How corporations can leverage tablets and enhanced ebooks for internal communications and training

[This is a reprint of a guest post we contributed to Simply Communicate and distributed to 15K subscribers of their web site]

As an internal communicator, you may find yourself in situations where you might be asked to wear the hat of a digital reporter who has to document an event, a procedure, a best practice or an idea in multimedia format.

Video is always a powerful medium and in a previous article I covered some of the apps that can help you create and edit content right on your device. This piece takes the concept of multimedia storytelling to the next level, remaining true to the principle that you can accomplish the entire workflow on your tablet with minimal or no use of another computer.

Creating your first iBook

People absorb information in different ways. Some of us are more visual and videos, photos or diagrams are what make concepts stick in our memory. Others prefer to read, as details expressed in written words can be referenced multiple times with a quick glance of our eyes.

What if there was an easy way to author a multimedia experience that could combine all these formats together without requiring you to get a PhD in computer science to make it happen?

Luckily there are a few solutions out there, but the one that captivated me the most was the ability to create interactive ebooks (also known as iBooks in the Apple ecosystem) that could play on iPhones and iPads alike.

The process for creating an iBook is similar to other multimedia projects: first you need to plan for your content, and then you create all the assets and assemble them together. Finally you export and distribute your iBook.

For the sake of this article, we’ll assume the following simple scenario: you want to communicate to your sales force how to sell a new widget that your company just brought to market. You’ll do it by creating an iBook that explains the value proposition of your widget and a few sales strategies to better engage with potential customers. You’ll throw in a chart, some text, a quick video demo and a brief simulated role-playing audio recording of a typical negotiation.

Creating the assets

To create your assets you could resort to your Mac / PC, but your goal it to be able to keep the entire experience mobile, specifically on an iPad. Therefore, you’ll need to download some apps that will help you generate and manage each of the media types:

  • Writing text – Pages ($10) or the default iPad Notes app (free)
  • Creating slides and diagrams – Keynote ($10)
  • Capturing and enhancing images – Default Camera and Photos apps (free), optional PhotoShop Express (free)
  • Editing video – iMovie ($5) or Pinnacle Studio ($13)
  • Producing your iBook – Book Creator

Assembling the assets into an iBook

BookCreatorIcon
Being a multimedia author requires some familiarity in handling a variety of media. While there is going to be a slight learning curve to master these apps, don’t get discouraged as I found them all to be fairly intuitive. Pages, Keynote and Book Creator come with simple step-by-step tutorials, while the others will require some experimenting to familiarize with them. Let’s assume at this point that you already created all the assets and it’s time to use the Book Creator app to mix them together into an iBook.

As you launch the app and choose the page format of your new publication, you are presented with a blank canvas. The first page is the cover of your iBook and you’ll want to brand it properly to quickly convey what this is all about. Adding a title, a sub title and a meaningful image should serve the purpose.

Book Creator treats all your assets as floating objects on the page, so you can easily resize and position them anywhere you want, even on different layers. Text handling is not very sophisticated, so don’t expect the same functionality of Microsoft Word. To import text from another app, you’ll have to copy and paste it into the proper text field. Then you can change properties like size, fonts, alignment and color.

Creating the cover of your iBook with Book Creator

Adding a diagram or an image requires you to have them already edited and available in the iPad Photo Library. To export a single slide created with the Keynote app, you can just take a screenshot by pressing together the Power and Menu buttons on the device. This generates a full screen grab, which you can quickly crop in the native Photos app or further manipulate in dedicated programs like PhotoShop Express.

Your goal is to make a multimedia iBook, so it’s time to add some motion pictures. As with images, videos need to be previously edited and exported to the iPad Photo Library before being imported into Book Creator. But how do you get videos into your tablet?

Apple sells an iPad Camera Connection Kit that simplifies the process of importing media from digital cameras. Not all cameras create movies compatible with Apple devices, so some testing will be necessary. Alternatively, you can shoot video with an iPhone and beam the files wirelessly to your iPad using the Photo Transfer app ($3).

I found iMovie and Pinnacle Studio to be two excellent video editing apps. iMovie will work also on your iPhone, which might be handy when capturing video with your smartphone. Pinnacle Studio is richer in functionality and probably appreciated by more expert users. Video can quickly inflate the file size of your final deliverable, so keep that in mind if that’s a consideration.

Finally, you want to add to your iBook a simulated role-playing negotiation recorded in audio format. Book Creator includes a very essential sound recorder feature which will embed your audio track into a page.

The final iBook created with Book Creator app for iPad

Distributing your iBook

Once you complete the creation process, it’s time to name your publication, package and distribute it to your sales force.

iBooks can be sent via email or uploaded to a cloud service like DropBox. If you target audience is equipped with Apple devices, you can share your work with high confidence that everybody will be able to use the standard iBooks reader app to open your file, flip through pages and play your multimedia content.

Corporate video communications? There’s an app for that

(I originally contributed this article to Simply Communicate)

In two of my previous posts, I described the pillars of an enterprise video program, as well as how you can start leveraging your mobile device to capture better video when you don’t have a camcorder.

This article will focus on smartphone and tablet apps, and how software can transform your portable and connected device into a mobile video system to create and share powerful stories with your audience.

Given how widespread Apple devices are among corporate communicators, I’m going to cover five mobile video scenarios that make creative use of your iPhone and/or iPad.


Editing video

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Picture this: You just shot a great interview with your phone, the lighting was just right and you were careful to be close enough to your subject, so her voice was loud and crisp. But your interviewee stumbled on one of the answers and you’d like to remove the bad part. Every video can benefit from some editing, and simple actions like trimming, cutting, adding captions, photos and transitions can all be accomplished right on your phone or tablet. The two apps that I like the most are Apple iMovie ($5) and Avid Studio for iPad ($5). While both apps are quite well designed, Avid Studio comes ahead on feature richness due to their recent release and given the heritage of the developer company in the professional video space.

If you prefer to shoot video on the iPhone and take advantage of the larger iPad screen for editing, you can transfer media between devices using Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit ($29) that consists of two separate adapters; one to connect your tablet to a USB device (like your iPhone), and the second to import photos / videos from a generic SD card. In my tests, I didn’t have any issues importing photos and videos captured with both my Canon point-and-shoot and DSLR.


Photo montages

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There are instances when you want to create a video and all that’s available are some nice still photos. Don’t despair; there are apps that will convert your images into high-energy animations inclusive of a custom music soundtrack. My favorite is Animoto (free) which is a cloud service that offers free and premium plans, depending on your need to output HD videos, their length and number of source files.

 

Tags

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Tags are a special breed of bar codes that can be scanned using a dedicated mobile app and can trigger actions like visiting a web site, dialing a number, sending a virtual contact card or simply displaying a message.

The two dominant types are QR codes and Microsoft Tags. Nowadays, you can find them pretty much everywhere, from magazines to food labels, on signs, promotional t-shirts, and more. Tags let you bridge the physical and virtual worlds, by facilitating the access to online information associated with the tagged object.

Microsoft offers a convenient free dashboard and mobile app called Tag (free) to generate and read both QR codes and its proprietary format.

If you work in internal communications, you may enjoy this video that shows how Microsoft used tags printed with edible ink on chocolate to deliver a promotional message to its employees.


Webinars

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If your workforce is increasingly becoming mobile, chances are that knowledge sharing inside your organization needs to adapt to this new trend too. Demos and presentations are integral elements of any readiness program, but how can they be delivered to a mobile audience? Companies that are not already enrolled in popular services like Webex or GoToMeeting, may want to check an app called TeamViewer for Meetings (free for non-commercial use) that lets a presenter share his desktop PC in real time with a mobile audience of up to 25 participants, including audio via VOIP, file sharing, whiteboard, instant chat and more. It’s definitely worth a look.


Video messaging

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Sending media across different mobile devices is risky business. Unless the handsets are from the same manufacturer, there is always the potential of video format incompatibility. MMS is a great solution that pretty much guarantees a uniform and reliable experience on smartphones, but the length of those clips is limited to less than a minute.

What about an ‘Outlook for video’? Eyejot ($4) is a video mail app that allows you to send personal video messages to other people regardless if they’re using Eyejot. The app includes a handy vCard feature that sends your contact information along with a personal video clip. Desktop users can watch Eyejot messages in their browsers and the service is free to record up to 5 minute long videos.

Do you have a favorite app that’s enhancing communications at work? Leave a comment with your feedback and experiences.

iPad experiment: Video remix of 12 Social Media thought leaders

This weekend I learned about a newly released iPad app called MadPad, which allows you to capture images and sounds from your everyday life and organize them into a fun video soundboard.

Inspired by a creative clip by YouTube celebrity MysteryGuitarMan, I decided to use the app to capture short soundbites from 12 social media thought leaders and remix them to see what would come out of it. What do you think?