Advice on Creating Content On and Off Camera from Editor and Chief of AutoGuide
Since YouTube has become a broadcasting network and as its popularity continues to grow, so have all the various car review channels and personalities. Whether its cars battling it out on the track, or exotic cars on scenic road trips, automotive videos have become vastly entertaining to watch. I've been toying with the idea of making EV related videos myself and hopefully reaching out to more people who are curious about electric cars. When I sat down with Editor and Chief of AutoGuide; Jodi Lai recently, I asked her about her experience making videos for their YouTube channel. Here is part two of our conversation and her advice for anyone who is considering a part in creating content on and off camera.
What is a typical day like for you?
It's not as glamorous as most people may think it is. I'm lucky because I do get the chance to travel and go to launches all over the world and that's a fun part of the job, but 90% of my time is behind a desk looking at spreadsheets and google analytics. It's not very sexy, but it's the reality of being in publishing right now.
We're also doing something different at AutoGuide where we are focusing more heavily on being a consumer advice website rather than a "fancy supercar" site. As impressive as the supercars are, they are not relevant to everyday people. So we're trying to make it more accessible to a broader audience. That's one of the things that I wanted to do when I first started with AutoGuide. It was a very car enthusiasts site, and someone that may have fallen on an article may feel like this isn't for them, and I don't want someone to come to our site and feel stupid for not knowing all the nitty-gritty engineering details. I've tried to open it up and make it a lot more accessible. We are hoping to bring new people in the industry, more women, and people who have a passing interest in cars and that aren't your typical gear-head enthusiasts.
Do you have a process that you follow when you're doing a review? Do you have a list of guidelines that you like to include in your review?
When I'm writing, it's a bit different from when I'm presenting on video. I do find that for writing, it's about finding that one angle of how I start the story. It's difficult for me to sit down and start a story until I'm inspired by the car. Sometimes the car isn't that inspiring so that can be a little difficult. I focus on what it is about the car that speaks the loudest to me. For the Nissan Altima for example, it's how comfortable the seats are. It's weird that that is a stand out feature, but the thing that stood out to me, so that's what I'm going to focus on. Then we can get into all the details and what it's competitors are like. The important thing for me and what I tell the people who write for me is that you have to put it into context. What does it mean for the consumer? What does this mean for somebody who is cross shopping these two cars? Break it down and come up with a clear verdict of, "Yes, I would buy this" and, "No, I wouldn't buy this."
Do you read other reviews?
I try not to. I don't want to be subconsciously influenced by other people's writing. I might read one after the fact, to see if my initial thoughts weren't totally off base or I might look at other reviews to verify that I'm not crazy. That's the imposter syndrome. I know that I know what I'm talking about, but sometimes, just the way people react, then I tend to doubt myself.
Any advice for the new people or other women who are trying to move their career forward in automotive – even if they are starting as a "booth babe" and want to move up? Is there anything that you can point to and say that you consistently did and that it worked for you?
Doing your absolute best for yourself and not for other people. If you are doing what you're doing to prove people wrong, then there will always be people who don't like what you do, and you're always going to be chasing that non-existing approval. So as long as you love what you're doing and you are proud to put your name on something that you did, then that's all that matters. Don't try to meet other people's expectations of what an automotive person should be like. You can carve out your own space.Your perspective as who you are, as a female, in this industry is important, and people will notice that, and they will start to appreciate that.
For a while, I tried to be like other automotive journalists and "bro it out," and I wasn't trying to bring in my femininity into it at all. I just wanted to be one of the guys and belong. But it's not possible, and you just can't. I stopped trying to chase that and started to do things as my person, and that's worked out. Don't try to bury who you are just to fit in. I don't think fitting in is going to get us anywhere. That perspective is what makes you so valuable in this industry, and if you bury it, then no one is going to know that it's there.
When you are doing a review – written or video, how you do address the features and things that you don't like about the car?
You just have to be honest about it. There is no point in burying it. If there is something negative about the car, then people will trust you if you bring that to life. I wouldn't worry about ruining a relationship with a manufacturer. As long as you are fair, then it's warranted. If you're going to take out a car, and bash it all day long, then you might not get another car from that company. Most of the time, you wouldn't be able to do that because the car is so good anyway. Also, just to build your credibility, you have to look at the good and bad. People aren't going to trust you as a reviewer if you don't mention anything that's wrong with the car. Or if it does things worse than a competitor, then you have to tell people that. You have to be fair and transparent.
Will you be continuing to make videos?
Yes. Videos will always continue to be a part of what we do. That was a learning curve for me at the beginning. If you watch some of my earlier videos, they are so cringy. I'm embarrassed by them. It's something you get better at with time and with more practice. And this goes back to what I was saying before, but once I stopped pretending to fit into the mold that's when it started to work for me, and that's what people liked.
A: When you are on camera, everything is amplified, and people can pick up on when you are not yourself.
J: If you are not comfortable, other people can sense that. They may then construe that as maybe she doesn't know what she's saying. But sometimes, if you're not confident, you have to fake it till you make it and I did that for a very long time. I still do that in my videos; I really have to ham it up. Especially on video. You can be excited in real life, and it doesn't come across on the video unless you amp it up by 10. You have to be super animated, and that may not feel natural to you – that's not something that I have to flip the switch on for when I'm on camera. It' me, but it's the extra version of me.
A: It's another side of you that you can try out on video that you wouldn't normally have a chance to.
J: Right – and it's because of videos that TV is another animal. You can be an extremely talented writer and yet be terrible on video. That's something that comes with practice.
A: I love to hear that. I've been playing around with making some videos, and it's tough.
J: Its weird right, cause you're just putting on a show. But just be yourself and amp it up. If you're excited – you REALLY have to show the excitement.
A: For me, it's natural to be animated, but it's when I try to sound smart or technical that I lose it and it all falls apart.
J: You don't have to have to be technical. If you're not comfortable talking like that, then don't do it. The best way to deal with that is to save the things that you're not comfortable with for the voice-overs. I'll never list of specs in front of the camera. I'll mess up a number, and that will ruin everything. So I save that for the voice over. Save what you are comfortable with for the on-camera stuff.
Thank you Jodi, for taking the time to share her experiences with me. Check out part one of the interview here where we discussed Jodis’ automotive interests and the industry in general. Since our interview, I’ve been working on a couple videos that I look forward to sharing soon. Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear from you and if you thought this interview was helpful or inspiring to you in any way. What will your YouTube channel or online magazine be about?