Your browser is no longer supported! Please upgrade your web browser now.
Work Smarter posts:

How VICE’s Creative Agency Predicts the Future With Harvest Forecast

From their provocative documentaries to their incisive reporting, VICE has been a force in the media since it first exploded into popularity at the turn of the millennia. The company now represents the success of a veritable media empire, with everything from news shows to meal kits appearing in recent years.

But one part of the VICE family that you’re probably less familiar with is Virtue, the creative agency by VICE. They’ve crafted campaigns for everyone from Lululemon to Mercedes-Benz. We were given special insight to this well-oiled machine from Mischa van Lomm, Senior Project Manager at VICE Media in Germany.

 

Mischa and teammates at VICE Virtue

 

He answered our biggest question: how do they do it? How do they execute with their signature high quality every single time — even for true industry challenges, like a client that requests a range of social assets be produced in under a month, or making a client’s wishes come true and not going over budget?

They manage their projects meticulously. From planning who is working on what for each day of every week to doing full post-mortems on large projects, Virtue maps out what exactly should happen at every step of the way using Harvest and Forecast.

The level of granular, transparent planning they can do with software outpaces any manual system, and is the key to success in the fast, hectic world of advertising.

Continue reading…

Creating A Harvest Help Video

Hey! My name is Trey, and I’m a Harvest Expert—part of the support team here at Harvest. I recently finished the Create an Invoice video, which you can see in all its glory below, and I thought I’d write a little bit about how, and why, we make Harvest help videos.

Hopefully this will be useful to you, whether you want to create a help video for your product, or if you’re just curious about the process!

Because Reasons

Before we get into the process itself, it’s worth thinking about the main reasons we do these in the first place. First, video can simply be the most efficient means of communication. It’s often easier to show a procedure, than to explain it in words, especially if the feature or operation we’re trying to describe takes many steps. A screenshot can’t show you how a multi-step process actually plays out.

We want to give people enough information for them to be comfortable using Harvest. The more comfortable they feel, the less time they spend struggling with Harvest and the less likely it is they have to interrupt their workflow to write into us, or worse, just get frustrated! So it helps us deliver on our major value proposition of making their lives easier.

Also, people learn in different ways. Some want to just quickly scan the information in text form, but a lot of people find it helpful to actually see and hear what they need to do.

Means of Production

The script usually starts as a simple adaptation of the text from a relevant Help Center article, trimmed down to something more minimal. This is both to maintain consistency with the Help Center and to avoid reinventing the wheel.

Then, I start recording audio and video using TechSmith Camtasia. TechSmith have a companion app called TechSmith Fuse, which I use to record video from mobile devices. The first several takes are going to be complete garbage—their purpose is to clarify the order of actions in the video, so that there aren’t gaps and mistakes. For example, if we’re showing a report, what timeframe is best for displaying a decent amount of data? What directory are we using for attachments? What’s the sequence for navigating between fields on a form?

Next is editing, which takes up the most time. The simpler videos essentially play in real time, so instead of worrying about trying to match different takes, I record until I get a solid take. Then I can edit within that, closing gaps in the audio, and adjusting the speed of the video. I chop up that single take into separate clips so I can remove long loading time, speed up typing, and overall reduce time wherever possible. Once I’ve got the visuals down, I’ll usually record several more takes of the voiceover.

Then I add music. Wistia, the platform we use to host our videos, provides some music you can use for your videos, and so far that’s worked out well. But any music with a Creative Commons license that doesn’t overpower the vocals or distract too much from the visuals will do. Finally, I post the video via Wistia, and I add a call to action at the end linking to another video or another page in the Help Center for additional information. Finally, the video is embedded in the relevant help page.

Since video is an extension of the Harvest brand, we try to standardize our help videos so they have a unified look and feel. This standardization also makes it easier for users to comprehend the video content, since removing the need to constantly reorient oneself between videos will result in less distraction. To that end, we use the same sandbox demo account we use for our webinars, and a unified design for our title cards.

The End is Near

This process is always going to be subject to change; in the future, we plan to include more highlighting, zooms, annotation, and other effects. Right now you’ll notice I kind of just move the arrow near the thing I’m talking about in the current videos. I do it like a boss, it’s true, but we can Do Better. Eventually we’d like to have enough updated videos that we can put them all in one spot in the Help Center. At any rate, it all takes time—so if you need a help video for your product, make sure you build enough lead time for that into your project! 

If you have any questions or comments about this, drop me a line! If you have any insults, keep ’em to yourself, like your mama taught you.

Notable Announcements for Your Team in Slack

How do we communicate important announcements to our 45 person team across nine different countries here at Harvest? We use a single email to aggregate all of the team’s notable messages for the day. It’s the one email that everyone on the team reads every day. It highlights notable things like:

  • Hey team, we shipped this new feature today. It’s out to 75% of customers.
  • Reminder that our Summit is in NYC next week. Please remember to bring a gift for the gift exchange!

To create this email, we use Slack. All a member of the team needs to do is type /notable in Slack (from any channel), and it will hashtag the message as notable and post it in the #general room.

But more importantly, it will add all the notable messages for the day to a Team Notables email, so that they don’t get lost amid GIFs and emojis in Slack.

Notable Announcement Email

How to get /notable for Your Team

We find this email so useful that we’ve open sourced the code so your team can benefit too! There’s instructions on how to set it up here. It’s only a one-time setup, and you don’t have to be a developer to download it.

Our thanks to Harvester Jason Dew, who built /notable and worked on open sourcing this feature during our Harvest Hacksgiving (a three-day hackathon our team hosts internally the week of Thanksgiving).

Some Thoughts On a Collaborative Workspace

Over the weekend, a friend of mine gave me a tour of Bloomberg’s NYC office. Their 29-floor building is full of huge, open workspaces. Even the company big-wigs don’t get a private office; when they’re in town, they occupy one of the many transparent, glass-walled conference rooms scattered throughout the building. This is a similar set up to what we have at Harvest HQ, though on a much larger scale, and I think the atmosphere promotes equality and togetherness.

While there’s a lot to be said for this type of environment, the inevitable noise and distraction that comes with it can actually hinder what its supposed to foster: creativity through collaboration. Susan Cain comes to the defense of introverts and quiet workspaces in The Rise of the New Groupthink, an article from last Friday’s NY Times. Here’s the gist of it: equality and transparency are good, but collaborative spaces can decrease creativity, especially in introverts.

Continue reading…

#workbetter Roundup: Save Time Through Efficiency

As a part of our daily ongoing #workbetter series, we’ve been suggesting articles that are relevant to running a small business and being productive. This month we’ve pulled together a few recent articles that focus on efficiency, and using your time wisely:

Follow us on Twitter to get #workbetter tips daily, and feel free to share your own suggestions by using the #workbetter hashtag! We’ll continue to keep you on top of the conversations and topics that are most relevant to you in the world of small business.

#workbetter Roundup: Getting Paid and Raising Your Rates

As a part of our daily ongoing #workbetter series, we’ve been suggesting articles that are relevant to running a small business and productivity. This month we’ve pulled together a few recent articles that help your business raise its rates, and give pointers on how to get paid when the client’s check is late:

13 Serious Mistakes You Should Never Make – Business pitfalls you should avoid, like: do you have a kill-fee for the project? Do you always require a down payment BEFORE you start work on a project? You should!

Lessons in Setting Prices – The delicate art of setting your fee: how to raise prices without sending customers running.

Get Paid: What to Do When The Check is Late – Useful, actionable ways to get that check moving towards your mailbox.

Screw you. Pay Me. (video) – A dynamic video of Mike Monteiro (of Mule Design) about cutting though client excuses, with his own lawyer weighing in as well – a must see.

Follow us on Twitter to get #workbetter tips daily, and feel free to share your own suggestions by using the #workbetter hashtag! We’ll continue to keep you on top of the conversations and topics that are most relevant to you in the world of small business.

Using the Creativity that Surrounds You

Since January of this year, we’ve been steadily suggesting articles of note through our #workbetter initiative, where we spotlight interesting links relevant to running a small business and productivity.

It’s been fun to share ideas and tips from the world at large to help make you and your business more efficient and successful, and we’re delighted that so many folks are following our #workbetter series on Twitter thus far.

Here are a few recent articles that put you in control of your creative output:

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to get #workbetter tips daily, and feel free to share your own suggestions by using the #workbetter hashtag! We’ll continue to keep you on top of the conversations and topics that are most relevant to you in the world of small business.

image by A.A.