Goffman’s Impression Analysis: Four Steps to a Successful Marketing Video

My communications uh-oh moment originated in the Rhode Island state tourism office and their desire for a professional tourism video. Despite signing a detailed contract with a professional marketing firm, the organization ended up with a video touting the wonder and uniqueness of Rhode Island that included a scene from another country. Unfortunately, the tourism staff did not catch the foreign scene, and were caught by surprise when a well-traveled citizen recognized the Reykjavik’s Harpa concert hall located in Reykjavik, Iceland. The mistake was posted on social media, the video went viral, and all involved were humiliated. The marketing firm shot another video for free, but the damage was already done. The head of the tourism department resigned because of the debacle. In this multi-media presentation, I introduce the uh-oh moment to a client interested in producing a video to promote their town. Then, using Goffman’s theory of Impression Analysis, I take the client step by step through the planning process of the project to hopefully prevent the same sort of mistakes from happening to them. If the Rhode Island folks had followed Goffman’s theory and analyzed their video during each step of the production process, they would have discovered the mistake before it was ever recorded and the whole uh-oh moment would not have happened. Take a look at video production, Goffman style:



Making the multi-media presentation posed a number of challenges. I tried using Prezi, but then realized that because I am such a linear thinker, it was too much of a struggle to learn the software. I resorted back to PowerPoint where I could move from A to Z in an orderly fashion. (Eventually I will go back and tackle Prezi, but those few hours with the product made me realize I would not be able to become proficient enough in two weeks to complete this project.) I recorded the PowerPoint presentation with Screencast-O-Matic. For my on-screen shots, I had my daughter record me with my Sony Alpha 6300 camera and pulled those videos as well as the Screencast-O-Matic files into iMovie. I also pulled in the Rhode Island You Tube video and copied a few seconds of bumper music from GarageBand. Somehow, with a fair amount of assistance from my daughter, I managed to piece it all together in a logical way. Am I happy with the outcome? Yes and no. I am not happy about the difference in my voice from my computer narration to the camera narration. I am not happy about the way my eyes shift when I follow my carefully printed cue cards. And I am not terribly happy with the casual porch-swing background, but the rain started just as we were ready to film and that was the best we could do without filming inside with screaming grandchildren running about. I am pleased that I was able to write the script, incorporate several different platforms, and pull it all together into an acceptable presentation.


As I mentioned before, this process confirmed that I am definitely a linear thinker. I am a mathematician/computer scientist by education, so it stands to reason that I am more comfortable with software that moves in a linear fashion rather than in random, unfettered ways (think Prezi!) By the same token, it also taught me that, no matter how good you are, you can still fail to communicate. The business of communication is tricky. Whether you insult your state by using another country’s background in the official state video, or simply send a poorly worded email that is misinterpreted, communication is hard. And as if graduate school isn’t humbling enough, this project definitely impressed upon me just how much I don’t know, and how much there is to learn – and keep learning. Just when I get used to one program, or way of communicating, another demands my attention and the learning process starts all over again. Being in front of the camera instead of behind it as I usually am when writing stories, I gained a new appreciation for the subjects that I photograph and film. They always complain about having their picture taken and now I know why! There’s something about a camera in your face that is intimidating, and makes me wish for a personal stylist . . . In all seriousness, through this project and the podcast I completed a few weeks ago, I have learned just how difficult navigating the maze of all the social media platforms can be. But I’ve also learned that if I take them a little at a time, learning only what I need to know for a particular project instead of all the intricacies of each product at one time, then they aren’t impossible. In fact, if I’m not careful, I may actually become proficient at a few of them!





That’s a Fact!

My oral presentation examines the current federal administration’s idea of “alternative facts” using Michael Foucault’s discourse archeology as mapped out in Dr. McArthur’s book “Planning for Strategic Communication.” By using the technologies of production, sign systems, power and self to parse an actual communication problem, I was better able to understand what Foucault was trying to say, as well as understand the communication issue and what could be done to prevent such an occurrence in the future.

Since my subject dealt with “alternative facts” as proposed by the government, it was also interesting to reread Foucault’s section on governmentality in our text and see how it applied to the Trump administration. Our text states that “As part of his interest in power, Foucault also fixed his attention on what he termed governmentality . . .referring to the complex institutionalization of government power over populations and the formation of specific government apparatuses and knowledges” (Ihlen, van Ruler, Fredriksson, 2009, p. 89). Since the new administration has taken over, Foucault’s theories on power/knowledge are becoming even more relevant as a number of factions, both in and outside of the president’s party, are struggling for power. In light of the recent “stretching” of the truth, it is more important then ever for citizens to work to discern whether the knowledge disseminated by the government is fact, or “alternative fact.”

To record my presentation, I originally used a digital recording device and planned to edit the file using iMovie, but when I played it back, there was an echo that I couldn’t edit out. I relocated to a smaller room for better acoustics and recorded the presentation again using Garageband on my Macbook Pro. With help, I inserted music loops at the beginning and the end of the file, fading out and in where appropriate. The music loops were a part of the Garageband software, and one of the most entertaining parts of the project was sampling the many different loops searching for the appropriate one. Once I completed the edits, I exported the file as an MP3 to post online through Soundcloud.

In the process of this project, I learned about audio production. In previous classes I used Screen-castomatic to narrate and record PowerPoint presentations to post to YouTube, but had never created just an audio presentation. Even though it sounded easier than a multimedia presentation, it was actually more difficult as I had to figure out how to make a presentation interesting to an audience that would be receiving it only through listening, without the benefit of visual aids. Those logistics were challenging, but learning to use Garageband was even more difficult. I had never used the software before and was struggling. I finally, thankfully, found myself under the tutelage of my two grown daughters. It was a humbling experience as I am a computer programmer by education and journalist by occupation, but am far behind in social media and presentation platforms. It is incredibly frustrating as I understand bits and bytes and can even read hexadecimal code, but my six year old granddaughter understands Facebook better than I. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m getting there bit by bit (see what I did there?!?), and am incredibly thankful for this opportunity to learn.

That’s a Fact!       Click here for podcast


Blue Ocean Strategy – a review


BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2015. 287 pages.        Reviewed by Melinda Johnston.

$32 list price. Available at Amazon by clicking here. 

 It takes a unique combination of business acumen and creative insight to see the similarities between the successful strategies of development and marketing of such diverse entities as Model T Fords, Cirque de Soleil, fighter planes and Novo Nordisk’s NovoPen insulin delivery system. Authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne possess both, and have developed the blue ocean strategy to help others replicate the process of these business success stories. The two authors are co-directors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute and professors at INSEAD, France, billed as one of the top business schools in the world. They wrote the bestselling book, Blue Ocean Strategy, in 2005, and updated it in 2015. Over the past eleven years, Blue Ocean Strategy has sold 3.5 million copies in 43 languages, and has been a bestseller across five continents.

The authors take the reader from the metaphor of a crowded, bloody red ocean filled with the competing products and services of rival companies, to that of an open, inviting blue ocean stocked full of new customers eager to patronize the new or newly revised company, product or idea that is being offered. The key, the authors claim, is incorporating blue ocean strategy each step of the way when looking at ways to start, expand, or improve a business. Throughout the book they include a number of case studies that demonstrate how following the blue ocean strategy can dramatically increase the odds of business success.

The overarching theme is to step away from the competition for existing customers, and look at fresh, new development and marketing efforts to gain non-customers, creating a whole new blue ocean teeming with potential new business. The authors lay out a step-by-step plan, or strategy, to do just that, complete with graphs and grids to further their point. As part of their research, they studied 150 strategic moves in 30 industries over the past 100 years to see what commonalities were present in those business success – and failure – narratives. From those commonalities, they developed the blue ocean strategy, a guide that, when followed, will bring home their premise that “the only way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition” (4). While the book will certainly be appreciated by mangers and business and marketing professionals, it is also valuable for communications professionals as much of the change required to move from a red ocean to a blue one involves strategic communication – with management, with employees, and with customers, both existing and new.

Consider the authors’ critique of Novo Nordisk, a company that plunged into a blue ocean with the creation of the NovoPen, a user-friendly insulin delivery system that does not require separate vials, syringes and needles. Through strategic planning, the company zeroed in on patient wants and needs, shifting its attention away from marketing insulin to doctors, its existing primary customer base. The wild success of the NovoPen helped changed the focus of the company from an insulin producer to a diabetic care company. Instead of competing head to head with other insulin producers, Novo Nordisk broke away from the competition by using blue ocean strategy: looking at who ultimately benefitted from the insulin, and determining how the company could appeal directly to the end user.

The authors cite Cirque de Soleil as another example of successful blue ocean strategy in action. Whereas traditional circuses competed with each other by offering big name acts in three rings, performing animals, concessions, and large tents, Cirque de Soleil managed to marry the circus atmosphere with the theatre, carefully selecting the best of both mediums and combining them into a unique performance category that attracted customers from all interests and backgrounds. By eliminating headline performers, animal acts, and concessions, they set themselves apart from a traditional circus. Incorporating more detailed storylines, lighting, dance and acrobatics, they adopted elements from traditional theatre. Though the audience for traditional circuses was dwindling, and the price of live theatre prohibited many would be theatre lovers from attending, Cirque de Soleil strategically priced their tickets higher than a traditional circus, but lower than most live theatre shows and were able to attract a more diverse audience than either of the traditional venues. They also established a strategic communication plan to market the new show to perspective sites and potential customers alike.

Consequently, in less than twenty years, Cirque de Soliel performances have been seen by more than 150 million people, and the company has achieved a level of revenue that took Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily more than one hundred years to realize (3). In simplified blue ocean terms, Cirque de Soliel used value innovation to make its mark. Instead of strategizing to “beat the competition” (13) the company created a “leap in value for buyers and their company by opening up new and uncontested market space” (13). Value innovation requires pursuing differentiation and low cost at the same time –hence, the creation of Cirque De Soleil, and with it a wide open blue ocean that is hard to replicate and continues to attract new customers.

Once a company has formulated a blue ocean strategy, it must be implemented carefully and deliberately to succeed. To emphasize the importance of effective communication, the authors quote Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, head of the Pentagon’s problematic F-35 program. According to the authors, the fighter jet program would have been much more effective if blue ocean strategy had been deployed. Bogdan took over the project after it was already in trouble, and was tasked with turning the situation around. Said Bogdan, “I’m encouraged by where we are today. I can tell you that when you start communicating and you start listening to each other, you start finding solutions to problems instead of finding blame” (187). His comments were in response to his efforts to require both Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon to face up to the problems each caused on the project, to start working together, and to come up with clearer agreements about what would be expected from each party. While the initial idea for the F-35 was blue ocean sound – building the same basic aircraft at a lower cost for all three main branch of the armed forces with the ability to make small tweaks for each – the project got bogged down in the execution details with poor communication within and between the two parties. In blue ocean terms, the two parties “violated fair process (engagement, explanation, and expectation clarity)” (175-176), among both internal and external stakeholders, a common mistake when trying something new.

Henry Ford successfully incorporated blue ocean strategy in all phases of development and execution when he made a car that was appealing to, and affordable by, the masses. Ford envisioned a blue ocean future where horses and buggies would be displaced by cars that would be attainable by the average person. In 1908 he introduced the Model T. By 1923, a majority of American households owned an automobile (228). Along the way, Ford differentiated his product from the custom made novelty automobiles of the time, created the assembly line process, put the horse and buggy companies out of business, and essentially spawned America’s love affair with the automobile. Creating a strategic plan that rendered the competition irrelevant by offering value innovation in transportation, and then following through with a strategy to create and market the Model T, is an example of using blue ocean strategy at its best. Though Ford’s initial blue ocean has turned red a number of times over the years, a common expected occurrence that the authors also address, the company’s blue ocean continues to pay dividends to shareholders more than 100 years later.

The book is packed full of numerous other examples of blue ocean strategy at work in companies and industries worldwide, and will take the reader on a step by step journey to employ that same strategy in their own company if they so desire. At thirty-two dollars, the book is a wise investment and certainly worth the read. However, if you want to take blue ocean strategy beyond the 287 pages of print, the authors also have a website, www.blueoceanstrategy.com , that offers a wide variety of free information including case studies, podcasts, articles and more that expounds upon blue ocean strategy. For those wanting more individualized help, the website also contains information about the Blue Ocean Network, a group of blue ocean practitioners that will make “house calls” to help businesses map out their own blue ocean strategy. In contrast to the many one-size-fits-all solutions to creating and executing a business strategy, the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy make it possible for each business to create its own individualized strategic plan, and they have the solid research and examples to back up their assertions. As the dust jacket claims, the book really does “present a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant, and outlines principles and tools any organization can use to create and capture their own blue oceans.” I strongly recommend Blue Ocean Strategy as a must read for anyone interested in business, communications, marketing or public relations.