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Tag: internet

A BETTER WAY 👉 LIVE MEDIA, VIDEO & PODCASTING IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY

Video, Podcasting and Live Streaming in the Insurance Industry

LIVE MEDIA, VIDEO & PODCASTING IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY

If you operate in an industry that is SLOW to embrace change … or … if you are looking for a way to get more exposure with your multimedia, this article will be very useful to you. It’s a blend of strategy, tactics and technical detail that is easy to understand.

In this article, I am sharing the vision and the execution strategy for implementing live streaming (video) and podcasting (audio), or in other words, a multimedia strategy into the life insurance industry. If you will, this is a “sneak peek behind the curtain” of what it takes to envision and implement a brand media strategy and how a media professional, Leland Best at BCB Live, can help ANY entrepreneur develop and execute an effective and results-driven multimedia strategy.

I could have done it myself, or so I thought. The reality is that in a digital DIY (do-it-yourself) world, we all feel like we are empowered to do anything and everything. One of the secrets to success is knowing your limitations, knowing when to cry uncle and understanding when to engage with a professional.” ~Michael Lucy

I always had the feeling Mike and I would end up working together in video.  The two of us met by chance in the live streaming arena and both immediately realized its potiential to be a game changer when developing a brand, building a following, and reaping a reward. Mike was the one to show me how simple this could be done.” ~Leland Best

STATE OF THE UNION IN THE LIFE INSURANCE INDUSTRY

The insurance industry is very competitive yet VERY conservative, which is a strange combination if you think about it. In general, companies and agents operate their marketing and sales in a very old school kind of way. “Old school” is their comfort zone; a good portion of the industry, companies, and agents RESIST change.

Many (most) agents in the industry will find and use every excuse in the book NOT TO CHANGE. When someone recommends something new or suggests change, that someone will likely be met with harsh criticism, such as:

  • “Internet marketing does not work, the chargeback rates are too high”
  • “You can’t give the consumer too much information even if they ask, you will confuse them”
  • “Don’t give your last name or company name when making calls, that will just confuse people”
  • “Don’t give quotes over the phone …”
  • …and Many More

If you think about that for a moment, criticism is normal human behavior that is evoked by the emotion of FEAR (FEAR of the unknown, and to these people technology IS an unknown). Then the fight or flight instincts kick, so they FIGHT back with criticism.

I bring this up in conversation before we get started with strategy because if you want to be a pioneer and a leader in your industry, you just may have to tackle that challenge head-on, all by yourself. It can be VERY lonely when EVERYONE is zigging and you want to zag!

THE OLD SCHOOL WAY

  • Direct Mail – Expensive, ineffective and EXTREMELY difficult to measure. That said, agents are like Pavlov’s dog when it comes to direct mail, this what they are trained to do.
  • Bait n Switch – From state-regulated benefits program to “urgent final notice”, the industry is never short on ways to suck unsuspecting consumers into a sales appointment. A complete lack of transparency.
  • Telemarketing, Telesales – This has evolved over the years and many companies now have very strict policies for telemarketing sales, ESPECIALLY COLD CALLING! (sadly one automation that isn’t good for anyone, is the increase of automated computer calling.  Using a computer to make the first contact with your potential customer? noooooo!

THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY – THE NEW SCHOOL WAY

YES, there is a better way. It starts with the internet and social media … AND … when you think about the internet and social media, what is it? IT’S CONTENT AND IT’S MEDIA! So, the better the content, the better the media, the better consumers will respond! The better ways include:

  1. Internet, Web, and SEO – Save this discussion for another article!!!
  2. Social Media – Understanding brand presence, strategy, positioning, messaging and content publishing
  3. MULTIMEDIA – Video (pre-recorded), Live Streaming (LIVE video), and Podcasting (Audio)

I feel very confident my business has #1 and #2 on lock-down. Now that #1 and #2 above are covered, what do you attack next? I believe you can kind of guess? It’s #3!

FEAR, FEAR, FEAR – We mentioned above, “fear of the unknown” but it’s also worth mentioning here that “fear of failure” also comes into play when considering getting in front of a camera or speaking into a microphone. All of us have to overcome feelings of fear, DON’T let fear prevent you from taking that first step. Rather, leverage other people’s fear of the unknown and failure, if they are not willing to do it – THAT GIVES YOU THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE FIRST TO DO IT! Be a leader, be a pioneer and take  risks. The upside is HUGE and you really have nothing to lose, but a little bit of time.

WHO ARE THE PLAYERS IN THE INDUSTRY WITH A STRONG MEDIA PRESENCE

As part of the strategy, Leland and I had to take a deep dive not only into the technology but also into the marketplace. We had to identify some of the key players and get a general understanding of who is doing what. There are LOTS of agents and brands using media, for our research we identified three brands that struck us as professionally developed and gave us general direction to steer our ship!

Our objective is to be DIFFERENT, yet we still need some comps and to understand what consumers are responding and reacting to. Below are a few examples of key players that we studied;

INSURANCE NICK – Full disclosure, is that I know Nick in person. I watched Nick grow his digital footprint from zero to hero. I am aware of his trials, tribulations, successes, and failure along the way. Nick’s success is anchored around his Facebook presence. He prepared for 3-4 years for his moment. That moment is 2019, his agency and business are going to another level and the digital strategy is the catalyst growth. What I take away from Nick is hard work (he has put in some serious SWEAT EQUITY), persistence and an absolute passion to learn new digital strategies and techniques and experiment in new areas outside of his comfort zone.

DAVID DUFORD – David is a successful life agent and producer with a powerful and popular presence on the web, including YouTube. While that brand is mostly known as a resource for agents (i.e. coaching and consulting), David also has a few other brands for his insurance lines. His YouTube channel is one of the best in the industry. What I take away from David is; #1) his ability to evolve over time, his video presence on Day 1 was not great (horrible might be a better word) yet obviously he did not give up and is now a very professional and highly trusted individual; #2) David’s speaking ability, he is one of the best speakers and has one of the best voices in the industry. If and when you hear David’s voice it makes you WANT to do business with him.

THE FOREMOST INSURANCE GUY – Okay, I cheated on this one! The Foremost Insurance Guy is more like David Duford in that his brand presence is for agents and is mostly known by agents. BUT, his brand is so powerful and professionally developed that he is someone very worth a few minutes of your time to investigate. What I take away from The Foremost Insurance Guy is building a powerful and professional brand powered by and built on a foundation of simplicity.

THE SHIP SET SAIL, WE HAVE A DIRECTION BUT NOT A COURSE – NOW WHAT?

We analyzed what others are doing, more importantly, we analyzed what others are NOT doing! From there Leland and I started to throw ideas on a whiteboard (with a good eraser) of how to leverage new technologies, YET keeps it simple.  My customer demographic (or strawman) is a middle-class American age 45 to 85 that is unlikely to be “tech-savvy”, so simplicity was ESSENTIAL for Leland to develop a working strategy. We had to keep reminding ourselves throughout the project, “SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE”.  (as the ‘old adage goes – K.I.S.S. “Keep It Simple Stupid”)

Here was the high-level media strategy we agreed upon;

  • BITE SIZE NUGGETS (SOME MEDIA PROS CALLS THIS ‘SNACKABLE MEDIA’) – Our focus is; How can we condense as much information as possible into as short a media duration as possible, have it make sense, be simple to consume and keep people’s interest? Leland mentioned that the average podcast duration of 20 minutes, or roughly the drive time to work for the average person. THAT IS TOO LONG FOR WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH, at least for our startup. So, Leland and I decided upon 5-10 minute mini-podcasts and mini-videos, our focus was on “information density“.
  • CRISP/CLEAR MESSAGING WITH CLEAR AND SIMPLE CALL-TO-ACTION:  Given the client, demographic and assuming content will be in “bite-size nuggets”, the messaging needs to be concise. The call to action needs to be clear. The audio content needs to be clear, without distractions (i.e. background music) and with a focus on speech cadence. NOTE:  Leland emphasized the cadence.
  • NO FANCY INTROS/OUTROS – Leland was very accommodating to the tactics of “keeping it simple”. The long term strategy is to develop brief intros and outros for our podcasting, videos, and live streaming. For “startup”, we followed the prevalent recipe in the industry and that is very simple and very brief introductions.
  • BRANDING – Leland recommended and insisted on common sense and omnipresent branding, i.e. lower third graphics, channel art, etc.  This gives the viewer a reference for recall. I resisted at first, but once I came to my senses and took a deep breath, Leland was spot-on for this one (thank you, Leland, for insisting).
  • TRUST, TRUST, TRUST – I should have made this the first bullet point. I put it last because you can execute the 4 bullet points above to absolute perfection but if your multimedia strategy is NOT working towards earning trust, then IT. WILL. FAIL!

WHAT ARE THE MEDIUMS AND CHANNELS WE WILL BE PUBLISHING TO?

The mediums we will be utilized to deliver our content are: Podcasting (audio), Video (pre-recorded) and Live Streaming (live social media video), executed over time, in that exact order.

Podcasting (Audio)

It’s very easy to ignore this medium, but the podcasting arena is on the rise in popularity, and is relatively easy, is less resource-intensive (time and money) than video and has some serious SEO (Search Engine Optimization) horsepower behind it. This article is NOT about SEO but this is an important consideration (nor am I naive enough to share ALL of the details to our secret sauce!!!)

Ask any expert podcaster how long an episode should be and you will probably get an answer like “20 minutes.” REMEMBER, our goal is “snackable” multimedia, so 20-minute audio sessions are a little too long.  We’re looking for bite-size, not a mouthful one could choke on.

Together we agreed upon 5-10 minute audio clips (even 10 minutes is a little long), however, some topics will require more time. A secondary benefit to a 5-10 minute podcast duration is that these audio files can then be easily repurposed (i.e. embedded into blogs, articles and shared on social media). Again, more assets shared on more web properties means MORE SEO power!

PODCAST SCHEDULE – Once per week.

Videos (Pre-recorded On-Demand Video)

Leland and I did not include many videos in our strategy. My video strategy (YouTube Channel) is already a work in progress. Our biggest concern with video was that we made sure the branding and messaging was consistent for all the multimedia channels (podcast, video, live streaming) and digital assets (web, social media, etc).

We took special note of David Duford’s introduction in his most recent videos, he says “Greetings and salutations this is David Duford at Buy Life Insurance for Burial”. This was significant for us, we both immediately took note of the speech pattern and cadence, especially the emphasis on “Greetings and Salutations.”

With those special notes above and the acknowledgment that we needed to have our own “niche introduction”, one simple and short on duration, let’s just say.. we have our work cut out for us.

ON-DEMAND VIDEO SCHEDULE – Produced as needed.

Live Streaming (LIVE social media video productions)

Let’s summarize Leland’s philosophy in one simple statement;

A picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures and a live stream is worth a thousand videos!

That means a live stream is worth ONE BILLION WORDS, 1000 x 1000 x 1o00!

When you take into consideration #1) Bite-Size Nuggets and #2) No Fancy Intros/Outros and “information density”, this provided Leland with the roadmap and strategy from which to work. It’s very akin to an artist painting a masterpiece, first, that artist has to choose a medium, then select the proper canvas and finally procure the materials before you can execute the vision.

Production is where Leland shines and adds a LOT of value to any project. Our strategy for live streaming is;

  • Smooth simple and brief introductions
  • CONTENT – Compelling storylines
  • Value-add (minimizing “fluff”)
  • A focus on audience engagement
  • Professional audio and video production

Leland recommended two types of live streaming content;

  • Evergreen (out of scope for now, but be on the lookout for future articles!)
  • Scheduled Live Streaming Broadcasts

Smooth, Simple and Brief Introductions

Per the observations of David Duford and per the requirement to “keep it simple, keep it brief”, Leland and I agree upon a brief intro screen with a brief audio introduction. Here is a working draft (not final version) for our podcast, video and live streaming audio introduction;

CONTENT – Compelling Story Lines

A successful live streaming venture requires a solid relationship between the content creator, presenter and the production engineer. In our case, the content producer and presenter is the same (me) and Leland is the production engineer.

Live Streaming is the social media version of a reality show, EXCEPT IT’S LIVE! One of the benefits of streaming is live interaction/engagement. You can and should script certain elements.

“Even though I’m rather impromptu, you can and should script portions of your live stream, specifically the beginning (introduction) and the end (call-to-action). Create an outline of the broadcast to keep you on schedule throughout. Do NOT, however, over engineer the heart of the script. Why? The inevitable dynamic and real time interaction simply cannot be scripted. Therefore, the producer and the presenter(s) need to be in sync, or the entire train is going to run off the track.” ~Leland Best

Value-add and Minimizing the “Fluff”

This is where the content creator has to shine. The content needs to be relevant, engaging and valuable to the audience. In our project, the content comes directly from the customer in the form of understanding the most common sales objections and FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions). So while each broadcast (episode) will address an individual topic, the overall series of episodes should support the strategy as a whole.

Minimizing the “fluff” simply means that throughout the live stream, try at all cost to avoid discussions that do NOT add value to the audience, example;

Focus on audience engagement

Different channels and mediums have different mechanisms for real-time audience engagement. The producer and engineer (Leland) and the presenter need to once again work in sync to acknowledge and engage with people as quickly as possible in real-time. One of the other invaluable benefits of live streaming is that, with the right tools, you can include individual responses from the live viewers for other members of the viewing audience to see during the broadcast, address their questions/needs, and make any less engaged viewers feel as though they are part of the “LIVE Experience.”

Professional Audio and Video production

Consider all the components to a successful live stream; cameras, microphones, software, mixing, transitions, and production engineer activities, it’s OVERWHELMING! Our goals, objectives, and mission are SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE, at least for the first initial live streaming broadcasts. You can incrementally add features, bells-n-whistles and a level of technical sophistication over time but when starting, focus the on MVP (Minimum Viable Production) and do NOT let perfection get in the way of progress.

“The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.” ~George Will

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” ~Vince Lombardi

Before we talk about the benefits that Leland adds to the production, please bear in mind that I, myself, have a solid understanding of the hardware, software and other components of a live stream. I could have done this myself, HOWEVER, for each minute that my attention is pulled away from the content and the presentation is a minute of lost opportunity to make sure I am delivering valuable content to my audience. Managing a production AND being the on-screen host/talent is a recipe for disaster (I know by experience!) – AND I WANT TO AVOID DISASTER!

For the audio and video production, we simply turned over ALL the hardware, software, production and engineering functions to Leland.  Production hardware, software, creative assets (lower thirds, banners, etc.), transitions and the actual production, that is LELAND, all LELAND, and more LELAND. The peace of mind not having to worry about that as an on-screen personality is priceless. You do not have to worry about pressing this button, doing that transition, mixing audio, the transition between scenes/screens or cameras – it’s just simply priceless.

SUMMARY & TAKEAWAY

In a digital world that moves at lightspeed with new technology, new strategies, and new tactics, having a well planned and professionally developed multimedia strategy is the difference between a GOOD business and a GREAT business. Here is a simple yet effective checklist for finding opportunity in your industry or niche;

  • EVALUATE your industry’s current use of  multimedia
  • IDENTIFY key players or brands that you feel have a strong presence
  • STUDY those key players, look under every rock
  • IDENTIFY areas of opportunity
  • PLAN your strategy
  • ENGAGE with and hire a multimedia and production professional
  • IMPLEMENT your strategy, plan and schedule the tactics, action, and events
  • EXECUTE AND PRODUCE the media strategy
  • REPURPOSE your content

About the Author(s)

My name is Michael Lucy and I am a licensed life and annuity producer (agent/broker) in Michigan, more importantly, is that I have a background, experience, knowledge, and APPRECIATION for anything and everything digital. I was a software developer for IBM for about 14 years and a marketing agency owner for 7 years. All roads in my life led to this moment of building an insurance brokerage, the value proposition that I bring to customers, potential customers and the public is truly top of the class. Delivering and communicating the value proposition requires STRONG content, media production, and delivery. The multimedia and live streaming seed was planted about 6 months ago and recent engagement with Leland (along with Curtis Brooks) lit the fire to take the plunge and just do it! Oh, and you can get an online quote anytime, just click -> Funeral Insurance Quote Online. You can also find some Michael’s Final Expense Quote video’s (pre-Leland) on YouTube.

 

Hey! Leland Best here. I’m the CEO of Best Conceptions LLC, (Best Conceptions Broadcasting/BCBLive!) and I’ve worn many hats over the past 35+ years. I am trained or certified in Radio-TV-CATV and Internet/Social Video Production. I’ve been working with computers and the internet since their inceptions, and during my 25-year career as a Civil Designer/Engineer, my home-based business served several Fortune 500’s. My wife Jenna and I now call the Shiawassee River our home, where I’m currently following my passion as an author (BestLiveGuide), live streamer, video producer/editor and affiliate website builder under various brands across the interwebs.
So glad to have you all aboard for this incredible journey we’re about to take together!

What is Bandwidth and How Much Do I Need for Streaming LIVE Video?

WHAT IS BANDWIDTH?

How about we begin with the textbook definition:
band·width
ˈbandˌwidTH
noun
ELECTRONICS
 

The term bandwidth, in general, refers to the volume of data per unit of time that a transmission system (www) can handle.

An internet connection with higher bandwidth can move a specific amount of information (like an audio or video file) tremendously faster than an internet connection with a lesser bandwidth.

Bandwidth is typically expressed in bits per second, like 100 Mbps or 100 Mb/s to define a data transfer rate of 100 million bits (megabits) every second.

HOW MUCH BANDWIDTH IS TOO MUCH?

To address the question above, there is such a thing, but we won’t be getting into the nitty-gritty of that, the only internet that is “too fast” is one that you don’t have access to!

You internet speed can be determined with relatively accurate proximity using any of the currently available internet speed testing sites. You’ll find more information on the each of the representative test sites for many of the popular internet service providers (ISP) out there today:

The amount of bandwidth you’re going to actually need depends on what you plan on doing with your internet connection. For the most part, more is better, only limited by the constraints of your internet service budget.

If you plan on only using social media sites like Facebook, email and the occasional video watching on YouTube, a low-end high-speed plan should suit you fine.  However, if you have a few TVs that will be streaming Netflix, and another device or two that may be live streaming audio or video, I’d get the best plan you can afford. You won’t be sorry.

Speeds are increasing almost daily.  In fact, our ISP (Charter Spectrum) just recently upped our internet service speeds from 60Mbps down/6Mbps up to 100Mbps down/12 Mbps up!  And with no increase in our monthly plan!

DATA IS TO BANDWIDTH, AS WATER IS TO A PIPE.

Plumbing provides a great analogy for bandwidth!

Just to be clear what I mean by this, think of the amount of bandwidth as the size of the pipe.  As bandwidth increases, so does the amount of data that can flow through the “pipe”.    So, let’s say you’re streaming a movie, someone else is playing an online multiplayer video game, and a couple others on your same network are downloading files or using their phones to watch online videos. Everyone will likely feel that things are running a bit sluggish, if not constantly starting and stopping. This has everything to do with bandwidth.

Let’s put this another way:  bandwidth is a fixed amount of service based on a montly fee, so, while one person may be able to stream a high-def video without any lag (latency) whatsoever, the moment you begin to make additional access requests to the network, each user will have a portion of the full capacity taken away and applied to other tasks.

For example, if a internet speed test shows a download speed of 8 Mbps, it means that given no interruptions or other bandwidth-intensive apps, the user should be able to download an eight (8) megabit (or one (1) megabyte) file in one second.

A little math would tell you that at this allowed bandwidth, I could download about 60 MB of information in one minute, or 3600 MB in an hour, which is equivalent to about a 3.5 GB file.  Most full-length DVD-quality movies run around 4GB a piece.

So while I could theoretically download a 3.5 GB video file in an hour, if someone else on my network is using additional bandwidth, it could take MUCH longer for me to download the same movie file.  If someone else were wanting to download a movie let’s say, technically, the network would now see 3.5 GB + 3.5 GB, for 7 GB of overall data that needs to be downloaded. The bandwidth capacity doesn’t change, the 8Mbps network is going to now take almost two hours to download the 7 GB file just like it would take just one hour to download half that amount.

THE DIFFERENCE IS IN THE DETAILS

One must understand that bandwidth can be expressed in any unit (bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, gigabits, etc.). Your ISP might use one term, a testing service another, and a video streaming service might use a third. You’ll need to know how these terms are all related and how to convert between them if you want full control over your bandwidth costs.

For example, 10 MBs is not the same as 10 Mbs (note the lowercase b). The first represents 10 megaBYTES while the second is much smaller at 10 megaBITS. These two values differ by a factor of 8 since there are 8 bits in a byte.

Tip: This same concept applies to any data unit you might encounter. You can use any online conversion calculator like this one if you’d rather not do the math manually.

A FEW FINAL CRUMBS ON NETWORK PERFORMANCE

Some software lets you limit the amount of bandwidth that the program is allowed to use, which is really helpful if you still want the program to function but it doesn’t necessarily need to be running at a certain speed. This intentional bandwidth limitation is often called bandwidth control; which should not to be confused with bandwidth throttling, which are the steps an ISP has the ability to take in order to regulate the flow of data during increased request times, power outages, and other situations that may affect the performance of the network.

Various download managers, online backup services, and some storage providers use code or programs that tend to us up massive amounts of bandwidth, so having options that limit their access to your available bandwidth makes perfectly good sense.

Overall Network Performance is determined by more than how much bandwidth is available to you. There are other factors involved likelatency (lag), jitter, and packet loss that could be contributing to less-than-desirable video performance.  If you’re stuck and can’t quite figure out where the “bottleneck” (place where the flow is backed up – remember the plumbing analogy), it’s always best to call in a pro.

Nowadays it’s ALWAYS best to look for UNLIMITED service plans, though in some distant rural areas that have no service, cost and availability are still a factor and you may be stuck with what you have.  If that’s the case, when is the last time you moved? 🙂

SUGGESTED ENCODER SETTINGS FOR 3RD PARTY APPLICATIONS

Not all bandwidth issues can be contributed to your ISP’s speed and reliability.  Network cable connections to the house or place of business, along with interior cable connections, internet hardware (modem, router, switches, incompatible devices, etc.), the computer your streaming from, even the software or accessories you use to create your videos may also play a part.

Here are a few suggested settings for your 3rd party streaming apps (ie. vMix, Wirecast, OBS, etc.) that may help you with laggy delivery, dropped connections, and even the overall video quality of your broadcast.  Play around until you find what works best for you!

Internet Connections under 3Mbps upload speed

Video Codec: h.264
h.264 Profile: Main
Audio Codec: AAC
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Video Bitrate: 500-1200 kbps
Audio Bitrate: 64 kbps
Resolution: 960 x 540p

Internet Connections between 3-8Mbps upload speed

Video Codec: h.264
h.264 Profile: Main
Audio Codec: AAC
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Video Bitrate: 1200-4000 kbps
Audio Bitrate: 96-128 kbps
Resolution: 1280 x 720p

Internet Connections over 8 Mbps upload speed

Video Codec: h.264
h.264 Profile: Main
Audio Codec: AAC
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Keyframe Interval: 2 seconds
Video Bitrate: 4000 kbps
Audio Bitrate: 192 kbps
Frames Per Second: 30-60
Resolution: 1920 x 1080p

Remember to monitor your CPU usage. If you find your stream is playing poorly despite the suggested settings, consider using the next settings down. As a general rule, a low video quality stream with strong frames per second will provide a much better experience than a high quality stream with low frames per second. As a result, we recommend the following:

PC/Mac: x264 CPU Preset in BIOS: Slow PC: VeryFast; Fast PC: SuperFast

To test your connection right now, click on GO!

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