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YouTube: A great nutrition communication tool that most dietitians know nothing about

A lot of people ask me what I do for a living, and I never really know what answer to give them. I usually begin by describing myself as a “media registered dietitian,” but if I go into a further description it is often pretty lengthy. I’m a blogger, spokesperson, recipe developer, freelance food and nutrition writer, TV expert, and now, I’m a relatively successful (yet still pretty new) YouTuber.
Moving to digital video communications seemed like a natural progression for me after I had reached a level of stability and readership with my blog, Abbey’s Kitchen. I had done a short 12-webisode series three years ago upon launching myself full time into blogging, but had shied away from it after that because of the financial commitment.

Shooting 12 short videos meant hiring a film crew, editor, and a makeup and hair stylist. After that, I needed to buy music, groceries, props, and rent film equipment.

I easily sunk over $10,000 into the whole thing and got somewhere around 500 minutes of video. But when my close friend (and professional producer) sat me down to talk me into round two, I was determined to figure out how to build YouTube content into my business model.

I wasn’t interested in losing money or, my now very limited, time. I wanted to figure out how to make it work. This wasn’t just important for my own brand development, but also for the profession at large.
There are very few dietitians in the world on YouTube, especially relative to other nutrition “experts.” Just like my blog, which is ultimately a boundless platform, nutrition messages shared on YouTube have the potential to reach millions. I may be just one YouTuber, but I want to play a part in getting our profession out there in the public’s eye.
Obviously, it wasn’t as easy as it was the first time when I just paid for everything to get done for me. YouTubing as part of my business (and not just as an expensive hobby) came with a sharp learning curve and, like in almost every aspect of my career, I didn’t have a how-to guide. I wasn’t taught any tips for YouTube SEO, how to write YouTube content, or even how to deliver it. I had to figure things out as I went.
Here are some insider tips I’ve learned along the way that will hopefully inspire you to join me online:
Keep it simple 
Contrary to what I thought in my first (pricey) foray into YouTube, you don’t need a massive professional team to shoot quality videos. You really only need one camera (DSLR , iPhone, or web) – none of which necessarily require a body behind it.

Sure, having extra hands around always helps, especially when there’s a lot of food prep involved, but consider asking friends, family, or student volunteers who want to see a shoot in action as you get started.

As for hair and makeup, I invested in getting lessons from a hair stylist I like and a makeup artist I often use for professional shoots. For someone who is on TV and films YouTube segments a couple times a week, paying for hair and makeup out of pocket quickly eats into my freelance fees.

And, yes, guys you need make up too. The camera can easily wash out natural features and exaggerate shine. Getting a basic makeup kit and a few tips will make a huge difference. I recommend simply watching a few tutorials online to quickly gain some skills that will save you oodles of cash for professional appearances. As an added bonus, you’ll also know how to make yourself look amazing for date night. Win, win!
Practice but be flexible
Having a solid sense of what you want to say in front of the camera will save you time on shoot day, but you’ll want to be flexible and ready to improvise a bit. Sometimes the way you write things out in a script doesn’t translate so well to camera. Make sure you say it out loud for a friend or family member (or the person holding the camera) to refine the language and ensure it feels natural.
I happen to have a strong TV and theatre background that has guided me from my early media days, but I also spent over a year at Second City honing my improv skills.

If you find yourself a little stiff in delivering messages, consider taking a few improv or acting classes just to loosen yourself up. Trust me, you don’t need to be a media maven to benefit from these classes – adaptive communication skills transcends industries. Also, you’ll have a blast.
Experiment with content
My producer and I made a pact to spend our first year trying out a wide range of content to see what our audience responded to best. It has worked really well for us. From there, we’ve been able to build a strong mandate for our 2016 season.

If something doesn’t seem to be getting many likes, comments, or views, try taking a different direction. Trust me, not everything will be a hit but the possibilities are endless.
Make money
Once you have a fairly consistent following, try pitching a sponsored video to brands you feel align well with your own professional brand. Price yourself for your time, and your expertise, not necessarily just for your following. Remember, as dietitians, we are the experts.

Brands really do want to align with the legitimacy and knowledge that dietitians bring to the table. We have more power than you might think. Don’t undersell yourself. It will hurt us all!

This blog post is just touching the YouTubing iceberg. It is more of an inspiring call to action than a comprehensive how-to.

I urge you to just jump in and take a stab at creating your first YouTube video. Share your top health tips, cook a recipe, bust a myth, or just have a little foodie fun in front of the camera to get your feet wet. If you’re worried no one’s listening, tag me @AbbeysKitchen, or some of your other dietitian colleagues, and I can promise you you’ll feel the support.

If we want to be recognized as the experts in nutrition and food, we need more dietitians in front of the public’s eyes – and their eyes are consistently online.
Editor’s note: YouTube intimidates me! I have wanted to try making some nutrition education videos but haven’t had the courage to start. Abbey’s call to action might just be the motivation many of us need to get on YouTube. 
Watch for upcoming professional development sessions from Dietitians of Canada including a session at the Dietitians of Canada National Conference in June called, "Unleash the power of social media for your business and career.”

Abbey also shared that she's working on a multi-session workshop for nutrition professionals who want to learn about how to blog successfully, write and photograph healthy recipes, tackle social media, deliver credible nutrition information in the media and, of course, make awesome YouTube videos. For details, reach out to her at

Have you made YouTube videos before or wanted to try? Please share links to your videos below, or leave comments or questions for Abbey.  
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