Just as a baby grand piano doesn’t make someone a virtuoso musician, a digital camera and editing software doesn’t make someone a producer of compelling videos. There’s a wide range of quality and costs across the spectrum of videos available on the Web. The spectrum runs from jerky, poorly lit camera phone recordings of a child’s birthday party, to slick advertorials for luxury cars produced by top Hollywood talent. Our clients’ needs and budgets fall somewhere in between. For medium-sized B2B companies, “business casual videos” are the best fit.
I saw the “business casual videos” term on David Merman Scott’s blog. It aptly describes the videos that mid-sized B2B companies should be producing. You want to position well above the T-shirt and sneakers crowd, but below the Brooks Brothers (think IBM) crowd. You want to select a video marketing producer well above the legions of wedding videographers now pursuing online marketing careers, but below the major city agencies who have massive overheads to carry.
My partner in acSellerant Video Strategies is Teri Addabbo. Teri has produced thousands of hours of broadcast television. She has definite opinions on what it takes to produce effective videos – videos that people watch to completion because they want to.
Teri: “It’s not a part-time gig. It’s a complex art and science to script, shoot and edit seamless, watchable videos. Anybody can shoot video, but to get attention and communicate with an audience, you have to create a connection.”
Bob: “Which is much more difficult than it looks. Let’s address it one component at a time. For video case studies, we’re doing a lot of interviews. Give us an example regarding the interview process. What sorts of mistakes might a novice make?”
The Interview Process
Teri: “It’s important to understand the interview process. It’s not just asking questions. You have to do your homework so that when a question is answered you can follow up and create a conversation. How many hours do you spend preparing, Bob? You learn all about our client’s business, about how their customer is using their product, the benefits, the ROI, the person being interviewed – their role and responsibilities. When they trust you, the interviewee relaxes and engages in the conversation. That’s when it flows and becomes fun and interesting to watch.”
Bob: “I know this is a pet peeve of yours and something many mid-sized companies attempt to do – record a video of a PowerPoint presentation given at a conference or seminar.”
Teri: “Absolutely. People don’t realize the number of facets that must be managed in order to produce something that’s usable. They’ll rely on the lights and sound equipment in the room. Big mistake. Either there’s not enough light so you can’t see the speaker’s facial expressions or hand gestures… which are what add emotion and interest; or there’s too much light and the screen is washed out. If the speaker isn’t mic’d for the video, you’re recording second hand from the room, often picking up ambient sounds that drown out the words.”
“The result is a video that’s unusable. Even if they get everything right, the video is boring. Being in the room is one thing. Watching an hour long presentation on video is deadly.”
Inexperience = Costly Mistakes
Bob: “Let’s explore the number of things that can go wrong. Your wealth of experience saves us almost daily from making costly mistakes.”
Teri: “OK. Let’s start with the script. Writing for a visual medium is much different than writing for print.”
Bob: “Yes, so I’ve learned. I actually covered that elsewhere (Optimize This!) though, so let’s skip that for now. We’ve touched on the camera, lighting and sound. What else?”
Teri: “Alright, let’s talk about editing. People think that you just punch a few buttons and you stitch snippets of digitized video together. That’s part of it, but how do you tell a story while doing that? How do you transition from scene to scene? How about pacing? If it’s too fast or too slow, you lose viewers. You have to vary the pace.”
“How about post production and motion graphics? These can be very powerful, especially for marketing applications… but they must be used judiciously. Too much and they appear hokey or overwhelm the viewer. They should augment the action, adding related but not redundant information.”
“What about voice-over narration and sound effects and music? All of these must be synchronized and layered over the visuals so they add to the experience. If not done correctly, they can distract and confuse the viewer.”
The Story and the Marketing Messages
“If all the above is accomplished in a professional way, the end result is seamless. It’s a joy to watch. Viewers are unaware of the production… they’re absorbing the story and the marketing messages. And that’s what marketers should be aiming for. Otherwise, they’re spending time and money to produce a video that won’t be watched, or one that’s not going to have the desired effect. It can even have the opposite effect – leaving the viewer with a negative impression of the company.”
Bob: “And that happens. A company pays for a video, it’s produced, but it’s shoddy. So they bury it because they realize it’s an embarrassment. In that instance, beyond the wasted money, at least no harm was done. Sometimes though, they go ahead and display it where clients and prospects can see it. Now they’ve paid for something that harms their reputation and their sales.”
Business Casual Video
How much is too much when it comes to production values? It depends on your situation, your product or service, your target market, your competition, etc. In B2B marketing, you definitely don’t want to show up dressed sloppily, but you don’t want to be over-dressed either. Shoot for business casual video to make it affordable and watchable.