All posts by Amy Mihalakis

Why I’ll be a Hybrid Voter this Year

When it comes to voting, I naturally lean toward the Liberal party – after all, I was raised in a very conservative house and I was taught to tow the party line. I’m raising my kids with the very same conservative ethos, however I find that the older I get, I’m turning toward a more hybrid approach and more and more I find myself voting on issues rather than party lines.

For the past few years it has meant that I’ve sided with Labor and the Greens. It wasn’t until about 15 years ago when I was pregnant with my first son that I realised that many conservative political leaders don’t recognise global warming and definitely don’t see it as their responsibility to push for greener alternatives. It has also become very clear to me that it will never ever be enough for only a small group of us doing what we can to save the environment and that it needs to be a part of our government.  It needs to be a bigger push. The planet definitely won’t save itself.

It’s concerning to me that some of the senior members of the Liberal party continue to push projects like the Adani coal.  I’m sick of hearing Liberals say that Australians won’t buy an electric car and that Labor should stop trying to help make the daily efforts of owning an electric car a possibility.  It’s a very real proposition and I know how easy and inexpensive it is because I bought an electric car in 2007 when we lived in London.  If you think the technology now is new, you can see from the photo the kind of technology I was dealing with.  Electric cars were very new, there were very few charging stations and I’m telling you now – that car was the best car I owned.  I can’t wait to buy another one. The only reason why I didn’t bring it when we moved back to Sydney is that the red tape was just too much and so was the expense.

I imported that car from China and it was the first four door electric car to hit London and I did it when I was pregnant with my second son so that I could drive it in and out of London to my meetings for work.  Right from the start, there were hurdles, but the problem wasn’t the car – it was once again more about the political red tape.  I was disappointed after paying a tow truck driver a small fortune to tow the car to a RTA (DVLA in the UK) garage so that it could be inspected for road worthiness only to find that the garage was closed for renovations and no one had advised me of this –even though I had an appointment.  Having no choice but to tow the car to our house in Chiswick (another small fortune), I did this because the earliest date I could get for the inspection was now 3 months out.  Of course, I was cross and I decided to fight back with the only weapon I had.

I used the tools of my trade and called the local papers to complain about the red tape the government was putting me through just because I was trying to be green.  (Those of you who know me, know that I know a good story when I see one and I knew that it was the perfect time for a story like mine.  Earlier that year, the congestion charge was introduced and officials were trying to encourage people to be green.)

The story received a lot of press – the inside cover of the Evening Standard, The London Times, ITV and Channel 4 did packages on my predicament as well as endless radio stations calling, and who also, rang the City of London.  The story was even covered as far afield as the US with CBS flying out to package it up for a national story.  I did ring the Department of Motor Vehicles to warn them of my plans and to give them the opportunity to find space for my car soon, but it was to no avail.  After the second day, I was not so surprised to learn that they suddenly found a time for me the very next day.  Suddenly I became the electric car expert and reporters rang me regularly to get my opinion on the latest cars coming in.  The car company (Zap) received so much publicity from the incident that they gave me my car for free, so all in all the exercise worked well for everyone involved.

Still, I think it’s a shame that it had to come down to me exposing the antiquated approach politicians had with getting green cars onto roads and I’m upset that legislation here is so antiquated that I couldn’t bring my wonderful car back with us.  Even with the technology as it was back then, the company had already begun rolling out solar panels to attach to the roof for self-charging. What a concept, right??  London, sadly, gets very little sun, but I bought the car with the firm intention of bringing it to Australia with me.

It’s very refreshing for me to see Labor backing this very huge step that can make a massive difference to our environment.  Can you imagine if 30% of our cars were electric?  Or even 10%?  That’s still huge.  I think it’s a real possibility.  Right now I own a hybrid Prius and love that car, but I am counting down the days when I can go back to my incredibly convenient and efficient electric car.

Mark my words, electric car price tags will come down.  In just short time, one car company will roll out a car that costs under $30k and then it really will pay for itself.  (Wouldn’t it be something if it was manufactured here?)  It’s not difficult to own an electric car; they can be charged using a normal electric plug (I know this first hand).  An external plug can be installed very inexpensively.  If I could get the first four door electric car into London and alter it so that it would be road worthy with 2 children under 2 years of age, a husband who travelled regularly and all whilst I was working, anyone can do it.  In London, people charge their cars with a cord hanging out of their windows and cords running across the footpath.

For me, the issue this year is our beautiful planet God has given us.  It’s not just about owning an electric car, it’s a matter of saving our world.  Electric cars are one way to do this and clean energy needs to move up the list of priorities.  Coal is not the way forward.  If Australia could harness the natural things we have in abundance – solar and wind, we could go a long way toward leading the world.  That’s the issue I’m focussing on again this year and that’s why I plan to vote for Zali.  I think she’s the perfect hybrid choice for people like me.

Harry, Meghan and Matt

Since Sunday, the day before Meghan and Harry arrived in Sydney, our house has been humming. Matt is covering the royal couple for the BBC and it has all been a bit full on. Like most of the people who live in the cities they’ve visited, I had hoped I might catch a real-life glimpse of them at some point. I haven’t and probably won’t. I’m working during the days and after work, I’m running our kids around to baseball training, futsal games, helping with homework and doing those domestic things Matt and I normally share. Matt, on the other hand, has and will see the royal couple every day and by now he probably wouldn’t care if he ever sees them again.

Because the BBC’s coverage has to be 24 hours (filming during our day when Harry and Meghan are out and about and then doing live remotes during the UK day when we in Australia are having dinner and going to bed), he is part of a two crew team. He is filming with Hywel Griffith, BBC’s Australian correspondent, during the day. When their shift ends, overnight coverage is picked up by Jonny Diamond, the BBC’s Royal Correspondent and Rob Magee, the other cameraman.

To put this in context, Matt and I each work freelance and work together in our video business. Neither his or my freelance jobs are actually a big deal in our house, but whenever a friend or client hears that Matt’s involved in a high profile gig like this one, they always say I should blog about it. Actually I did start a blog on Monday night, but stopped when Matt was called to help set the live to cover Harry and Meghan’s pregnancy announcement. I stopped writing because I didn’t want to be tempted to share their news in my blog. So, I didn’t blog and Matt managed to come home once the live was set up and the second crew took over for the night. It just meant that Matt and Hywel had to leave extra early Tuesday morning to pick up the live box (whatever that is) and get cracking on their day’s work. This is how it has and will go for them until the couple leave. It definitely won’t all be a picnic and they’ll have to contend with other overworked and tired crews, each of them vying for a spot to get the best shots at every event.

It has to be said that Matt has been excited to do this work this week, not because of Harry or Meghan, but because he likes his BBC colleagues. He isn’t the least bit bothered about who they are covering. Matt has worked as a senior cameraman at the BBC for years and, like his colleagues from the BBC, they have all done this before. They’ve all met and interviewed celebrities, politicians and members of the royal family over and over again.

Our kids are used to his job and take no notice unless Matt is interviewing a famous sports figure or entertainer. They have grown up with this. It’s normal to them and I have to say that Matt and I have been together so long that it’s an interesting love / hate relationship I have with his freelance work. It is part of him and he likes this work. Honestly it isn’t as difficult to deal with when it is a few weeks of craziness a year. It’s much easier to manage when it isn’t a daily or hourly occurrence like it used to be in London. Trust me. You can only be patient so long when you can’t make any plans or when you do, everything is cancelled at the very last minute.

Still, it’s interesting work, though honestly of all the people he has interviewed, there really are only a few that I have gotten excited over. The only one I begged for an autograph was Eddie the Eagle and I asked Matt to get this for my mother. He begrudgingly did. He hates that kind of thing. I was very interested in JK Rowling when he filmed her interview with Jeremy Paxman in what she said would be her first and only interview. (She has since done quite a few more.) I never did meet her, but Matt brought me a signed book set of her first four Harry Potter books – they were all she’d written to that point and I was thrilled to receive the set. We s have kept the books. I also would have loved to have met Madonna when she controversially adopted her African son – Matt flew to NY for that one. Mostly I enjoy hearing the stories after his interviews because the person sometimes surprises by either being nicer than you expect or by being a real jerk. There’s always something and it’s always interesting. Fame affects people in different ways.

This week is different. I am not obsessed to the point of camping out to save a place, but I’d like to see what Meghan is wearing in real life and if Harry is really as handsome as he looks in magazines. I settled for asking Matt to snap a photo on his phone. After receiving a few snaps (supplied in this post), I told him not to bother. I realise now how it was silly to ask because when he is close up to them, he is filming. So a few days into their visit, the shine is starting to wear off for me, but I’m happy for everyone else who have gotten to see and meet the pair and I’m pleased that Matt has gotten to work with his friends.

In another few days when Harry and Meghan go, I’ll be faced with the dilemma of whether or not to keep the press pass. Matt will want to chuck it, so I will have to hide it. It’ll probably go the way it has in the past. I’ll keep the press pass for a short time because I’ll reason that the kids might like in future and then probably end up throwing it shortly after because something more amazing will have happened. Looking back, maybe I should have kept some of the others because some of the things were truly amazing. Is this royal visit better than any of them? Probably not, but it is fun and another cool thing that Matt has done.


Harry and Meghan badge for Matt

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Live Facebook Video Streaming Can Be Right on Target

We at Arthouse have recently been involved in live video streaming on Facebook and this one made for an interesting case study. Much as many people say they are irritated with their data privacy issues, Facebook still reaches the masses and yet allows for a very targeted campaign. Not long ago, Matt filmed a live Facebook video for Philips to promote their air fryer and it was streamed live to Weightwatchers’ followers at 6:30 at night (dinnertime). Talk about targeting the perfect audience. Philips and Weightwatchers both won on that front and so did their followers. Weightwatchers provided a service – they showed their followers a better way to cook that will make low fat meals (can’t get lower in fat than using air, can you?).

This is a terrific marketing strategy – and its a smart way to draw someone in. Not only did Weightwatchers probably make money by selling the space on their Facebook page, they created more loyalty from their followers by showing no fat way to cook. Philips got a great marketing opportunity to demonstrate its product to a ‘big’ audience.

How did it go? Well, the lamb chops apparently looked delicious, the cooking time was short (6 mins) with veggies and lamb chops cooking simultaneously in one pot which also means very little cleanup time (a huge tick for most of us). The live video proved that cooking those lamb chops was going to be a win on all fronts. We’ve all experienced nights when we just don’t have the time, energy or ideas for dinner.

There is no doubt for a product and audience like this, Philips got it right. Weightwatcher clients were the perfect audience and video was definitely the best way to go. Cooking demonstrations are visual and viewers potentially can use the majority of their senses when they watch the video. This is what keeps visitors more engaged and on sites longer than by using words or audio alone.

Was it worth it? Philips must have thought so. They spent a lot of money on this exercise – paying quite a few people in the process. There were no less than seven PR people there from both Weightwatchers and Philips, two cameramen to light and film the demo, one host and the demonstrator. I’d love to know how they did. They certainly picked the right audience.

What is White Label Video?

We have done every kind of video you can possibly imagine and many of them through various PR or marketing companies. Some of them have been done as simple outsourcing videos. We go in as Arthouse Video Productions, do our filming and hand over the video at the end of our shoot and edit. Others are done in a ‘white label’ manner. This means that we shoot and edit as if we are employees of the PR or advertising company – our company name is never mentioned.

Why, you might ask, is this an attractive venture for the PR or advertising company? It’s a simple dollar and sense decision. To have a dedicated video production division costs a fair amount of money. First you need the kit. To be honest, the kit is the least of your worries. The real issue is finding the right people to operate it. If you want to find a talented cameraman, they are expensive and this is where the attraction lies. It is very expensive to have the right person on the books – especially when you aren’t filming every day.

This is where you have to be careful about choosing the right production house. Many people who are filming in many of the production houses have not actually worked in the broadcast industry. When dealing with creating television ads or even quality videos for the internet, this is important. Some people can create videos, but not everyone is experienced. Working with experienced people actually cost less. If properly briefed, most things can be filmed and edited right the first time. Skilled cameramen have already experienced many of the pitfalls that can occur on a shoot and know the best way to solve problems before they become issues. With everything needed for proper shoots, a day’s filming can be costly. It’s not the place for a new cameraman to learn or even practice his trade.

We are very lucky in that with Matt Leiper on our team. As an ex-BBC cameraman, he has experienced everything from war zones to royalty, so nothing flaps him. He also has an amazing contact list for crews, which means we can get very talented people quickly in most countries, without expensive international travel.

The other plus about having an experienced cameraman on board is that huge crews are not needed. I am always amazed to see four and five crew operations out shooting relatively short corporate videos. We normally can manage a slick, broadcast quality film with two people – the producer and the cameraman. The upside to this is that the interviewee doesn’t have extra people watching from the sidelines, adding extra nerves to an already unnatural situation.

Also, because our guys, including Matt, still work for the networks, we only pay day rates and that is huge savings for our clients. No salaries to pay, no equipment costs and international film crews available instantly. It’s no wonder white labelling for video is so popular. It’s just a pity I can’t show any of our work in this regard because technically… it’s not ours.

Marketing and PR – the New Rules

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to have a visit from an old colleague and now friend, David Meerman Scott, author of 10 books including, ‘The New Rules of Marketing and PR’ – which have been revised and updated 5 times. I met David when I was Global Market Manager for Metals for Knight Ridder Financial. At the time, David was the Asian Regional Marketing Director, responsible for marketing of all products for his region, and based in Tokyo. I was based in New York, responsible for the base and precious metals products globally. It was inevitable that we would work together, but lucky that we actually liked each other. It was a big job for me, having recently graduated from Uni and about 15 years younger than the other global managers and Wall Street at that time still didn’t have many women in management positions. I also had travelled a bit, but not so much on my own so travelling to Asia was huge and I was a bit in awe of David. He understands marketing so well and is not a pushover. He is a very nice person, don’t’ get me wrong, but if he doesn’t agree with you, he will tactfully tell you. I always respected that about him.

I am glad that others see his value. He was recently the keynote speaker for the LinkedIn conference here in Sydney and was back speaking at another conference this time. One thing is for sure – David knows marketing and his latest book, ‘The New Rules of Marketing and PR, dives into the changes to marketing and PR with all the new bells and whistles on offer. The internet and social media have basically turned the entire industry on its head, making marketing and PR people have to adapt or become extinct. He is globally recognised as one of the most informed people with regard to the internet, social media and the best way to market your product or your company.

David gave me a copy of his book and I am reading it and I highly recommend it to any person who works in PR or marketing or anyone interested in just growing their business. I haven’t gotten far into the book, but David explains why the old rules that many of us used for our businesses or throughout our careers are not relevant anymore and that the whole game has changed and why and how we must adapt.

One thing he emphasizes is that we all need a new way to tell our story or show the world our goods. It doesn’t do any of us any good to have the best whatever it is that we sell or do if no one can find us. And people are using the internet for research or just surfing just now, so that is our common ground. It has opened up our way of communicating directly with our buyers.

This is where videos, social media and blogs come into play. And it works for all ages. RSL LifeCare uses video to show each of its villages and care homes not only to retired people looking for a place to live but also to their adult children who are looking for a place for their elderly parent or parents. The internet just makes it easier for them and us to research anything we want.

The key for all of us is to be articulate and keep our messages clean and simple. Keep an eye on our website because I will be implementing David’s suggestions. As a marketing professional, it’s good to know someone who is such an expert. He has reminded me that as important as it is for me to help my clients keep on top of their game, I also need to keep up my own marketing and PR. Thanks David.

LifeStyle Channels is on to a Winner!

Hemsley and Hemsley
Some of you who know me, know that I love marketing and not just any old marketing… I love to work on new and different ways to help companies market themselves. I was very interested to see the way one of our new clients, Foxtel’s LifeStyle Channels has used their thinking caps. A couple of weeks ago, we filmed at the Hemsley and Hemsley event they hosted at the Andrew Boy Charlton Pool at the Domain. The event was put together by Beach Umbrella and as you would expect from LifeStyle Channels and Beach Umbrella, it was meticulously organised, and a real win-win for everyone involved. The biggest winner is Foxtel, who have maximised their brand and turned it into a live event. They have understood their market and found a real way to promote their shows, whilst making money as well as keep their audience appeal.

This particular event kicked off with a ‘hello’ from the Hemsley sisters, followed by a dyanamic 45 minute yoga class led by Angela Mitchell, then breakfast using recipes from the sisters’ new cookbook, then a Q&A with the Hemsley sisters and ended with a meet-and-greet book signing for the new cookbook. Participants were given a copy of the cookbook and the sisters signed and chatted with the the group one on one before the event ended. Besides the book, goodie bags included some Rub the Budda body lotion, a funky drink bottle, a bright pink yoga matt with ‘LifeStyle Channels’ branded on it and a few other small things.

The key here is that LifeStyle Channels knew their the audience well enough to know that someone who watches the Hemsley show is probably interested in fitness and good nutrition and they planned their event for those customers. From a participant’s point of view, the event was super value and they were entertained, networked, got a real workout and learned more about cooking healthy recipes whilst on the run.

For me personally even though I was working, I enjoyed the event and I’m obviously their target market. I like healthy eating, I love yoga and I’m up-to-my-eyeballs busy, so this event ticked all my boxes. I learned a lot from the Hemsley sisters (especially the tip on the snacks to stock up on and ones to carry with you that will help to avoid buying rubbish food when there is nothing else on offer – and that happens a lot for us when we are flat out on shoots or when I am working on a particularly involved marketing project). That day if I hadn’t been working, I would have been more than delighted to buy a ticket.

LifeStyle Channels have quite a few assets they can tap into for successful events and it will be interesting to watch their progress with this new venture. I am a real fan of many of LifeStyle Channels’ shows, so I enjoy working with them. Their shows appeal to me and so do their events. One thing is sure, if they do host events and I’m not working (and circumstances allow), I will try my best to be there as their customer.

Video for Fundraising?

Stewart House and the way they use video is a fine example of clever marketing for a charity. The videos tell individual, moving stories. For the past few years, we have been taking these stories, condensing them and packaging them into manageable, watchable short films, without losing their impact. Videos cannot be too long or viewers quickly lose interest.

Most of Stewart House’s films are an honest and open account by all and real tear jerkers. The candid stories leave you gasping for these children, who are born into a state of affairs beyond their control. They are from challenging home situations, which mean they are either very poor – unable to afford much of anything or they are from difficult family circumstances. The videos has been a real success, with corporate communications directors asking to borrow the films to show their colleagues why Stewart House is chosen as their corporate charity.

A few weeks ago, we created a video for Stewart House’s annual Gala Ball – their largest fundraiser for the year. Graeme Philpotts, CEO of Stewart House, wanted to interview employees, letting them tell about the stories they remember most from over the years. We were initially sceptical, thinking the best stories come from past residents. Boy, were we wrong.

When we arrived for the interviews, the employees were naturally a bit nervous. Most of our interviewees are. We have the full, broadcast kit set up, so it is scary when people first see it. My job is to ease the nerves and draw out the best interview. The first woman, Dee, was the medical liaison person and she talked about a child who arrived from the outback in the middle of winter wearing boardies, a tee shirt and carrying a plastic bag with a dirty old toothbrush that was black. It turned out he didn’t have a toothbrush and this one was his father’s, used for cleaning the spark plugs on his motorbike.

Now I don’t know why I was surprised, for the past few years, we have done these videos and they have always been upsetting. There have been so many times, I have picked up my laptop and just left the office whilst they were in edit. The stories are just too horrible to hear. Our own children mean so much to us that it is awful to know there are some children out there doing it so hard and they just don’t deserve it.

So, I had a vague idea of what I was in for, but it just wasn’t the way I pictured it. To have the employees tell their story was just so confronting and upsetting, I had to leave the room to compose myself. We had two more employees to film– each of them just as passionate about their jobs and as intense as the other. Matt’s challenge was to edit the four 20 minute interviews down to a short film and not lose that intensity. He did that and viewers are left with the same feeling I had whenever it is shown.

On the night, Stewart House hit their mark and broke the record for funds raised at previous Gala Balls. We are pleased to be a part of this charity and glad that Graeme held his ground when we tried to talk him out of using staff members. He was spot on.

Stewart House has used marketing mediums well ahead of its time. The charity has used older, corporate style videos before we met them, going back several years. It has been a useful, archive resource for us. The old videos look dated, but Stewart House should be congratulated for having enough foresight to see value in documenting their case studies in a video medium. Videos are used differently now. They have a very targeted approach, with three different edits of the same film aimed at the different groups of people they need to reach.

Stewart House knows that it is much more compelling to hear and see their story told in first person. The fact that the charity is in existence today bears witness that they do know how to market themselves effectively. They change people’s lives and those stories are captivating enough for would be donors to part with their cash.

Why switch to video?

Having worked in PR and marketing for over 25 years, I have found myself over the last 10 years spending more time working in video for both these functions. There is no doubt a huge switch to video marketing both for customers looking for a service and for companies selling their wares.

One of our longest standing clients and one of my favourites, a retirement chain – RSL LifeCare, has thousands of views on their videos. They take viewers on a tour around their villages and care homes, showing their possible fellow neighbours and the activities they can expect to participate in or not, as whatever the case may be. Who would have guessed? And you may wonder why bother with an internet video marketing to a generation that may have never used a computer during their working lives?

It’s all very simple. A video can show in two minutes more than you can ever write in 20 pages. The videos for their sites create a feel for the villages (and there is a distinctly different feel to each of them) and show possible new residents and their families what the village looks and feels like before they trek out to visit each place. The seaside villages cater to those people who have always lived by the sea or who would like to retire there, whilst the country ones reflect their location and provide big skies for their residents. They are distinctly two different crowds.

Also, more adult children are researching the homes for their parents and they are saving time by surfing the net to do this. These videos allow them to quickly rule out places and narrow down their search to the most appropriate ones. It also makes it easy to show the retirees themselves a selection of places without taking them out in the car.

Another of our favourite clients is CSR. We have been doing videos for their Hebel division for a while now and when we started, we wondered the same thing as many people in Australia wondered (exactly 4742 at last count this morning), which is: What is Hebel? Matt Leiper, my partner in the business and husband, has a YouTube account where he posts many of our videos and there, we see thousands of views where people searching for building products have clicked. These, of course, don’t reflect everyone who has watched these videos because Hebel also have a website where they store all of our videos and they receive views there from people who are looking for more information on their products, but we are getting clicks from the thousands who probably don’t know the company.

Just for the record, the Hebel products are amazing – and I’m not just saying that because they are our clients. We have interviewed their users and seen for ourselves how awesome it really is. And for the record, we too plan to use Hebel when we add an extension onto our house and are kicking ourselves that we didn’t know about their PowerFloor product before we built a flat under our deck (see the videos on PowerFloor for yourself).

So, we know that the Hebel products themselves are generating talk and that in turn generates searches to find out more about the product. But the videos are also a very effective tool to getting the message out. By real people talking about their real experience, these testimonials are a powerful endorsement for the product. Plus it is a way to show how the product is used.

Both companies, RSL LifeCare and CSR Hebel are using videos in two different ways. They are both respected brands and that carries a lot of weight in itself. But we are delighted to see two very different companies benefiting from video by using it in two very different ways. Not only will they continue to attract more visitors to their website, but they will keep them there longer and that will reflect in more sales.