Shoot and Toot Story Prospecting

Curious consumers and anyone eager to learn more about SMOJoe business storytelling services may have come here to get a better understanding of the phrase ‘Shoot and Toot‘ Story Prospecting. This is the name of one of my favourite vocational activities and a preliminary business solution that I frequently extol in seminars and SEO proposals. Its a catchy phrase, but what does it actually mean?

What is a Shoot and Toot?

A Shoot and Toot is a storyteller’s search for relevance. The ‘story prospector’ arrives up at the client’s place of  business with a digital camera and proceeds to shoot pictures and collect information about the joint until he or she is able to tell the world an interesting story that’s directly or indirectly related to the business. That last part is very important  People have to care about the story and so oftentimes the marketing exercise is done for the benefit of the storyteller to try and find some angle he or she can wrote about that will actually find readers.

spent a day with Derick McChesney of SWAT Wildlife in Toronto
Did a full day Shoot and Toot with Derick McChesney of SWAT Wildlife, 12 April 2016

This activity is how white hat SEO practitioners raise their clients rankings on search engines. But let’s be clear, ‘story prospecting’ usually only happens when the storyteller doesn’t yet know what stories to tell, or what are in fact the most interesting and compelling elements of his or her client’s business.

I snapped the wide angle photo above while on a shoot and toot focused on learning more about raccoon removal in Toronto with Derick McChesney of SWAT Wildlife, and shortly afterwards, i wrote an article about what its like doing raccoon removal on Life as a Human magazine. I had to do that before I could conceive of any smarter articles that are not so closely related to the client. Its an evolution that comes from knowing or getting more familiar with the subject matter. After a few days thinking about it, and considering the needs of various publishers I know, I was able to craft more intelligent media in other niches. As an example, I published this piece on Guru Security blog praising raccoons as Nature’s best prowlers and home security alarm system testers. I used photos and quotes collected from my earlier Shoot and Toot to make this media that only references the client, and doesn’t need to report on their activity.

Derick McChesney raccoon removal in Toronto

The Shoot and Toot is a necessary first step to making a more complex content marketing campaign that goes beyond experiential blogging. A true Shoot and Toot is not about the author in any way; its an informal photo shoot and interview of the subject at pertinent locations. The visit is necessary for designing clever content marketing campaigns where links can be seamlessly incorporated into uniquely informative idea-rich content that is highly usable and becomes a popular search result over time. That’s right, articles that have high usability become more findable and as their authority grows.

Of course the exercise can also yield short term results. If storytellers choose to write product or venue reviews with some of the material collected, that’s their prerogative. But the best possible use for original rich media is to optimize standalone elements and combine them to make more sophisticated articles that challenge beliefs and raise awareness. The best result is to make media that gets hundreds of shares on two or three different social media platforms.

Long copy articles with keyword rich informative headlines and photos that both create and satisfy demand end up becoming popular search results. The link to your client inside the popular article is considered equally ‘important’, and so by extension your client’s website’s importance is also raised. The same thing happens in varying degrees with every type of content ever created on the web, but its these long copy articles which people can share and promote using the buttons at the top or bottom of the piece that really helps raise the link target’s Google rankings.

Shoot and toot story prospecting is very much like berry picking –  the freshly picked photos, videos and story ideas don’t have to be consumed right away. The juiciest berries can be washed and frozen for later use, baked into more delicious pastries for magazines and blog portals.

Use A Shoot and Toot To Find Stories: Oakville Eye Exam

Rob Campbell gets eye exam in Oakville with Dr Ansar Ahmed, Oakville Optician

In a recent shoot and toot excursion, I got an eye exam at Next Optical with Oakville optometrist Dr Ansar Ahmed.  The client wanted to write articles reminding the public about the need for frequent eye exams which I identified as a worst-case-scenario position. During my appointment, I determined the most interesting elements of this business are the global trade in eyeglasses frames as represented on the store’s shelves, and the rise and fall of a particular brand of eye-wear. I also noticed some advanced medical equipment on site, including the presence of very sophisticated eye health testing apparatus. These are fashion stories, and gadget stories that the client doesn’t know how or where to get published. The client doesn’t realize there’s people out there who want to read such things. But I know there’s a real demand for such ‘art and science’ type content all over the web, and finding wholesome high authority publishers for well written articles really isn’t that hard.

What does the story prospector look for?

The best stories sometimes happen right under the client’s nose, and they can’t see the appeal of the narrative because they’re still living the episode. As John Truby (Hollywood screenwriter) once wrote, and i paraphrase, ‘a story happens when somebody does something to somebody else and we get to find out why’. And I like that idea.and always seek to present ‘why’. So a good idea for an article wherein we could link to Next Optical is, ‘How affordable medical technology affects eye wear fashions?’ and ‘How do new medical test gadgets affect eye care by increasing access?’ and write about how the gadgets reduce time which reduces costs for eye exams, and also how they can improve diagnoses and prescriptions.

Very often the client can’t see their own best content. A good example are dentists who think Halloween and Christmas Holidays are great occasions to tell oral hygiene stories, when in reality its the very last thing readers want to see or editors want to publish. I once visited a dentist in Markham to get interiors and ended up getting cool shots of her laser apparatus which was brand new at the time. The laser was unique because it allowed her to do more than just teeth whitening; this dentist used lasers to do high tech laser surgery and check for oral cancer. It made a good gadget story.

glowing tooth in Markham on Imgur
The glowing tooth uploaded to Imgur has now accrued thousands of views and is the cornerstone of a content marketing campaign around dentists as superheroes.

I snapped this shot the dental laser blasting a tooth and chose to host it exclusively on Imgur where it quickly amassed thousands of views and a +150 rating (later I added links in the photo description to all the content I created around the piece, and now I see it has a negative rating LOL). The photo rating doesn’t matter – good or bad the links in the photo description point people to the rest of the story. Google determines the content’s quality and value based social signals and bounce rates, not user ratings.

What’s the Object of a Shoot and Toot?

A good Shoot and Toot accomplishes three main things: I) Its a photo shoot and video shoot necessary for the collection of rich media from the source. 2) It allows authors to acquire facts, quotes and first hand accounts of things as they really are at the business location. 3) It helps the author understand the firm’s consumers and what they are seeking when they visit the venue. What do they most want? and how could their hierarchy of needs as it relates the business be used to make compelling story hooks in social media?

The Shoot and Toot Shot List

A good shoot and toot comes with the following checklist of necessary shots,

  1. Establishing shot of the business
  2. Front door close-up – optional, put subject in doorway
  3. Business owner or sign
  4. Subject matter expert – wide, medium, close, extreme close-up on face,
  5. Shoot the phone, office or mail room, front desk – visualize the place where you want consumers to interact with this business. If you want them to call, then show the phones and the people answering the phones. If you want emails, then show faces of account managers behind the email addresses. And if you want them to visit in person then show the front desk and waiting room facilities etc.
  6. Show minutia related to the people, products, places and processes related to the businesses that you can use when describing the intricacies of the operation, Show the business owner at work doing the service or making the products to communicate the integrity the client has in the marketplace.

Depending on the skill of the story prospector and the amount and quality of their relationships with 3rd party publishers, the marketers will begin to see and identify viable stories almost immediately.  What separates the new storytellers from old ones is not their skill at writing text or taking pictures or combining both pictures and text in published articles; the thing that separates veterans from rookie content marketers is the length and quality of their Rolodex of publishers.