Don Schindler

Digital Strategy & Executive Social Media Trainer

How to handle tough questions on farming through social media with my secret weapon

evernote-logo

Evernote is my digital brain

We all get tough questions about agriculture. It’s not that people are attacking what we do (though some might), it’s just that they may not understand what we are doing and they only want to know more about it or learn our point of view on it.

So whether you are talking to a crowd or one-on-one or, even online, you want to be able to answer an inquiry.

Now I’ve gone through how to handle tough questions before – this isn’t about how to handle them. This is more about prepping ahead of time and using a great tool that can help you handle questions.

And my favorite tool is also something I refer to as my digital brain. It’s the note taking application called Evernote.

I love Evernote. It’s definitely one of my favorite apps and I use it on a daily basis.

It’s available on my phone (iPhone / Android) and it also has a web-based browser and app if you are on a Mac.

Let’s set Evernote up so it can be a go-to place to help you answer questions you might get about farming. So first let’s prepare for tough questions by actually gathering them up and answering them as best you can.

1. Write down the tough questions you’ve received and answer them.

You might not be able to recall any right away and that’s ok. I’ll give you a sample one.

I hear that dairy farmers abuse their animals. Is that true? Why do they do this? Isn’t there laws against that?

As a dairy farmer, I can tell you that I do everything I can not to hurt my animals in any way. And most dairy farmers I know take excellent care of their animals.

Besides being the ethical thing to do, dairy cows must be healthy and well cared-for in order to produce wholesome milk.

We farmers depend on healthy cows for our family’s livelihood. We provide cows with a nutritious diet, good medical care and healthy living conditions.

Our dairy cows receive periodic check-ups, vaccinations, and prompt treatment of illness.

The dairy industry has worked with veterinarians and other animal care and industry experts to establish guidelines for the proper care of dairy cows.

When I hear about abuse, I get so angry. I know that dairy farmers across the country are outraged by these rare instances of abuse on dairy farms.

These actions do not reflect the animal care practices of the thousands of hard working dairy farm families across the U.S. who care for their animals every day.

I know that dairy farms and companies are committed to animal well-being, and have put in place some important initiatives reinforcing this.

National Milk Producers Federation, with support from a coalition of dairy organizations, farmers and dairy food companies, launched the National Dairy FARM Program in 2000.

FARM is a verifiable national animal well-being program that offers U.S. dairy farmers tools for practicing excellent management of their herds. You can visit nationaldairyfarm.com for more information.

Now this is a very long answer and you definitely would want to put it in your own words. These are just talking points to help you out when you want to form your own answers.

Some other questions and answers you might want to have handy are your personal experiences on

  • Animal Care
  • Food Safety
  • Nutrition
  • Sustainability
  • Antibiotics
  • Hormones
  • Emissions and Methane
  • Myths about milk/dairy

If you are looking for more answers to tough questions, feel free to reach out to me at don.schindler (at) dairy.org and I’m happy to get you more answers.

Now one thing that I will point out is that when talking in person or online, you need to be careful of the words you use in your answers.

Using terms that help people to understand without taking offense to your answers is the best way to handle tough situations. The truth about what you do doesn’t have to come across in a harsh matter – in fact, it will cause more issues not less.

You should always take the high road and try your best to listen and respond in a polite manner. You can check out my blog post on “winning an argument online” for some more tips.

If you want to open people up to your point of view or position on a topic, never say “no” but use “yes and”. People love hearing “yes” and the “and” allows you to deliver your point without causing them to get defensive and unwilling to hear anything.

Here’s some language that can help you when answering questions:

In my opinion…
I believe…
It is my belief…
I don’t doubt that and….
From my point of view or POV…
It seems to me that…
I agree with that and I also…

If you are trying to support what you say, use phrases like:

For example…
In fact…
For instance…
To support this…

If you believe you can use Cause and Effect, use terms like:

Because…
Since…
Due to…
For this reason…
Therefore
If…then…
Leads to…
In effect…
Brought about…
Made possible…
As might be expected…

If you have to counter, be gentle and really listen to what you are saying (in other words, say it out loud to yourself before hitting send):

I realize you…
I understand you…
Even though you…
Although you…
Some people…
It may be that you…
Your idea to or on XXXXXX deserves merit and…

But understand that if you add a “but”, this term means “no” to most people when you are countering a claim.

Sometimes it’s difficult to use these terms when things get heated. I understand that. If you need to step away from the other person, then do so. But if you keep the high road, I believe you’ll find these terms work great.

2. Go get the app for your phone or sign up through the website.

It’s pretty easy to do and you don’t need to buy anything here. We’ll be using the free service.

3. Open up the Evernote app.

Once the app is up and running, you’ll need to create an account. Just use your favorite email address and a password you can remember.

01-sign-up-evernote

 

 

4. Set up Tough Questions Notebook.

Now if this is your first time, Evernote is going to want to walk you through the tour of the application capabilities. I suggest that you take the time to go through it because this little app can do a whole lot for you – save recipes, save links, take photos, you can handwrite into it and it can read it, add tags, etc…

It’s all great stuff.

But for this workshop, we want to get to the main menu so we can start adding content. So skip the tour if you want.

Once you pass the tour, you’ll be on the main homepage. You’ll see your settings, sync button, search (probably the best search I’ve seen) on the top row.

The next row of buttons are create buttons.

You can create a text note, photo note, set a reminder, make a list or chat with other people in Evernote.

What we are focused on is creating a Text Note in a Tough Questions Notebook so let’s set that up.

Click on Notebooks.

02-select-notebook

 

Then click on + New Notebook.

03-add-notebook

 

Then add the name – Tough Questions.

04-add-notebook-name

 

5. Add a Note to the Tough Questions Notebook.

Click on the Tough Questions Notebook.

Click on the + (plus sign) on the top right to add a note to the notebook.

05-add-note

You’ll then add the Title of the Note and the text of the note just by touching the areas where the text is.

05-add-text

And it should start to look like this.

06-add-text-more

If you want to change text fonts and sizes, there’s a menu when you are typing that pops up from the bottom of the screen (right above the keyboard). You’ll be able to adjust a lot of things on the text.

When you have all the text in, you’ll want to finish up by tagging the text. This will make it easier to search but isn’t necessary. The search is pretty amazing in Evernote.

Touch the “i” circle to bring up the tags.

07-add-tags

Then add the words you think you’ll want to search this information by.

08-add-tag-more

That’s basically it. Now if you have your phone with you, you’ll always have answers to those tough questions (in your own words).

One thing that I love to add is “third party” news sources for tough questions on nutrition and antibiotics. I add URLs to these notes by just copying the URL and pasting it at the bottom of the question.

I would also recommend that you don’t just copy and paste the answers to people. Use your judgment on where the conversation is going and then use the information out of Evernote to help craft your response.  Remember people do fact check and double check the information you give them so always make sure it is accurate and kind.

If you have any questions, you can always reach out to me.

How do you create animated gif from your videos

Jersey cows flirting

Have you ever wondered how they create all those animated movie clips? Maybe you’d like to do one from a video you’ve taken – and maybe add some text to the image.

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to use a free app called Gif Forge to create an animated gif using a video that my dairy farmer friend, Ray Prock, sent me. (BTW, the reason I asked to use his video is I’m mesmerized by Jersey Cow Tongues. Check out Ray’s Facebook page of his farm to watch more). I could watch their snake-like flicking and twisting for hours.)

 

1. Go get the Gif Forge app. It’s FREE.

Sorry there’s no Android app for Gif Forge yet but there are many good Android animated gif programs like GifBoom or Gif Camera. I just don’t know how to use them.

Now you’ll need a video or a set of images or you can get a GIF from the internet to create your animated GIF.

2. Open the Gif Forge app.

Click the logo at the top of the screen to get to the Start Screen below. I’m going to convert a video I have into an animated GIF so I selected the middle icon (video) in the red circle. If you want to convert photos (camera) or a GIF from a web address (world) you would select the other icons.

Gif Forge Start Screen

Click on the Gif Forge logo at the top of the screen to get to the Start Screen then click the Video icon to add video.

 

3. Select Video to add your video to Gif Forge.

02-gifforge-select-video

You can also add GIFs you’ve previously made or select a Meme.

 

4. Video will be added.

You’ll probably need to trim your video to make the animated GIF. If you notice the red circles, you can drag either side to trim the video down. Normally an animated GIF is very short – just a few seconds or more. To keep the file size down for uploading and downloading to the web, I would recommend less than 5 seconds.

Trim video on Gif Forge

You can use one finger to trim the video down to what you want the GIF to be.

 

trim the video

I pulled the video to the end and trimmed the first part of the video.

 

5. Editing your animated GIF.

Now you are in the main editor where you can add text, slow down or speed up the GIF, go back to the video to trim it more, or save the GIF to your phone. You can also duplicate the GIF with the Loop icon. The GIF will automatically be running.

Editing a GIF

You can edit the GIF in many ways and save it here.

 

6. Add text to your animated GIF.

Adding text is pretty easy. Just select the handwriting tool icon and it will bring up two different ways to add text. The traditional movie clip GIF of adding “closed captioning” text (animated GIFs have no sound) or you can do Meme text with top and bottom text. I chose Meme style.

You then click on the text area provided and change out the words.

Adding text

Adding text to an animated GIF in Gif Forge.

You can change the size and the fonts (limited fonts) and then you’ll hit Done.

Completed text

When you are finished with the text, click the Check icon at the top.

 

7. On this screen, you’ll see the text for the GIF but this is not saved. Click Done.

Click done.

Click Done.

 

8. Back on the Edit screen, click the large Circle button to Save.

Click Save.

Click Save.

 

9. Select how to save or share your animated GIF.

You can download the animated GIF to your phone (which I recommend) or you can upload to Imgur or Tumblr or convert to video (cost).

Imgur is an image hosting and sharing community. It will allow another audience to see your animated GIFs and comment on them like YouTube.

Tumblr is a blogging community much like WordPress.com, but animated GIFs are very prominent.

You can also save your animated GIF to your own website if you want.

Click the Check icon to save.

Upload options for your GIF.

Upload options for your GIF.

That’s it. You’ve got your first animated GIF. Now you can share with your friends on your favorite social networks.

Remember if you have any questions, feel free to reach out via my social networks or you can email me at don (dot) schindler at gmail.

7 Videography Tips for Farmers

I recently taught a couple of workshops on photography and videography for beginners to some of our communicators. It’s amazing how advanced technology allows us to produce good videography by just knowing some of the basics.

Now does this mean that you will never need a professional videographer – absolutely not! Professional videographers have thousands of hours of training and can see things that you and I would never catch.

And I don’t claim to be an expert at this at all. I’m just passing along the basics that I’ve learned and that I believe will help you capture better video while you are on the farm or at the restaurant/market.

Here are seven tips that I’ve picked up on videography – I hope they help you out.

STOP – IF YOU ARE USING YOUR PHONE TO RECORD VIDEO, HOLD IT HORIZONTALLY. ALSO YOU NEED TO SHOOT ALL B-ROLL AND PHOTOS (for the video) THIS WAY!!!!

1. Lighting is everything.

light-videography-tips

You need good lighting. What makes good lighting? Indirect natural sunlight is awesome. Then after that sunlight. Gray days can be really good as well because they will make the shadows less harsh.

The problem with this video is that the sun is making her squint, but if the sun were behind her we wouldn’t see her face.  So, I guess it’s not all bad.  (And depending on what she’s talking about – like if she’s experiencing tough times or a rough situation, squinting is a good thing.)

 

2. Frame your subject to the left or right (try not to center).

frame-subject-videography-tips

There’s a Rule of Thirds in photography that basically wants you to put your subjects on the intersecting lines of the nine boxes created by a grid.

With videography, you definitely don’t want to center so you have the opportunity to put more information on the screen if necessary and it also makes the composition more interesting to the eye.

 

3. Mic them up because you need great sound.

mic-videography-tips

While cameras and phones have come a long way in the past few years with video, they still have issues with picking up sound. You are better off to getting a good microphone (wired or directional) to get some good quality sound from your subjects. Without it your video will suck.

 

4. Look at the background first and add depth if you can.

depth-videography-tips

This video has some great depth and strong diagonals to help the eye. You want to make the background as interesting as possible without being too busy (background movement will distract the viewer from the subject) so scouting your location for lighting, sound and background is all very important. Be intentional about your environment unless you can’t be.

 

5. B-Roll is awesome. Get some and then get some more.

b-roll-videography-tips

B-Roll keeps the viewer from getting bored and helps explains your subject’s words. While you can talk about kids dumping milk into a metal canister, the ability for them to see tells them a whole lot more about the entire process.

I usually try and add b-roll around every 4-6 seconds. When you capture b-roll, get at least 5-10 seconds worth a shot. You can always trim it down.

P.S. A pro once told me that he used extensive b-roll to keep people engaged especially when filming a boring or stutter-filled speaker. You can only edit a rough subject so much.

 

6. A cheap tripod is worth its weight in gold.

tripod-videography-tips

Some cheap tripods aren’t, but almost all tripods will help keep a stable, steady shot when you need it. Take the time to get one and it will save you a lot of hassle especially when you are shooting multiple subjects in the same place – a place with good lighting and excellent sound quality.

 

7. Zoom, zoom, zoom is for Miatas – not your audience.

zoom-videography-tips

I know it’s fun to play with auto zooms (bringing things in and out of the frame), but I would forgo it unless you have a serious need to act like a filmmaker.  If you want to zoom in and out, try lining up a different shot, zoom in or out to how you want the shot, and have them say the same thing. Or get another phone/camera and shoot at the same time. Then you’ll have more angles to chose from.

When it comes to good videography, being intentional is very important with your shots but don’t kill yourself over one video interview. Take lots and lots of them and sort through the ones you don’t like. That’s what is so awesome about today’s technology. Get lots of practices, definitely take a few classes if you have time and keep producing those amazing videos.

Also, if you need help with video editing, I  have a quick tutorial on editing with iMovie on an iPhone 6.

If you have a tip you want to share feel free to leave a comment or email me at don.schindler (at) gmail.com.

If you want to use my deck, you can download it from Slideshare.

 

10 Photography Tips for Farmers and Foodies

I recently taught a couple of workshops on photography and videography for beginners to some of our communicators. It’s amazing how advanced technology allows us to produce good photography by just knowing some of the basics.

Now does this mean that you will never need a professional photographer – absolutely not! Professionals have thousands of hours of training and can see things that you and I would never catch. And I don’t claim to be an expert at this at all. I’m just passing along the basics that I’ve learned and that I believe will help you capture better photos while you are on the farm or at the restaurant/market.

Here are 10 tips that I’ve picked up on photography – I hope they help you out.

1. Lighting is everything.

You need good lighting. What makes good lighting? Indirect natural sunlight is awesome. Then after that sunlight. Gray days can be really good as well because they will make the shadows less harsh.

lighting-photography-tip

Photo courtesy of Jalal Hameed Bhatti via Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

Check out the natural light vs. the in-camera flash on food. It can make the food look unnatural or look like it’s floating in space. Look how much texture gets blown out because of the light source.

nature-light-photography-tip

Photo courtesy of The Serious Eats Team

I loved the article on “Beginner’s Guide to Food Photography” from The Serious Eats Team and I recommend you check it out.

2. Look at the background first and add depth if you can.

add-depth-photography-tip

Photo courtesy of Dennis Jarvis via Flickr Creative Commons

This photo is great because it has serious depth, but he’s also using diagonals to drive your eye to the beautiful trees in the slight right of the center of the photo. Instead of being right up on the buildings, it’s great to walk away and look at them from different angles to see the uniques shapes and lines the photograph is producing.

 

3. The Rule of Thirds helps your composition.

rule-of-thirds-photography-tip

The Rule of Thirds courtesy of The Serious Eats Team

The Rule of Thirds is laying out the composition or elements of your photograph along the intersecting lines of the nine boxes created by the grid. Where did you find a grid? Well with most phones and cameras, you can turn on the grid in the camera settings.  This will help you align the subject of your photograph along these lines.

 

4. The eye loves textures and patterns – getting close can help you see them.

close-textures-photography-tip

Photo courtesy of Geraint Rowland via Flickr Creative Commons

Focusing in on your subjects can produce some amazing shots especially with animals (that people normally don’t get too close to). I love the patterns of the fur and foreground grass in juxtaposition to the background signs. You can also see the Rule of Thirds here as well with the off set subject but the dominate eye almost in the center.

 

5. With food, you have control over how to dress it up and style it.

foodie-photography-tip

Photo courtesy of The Serious Eats Team

The Serious Eats Team does an amazing job of showcasing how they dress up this plate of chili. I would recommend going over and reading the entire article. What I took from the article was how much control you have over the food. It’s worth the time to invest to get a good shot of the food.

 

6. Use diagonal lines to guide the eyes.

use-diagonals-photography-tip

Photo courtesy of Berit Watkin via Flickr Creative Commons

The diagonals of this picture are fairly obvious just like the picture above but I would also take note of the gaze of the animals as well and you can see how their gaze with the diagonals drive the eye to the center of the picture.

 

7. Use natural frames to frame your subjects.

natural-frames-photography-tip

Photo courtesy of MFer Photography via Flickr Creative Commons

Here’s a great photo that uses a natural frame as well as symmetry and patterns. You can definitely see the subjects (close to Rule of Thirds) framed by the building’s doors and then off set by the lean-to shed on the right. Great composition here.

 

8. Symmetry is pleasing to the eye.

symmetry-photography-tip

Photo courtesy of George Thomas via Flickr Creative Commons

You can see with this photo that the building is almost dead center and looks symmetrical even with the missing boards. But one thing you probably didn’t notice is the natural framing – do you see the two birds at the top. Great composition.

 

9. Rules are meant to be broken.

change-the-rules-photography-tip

Photo courtesy of The Serious Eats Team

There was a rule a while back about plating food on blue plates because it would make the food pop! That’s not true. It really depends on the food itself and the angle of how you shoot it. Here is a great example of food being placed in a natural flowing way on plates that put emphasis on the food and how the eye is moving around them. And it’s also cheese! Yay, cheese! Great composition by The Serious Eats team.

 

10. Take lots of photos – you’ll make mistakes but that’s ok.

practice-photography-tip

Photos courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

When it comes to good photography, being intentional is very important with your shots but don’t kill yourself over one photo. Take lots and lots of them and sort through the ones you don’t like. That’s what is so awesome about today’s technology. Get lots of practices, definitely take a few classes if you have time and keep producing those amazing photos.

If you have tip you want to share, feel free to leave a comment or email me at don.schindler (at) gmail.

If you want to use my deck, you can download it from Slideshare.

 

 

 

What’s new with SEO? – Search Experience Optimization Workshop 2015

SEO-search-experience-optimization

Learning the basics of SEO can help you get found on the web. Not knowing it will make sure you aren’t.

Being found on the web is getting harder and harder to do.

The big brands are finally catching up to how the search engines see them and they are now putting substantial budgets into paid and organic search and social campaigns in order to be found on the first page of Google (for their important keywords).

So how do you compete?

Well, there are a lot of ways to compete but you need to have the basics down first.

In my workshop on search engine optimization or the better term for it, search experience optimization (SEO), I break down the basics and try to shed some light on simple things you can do to make sure the search engines and the people using those search engines see you. Because if they can’t see you, then you don’t exist.

Here’s the deck I used. Now you can flip through the deck if you want but it doesn’t have the text that you’ll have here.

When it comes to SEO, the first thing you have to do is produce good content. I know that sounds silly and like my friend Erik Deckers says, “Telling people to produce good content is stupid.”

That’s so true.

You need good content but you have to understand what makes good content and how to produce it specifically for your desired audience.

I like to say that good content is all about making people laugh, cry or think about your subject matter. If you can do that, then you have exactly what they are looking for. They will read it, watch it and share it.

Sharing is very important in this day and age of social.

Buzzfeed (who is one of the reigning kings of sharing content) talks about how they produce good content. You should read it and try to incorporate what they do to produce it.

If you’ve got the content down, then SEO gets pretty simple.

I like to break it down into these 8 things that you should focus on.

1. Content Strategy is basically what should be on the website when it launches and what will you continue to add to it. This is taking your good content and making sure it is focused on your subject matter. Once you have that down, your website should be able to handle these simple questions for both the users and the search engines.

  • Who You Are
  • What You Do
  • Where You’re Located
  • Your Value Proposition
  • What Visitors Should Do Next

2. Platform Strategy is knowing what devices your content is on and how your users see them. The platforms I believe you should worry about are iOS & Android first. Mobile is how people are connecting them most. I’ll have more on that later. Then you need to verify how you look in Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.

There are two testing tools I like – www.browserstack.com (paid with free trial) and www.browserling.com (free but more features with paid).

3. Information Architecture is how things are laid out on your website (goals, navigation, search, calls to action). Essentially where the content will go. I love that more and more sites are moving to the “hamburger patty” navigation button and essentially hiding standard navigation.

Instead of driving people’s attention away from the content, the hidden navigation will help get your Call-to-Action noticed more and that’s the whole point of the website, right?

4. Keyword Research will help you understand what terms your users are using to find your type of content. Why guess when the search engines can tell you what terms you should be using and what terms you are currently indexed for.

I like using Google’s Adword Keyword Planner tool as well as Soolve to discover more familiar terms.

5. Usability and User Interface are two separate things but they really revolve around each other. I believe you can’t have good Usability without good User Interface and vice versa.

When I think about usability, I’m worried about how easy is it for a user to navigate the site? Do they understand your Call-to-Action? Are they incentivized to do it?

6. When I’m thinking about User Interface, you should be focused on the mobile website vs. the desktop for the first experience. The mobile version in responsive design will really teach you what is most important then you can focus on that when you start doing the desktop design. You should be focused on touch (thumb size) instead of mouse clicks as well as more and more screens become touch sensitive.

Color/design mean everything to the user. Check out my post on digital body language to understand more of how to be intentional with everything the user sees so they will do what you want them to do.

7. Accessibility is important because everyone should be able to view your content including those with disabilities. I’ve been told that up to 25% of your audiences can have vision problems and you can help them by making your website 508 compliant.

Check out 508checker.com and boia.org to help you get 508 compliant.

8. Last but definitely not lead is Inbound Links. These are the amount and strength of other websites hyperlinking to your website. The more you have based on your subject matter, the more the search engines will look to you as an authority in that subject matter.

You used to be able to manipulate these inbound links with blog farms and other black hat techniques but the search engines, especially Google, is constantly on the hunt to keep their search from being gamed. So it’s better to just focus on great content and asking people to link/talk about you on their websites.

You should definitely have a distribution strategy to execute upon when you put out great content. I love using email, social networks, blogging networks, etc… to encourage people to visit the content when we get it up on the website.

Now let’s touch on tools I use to find out what’s going on with the website.

First there’s Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.

I have an article on how you can get them both set up and connected together.

google-webmaster-tools

Search Queries that lead to people finding your website

Once you have that you can start looking at what you are being found for currently and then adjusting to be found for other keywords.

Google Webmaster Tools will also let you sort of control your most popular navigational links so you should have know what those are.

Also Google Webmaster tools is going to tell you a lot about how Google sees your website, from mobile experience to your 404 broken link / missing page issues.

Speaking of 404 broken links and missing pages, I use Xenu to scan websites and get a report of what’s wrong with them so I can check. It’s simple program (free) that anyone on a PC can download. Since I’m on a mac I use Wine to run the program.

Here’s a link to my article on how to fix 404 issues.

Fixing 404 Broken Links

Just go into your CMS and fix the links.

Next up with SEO tactics are your images. It’s pretty simple to fix these. All you need is a process. I would not recommend going back and fixing all your image SEO problems unless the images are on your most popular pages. You can find what your most popular pages are in your Google Analytics. Just click on Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and you’ll get a list.

Here’s my article on how to fix images to make them SEO friendly.

Cow In A Grass Field

Cow eating grass in a green field

Finally let’s talk about website Title Tags and Meta Description. You should use real keywords within your Title Tags because the domain URL is going to be very important to the search engines. They especially don’t like numbers or non-sensical titles.

Meta-Descriptions have been seriously downgraded for SEO if they were even a part of the search algorithm in the first place but they are seriously important to the Google Snippet which people read about the page they are visiting. If you don’t fill this out, Google will pull any text on the page that it thinks describes the website. You don’t want that to happen.

Here’s my post on how to do Title Tags and Meta-Descriptions.

Page Title

Page Titles are probably the most important piece of SEO you can do.

So this was my workshop on Search Experience Optimization (former Search Engine Optimization). Do you have things you would like to add to it?

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