Video production firm puts face on 'Dummies' products

March 16, 2009
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What does it mean to be a dummy? Cynthia Kay & Co. Media Production found out when the communications firm was contracted to create online video vignettes for John Wiley & Sons Inc.’s “For Dummies” how-to book series.

“A dummy is not a dumb person, but they tend to be people who want to know how to do something and want to figure out how to do that,” Cynthia Kay, president of Cynthia Kay & Co., told Business Journal reporter Jake Himmelspach. “They’re really pretty smart. They know they can’t do that one particular thing. … The content of the videos had to be really specific, very complete, easy to follow — and it also had to be fun.”

The company created 97 how-to videos averaging two and a half minutes in length and covering a wide variety of topics.

“Part of the fun of working on this was that we had the chance to work with a really diverse group of topics,” said Kay. “The videos were based on the books, and one of the things Wiley is doing is they’re really expanding their Web presence, like a lot of businesses are.”

The “For Dummies” book series already had a Web site, but the publisher thoroughly revamped its Web presence for a re-launch in early January. Kay said that more and more companies are adding video to their Web sites.

“More and more people have broadband and high speed (Internet). In previous years, I think there was a desire to use it, but people got frustrated because it was too slow or it took a long time to buffer,” said Kay. “I think the technology is there, so we’re seeing more and more people doing it. Plus, it makes your site much more personal.”

The videos, which can be accessed free at www.dummies.com were contracted out to two companies, including Cynthia Kay and Co.

Kay was encouraged to use as much local talent as she could. The video topics range from fitness to algebra, and include many local names, such as Doreen Bolhuis of Gymco Sports and Pete Bardolph of Rainbow Music.

“They encouraged us to find local talent. For example, the guitar segment: We auditioned three or four guitar players from around town and they selected Pete from Rainbow Music,” she said. “When it came to the fitness pieces, Janine Kropf, who’s from East Hills — they were blown away by her. It was great because in addition to us getting work, we were able to hire people locally and spread the wealth around.”

The publishing company wants to add more videos with new topics.

“We’re now in the process of talking to them about phase two of the site. They’ve launched in certain content areas, but there are some other ones they’re considering,” said Kay. “We’ve already talked to them about how we’re going to be involved with that. I think they’re going to move on with phase two fairly soon.”

Banking on a snapshot

As if we needed further evidence, Pete Hoekstra, Republican congressman from Holland, proved that bankers have become punching bags for the recession. Last week, Hoekstra took a pot shot when he introduced Jim Dunlap, Huntington Bank’s local president, at a Muskegon economic forum. Hoekstra, who is weighing a jump into the 2010 governor’s race, promised the audience that Dunlap would “explain to all of us exactly what’s going on in the banking industry. He’s going to tell all of us exactly how we can get our credit lines extended, and he will be telling me what we need to do in Washington to stabilize the banking industry.” Turning to Dunlap, Hoekstra deadpanned, to the audience’s amusement: “You’ll have about six or eight minutes.” For the record, Dunlap said Huntington did not indulge in subprime lending.

The same forum also drew GVSU President Tom Haas and his vice president for university relations Matt McLogan, Michigan Department of Agriculture economic development specialist Mike DiBernardo and Mercy Health Partners President & CEO Roger Spoelman, who was the host. Notables in the audience included Baker College President Mary Ann Herbst and Rockford Construction President Mike Van Gessel. Spoelman also was honored last week by the Alliance for Health at its annual Once in a Blue Moon fundraiser, along with George Vande Woude, the outgoing director at Van Andel Research Institute. More public relations practitioners than journalists attended the economic confab, including former WOOD TV anchor Larry Neinhaus, who said he was acting as a consultant for Seyferth & Associates, which handles big events for MHP, but added that he is still looking for a “stable” job. PR firm principals Ginny Seyferth and Dan Spaulding were on hand, as well.

More veterans affairs

In an effort to lure more people to the annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades, 1st Ward City Commissioner James Jendrasiak said last week the city should offer free parking in city-owned ramps and lots for both events. “If we can do it for (the) Christmas (parade), we can do it for veterans,” he said. Real nice sentiment, J.J.

Mixing the pots?

City commissioners agreed last week to let the city apply for a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality grant the city would give to Grand Rapids Christian Schools. GRCS would use the money to demolish the Iroquois Middle School, which it’s buying from Grand Rapids Public Schools, and remediate the reportedly polluted grounds. Second Ward City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss saw something not quite right about taking down a building and using DEQ money to do it. “I can’t support using environmental dollars for demolition,” she said. When she was told GRCS couldn’t use Iroquois for the consolidation of its four elementary schools, Bliss said, “It’s the same use.” Hard to argue with her logic.

Speaking from experience

At the county last week, members of the Legislative Committee asked County Purchasing Director Jon Denhoff to buy products made in this country. “Whenever possible we should go to all extremes to buy American. Sooner or later, nobody is going to have jobs,” said County Commissioner Keith Courtade. Courtade added that he has been laid off by General Motors and isn’t likely to regain his job.

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