I’ve been shooting, producing and editing corporate, training and documentary videos since Adobe Flash ruled the world of Internet video. Yes, I know, that was a long time ago. But over the years, I’ve picked up some valuable lessons from corporate and government clients who had wasted thousands of dollars on videos that did very little to improve brand awareness, promote thought leadership and engage specific communities of interest.
In this piece, I’m going to share with you those lessons and some insight into how I was able to help these clients achieve a clear return on their investments. Although my work has supported clients in the homeland security, technology, cybersecurity, public safety and government contracting communities, the 5 Reasons Your Videos Aren’t Living Up to Their Hype are applicable to any organization regardless of industry.
If the driving factor behind your decision to make a corporate video is that 87 percent of online marketers use video content, then it’s fair to say that you are not really sure why you are making videos.
Effective videos are effective because they are guided by a clear strategy with specific objectives in mind.
Before you do anything, you should know the following about your video: The overall objective; the target audience; the intended results; and the timing and budget for your final product(s) to hit the market.
These are planning considerations that should be agreed to in writing by all of your organization’s key stakeholders before you start searching for a video production partner. Most corporate and government video projects today must serve the missions and objectives of multiple stakeholder communities, whether those are marketing, business development, sales, legal, regulatory or any number of other key decision makers your organization may have. Engaging across your organization during the planning stage is more than a common courtesy — it ensures that your company or organization speaks with one voice through your final video production and lessens the chance that the content will cause confusion in specific areas of the market.
A few years ago, I was hired by a national brand to produce a series of public service announcements dealing with public safety. I had been working with this organization for a couple of years on a multitude of internal training videos, but they had recently hit a wall with one of their big-time production firms that was responsible for their PSAs. The last straw came when the firm produced the digital equivalent of a $40,000 paperweight. They brought me in for the last production because I knew their corporate culture, the language of their industry and the security and safety issues facing their target audience. I delivered a better product in half the time and at a fraction of the cost of the big production company with their massive overhead.
The lesson here is not that I’m better (although, well, you know, wink, wink). The lesson here is that engaging a video production partner that speaks your organization’s language, understands your mission and the issues facing your market and customers, will save you time, money and headaches in the long run. Finding this type of partner is easy: Just ask if they have done work in the recent past for organizations in your market or on issues that are important to your company’s brand awareness. But don’t just stop there, make sure if you are engaging a larger production company that the personnel that were involved in those previous projects are still there and available to work on your production.
Let’s face it, specific market and industry knowledge or knowledge of specialized content is critical to being able to produce a video that is accurate and valuable while also being compelling, fun and entertaining. Too often, marketing executives think that production value alone can make up for content shortfalls. Nothing is further from the truth.
Your goal should always be to balance the production value your video contractor brings to the table with his/her knowledge of your market. In my case, I had a major homeland security consulting firm take me on as a long-term video production partner because of my ability to instantly understand their messaging objectives and where they fit in to their overall market. In fact, their senior vice president once told me “we prefer to work with you because we don’t have to explain what we mean by the words terrorism, cyber-terrorism or big data analytics every time we sit down to plan a video.”
Make sure you pick the right production partner. It’s so simple.
We’ve all watched these videos and we all hate them. You know, the ones that have clearly been written by an internal corporate marketing executive or a business line manager. They are stiff, clumsy, and make the entire production sound overly-scripted and too focused on sales. This is not how you achieve brand awareness and recognition as a thought leader in your community.
The script is the heart of your video production. This is where your messaging lives or dies. Make sure you hire a knowledgeable and skilled script writer. Don’t leave it to Dave or Susan in marketing and communications. Trust me, script writing for video is not their forte.
In one of my largest and most complex production contracts with a government agency, I had to write a 30-minute script that was reviewed and edited by a committee of nearly a dozen subject matter experts, on-camera talent and senior agency leaders. They all got a say in what the content was and how it should be worded in the script. It was my job as a professional writer and production editor to guide that collaborative process and massage the wording so that we ended up with a script that made our on-camera talent more relaxed and better communicators.
It took weeks to work out the industry and government terminology, to show the executives the value of sounding natural by using plain language and to ensure, in the end, that key messaging was not being diluted. In fact, the script writing process for this particular project continued right through the actual filming phase. You will discover that no matter how great you think your script is, it may not be easy to say on camera or even understandable once you hear it.
This is why you need a professional to write your script with an integrated view of your overall objectives, your audience and your on-camera talent. Your brand will thank you.
So, here you are. Now it’s time to turn your vision and script into a compelling visual story. You inform your video producer that you want the final version to be flashy, fast-paced and full of high-end graphics. This, you say, is important to keeping the audience engaged.
Well, not really. A much more important factor in how engaged your viewers become is the length of your video. Don’t turn what was supposed to be a 3 or 4 minute video into 30 or 40 minutes. Video and script creep is real and it’s a real problem that kills effective videos. For marketing or promotional videos, you have 1 minute to make the pitch, 1 minute to support it and make the call to action, and the rest is production fluff for those who are still watching (very few).
Video and script creep most often occurs during the editing process, when an organization must win the approval and buy-in of multiple departments. And if your production company didn’t suggest a detailed storyboard to plan out each scene of your video, you will be at the mercy of the many frustrated Steven Speilbergs who secretly occupy your organization. Even though they signed-off on the script weeks before, they will now have ideas about how to more effectively communicate certain points in the video (which, not surprisingly, will be content developed/suggested by competing internal organizations or managers). They will make suggestions on graphics and animations (with little knowledge or experience of what is involved in changing an animated graphic and re-rendering the footage). They will suggest visual edits that do not improve the storytelling.
Of course, as the project manager you will collect all of this feedback in a bulleted list and send it on to your video editor with the message, “here’s the feedback I received on the first draft. When can we see another draft?”
If you are partnered with a large production house, they will immediately love you because they are going to charge you for every round of edits beyond maybe one or two. And you will have more than one or two. If you are partnered with an agile video production partner, they will sit down with you and explain what is involved in every edit and what it’s impact will be on the final production, particularly its length. More importantly, if you chose a video production partner with knowledge and experience in your industry, they will quickly be able to offer the pros and cons of particular edits with a view toward how they will impact branding, messaging and audience engagement.
As the project manager, it is your responsibility to take that guidance from your video production partner and make the tough calls. You cannot make everybody happy in one video. And if you or others think you need 10 minutes for a marketing / promotional video, then you likely need two or three videos with specific messaging in each.
Every organization has them. Jack over in accounting makes great YouTube videos. So does the new marketing intern — she’s got a future with your company she probably doesn’t even know about yet. The problem here is that Jack and the intern lack A LOT of knowledge about the fundamentals of professional videography.
These videos are easy to spot. They are the ones with nice stock graphics, but the interviews sound like they were recorded in an empty subway car. The on-camera personalities are usually sitting against a wall in a conference room. The lighting is coming from the florescent bulbs in the ceiling, casting dark shadows under the eyes and nose. The subject matter experts on camera are wearing striped shirts or ties with crazy patterns that seem to dance in mid-air when the video is rendered. The ambitious use of green screen techniques has left your on-camera talent with a yellow-green halo around their hair.
Production values today are very high, even for beginners. So there’s not a lot of room for glaring mistakes. As important as it is to choose a video production partner who understands your company’s mission, market and customers, your video producer also needs to be knowledgeable and equipped to handle the basics of high-quality video production, such as:
- Three-point lighting using professional video lighting systems.
- Professional wired and/or wireless audio systems. ** You need professional-level cameras to achieve this. Consumer-grade camcorders will not support XLR-based microphones.
- An understanding and capability to optimize rendering for DVD, online and mobile device. A good video production partner gives his/her clients the flexibility to use their videos in different scenarios, like playing a BlueRay DVD at a trade show or conference while also streaming it to mobile users.
- Access to a cadre of professional voice-over artists to narrate your video.
- Capability to develop and create branded logo animations that can be used across all video projects.
- The ability to produce full menu-driven DVDs with closed-captions for the hearing impaired.
- Professional NLE (non-linear editing software). **Titling and motion graphics software experience is also something to consider.
Most companies and agencies are not going to staff a department to do this work in-house and for good reason — it is not a core competency. If you don’t want to waste thousands of dollars on consumer-grade videos that miss your message, do not support your brand with high production values and do not contribute to your company’s thought leadership, then it’s time to hire a professional.
Verton Multimedia Productions would be happy to help. Just contact me here.