Video Blogging Tips for Zoo Peeps from Sandra Dee

Prefaced by Jordan:

“Sandra shared the following article with me this morning. It is posted on her own blog which caters to a broad audience of people interested in developing more sophisticated media savvy and a professional “on air ” presence.

As we talked with Nolan Harvey last night, I realized that people working around high-profile animals like pandas or celebrity orca like Keiko, can really help impress an audience if they convey a polished media presence and represent their institutions as confident and articulate spokespeople or even complement  their PR colleagues. Nolan is very media savvy, but he also has years of experience doing TV and radio work. And like many other people who worked for SeaWorld Parks, he is a natural with the public. In fact, I believe that a zoo keeper or any animal care professional should be just as well poised as communications staff such that one can not discern between the two.  A course it public speaking can never hurt.

Sandra noted how seasoned a communicator Nolan was, given his involvement in a very complicated and perhaps politically charged orca rehabilitation and release program that spanned over several years and at least four countries and included different players/organizations with different interests.

I’m well aware that many zoo professionals are featured on zoo websites while holding animal ambassadors as they talk about them. Your marketing departments typically work with producers and in-house videographers, but not always.  If you want to improve your own PR skills or have ambitions to audition for shows on Animal Planet or something local, Sandra suggests ways that you can enhance your media presence.  For instance, she mentions that “you may be shooting outdoors with the animals for your zoo’s blog, and so you will not be able to change much about your lighting, but it is still possible to choose the better time of day (12 noon is usually the worst and late afternoon or early morning can be more flattering).” You also have to keep the animals routine schedule in mind…..”

For many successful entrepreneurs, video blogging is considered an essential part of their marketing strategy. By using social media to send followers back to the blog, you can develop relationships that turn into clients and that equals increased revenue.  At the very least, if you are not selling product, you can gain recognition and establish yourself as an expert in your field.  Then, you might look forward to getting booked on TV as an expert guest!  Are you ready?

There are a few simple, but essential tips to keep in mind:

Find a good location in your home.  Shoot some practice video in the location at various times of day to know when the natural light is most flattering… of course, you can also play with additional lighting as well. It could even be a house lamp, or two; and remember, to angle toward the strongest light, it helps to keep shadows from showing under the eyes.   Do what you can to look your best!

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your background! I can’t tell you how many times I have seen plants seemingly growing out of people’s heads!  Placing yourself in front of a nice indoor tree is a good idea, just be sure that it is off to the side of you.

Be aware of reflections, as well.  I am not only talking about obvious problem of windows and mirrors but wall pictures with a glass protection can also cause a distracting glare.

Keep it close up! This is the easiest way to avoid visual distraction.  A closer shot has another advantage as well: since your blog will be seen on the web, it’s pretty safe to assume that it will be viewed in a small format, so the bigger you are in frame the better you can be seen, especially on an IPhone, or other smartphone type device.

Become the wardrobe department! On a TV show, this department is very important in the establishment of a character; they work with the director and the actor very closely, because the outfits chosen can immediately qualify the character as “good” or “bad”, “rich” or “poor”… you get the idea.  In your case, you are the star of your show… the main character in your blog.  Be sure that your choice of attire fits your brand and where you intend to go in your business or career!

If clothing seems like an insignificant thing to you, or it seems superficial, trust me, it’s not; 85% of what we experience when someone is speaking is the way they look. We are next influenced by the way they sound, and finally, what they are saying.

If you are not comfortable with your wardrobe, this is a great opportunity to evaluate your closet and make some changes.  Seek a professional stylist if you need to.  I have a friend that put it this way,” Get rid of everything in your closet that doesn’t

let you feel fantastic1” It’s great advice!

If you have these basics down, and have your content prepared, you are ready to get going with your blog! The possibilities are truly endless but start by having fun!

Sandra Dee Robinson

Sandra Dee Robinson: Actress, Media Trainer & Celebrity Co-Host of Zoo Talkin' Radio

Living Institutions or Zoos?

Is it a Zoo or a Living Collection? This is what happens to you if you spend too much time in school as I did. Everything becomes an “institution” and eventually so do you. Actually, I prefer Living Institution which I believe was coined by the  top-notch folks at the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society.  The reason I like the term is because zoos are deserving of the same respect that academics tend to reserve for Museums of Natural History. I’d much prefer to call a zoo a zoo, but in an effort to better market these wildlife holding facilities to a more sophisticated patron or consumer, I think it’s worth considering a slight upgrade.

I don’t know that the Popcorn Park Zoo will be as well- served by the name change. In fact, the Popcorn Park Living Institution sounds kind of scary. It doesn’t quite roll of the tongue, rather it  falls out of the skull, for lack of a less artfully sadistic expression. With that said, it’s also all-encompassing terminology. A living institution can refer to a collective group of marine parks, aquariums,  zoological parks and other captive wildlife facilities.  Some may think that my thought process alone, warrants sending me to another kind of institution, but I think that facilities can be well-served with multiple names.  Zoo Miami has just adopted two. One name is official and the other is used as a working title. The “Living Institution of Miami” might conjure up some kind of convalescent home in your mind, but once people get used to it, the name may very well catch on.

I remember when one of my parents friends asked me what I thought of the tittle  “Zoo Keeper.” I didn’t initially pick up on her condescension. I replied that technically I’m an “Animal Keeper” who happens to work at a zoo. I was very proud that I came up with the distinction so promptly and on my own. And then I realized  she was hoping I would come up with a more sophisticated name like “Scatological Disposal Technician” or my favorite, “Special Species Collection Husbandry Science Specialist.”  In school you are often taught big words and faculty often carry  big titles. Again, I see potential for multiple titles. This goes back to my post about my friend who is a self-proclaimed “aquatic biologist “even though his official title is animal keeper. He may be an aquatic biologist, but his colleagues refer to him as fish geek or fish keeper. I think that the longer and more confusing the name, the more we create intrigue. Some of you will continue to disagree vehemently, but it’s just my new opinion on the matter after I started to become fond of the name  “Living Institution.”

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus (AKA Special Species Collection Husbandry Science Specialist Emeritus)

You are Not Your Logo! Quick Tips From Sandra Dee Robinson

Find your authenticity and stand out from the crowd.

When did I become obsessed with note cards?   I know no one else that can spend 30 minutes contemplating stationery; evaluating each available design and qualifying them by the projected emotional reaction each card will evoke when opened by the recipient. I eliminate them one by one, “ too corporate”, “not professional enough”, “ too girlie”…. This process took over half an hour!

It might be understandable if I was in a stationery store the size of Bev Mo, but I was in front of a 3-foot wide stand in a bookstore. A guy at the café table right behind me ordered his latte, drank it, and finished his magazine by the time I decided between the Chinese flower and the French lettering!

So what was my deal?  I now know that every time I send a note card, it is a representation of my brand, much like a business card, but I wanted it to seem personal, no logo, or tag lines…  yet it should have the feeling that I might have designed it. I wanted “authentically me.”

I finally found my perfect cards.  I was pretty darn happy, too that I feel so clear on my brand these days that I was able to make that decision with such accuracy.

I was not always clear on my brand. In the very beginning of my business I remember when I couldn’t tell people exactly what made me different. It took some work, but I got clear in my brand, clear in my message, and increased my business and back account. Let’s take Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus, for example. He is very consistent in marketing the Zoo Peeps brand, not just the logo. Anything  Zoo Peeps connects zoo people. I may suggest some ways that he can further distinguish his brand, but some of you already consider him synonymous with Zoo Peeps. For an animal guy he sure has some intuition when it comes to marketing and brand development. Jungle Jack Hanna is a legend in his field.

I don’t even need to say a word. You guys already conjure up an image.

Are you clear in your brand?  Does your visual brand match what you have in print? In other words, when you speak about your business, on TV or in person, do you create the response that you want? Do people act on your call to action?  Do they see the value in what you know, and what you do?

If not, look to see if your authenticity is showing….

The Boring Lawyer

I met a man the other night that was nervously preparing to talk to a group of professionals about real estate law.  “What I do is boring,” he said… Well, good grief, it will be if he walks in with that attitude!

He really likes what he does, but doesn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of people or cameras. So, he feeds his fear of speaking, (which is a fear of rejection, really), by suggesting that his material is boring, and they will never like him!  He has built in his excuse for failure!

I saw a better presenter in this guy:

My suggestion was for him to bring a story; He mentioned he is very fond of his dogs, so I proposed he start his presentation with story that includes them. He feels comfortable with that topic, and he will seem more approachable when the group sees a personal side to him. instead of a stiff lawyer that they might expect to see.  I helped him find a thread in his story that took him into his first point of his presentation.    He got very excited about this idea!

Now, he won’t just be the “lawyer that had the PowerPoint presentation on disclosures”, but he will be “the owner of the Frisbee dog they can see at the park on Saturday mornings! Oh, yeah, and he really knows his stuff when it comes to disclosures… I should give him a call… I liked him!”

What’s happening here?  He is allowing his authenticity to show, and he standing out from the crowd.

Stories are one of the most memorable ways to create your visual brand, and show your authentic difference from your competition.  Having a stable of stories can be ammunition in the interview circuit, too!  If you need help getting those stories down, grab a coach and get them ready.  It will pay off in the end.  Literally!

Then you can “thank” your coach with a nice note card!

Sandra Dee Robinson

Veteran Actress, Sandra Dee Robinson, has been Selected as Co- Host for Zoo Peeps Radio

Sandra is a veteran of day time TV and has appeared on numerous shows including one of my favorites, 2.5 Men.
She is also a renowned media trainer and owner of Charisma On Camera. Her recent contribution to Zoo Peeps provided some interesting perspectives for zoo educators and animal care specialists working with the public. I selected Sandra because I wanted a wildlife enthusiast and someone outside of the profession to serve as a refreshing addition to the Zoo Peeps “franchise.”

We  crack each other up and I thought that we would make for an interesting duo and would certainly do our very best to entertain, if not inform, and inspire. We already have guests scheduled for our first few shows. We will feature zoo peeps and other wildlife aficionados for a virtual behind-the-scenes exploration  of the lives of passionate wildlife professionals. Sandra is  an ardent supporter of zoos and their wildlife conservation programs. In fact, I first learned about New Jersey’s  Popcorn Park Zoo from Sandra Dee.

Sandra Dee Robinson

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus

RP- ‘Timely Tales/Tails’

Read this account first…. I rarely re-post, but this week has been an exception, and this article (link above) puts it all into perspective…..

Random Reference Link on Zoo Keeping

I apologize immensely to my followers as I have strayed from conventional blogging by failing not to provide enough coaching as most bloggers do. My impression is that blogs are supposed to be more instructional and constructive than informative. Hence, I thought about the profession and the state of the world’s economy and I truly came to an impasse.

I remember a conversation from this century that reminded me of the state of the unions (no puns intended). Some veteran animal care personnel had casually been “talking shop” as it were, and the discourse evolved into discussion over job descriptions and corresponding compensation packages. Various contingents felt that they deserved to be paid more than others because they worked with more dangerous animals.  The one thing that was for certain that we all agreed on was that no one  agreed on anything. Keep in mind that general relief keepers/floaters, departmental relief keepers/area relief keepers, and string or unit keepers of various levels of seniority had convened for this round table discussion. I formatted the conversation below with bullets to share different perspectives in a more accessible way:

  • I must admit that the free-contact Asian (Asiatic) & African elephant trainers were most persuasive, and they often are.
  • One aquarist (A.K.A., “fish keeper“), a physically fit, robust,  and almost burly, senior marine ichthyofaunal husbandry specialist (A.K.A., fish keeper) declared that he would bid on an open elephant trainer/keeper position if he was paid handsomely (perhaps a 40% increase in pay). He also wanted to negotiate a proposal to set up an African cichlid exhibit for the display of fish spp. endemic to Lake Tanganyika. He also required that he be offered time off and reimbursement for annual fishing expeditions to coastal Burundi to visit this African Great Lake, one of the three largest freshwater lakes in the world.
  • But an ape keeper indicated that although rare, non-human primates are potential reservoirs for communicable diseases (even though it’s far more likely that they would contract something from their caregivers). The point was also made that they can be very dangerous as well.
  • But then another fish keeper (A.K.A., Captive Aquatic Fisheries Biologist & Aquaculture Specialist) declared that work with freshwater stingrays, electric eels and reef sharks, and lion fish and blue- ringed octopi, etc., etc., also required hazardous work that may warrant more compensation.  This aquarist also suggested that daily work around marine water and electrical devices made for an even more compelling argument. She indicated that as a life support technician, she was deserving of even more compensation for her vital services.  The argument was made that a mistake could devastate an entire collection of fish and inverts, but rarely would a mistake in any other department require such a great loss of life.  She also argued that vibrio or fish tuberculosis (cutaneous-localized; not systemic) was an improbable, but potential safety hazard from working with fish and shell fish. Vibrio are Gram-negative, rod shaped bacteria more commonly associated with the consumption of  contaminated seafood and fish. Fish TB (A.K.A., Fish Tank Ganuloma) is a localized cutaneous infection associated with the opportunistic free-living pathogens known as Mycobacterium spp. (e.g., Mycobacterium marinum).
  • But the carnivore keepers balked at that statement and claimed that the occupational risks of fish keeping pale in comparison to working with hard-wired large felids or ursids of any kind.  They too, had a point.  They claim that one mistake would be lethal whereas aquarists have more room for error as do elephant trainers in contact or protected contact programs. That’s one argument. And they also said that there are plenty of zoonoses to be concerned about with felids like toxoplasmosis (a parasitic protozoan). The bird keepers and herp keepers had little to say, but one herper asked if any one was interested in being bit by an inland taipan, a Philippine cobra, or a black mamba (highly venemous snakes).  Before antivenene was available no one had ever survived an evenomation by a taipan (an endemic Australian elapid snake).
  • I was thinking that having worked with all most all of the animals mentioned, except elephants at the time, that saddle- billed storks, goliath herons, ostriches, large raptors likes Steller’s sea eagles and psittacines were formidable charges. Even gulls, Canada geese, spheniscid penguins, emus and the Kosher Muscovy ducks have given me a run for my money.

Due to the radio show in ten minutes, I need to return to this post later as I have not even addressed the ways in which we can become rich at the zoo. I will finish it after the radio show and re-post and revise…..

seeking co-host

I thought that the show would be more popular than the last. As a one-time class clown the potential is there for me.  Perhaps I need to rewrite the intro. I may not have the voice for radio, but hopefully I have the face for TV (kidding)…. I did co-host a TV show at a zoo with a local weatherman once and there is a reason why I didn’t break into the entertainment industry. But I digress…..

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus