Category Archives: media training

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

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

Media Training- Quick Tip for the Zoo & Aquarium Professional

Here’s a few simple things to keep in mind when working on -camera:

1. Energy up! Biggest problem I come across is bringing people’s energy up… energy is attractive, and captures the audience’s attention… You can have energy even if you are dealing with a wildlife situation, or a sensitive animal and have to be whispering! Energy comes from within.

2. Chin down… you want to look good, right? Keeping that chin down helps to bring out the cheekbones, and we don’t want to check your nose for debris… that’s your job, so… chin down, eyes up.

3. Let your passion lead you. Passionate about animals? Fascinated by them? Then let the audience see that. Remember fascinated people are Fascinating. -Sandra Dee
Veteran Actress, Media Training Consultant,
& Wildlife Enthusiast (“Charisma On Camera”)

“Vice President of Fish”

This title grabbed the attention of an all-time low number of  subscribers 30 minutes post-publication (lunch).  I’m re-posting with a new title and a challenge for you to name that fish in the pic below.

As you can see I’m alternating between field conservation topics and discussions more directly relevant to collections husbandry science at living institutions.

This is a short one, but I wanted to offer some fish flakes for thought. A friend of mine who works in an aquatics/aquarium department of a large zoo asked my opinion about appropriate titles for fish and aquatic invertebrate husbandry specialists. My first thought was that the person who signs his pay check is the only person whose opinion matters. My second thought was that it depends on where you work.  At a public aquarium the title of aquarist is popular, but so is biologist.  This friend preferred the term “biologist” because the title is used in some commercial aquaculture circles, and he also felt that such a distinction more aptly described his job responsibilities. He is responsible for life support systems and the maintenance of aquatic ecosystems from reef tanks to brackish water exhibits to pelagic ocean fish tanks.

Aquariology is the study of both the fauna and flora of aqauria. Hence, aquariologist may be the most appropriate title for professional fish husbandry personnel working in public aquaria whereas “fish keeper” may be reserved for the tropical fish hobbyists or private fish breeders.

Fisheries biologists study commercial and wild fisheries, but also must have a working knowledge of fish keeping as well as the design and maintenance of life support systems for commercial fish breeding.

This topic really begs the question of whether or not all husbandry positions deserve specialist titles.   I personally think that “wild animal keeper” is fitting because it has persisted for so long and emphatically coveys the role of working with wildlife.  The Bronx Zoo- based Wildlife Conservation Society and many EAZA members refer to their zoo animal husbandry specialists as such.  Animal Care Specialist or Husbandry Technician are also quite fitting.

I understand that some institutions may refrain from designating husbandry and training staff as “biologists” because those titles have historically been reserved for those personnel conducting research as primary part of their occupation description. I understand this.  The questioned that followed was whether or not an animal husbandry specialist or animal keeper in theory, is deserving of the title “biologist.”   A biologist studies some aspect of life, but does not necessarily conduct research. In academia some faculty are hired exclusively as research scientists (biologists) and do nothing, but conduct research. Hence, it is fair to distinguish a research scientist/biologist from other scientists/biologists who endeavor to do more than conduct research studies.  They may teach, they may curate collections, and they might write science articles for more popular publications among other things.  It is also fair to consider an animal keeper who caters to the environmental and physiological requirements of an animal as a biologist. Through formal education or experience one must have learned enough about organismal biology to sustain life. Fish keepers not only sustain life through managing aquatic life support systems, but they also sustain the aquatic ecosystem that mimics natural environments derived from surface water. Other ectotherm biologists (e.g. herpetologists/herp keepers) also cater to both the organism and the artificial environment. Both these specialist vocational categories require a comprehensive understanding of physiological ecology and ecosystem health on a micro-scale.

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus

DNRM (Name This Fish)