Really simple to use. So if you need to adjust contrast, color, or brightness, eliminate red eye, resize, add text or overlays, or touch up a photo fie–this is the place to go. Also, try out the very cool effects section! Love it.

More advanced photo editing and manipulation: PIXLR

I tried GIMP for a while, but PIXLR editor has become my favorite for about every kind of photo manipulation tool that Photoshop offers. You can make backgrounds transparent, create image layers that are then compressed into a single finished image, and do just about anything to a photo or graphics file. GIMP had these capabilities too, but it seemed much less easy to understand than PIXLR. ( I don’t have time to pore over manuals, and I’m betting you don’t either.) I highly recommend watching this Norwegian’s introduction to pixlr video–it’s about an hour and half long, but he goes through almost every tool in an illustrative and understandable way. You come away ready to go!
PIXLR also has a vintage effects section that’s interesting.

Smart phone photo styling: INSTAGRAM

I’m sure you’ve all heard of this little gem, and many of you have used it personally. Think about ways you can snap photos on the run that relate to your nonprofit’s work, then style and post them on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media. Here’s a recent Mashable post about 10 inspiring nonprofits using Instagram.

Start with these three, but here are a couple of links to top-rated photo enhancement tools you might like, too.

Fearless Flyer’s 5 of the best photo editing software–for free!

Freeware Review’s Best free digital image editor

So, get yourself a digital camera and snap on my friends!

Nonprofits: Become a personal “content” shopper for your audiences

shopping bags

flickr/Somewhat Frank

Content curation isn’t new, even though a lot is being written about it these days. Some nonprofits have been curating content on their websites and blogs for quite a while…maybe without exactly calling it that.

Content curation is filtering, selecting, and/or remixing and reorganizing online content, typically to meet the needs and interests of particular audiences.

Why is this practice valuable? Because none of us has time to comb through the web for the bits we’re most interested in. Think of this service as akin becoming a personal shopper for your audiences—someone who finds the stuff they love and pulls it conveniently together for them, saving them hours, frustration…and 500 bags!

Ever since Clay Shirky’s observation about information overload being a problem not of too much information but of filter failure, folks—including the corporate sector—have begun paying more attention to the crucial role of filtering quality content to serve their customers/supporters. Now that about anyone can publish and the web is rife with information of questionable quality/credibility, this filtering role has taken on even more value.

If you look around, content curation is everywhere—from “10 best restaurant” recommendations to magazine features on sustainable gardening tips to blogs that provide the latest tech news for geeks. Remember, this isn’t just collecting, it’s selecting. Good curation is more than aggregation. Your supporters want you to provide them only with the cream of the crop.

It also involves organization. Using the personal shopper metaphor—you have to decide whether your clients prefer to view outfits (where the shoes, tops, bottoms, etc. are put together by you), functional categories (all the shoes, all the tops, etc.), or everything grouped by color. You want to make it as easy for them as possible to understand what parts of your content they’re going to like the most.

If you want to get more intentional about curation, first become your key audience. Think from their perspective about what information they want and need related to your issue or cause. What will help them make the decisions they face in their lives? What will reward them and make life easier? What will amaze and delight them?

Here are a few examples of blog and website curation that hit the mark. They’re audience-centric, selective, and presented in a way that provides enough information about relevance and significance for viewers to decide what links to click. These examples range from simple lists to broader topical contexts.

  • Wild Apricot blog’s monthly list of free webinars well serves their audience of nonprofits interested in technology and social media. Professional development content is very relevant (especially the word FREE). They further help you filter your interests by telling you both the date/times of the events and a bit about the topic, so you can go right to the content that fits your schedule and interests.
  • The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science blog curates news and information about conservation and climate change, covering everything from migratory birds to coral reefs and rain forests. They include original content, links to interesting online features, news from around the world, and reader comments. But it all centers on conservation , their core work.
  • The National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There blog helps parents think of creative ways to get kids away from their computers and video games to spend time outdoors. They want young people to build a relationship with the natural world that will benefit both the kids and the planet…and develop potential future donors to NWF!
  • Another great curatorial site is mnartists.org, an online marketplace for Minnesota artists and a clearinghouse for almost anything art related that’s happening in the state—from competitions to concerts to community events. Because the site’s so good at curating content useful to artists, it’s built a large, active following.

My curatorial aim in tweeting is to share the best resources and advice I find in my daily online reading about nonprofits, communications, and social media. The intended audience is nonprofit communications staff, and my goal is to do some of the heavy “sifting” for them. Organizations can use Facebook the same targeted way. You already know that from all the pages you’ve “liked” that provide you with continuous content related to a favorite book, TV program, movie, celebrity, etc. Even advertising is curated on Facebook.

As repositories of important information, nonprofits and foundations can be great content curators. Not only does their knowledge about their causes allow them to spot the best online resources, but they can also curate their own original information.

For example, does your website categorize your information by type—publications, links, news releases, speeches, video? Why not gather your best resources from those categories on specific topics of interest to your audience? (Few viewers come to your site eager to learn about your publications or news releases, they’ve got a subject in mind.) Put it all in one place for them—and that includes links to your social media channels if they contain relevant information. (Don’t forget the share buttons!) Here’s an example from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—a news page on multicultural health issues for journalists who write for Latino and African American readerships.

Another way to curate content is to display it by its popularity. You can do this by tracking clicks or by actually opening up your content to “Like.” It may feel risky, but it will be a great source of intelligence (rather than guesswork) about what kinds of content matter most to your audiences. Lots of retail sites have already begun to display their most Liked wares (e.g., Urban Outfitters). In the nonprofit world, Wild Apricot blog does a great job of this—allowing viewers to vote on which content they like best and then highlighting that content each month.

Chances are you’re already doing some kind of content curation on your website, blog, and social media. I hope this post helps bring sharper focus to that practice. It’s crucial expertise to have as the amount of online information grows every day.

CC photo credit: Somewhat Frank


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First step in strategic communications planning: Communications audits

flickr/joebeone

flickr/joebeone

If I had one piece of advice to give any foundation or nonprofit communicator in this new financial paradigm of thrift, it would be to develop a strategic communications plan. It may be your biggest conservation tool. If you already have a plan, the second half of the year is a good time to revisit it for fine-tuning or mid-course corrections

Some people quake in their boots at the words “strategic plan.” The trick is doing it step by step, and not rushing to tactics. If you spend 75 % of your time getting strategy right, you’ll only need to spend 25% of your time figuring out tactics—because they grow organically out of your strategy.

For this series of posts, I’m assuming you don’t have money hire a firm or an external consultant to help you with a plan, but you still want to do as much as you can internally to improve the effectiveness of your communications. I’ll try to keep my advice realistic and doable.

This week, I’m going to talk about the first step in the process—communications audits.

If you’re planning on redecorating your house, you don’t just go out one day and buy paint and furniture willy-nilly. You first look around and see what you already have. That helps you develop a vision for what you want, and exposes what needs to be changed.

That’s what communications audits do. You need to know where you are to figure out where you want to go next and how best to get there. Audits assess your current communications practices and products, and highlight areas that need improvement. There are lots of ways of doing them, but I’m paring it down to what I think can help you the most and not overwhelm you. (But it will take an investment of your time. No way around that.)

Make a list

You’re going to be gathering and analyzing all of the communications you currently produce. So, the first thing to do is make a list of them all—from your Facebook page to your annual report, from grantee announcement letters to the voicemail message on your organization’s main telephone line, from the signatures on your emails to donor thank you cards.

Don’t think just in terms of print or written communications—include all your digital communications and social media platforms as well. Even include your signature special events and small group meetings if they’re important communications tactics with external audiences.

What you’re trying to get from this audit is a complete picture of the panorama of communications tactics you’re currently using, and a sense of the cost/effectiveness for each.

Once you have this list, add some details for each item (create a grid):

  • Time frame  (e.g., annual report—March; enewsletters—Jan, April, August, Nov.)
  • Audience/Purpose (who you’re trying to reach and what you want them to do after receiving your communication)
  • Reach (e.g. how many publications are printed and distributed/how many you have left in your storeroom; how many facebook fans you have; how many people receive your email newsletters; how many twitter followers; web visitors, etc.)
  • Cost (real cost, not what you budgeted)
  • Staff time (note whether staff time investment in this communication is intensive, moderate, or small)
  • Any known return on investment/ROI  (through your strategic planning you’re going to get better at measuring this, but put down anything you know right now—total donations through facebook page, results of reader surveys for major publications, how many website downloads, etc. What you’re trying to discover is which communications best lead to people taking the action you wanted them to take.)

Analyze this information in several different ways.

  • Look for duplicate efforts; maybe you can eliminate the tactic with less ROI.
  • Notice where you have no idea about ROI; you’re flying completely blind there. You need to build in evaluation.
  • Notice any correlations between cost, reach, staff time, and ROI–the ideal communication causes the most people to take the action you want them to take and costs the least amount of money and staff time. Are you spending the most staff time and money on communications with the largest reach to key audiences and biggest ROI?
  • Are you inundating any of your audiences? Ignoring any ? Are your communications choreographed to arrive at optimal time intervals with each audience? Are you leading audiences into a deeper relationship with your organization with every communication?
  • Are there important audience actions that aren’t covered in the “purpose” of any of your communications?
  • What’s the balance you’re striking between print, digital, and face to face communications? Are you too heavy into print? Are you slighting face-to-face? Are you spending too much time on social media?

Gather samples

Now, gather as many actual samples of all your printed pieces as possible—including your letterhead and business cards and print-outs of your digital landing pages. Lay them all out on a big table or tape them to a wall. (For clearer insights, arrange them horizontally according to when they occur during the calendar year and vertically according to audience.) Overall, what you’re looking at is your visual identity. Notice how things cohere and reinforce each other (what you’re striving for) or how different they all look (uh-oh).

Some questions to ask while reviewing these items:

  • Is your logo/wordmark/tagline and contact info on every piece? Does your logo/wordmark look identical, except for size, everywhere?
  • Are you using a limited, consistent, easily recognizable palette of colors?
  • Is there some kind of design consistency throughout, even though every piece doesn’t have to be identical? Would someone easily recognize these pieces as all being produced by the same organization?
  • Is there design consistency between our printed and digital communications?
  • What three adjectives do you think people would think of when looking at your current visual identity? (Be honest. If you don’t trust yourself, ask some friendly strangers from the next office to come in and offer opinions.) Are these the three adjectives you want people to think of when they think of your organization?
  • Does everything look professional—even if cheaply produced?
  • Is there a warmth, a “human being” sense to your communications, or are they cold and institutional?

Now study the content of your communications.

  • Are they immediately engaging for the reader? Are there high quality compelling photographs that reinforce main messages? Are headlines meaningful, informative, and attention grabbing? Do you use subheads, captions, drawn quotes, and sidebars to layer information for skimmers? Is the content really interesting to your audiences, or is it just something it was easy for you to pull together?
  • Are you conveying your one or two main strategic messages throughout our communications mix?
  • Look for conflicting messages; if you’re messages contradict each other you’re confusing audiences.
  • Are you providing easy cross-referencing  for audiences to all your channels—Are there links to your latest newsletter and social media pages on your website home page? Is your web address front and center in your printed materials? Are your publications featured on your social media pages, and vice versa?
  • What’s the quality of writing? Is your web writing just like your publication writing? (It shouldn’t be. See my free ebook about best practices in nonprofit website design.) It is it in plain, easy to understand English, or full of complex sentences and jargon? Is your writing too long?
  • Do you include other voices in your writing, or is it always you talking about what you’re doing and why it’s important?

By the end of this part of the audit, you should have a pretty good idea of 1) how your products and practices are either hitting or missing the mark and 2) which ones are the most cost/effective in light of your communications goals and your institution’s strategic plan. Make notes about all the weaknesses, opportunities, and improvements you’ve discovered, and record any ideas and insights. This will all help set the context for your strategic planning.

Next week I’ll cover three other parts of a communications audit—media coverage analysis, digital identity, and competition analysis. In subsequent weeks, I’ll get into the actual planning process.

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CC photo credit: joebeone

Free tool of the week: Fun, informative, powerful Google maps

midCaptureWe’ve all heard a lot about the capabilities of Google Maps, but that may not translate into our regular use of this great tool. I fell into that category myself before I sat down for a half-hour and just played. I decided to create a map of  East Lake Street in Minneapolis, which has benefited from recent community development projects. View the map at Midtown Renaissance: East Lake Street Comes Alive in a larger format.

To save time, I limited myself to five projects—but I could have gone on to produce a denser, more layered story of community development in this area.

Once you get on the larger map, click on:

  • the red line (Lake Street) to see a linked PDF
  • the green line (a bike path) to see an embedded youtube video
  • the yellow rectangle to see embedded photos and text, and
  • the blue square to see embedded photos, text, hyperlinks, and video.

The orange rectangle is another CDC project, where I wanted to show you that you can put a small photo directly on the map. Note also the P parking graphic; there are lots of these little graphics, like the biker on the green line, to choose from.

In short, all you have to do to create a map is go to Google Maps, quickly create an account profile, click on My Maps, and then Create New Map. Add a map title and description. You can choose the simpler street view format or the 3-D satellite view (in above photo) format to work in from the icons in the upper right hand corner. Zone in on the area you’re interested in and start using the placemarker and draw shapes tools in the upper left hand corner.

Using the placemarker tool, you can either choose one of Google’s icons or insert a url to create your own (that’s how I got the photo directly onto the map). If you use one of google’s placemarker icons, that creates a little popup window where you can title the place, add text, photos, and even embed videos. To embed photos in the popup window, click the little colored photo icon on the menu at the top of the window. To embed a video, click on “edit html” in the popup window and place the embed code from your video in the text box. Then click OK and Done (in the left hand column). That takes you out of the edit mode, so you can view your work like someone else will view it. If you’d rather learn this all from a video, here’s a good one.

You can also use the draw shapes tool (looks like a zigzag line) to create colored shapes and lines that overlay your map. I did this for the green bike route, the red street, the orange development area, and the yellow and blue buildings. A popup window automatically is created for these shapes, so you don’t have to use a placemarker.

There are a ton of uses for these maps in the nonprofit world—not just to locate your building for visitors. Think about creating neighborhood histories, identifying where specific resources or programs are located, tracking project progress on the ground, developing neighborhood asset maps, conveying complex demographic and community information, etc. (Environmental groups and others may want to also explore Google Earth Outreach for nonprofits. Here are some case studies for that tool.)

You can share these maps through emails, hyperlinks, and embedding. If you have any remaining doubts about the power of these free tools or need further inspiration, look at the Crisis in Darfur maps created by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

How has your nonprofit used Google maps creatively? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Please do!

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Giveology: Does neuromarketing research have anything to teach nonprofits?

buycaptureI just got around to reading Buyology by Martin Lindstrom (one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2008) and although it’s aimed at peddlers of consumer goods and services, it’s a fascinating (if chilling) read. Mostly because it reveals how our buying decisions are manipulated by marketing techniques that reach us unconsciously—in ways we don’t see or understand.

I’m not talking about anything as straightforward as advertising. Scientists have now done enough research on the human brain to provide marketers with much less obvious ways of triggering a purchase. Armed with results of the largest neuromarketing study ever done—which this book summarizes—they can reach us before the rational part of our brains even kicks in.

I tried to get past my discomfort about the insidious way that marketers are using this new research to build brands and sell more, winnowing out a few insights that might be useful to nonprofits. Giveology, rather than buyology.

The eyes don’t have it (all)

Visual stimulation—while still very powerful—is only one path to getting people’s attention and helping them remember you. And that path is getting less powerful due to the saturation of visual stimuli in our lives. For a long time, marketers have relied on grabbing people by the eyes, but this new research shows that grabbing them by the ears or nose or fingertips is just as effective. More and more brand marketers are abandoning their obsession with logos and engaging in what the author calls “sensory branding.” That means playing to all the senses in order to cut through the clutter of experience and create memorable brands people feel passionate about.

Nonprofits don’t sell products, but we’re still trying to create a unique and rewarding experience for our supporters. Maybe we should try harder to appeal to all the senses in our communications work, not just the eyes. For instance, we could use audio more (podcasts), combine audio with visual more frequently (double whammy, and there’s certainly no shortage of tools out there), or write more vivid sensory descriptions in our copy. Think about how this might apply to special events, direct mail, even fund-raising premiums. Try to provide more than eye-candy.

I remember you wore red

Related to this is the importance of color. Research shows that color can increase brand recognition by up to 80%. When someone makes a subconscious judgment about an environment, a person, or a product within 90 seconds—60-80% of that assessment is based on color alone.

If first impressions depend so heavily on color, it’s probably worth it for nonprofits to more thoroughly explore the colors you’re going to use in your lobby and office spaces as well as in your print and electronic communications. Marlboro (not a role model!) has transformed entire bars into subliminal advertising through the use of red and white, and shapes that echo their packaging—no logo in site. OK, OK—no foundation or nonprofit is going to do that. But if color is this influential, it’s worth thinking about how and where it’s used, especially as part of an organizational identity. Information about the emotional meanings of color is available on the Web. For instance, here’s a primer about the emotional meaning of colors in Web design.

Me wanting what you have

One part of the book is devoted to mirror neurons, a part of the brain that often makes us unconsciously want to have what others have and imitate what they experience…despite ourselves. One example given is how we all thought Croc shoes were ugly when they first came out. But after seeing them on everyone else, lots of us have changed our “minds” about that and bought a pair.

If mirror neurons rule, then maybe the nonprofit sector should do a more compelling job of portraying the  passion of their supporters. Not just staid donor profiles, but fresh first-person storytelling that makes others want to experience the same joy of giving back. Show, don’t tell. Let supporters say it in their own words and their own way. This is where Facebook and other social media could make important contributions. Maybe we need to think of ideas in the same way— more exciting wOOts for practitioners who are succeeding with innovations that nonprofits or foundations would like to bring to scale. Might as well aim those mirror neurons at human behaviors that promote the common good rather than the common goods.

Rituals r us

One research finding was unexpected—that the human brain perceives strong brands in almost the same way it perceives strong religions–with the same passionate loyalty. In a fast-moving, unpreditable world, humans cling to things that make them feel in control. Rituals fulfill that need; they’re familiar and stable. They give us a sense of belonging, and have even been shown to have a positive effect on emotional health. Lindstrom cites examples of consumer brands that have built in rituals that make them stickier than other brands (a lime wedge in the neck of a Corona bottle; the slow pour of a Guinness, etc.)

It’s interesting to think about rituals in terms of the nonprofit sector. Are there ways we can better meet the human need for familiarity, stability, and belonging through our organizational practices and communications products? One area that may hold some potential is donor cultivation and relationship building. Are there other ways to use simple rituals to good effect—staff meetings, board meetings, special events, interactions with beneficiaries of our work?

If all of this seems far-fetched, it may be. But it’s also the future of consumer marketing—based on scientific research. It doesn’t hurt to contemplate ways that neuromarketing research might be used to help strengthen the nonprofit sector.

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Nonprofit storytelling—beware of impact stories that don’t link to public policy

flickr/armadillo444

flickr/armadillo444

You can’t swing a cat these days (I never would) without hitting a storytelling workshop for nonprofits. It’s kind of the new silver bullet for conveying organizational impact.

I’m a big fan of stories, but I’m a little concerned about the approach the nonprofit sector seems to be taking.

What concerns me is the drive to tell episodic stories of individual success without tying them into a larger thematic policy context. Making an emotional connection is essential, but it’s not enough.

Very few of these impact stories reveal underlying causes, or assign responsibility for those causes to policymakers and the citizens who vote for them. This tends to reinforce the dominant American frame of individual rather than societal responsibility for the solution of social problems—a frame that the media has helped create and perpetuate.

By telling stories about their impact on individual lives, nonprofits and foundations may be shooting themselves in the foot with that silver bullet. Such storytelling can garner dollars and support (no small thing, I realize), but it doesn’t necessarily lead to social change. Nonprofits have to get more intentional about using impact stories to achieve both their short-term survival goals and their long-term social change goals.

Often, annual reports, newsletters, web sites, or videos that string together emotionally evocative stories about how a nonprofit has helped a few of its beneficiaries are fashioned for fund-raising. They pluck heartstrings, but don’t connect those people’s situations to the larger context of public decision making. In fact, they can leave readers and viewers with the impression that solutions to social problems are up to individuals and nonprofits, rather than to the public.

For instance, a nonprofit tells a moving impact story about a troubled youth who’s turned her life around. The nonprofit may get a temporary boost from that, but the story does nothing to show the larger context that led to her troubles or to explain how citizens acting together can eliminate the obstacles she faced. It’s all about her success at bettering herself and the organization’s role in those efforts. There’s no societal accountability built in.

Without tying stories of individuals to our collective responsibility for the policies and systems that have shaped their lives—we’re unintentionally reinforcing the notion that their troubles were their own doing. At the same time, we’re preventing audience members from making the connection between themselves and the people in the story. They may feel momentary sympathy and admiration for the story’s protagonist, but they are still just consumers of the story, not participants in it. We need to help citizens understand they play an influential role in any story about social issues.

The news media are notorious for gobbling up episodic stories about individuals. Media relations experts may tell you that’s the way to get headlines, but it’s not the way to change society. Most news stories strip away context to a point where the goal is provoking a superficial emotional response, certainly not empowering citizens to take action against injustice.

Here are a few broad-stroke examples of how news (and advertising) use individual responsibility frames in their storytelling.

  1. Though study after study shows that public policies and systems are a huge influence in the American obesity problem, public discussion about this issue still focuses on dieting and self-restraint as the solution. If someone’s overweight—it’s their own fault and their responsibility to change.
  2. In the environmental realm, much more attention is paid to how we should each change our individual behavior than to how we can collectively make big  policy changes that would have much deeper impact.
  3. In health care, the emphasis is on individuals making sure they get tested for disease rather than targeting the causes of those diseases through public policy change.

The last thing the nonprofit sector should be doing is feeding the media episodic stories—that’s counterproductive to its long-term goals for social change. It’s easy to jump on the impact storytelling bandwagon—especially when you’re hard pressed for funding. But think carefully about the real story you’re trying to tell. Don’t let it just be about one person’s struggle or one family’s success or one neighborhood’s make-over. Ensure citizens understand their role in righting wrongs and exactly what actions they need to take.

One way is to tell the individual’s story first—grabbing the reader’s attention—then concisely explain who’s responsible for creating these conditions, what the potential solutions are, and how the public can drive toward those solutions. Weave in a compelling statistic or two—appeal to both sides of the brain.

Please read this recent interview with Shanto Iyengar, director of the Political Communication Lab at Stanford University and the author of Is Anyone Responsible, on the difference between episodic and thematic stories and how they influence citizen understanding of public issues. Remember his remarks when you’re writing web copy, news releases, video scripts, and anything else where you feature stories.

I’m going to be covering other aspects of issue framing for nonprofits and foundations in future posts.

CC photo credit: armadillo444

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Free tool of the week: Yodio melds narration and images

yodio-capture1In the next few weeks, I’m hoping to give you the low-down on some free online media that combine slides, photos, voice-overs, graphics, and/or music. I think they have interesting potential applications for nonprofits. But first, I want to try them!

This week I tackled Yodio, which allows you to synchronize voice-over (that you phone in) with a series of photos into a narrated slide show. It’s like a podcast with images. They say it’s simple and quick—and once you learn it it is. But it took me about 3 hours to create the Yodio below—from gathering and uploading pictures to writing and recording a script. If I had to do it again, it would probably take half that time.

I wanted to give you an example of what media like this might be able to do for nonprofits. (The Yodio gallery doesn’t have any nonprofit examples.) So, I put together a fake 2-minute lobbying spot for a clean water and land referendum that was passed last fall in Minnesota. Other uses for media like this might include: key takeaways from a research report, announcing a new project, impact interviews with beneficiaries of your organization, brief testimonials from donors, a virtual tour of a new facility, a teaser for an issue campaign, even introducing your staff.

I like Yodio, but I think it’s going to get even better as they introduce new features (which I hope are still free). As with most media like this, there’s a good free level of membership and a better paid level of membership. I used the free membership.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1) Right now, you have to record the audio track for each photo separately—kind of laborious, but they have an option once you’re on the phone that lets you can record many of these tracks in one call. Just stay on the line after you’re through with your first track, and they’ll give you an option to record another one right away.

2) There are various options for transitioning from one slide to another—I just chose dissolve, but I think if this were for real, I would have tinkered with that. Some of these dissolves are great—others are clunky and draw attention to themselves.

3) Name each track that you record—this text will scroll as the slide is displayed. It’s another way to reinforce your message.

4) You’ll notice there’s a time lag between when my voice stops and the end of the track—it doesn’t make it easy to transition to another slide in mid-sentence. Yodio tells me that I could have used the phone key prompt (#1) to end  the recording right when I stopped speaking rather than waiting for the audio prompt. I think that would have solved this problem. Live and learn.

5) When you’re recording over the phone, use the very best phone you’ve got. And try to keep it at the same distance throughout the whole recording, while using the same volume whenever you speak. You’ll notice there are a few distracting modulation changes in my piece—that’s because I recorded a couple of the tracks at a different time than I did the rest. Record all at once to avoid this.

All you experienced Yodio users, any other tips for folks?

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(By the way, I mailed Ana from New Mexico the free Cass Wheeler book.)