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Vlog Series: Explore possibilities

08.02.2021
Superior Court of California

When I initially thought about presenting the idea about a vlog for marketing, I needed to develop a style on how to highlight multiple individuals rather than have a vlog centered around one person.

Traditionally a vlog follows an individual experience through weekly content. I knew I needed to find a way to capture the human side of people downtown, but how could I accomplish that goal? 

The vlog is not a new idea. Around the mid 2000s, people were already experimenting with video content and how to deliver it to the world. I realize this project is a radical departure from previous content posted by the organization. My goal is to create relatable, authentic content to bring more awareness to the downtown area. This is a time to step into a fresh, creative space and implement different, collaborative ideas from people who are supportive of this project. By exploring downtown through video content, we can showcase a new perspective on the life and culture happening in the downtown area.

My name is Ben Sanchez, and I am an alum from University of the Pacific. My co-worker in the Marketing department, Jason Millner, also an alum from University of the Pacific, works on the vlog project. Here are my thoughts on how and why we developed this project for downtown Stockton.

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Vlog Thoughts

What is a vlog?

A vlog, short for ‘video blog’ or ‘video log,’ is video content uploaded to a video platform by a group or individual on a set schedule. The content varies based on the creator, but will typically highlight aspects of their life. This “day in the life” style of documenting content is generally unscripted and natural. With a wide variety of topics from traveling, cooking, and technology, followers can subscribe and watch ‘vloggers’ discuss and experience their thoughts through a series of video content.

While vlogging follows one individual, we decided on a hybrid style of filming with multiple people in front of the camera rather than having one person consistently appear and address the viewers. We switch between phone and camera footage, blending a style utilized by several content creators on major video platforms.

What is the difference between a vlog and a blog?

The main difference is the format. A blog is informal, written content that the audience has to read in an article or story on a website. A vlog is visual content with a story told through videos on YouTube. Although not limited to just YouTube, you can distribute vlog content across several social media platforms. 

When did you develop the idea for a downtown vlog?

I watched vlogs on YouTube for the past two years and through my research, I discovered a few I really enjoy. After speaking with Jason, we bounced around some ideas, and shared YouTube channels that would inspire us to develop a vlog that would work for us. To be honest, I never intended on developing a vlog for downtown. We just tossed around the idea and how cool it would be to do it. It was interesting to hear Jason’s perspective about the idea of a vlog. He was already thinking about a vlog during his time as an intern, but he felt no one would grasp that concept. I kept hearing ideas on what other people wanted to do, but never implement them. I took all of the scribbles from our notes and ran with the idea.

I did not mind directing the audience and putting myself out there to help navigate episodes, but I needed more people involved to explore downtown. I planned for a monthly vlog of 7 episodes in 2021. I pitched the idea back in May and we started filming randomly throughout downtown.

What is the vision for the vlog?

Patty Ayala, owner of Uniqo Salon, speaking with performer and entrepreneur, Renee Icasiano.

I think my overall vision was to find a way to capture moments in downtown and create a video archive. I knew it had to highlight a little bit of everything. Architecture, business, art, and entertainment — we have to change the narrative into something positive.

If we put together a video series, we could consistently have video content for people every month.  I did not want to be overly ambitious about where I would go with the vlog. I planned for 7 episodes and only 7 for this year.

The challenge with only two people producing, directing, and creating is how often can we create an episode on top of the other responsibilities we have in our roles at Downtown Stockton Alliance. I have to balance time and resources. I wanted to bring in key influencers that bring a positive presence in front of the camera. We currently showcase entrepreneurs and business, but I want to expand on other avenues of downtown if our vlog gains momentum. Ideally, I would love to bring in more artists and musicians to showcase the work they create downtown. 

Why create a vlog about downtown?

Why not? The organization has never done anything like it. They were slowly rolling out a new video project, but Doorways is very specific on what it does. I needed content that could cover a wider spectrum of downtown. The sustainability of the vlog has the potential to cover behind the scenes on small business, events, art, venue spaces, and other aspects of downtown people might not be familiar with. Once I had an idea about who I could approach for the vlog, we started to capture places and people. People get their information from different sources on a daily basis. Is there a demand for video content? Absolutely. Could you over saturate your channel? Never. You can never have enough content. We all know the saying, ‘content is king.’ 

The YouTube platform for the organization was not active and I knew that going in when I reviewed the channel. We need something more entertaining on the channel. In order for this project to be successful, I needed to establish good working relationships with business owners who feel comfortable behind the camera. Without the people and culture of downtown, our project would not be possible.

What is your goal for the vlog?

Nessie Huffhines, owner of Farout Foliage.

I want to show the ‘humanness’ here in downtown. Let’s highlight the people who are building something here. I keep talking about authenticity. Sometimes, I feel that is a lost artform.

When you look at everything pushed out to social platforms… what feels genuine? What feels authentic? What is real?

If I can bring a real sense of awareness to one person and get them curious about a key business or venue downtown — I know our project made a connection. I read comments on our Instagram from people who want to know more about these businesses. Where are they located? What do they sell? We have to build a connection with entrepreneurs and my goal is to help establish a sense of familiarity in how we can create storytelling through video.

The first idea was always ‘behind the scenes.’ I wanted that bit to be authentic and for the audience to see another side of entrepreneurs behind the camera. We never get our other video project (Doorways to Downtown) on the first take. Not all of us are performers or are prepared to be recorded — we have anxieties in from the camera.

That particular project felt rigid and formatted in a way that just goes through the routine. Here are generalized questions covering very specific aspects of a business. For that project, I feel it works. But you will never see any outtakes. You might not see us laughing about fumbling lines or general banter about everyday life. For the vlog, I want it to feel unscripted, natural, light-hearted, and on the fly. We have to be agile and think on our feet, similar to how entrepreneurs approach their ideas. If we evoke certain emotions, and create a way to have fun, people will become comfortable with us. This is what we need to achieve and I hope you will feel that when you watch our vlog.

Do you have any past experience with vlogs?

I have no experience working on vlog projects, but Jason and I have worked on several video projects over the years. The vlog is fresh, ‘off the cuff’ improvisation in front of a camera. Jason has a passion to create and tell stories through videography. We connected on this level when we discussed ideas about the vlog. He did his own personal vlog for a short time. I developed an entrepreneur video podcast at a local nonprofit radio station several years ago. I’m familiar with being in front of the camera hosting my own show. With Jason behind the lens working his craft, we both explore spaces downtown. Our passion to chase this idea allows us to bring people along for the ride as we capture these experiences. It has been an incredible collaborative effort with everyone who appeared in the first two episodes.

What about your Instagram reels and stories? How are those being developed?

Amazing specialty coffee drinks from Grinding Grounds truck at the Waterfront in downtown Stockton.

I approached it from a video game perspective (first person) in storytelling. From the eyes of the viewer, you see what I see walking downtown — pushing elevator buttons or opening doors to businesses. I want to give you the feeling that you are right there with me. Every block, every step. This is one method to tell a story and then creatively develop a reel.

During the editing process for other vlog content, there is a review process and material is cut. Some of that material will never see the light of day. I created another way to compile it and push it out into reels. 

With the implementation of reels on our Instagram account, we found a process that works for us based on the results we receive from viewers. To date, this is the most active form of engagement we have seen with the Downtown Stockton Alliance Instagram account. What impressed us is the interactions and views we get with this content. I’m thankful people were able to make time to watch and offer feedback.

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