I know what you're all thinking, nothing has changed here lately. I've been working on things in the background but today marks the first of a whole bundle of waiting posts. This post includes my site's first ever competition as well as it's first ever video, created using the magic of my PDA's video camera, Quicktime Pro, Macromedia Flash Video Encoder,Macromedia Dreamweaver, One not very willing actor (James) and a 3M Snap Band....
I wanted the video to be here, but it needed some special code which won't work through the movabletype software I use here (It's a security thing, that's good!). Follow this link to see the video
I know what you're going to say, "don't give up your day job, and you won't need to worry about being available for the Oscar ceremony...". I know that too, but it's been fun making it work and I've learnt some things too.
I bet most of you jumped straight here wondering what you can win? Well, I'm giving away a 3M Snap Band as modelled by James in the video. They are reflective bands that will wrap around things, like James arm, a leg or a bike handle bar and so on. You can roll them flat and they will hold that position. As well as the video, you can find out all about them at www.3MBeSeen.co.uk. Now the weathers getting darker it makes sense for the children to have something reflective on them. As James is showing, they happen to be fun as well as safe. Better still, they only cost 3.00.
Wining will be easy. During the next week a new post will appear on this site called "Enter Now to win!". If you are the first person to comment, you win.
Remember that comments don't appear immediately, I have to moderate them all to stop all the spam from appearing. If you are having trouble posting a comment, send me an email instead. I'll use the timestamp on the email to log your time of entry (that is, my server timestamp, so don't try changing your computer clock!).
A couple of simple rules. 1) I decide who wins, my decision is final. 2) I get to change the rules whenever I feel like it. 3) I'll be posting the band to you if you live in the UK. If you don't live in the UK then there's no need to enter. 4) You can enter on behalf of someone else if you like (eg If you are in Australia but you want your prize posted to someone in the UK, that's fine). 5)
Now, if you're interested in how this all came about, read on....
There was a lot of effort that went into getting this little video on the web. Most of the time was spent figuring out how to do each step. It all began with a bit of PR (public relations). Public Relations is all about product placement. For example, instead of paying for an advert in the local paper, we could give a kitchen to a charity in the hope that the paper would write about it. We'd get publicity in the paper without paying for it. A friend of mine is a PR Guru and has helped us with PR opportunities in the past. For example, when Dave ran the London Marathon he managed to get more coverage of him running than the rest of his entire running club put together. As with most skills, there's an Art to PR that makes some people better at it than others. Our efforts to get coverage for Dave's run hadn't got very far until Clive helped.
PR is about getting your product talked about in the media, and people are beginning to notice that humble blogs can carry as much weight as some of the traditional press. They are looking at ways of harnessing the PR power of blogs to promote their products. Step forward Andrew, who emailed me on behalf of 3M who make snap bands.
The have begun a campaign called "3M Be Seen". One of the things Clive taught me about PR is that you get more coverage for a newsworthy event. You can, with some skill, create the event that gets the media attention. A few years ago I campaigned to get BT to enable our local phone exchange for broadband. There was a lot of media coverage of my efforts at the time. Once BT had said yes we organised a celebration party and that too made the news (Nicola even got her photo on the front page of the Faversham papers). 3M have begun their campaign along the same lines. I use campaign in the loosest terms here, as the campaign site is essentially an online information and ordering site for 3M products. This doesn't detract from 3M's key message of course, to paraphrase: "It's winter, it's gets dark early, so think about making yourself visible". In the 3M Be Seen campaigns favour is the abundance of safety products 3M make. Everything for Walkers, Joggers, Cyclists, Horses and more. 3M also sponsor www.brake.org.uk a road safety charity (did you know it is "Road Safety Week" this week?).
So, how can 3M get their product mentioned on more web sites? They contact people who run blogs that suit their target market (parents in this case). Send a few freebies in the post for the bloggers children and another to give away. Altogether now "Thanks 3M!". At this rate, I'll earn more from PR gifts than from my google ads! (another site that recieved snap bands is this one)
I could have just written about it, instead I spent a couple of months playing with yet another new idea. I wanted a video of these snap bands in use. Really, just an excuse to get video working on the site (all hosted here, I'm sure it's easier to put it on youtube.com but I like a challenge). For a video camera all I had to hand was the camera part of my PDA Phone which isn't exactly broadcast quality, but sufficient for a web site with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels (UK TV is 720 x 576 pixels when digitised).
It took a month or so to get James at a suitable time to video him using the snap band. We needed to walk to the village shop for something so he came with me wearing the snap band. The trouble then was making him take it off for the video which he decided he didn't like the idea of. Videoing with the camera phone also had another problem. I have no idea which way is up. Without realising I had rotated the phone though 90 degrees. When watching on the phone you just turn the phone, not so easy to do with a computer screen so I need to find a way of rotating the video back through 90 degrees to fix it. The editing software on Mum's home PC couldn't do it, in fact I had quite some trouble finding any software that could do it. Then, under my nose all along, Quicktime said it could, but only the "Pro" version, not the free one on my laptop. Dave wanted to get Quicktime Pro anyway in order to edit some videos from his phone, so he bought it and rotated it for me.
Putting it on the web site was not so tough because I have a copy of Macromedia Studio, which includes Flash Pro, which also came with a video encoder, to convert a number of formats into a flash video format. Dreamweaver then handles the code (50 lines or so) to embed the video in a web page, along with play, pause, seek and volume buttons. Only trouble I'm left with is that I've not been able to embed the video object when creating content using MovableType (the software I use for this site). I'm sure it's possible, I've just not had the time to figure it out.
Along with all this, I've been reading lots, work has been very busy with record sales as well as designing new displays and taking on new suppliers and new products. Now, it's time for me to go to ATC. Keep checking back to enter that competition.