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5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Video Editing

16 September

During my first month at Breaking Even, I was introduced to video editing in iMovie. Okay, “re-introduced” is probably a better word- I’d dabbled in iMovie  back in 2002, when the state received a grant for public schools to get Macs for 7th graders. So in 7th & 8th grade, we all learned how to do some basic film editing (Ken Burns was basically my hero). There are some significant differences between the type of video editing I do for Breaking Even and the editing I did as a 12 year old, the most notable being that now, I have to edit myself.


Seeing yourself on camera can be unsettling at first. While you’re editing, you have to learn to detach from being hyper-focused on what you look/sound like. Otherwise, you’re going to be super distracted and it’ll take you a week to edit 10 minutes of material, assuming you can even bring yourself to complete the task. Being on camera and learning how to edit video footage were both out of my comfort zone six months ago, but I’ve grown accustomed to it, and have learned a thing  (or five along the way:

1. The camera is your friend. 

At least, that’s what I try to remind myself. There’s something about seeing that little red light flick “On” and suddenly, my mind goes blank. I’ve always had a “deer in the headlights” response to stressful situations. As it turns out, performance anxiety happens to the best of us, no matter how experienced we are with public speaking or performing stand-up in front of a live audience. It happens to amateurs like myself, and there are a ton of recommended ways to cope with it. For me, having a set time for filming helps the anxiety: I know when it’s going to happen, and can mentally brace myself for it. If you have anxiety about public speaking, you aren’t alone, and this article offers 10 tips for handling it.

2. The best material is unscripted.

The first time I showed up on camera for a Tech Thursday video, I had written out my 20-30 second blurb (I think it was about re-sizing photos before uploading them to a website), and basically recited it verbatim for the camera. It wasn’t terrible, but to be honest, when I was editing later, I actually got bored. It was like watching a drone. Eventually, over the course of filming, the script became unnecessary, and Nicole and I more or less learned how to get in the zone with ad-libbing. Not only did this make the actual filming process fun, it was more fun to edit (and hopefully, watch).

Scripts are fine, and in some cases, necessary. Then again, there are times when something unplanned happens, you roll with it, and hey, it’s even better than the original! (This totally happens in Hollywood. And life in general). You can also just go in with a general plan of attack, and see what happens. Which reminds me of a joke told to me by a wise 4 year old: How do ducks learn to fly? They wing it!

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 3.16.23 PM

3. We’re our own worst critics. 

After you overcome the anxiety of performance anxiety and learning what to say, you have to watch yourself saying it. Multiple times.

The first time I watched a video of myself, I thought Wait, why is my face shaped so weird? Does my voice really sound like that? Is that a lisp? I had no idea my skin tone was so uneven…My hair is stupid. And so on.

But guess what? Fixating on the way I perceived myself on film wasn’t getting the video edited. It only wasted time. More than I’d care to admit. And hey, that’s kind of saying something about life in general, right? Instead of being disappointed that one of my eyebrows is higher up than the other, my energy would have been better spent editing the quality of the video itself.

4. Show, Don’t Tell (Round 29,823,409)

Yeah, yeah, we’ve discussed this idea hundreds of times, but hear me out (again): often, if it seems like there’s part of the video where we’re just talking or explaining something, I’ll usually insert a relevant screenshot that highlights or complements what we’re discussing. If we’re talking about a specific website, boom, in goes a screenshot of that website. If we’re explaining the process of researching a hashtag, we might usescreenshots that show each step, so that viewers can see it rather than just watch us talk at them about it. Every now and then, a funny (yet not completely random) image works wonders. It breaks up the visual content of the video, and the people watching are better able to understand the tutorials we’re giving.

5. There’s always room for improvement.

After I’ve put a video out into the universe (aka YouTube), I sometimes think, “Wait, I’ve made a huge mistake. I should have done X, Y, and Z oh no what was I thinking?!” But, as Nicole has said to me several times, if we wait until something is ABSOLUTELY perfect before we share it with others, nothing would ever get done. And that’s really not great for a business. As long as you put the effort in and gave it your best shot, you can’t keep obsessing about what you might have done differently. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that jazz.

Along those lines, there’s more than one right way to edit a video. For instance, I might make the executive decision to cut out 30 seconds of footage, while Nicole might’ve chosen to keep that 30 seconds and cut out 15 seconds in one place and another 15 somewhere else. That doesn’t mean either of us are wrong, it’s just artistic differences.

The State Of The Mobile User

12 September

People like us are always telling people to think of the mobile user.

I know it seems like we are making up just how important this group of people are and it’s easy to assume that it’s only young people using their phones. This, my friends, is the state of the mobile phone user.

Mobile use is ticking up, are you thinking about how your website fits in?

Mobile use is ticking up, are you thinking about how your website fits in?

Mobile users are spending time on their phones.

The most frequent thing I hear (usually from older people while I meet with them face-to-face): “It’s only you young people who care about mobile phones.” They have clearly never watched my mom and her friends on their iPhones and iPads. Some facts:

The average user spends 3.3 hours a day on their phone.

85% of people (this is all people, all ages) say that mobile devices are a central part of their everyday life.

60% of social media time is spent on smartphones and tablets. 


Mobile users are making purchases.

This is clearly the thing businesses care the most about and as much as I don’t want to hit people in the wallets, sometimes that is the way to get people thinking about their website on a mobile phone:

The more consumers are considering a purchase, the more likely they are to use their smartphones to find product information and reviews.

67% of shoppers were more likely to buy from a mobile-compatible website.

37% of consumers are more likely to buy from mobile-optimized websites.

67% are shopping online and 43% are planning a trip on their mobile phone.


Most websites fall short for the mobile user.

So if up until now, you’ve kept your head down and pretended that mobile users don’t exist, for awhile that was fine… but now, it’s giving people not only a reason not to make a purchase but to have a bad taste in their mouth about your brand:

73% of users accessed websites on mobile devices (only 20% of companies have mobile optimized websites).

88% of online consumers won’t return to a website after a bad mobile experience.

55% of companies are currently conducting user experience testing. (85% of user experience problems can be solved by testing with 5 users.)

87% of Fortune 500 companies have an easy to find search field on the homepage of their website.

27% of consumers will leave if you don’t have a mobile-optimized website. 

Am I saying this because I am a jerk who wants to scare you? Of course not! I just want you to think about your mobile user, who wants to buy things from you and like you!

So do yourself a favor and get five people to try out the mobile version of your website and get feedback from them. According to the stat above, that’ll fix 85% of your problems and it’s a relatively simple thing to do. 


25 User Experience Facts and Stats (

73 Smartphone and Tablet Facts Every Marketer Needs (Heidi Cohen)

Social Media Engagement: The Surprising Facts About How Much Time People Spend On The Major Social Networks (Business Insider)

Tech Thursday: PHP, CSS, Custom Databases, & You

11 September

This week’s video is a bit more technical than what we’ve been doing lately, after some feedback from a friend. We’re here to chat about some coding this Thursday: PHP, CSS, and custom databases (there are many, many more, but we’re focusing on these 3 since they tend to be common, and are probably what you’ll encounter).

We’re going to briefly describe each of the three (what they do and why you may need them) using real-life analogies.

If you have any feedback for us, give us a shout or visit our website at!

American Idol Syndrome

09 September


At WordCamp last month, one of the seminars I attended was called “5 Secrets of Tech Marketing” (as it was pointed out in the introduction, this seminar wasn’t “THE 5 Secrets,” just “5 Secrets”). The final point of the presentation focused on the idea that Good Marketing is people-centric. It shouldn’t be about you and making yourself look good, nor should it be about one-upping your competitors. Good marketing is about other people- your customers.

And then the presenter brought to my attention a term I’d never heard of before: “American Idol Syndrome.” She described it as what we frequently see with contestants on American Idol- those who have overcome significant adversity in their lives tend to get the most attention on the show. With a business, this syndrome translates into “Unless you’ve got a great background story, no one will care about your brand.” This type of marketing pulls the focus away from the product/service, how you can actually be beneficial to customers, and, most importantly, it can affect your authenticity. When you’re focusing your energy on creating some sort of adversity for yourself, your actual business measures are most likely going to suffer somehow.

Another definition for American Idol Syndrome is wanting to get famous without any of the hard work to get there, i.e. becoming an overnight sensation. This is a similar idea with marketing certain products or services. You hear about people pushing their new app or phone or what-have-you, but this person comes off as incredibly showy.

Either way, American Idol Syndrome is lame as a marketing technique. Here are some ideas to focus on instead:

 Do it for the People. Like the Seth Godin quote below says, if you are creating products and trying to force them on people, you may want to reevaluate your approach. As a business, you have a whole group of people (your clients/customers) looking to you. Ideally, they trust that you’re going to give them the best advice and service that you can. If you’re trying to come up with a new product or service to offer, your first thoughts shouldn’t be “What product can I devise that will make me a zillion dollars STAT,” or “What’s going to land me on the front page of Forbes in the next two seconds.” Sure, those are lovely goals to have in mind, but in order to create quality stuff, think about what your people need. What can you create that will make their lives better?



Quality (or, Talent). With the American Idol analogy, this equals the quality of a person’s raw voice, without the instruments or amplifiers, or the showy costumes and back up dancers (are there back up dancers? I watched American Idol for one season, and I vaguely recall backup dancers). Sure, bells and whistles are fun and make a great show, but don’t be overly reliant on them. When you’re focused on the show rather than the song itself, you risk cheating your audience. They came for music- if they wanted to listen to someone playing auto-tune they would’ve downloaded the app and stayed at home. Quality (and sheer talent) isn’t something you can just phone in. If you’re doing something, and doing it well, people will notice. A little razzle dazzle is nice, but don’t blind people with glitter and showiness.

 Not all stories need to be comebacks. That may come off as a bit insensitive, but I’m talking brand stories, here. Your brand story doesn’t have to be all Forrest Gump or Rocky Balboa, as long as it’s authentic to your business. Being unique is great, and adversity builds character, but if it isn’t true to you, then it’s cool to bypass.


At the end of the slideshow, the presenter said, “Good marketing equals people. So, be a people.” This resonated with me because a) I felt like she was speaking my language, and b) it really is that simple. If you are trying to connect with someone as a corporate entity, chances are you won’t make a successful connection. When was the last time you identified with a corporation? Oh, Wal-Mart, you just get me!  File that under things no one has ever said. When you are marketing, just remember, it’s a conversation among human beings, not a “Hey watch me on national television and cast your vote” contest. 

Subscription Services: Why You, Why Now

05 September

subscriptionboxfeatureYou may have noticed an uptick in ‘subscription boxes’ the last couple years. My sister mentioned having a few beauty items to give me from her boxes (a gift subscription from her husband) while many health podcasts I listen to are constantly advertising for Naturebox, a hand-picked snack service. And you may wonder what’s going on.

Birchbox started the subscription box retail trend in 2010. Specializing in beauty, grooming and lifestyle products, subscribers pay a fee per month to receive goodies like skin rejuvenators, fragrances and makeup. Now Birchbox has 800,000 active global subscribers, translating to $96 million in annual sales.

The market has opened up wide for subscriptions, everything from clothing (Gwynniebee) to meals you can cook at home (Blue Apron).

Subscription boxes are curation.

Most subscription services have you fill out some kind of intake form when you first start. For example, with Naturebox, you can browse snacks by nutritional needs (12+ grams of protein per serving, gluten free) and/or by preference (non GMO, salty snack). You might pick some initial things you may like and the service might send you things based on your feedback over time (you liked this, you didn’t like that). In all cases, it involves interacting with the website, which tracks what you’ve had, what you’ve liked, and what you’d like in the future.

Subscription boxes surprise and delight. 

You know that feeling when someone recommends you a great book and then you read it and think ‘Yes, that WAS great’?

It’s hard to make that happen on a regular basis (unless you have friends who are constantly interesting like I have). :) But in the case of these services, you get tipped off to something new and off your radar that you love. Seth Godin talks a lot about surprise and delighting people being effective marketing and this is probably what keeps people not only subscribed to subscription services but looking for more. (That’s a link to Canadian Subscription Box Addict, though there seem to be plenty of blogs in this vein!)

Subscription boxes are something to look forward to in the mail. 

Like most adults, mail I get typically involves bills or people asking me for money. Whenever I see either 1) a box or 2) a handwritten envelope, my heart quickens with happy anticipation.

Having a subscription box service is like having your mom send you care packages again, you know, without annoying her to do it. As adults, there is something exciting about getting fun mail, and having no idea what’s in it. And since the subscriptions come at regular intervals, we know the exact date we can look forward to.

So what does this have to do with your business/non-profit? More than you think. Let’s do two very fake case studies taking what we’ve learned about the success of these services and apply them to a non-profit and for-profit situation.

Animal Shelter (No, I’m not saying you send pets in the mail!)
How about having a subscription service people can buy for a dog in your shelter, maybe $20-$30/month. Maybe some of that money would be used to buy the dog a new toy every month and the person’s monthly gift would be a card with a picture of the dog and the toy together. This does two things 1) create a regular income stream for the shelter and 2) a regular base of engaged people who support the shelter and are receiving regular updates from it. So while everyone else is begging for money in a form letter, you are doing something different and treating the dogs under your care with something special at the same time!

Convenience Store (inspired by this amazing video for local Gott’s Convenience store)
I know many of you don’t live in my area but the convenience store (ie where you get EVERYTHING) is legendary (watched the linked video above and see what you mean). But what are you to do if you’re a convenience store with far flung fans? Why not send them subscription boxes? I would pay $20/month if I knew Ouellette’s Variety (no relation to me that I know of) in Caribou would send me their pull apart bread and the best chocolate peanut butter rice krispie squares ever on a regular basis. They could even throw some fudge and a random movie in there and it would be amazing!

Is it worth the hassle? Only you know your profit margins and the price point that makes the hassle of interacting with customers about what they like and putting something in a box on a regular basis worth it to you… but you can totally take this trend and make it work for you:

  • Seed with some items you aren’t restocking but would delight your customer
  • Make available perennial favorites you regularly make money on to far flung but loyal customers
  • Beta test new products you are thinking of carrying
  • Keep track of customer preferences/likes on your website (for their benefit and yours)
  • Send regular emails with helpful (and exclusive) tips, information, and events
  • Let your customers find items they want and spread the cost (and joy of getting them) throughout the course of the year
  • If the idea of doing this for tons of people makes you want to cry, make it an exclusive program for your best customers and limit the signups.

At Breaking Even, we’ve subscribed to Naturebox (I know, the things we do for market research!) and are planning on offering something fun like this for our most enthusiastic and loyal customers… and hope this blog post has inspired you to think in a similar way of this successful and widespread retail trend.




Tech Thursday: Slow Your Roll with a Drip Campaign

04 September

At some point in your life, you’ve probably encountered a pushy salesperson who went from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds (that’s fast, right?). And as a business person, you don’t want to be “that guy.” So how do you slow your roll?

Consider the drip campaign. A drip campaign is a tool used in e-mail marketing that allows you to do a few things. Basically, once someone subscribes to one of your services (say, an e-mail newsletter), a drip campaign will send out a few e-mails over the course of time (say, a month), that gives people bite-sized, relevant information in an order that makes sense. It’s not overwhelming, and gives potential customers a chance to warm up to you before committing to a sale.

We had a lot of fun coming up with the analogies for drip campaigns! (Also, Kassie has not actually given herself a concussion from sneezing).