Q&A with Michael Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer at Gather Voices

Media 7 | April 7, 2021

Michael Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer at Gather Voices, started his career as a political consultant and nonprofit fundraiser. He then spent six years in venture capital, specializing in internet start-ups and began See3 Communications, a digital marketing agency focused on social good. Today, in addition to leading Gather Voices, he teaches marketing at the University of Chicago.

There is so much content out there! Creating high-quality content and more of it is critical. A great way to do that is by co-creating content with your customers and employees.



MEDIA 7: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you come up with the idea of Gather Voices?
MICHAEL HOFFMAN:
I ran a digital marketing agency, See3 Communications, in Chicago for over a decade. My clients at the agency loved our professional video work. But they needed more. They would come to me and say, “We love those videos you make for us that cost $25,000 and take four months to make, but we need video all the time, for our website and social media. Can you help us? And I could not help them because traditional video production -- cameras and shooters and editors, etc. -- are not scalable. The idea for Gather Voices came when I learned about the first movie, in movie theaters, that was shot on an iPhone. The question I asked was, “If everyone we want on video is walking around with essentially a professional video camera in their pockets, why can’t we get the video we need?”

We realized that you can’t just ask someone to make video for you. They won’t know what you mean, they will do it wrong and there’s no easy way to get the video back to you with all the legal information you need to have permission to use it. Gather Voices is software that makes it easy to set up a video request. When the person you want to make a video clicks on that request, the software walks them through making the video you want. It delivers the video right back, with all the legal rights, and gives non-video-experts tools to easily edit, caption, brand and publish the content.

M7: As a video software solution, how does Gather Voices leverage social proof with video marketing?
MH:
One of the most important characteristics of the current moment we are in is the lack of trust. People don’t trust brands and institutions. They trust people. Because of this, the role of the marketer has changed. It is no longer about being clever. Today’s marketer needs to find the real stories from real people and amplify the good ones. Seeing someone like me talk about their experience with a product or service is something I can relate to. If it looks user-generated and spontaneous it is more trusted. If it looks too polished, it’s less trusted.

Gather Voices enables companies to collect meaningful video content from customers, employees, fans, members and donors at scale. Asking someone to share their story has the added benefit of making them feel more connected to the company that cares enough to ask. And every company in the world has superstars among its employees and customers. Unless you are asking people to share, all the time, you will never know who they are.

With Gather Voices, video collection gets built into existing workflows. So someone who is in a checkout experience or an application is being asked to share at the moment, when they are thinking about it. Video content is flowing in all the time and the best of that content is getting pushed back to social media, websites and emails.

It has a big impact. Our clients, for example, are reporting more than 300% increase in click-throughs when a video thumbnail is added to an email.  People want to watch the video and they will click a lot more often to do that than when you just have big blocks of text.


The modern marketing team needs to utilize new technologies to create more video content. But stock photos and video with text on the screen isn’t enough. It has to be meaningful video content.



M7: How do you target content to your audience, and what are the challenges that you face while producing effective content?
MH:
Traditionally, we think about an audience and we create content for that audience. With Gather Voices it is the audience that creates the content! By co-creating content with your customers and employees, you create deep engagement and find the most powerful stories.

It is much easier to let your community do the heavy lifting on content creation than to try to create everything yourself. With the explosion of channels and content demands, it is really impossible to keep up. We see so often a company spending a lot of money and time to produce a video that almost no one watches. It is a much better idea to invite your community to make content with you.

M7: What do you see as the most noticeable change right now happening in the workforce, encouraged by the rise of digital technologies?
MH:
Well, obviously COVID-19 meant that many more people were working remotely and using video more and more. Mostly this meant Zoom and Teams and other kinds of synchronous video conferencing. But Zoom Fatigue is real and the smart companies are offering asynchronous video options that use the power of video, but let people record and watch content on their own time.I think many of these changes are permanent. Yes, many people will go back to offices. But everyone is more comfortable on camera than they were a year ago.

Another clear change is that people want companies to reflect their values. The best talent is asking about DEI initiatives and sustainability in interviews. They care. And they want to see that companies walk the talk of values. Companies need to increasingly show that they live these values and care. A great way to do that is regularly with video content.


We know that too few voices are in the conversations and our mission is to gather the voices that need to be heard. We believe that staying true to this vision is what will make us stand out.



M7: What social media channels do you see as most promising for your software and why?
MH:
I believe that all social media channels are important to different audiences, some more than others. One thing we know is that video consistently delivers better results than other kinds of content on social. Video gets 1200% more shares than images or text. 88% more time is spent on web pages with video.

M7: What do you believe are the top three marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
MH:
The top three marketing challenges are breaking through the noise, showing purpose, and scaling video content.

Breaking Through the Noise - There is so much content out there! Creating high-quality content and more of it is critical. You need to be able to scale your content creation in a way that keeps it engaging and authentic.  A great way to do that is by co-creating content with your customers and employees. Co-creation is the ultimate engagement.

Showing Purpose - People care about more than how a product or service works. They care about the company behind it and their values. We saw this last summer with the Black Lives Matter protests. Companies needed to speak out. And now they are being held to account. You can’t just say it, you have to live it. And marketers are on the front lines of needing to show the purpose in action.

Scaling Video Content -  Video is the most important content type by far. But traditional video production doesn’t scale. The modern marketing team needs to utilize new technologies to create more video content. But stock photos and video with text on the screen isn’t enough. It has to be meaningful video content. The best way to produce meaningful content at scale is to co-create with your audience.

M7: What is your marketing mantra to stand out from your competitors?
MH:
We are focused on the customer and their needs. We don’t pay a lot of attention to competitors but we’re fanatical about listening to what our customers need to be successful. We have core principles. We believe that too much content is top-down and the future is bottom-up. We know that too few voices are in the conversations and our mission is to gather the voices that need to be heard. We believe that staying true to this vision is what will make us stand out.

ABOUT GATHER VOICES

Gather Voices is building an entirely new category: Video Relationship Management or VRM. They make it effortless to dramatically increase the amount of video that organizations create and share, with an intuitive set of software solutions that automate the creation, management and publishing of video – plugging seamlessly into existing technology. Their purpose is to strengthen human relationships for organizations; one video, one community, at a time.