Lights, camera, action! – The rise of video as a corporate business tool

Be honest – how many YouTube videos have you watched this week? A few, right? Don’t feel bad – so has everyone else. In fact, a recent study by comScore Inc in the US has shown that the average internet user watches around 186 videos a month.

While the purpose of many of those videos is to simply entertain the viewer, a lot of them are also meant to be informative and even didactic.

Video may have killed the radio star but it is now responsible for injecting new life into business communications, both internal (with CEO announcements or staff training videos, for example) and external. The overall rise of video in the digital age means that companies are also moving towards video as a means of transmitting the messages they want to pass onto customers, partners and even staff. 

Seeing is believing

For Steve King, from Corporate Media, video is becoming an increasingly powerful business communications tool because, more than the written word or even still photographs, it is able to capture emotion.

“That’s the same whether it’s for a TVC, a conference opener, a client testimonial, CEOs update to staff, training video, or seminar highlights video. I'm not discounting live presentations or demonstrations, that's obviously the best way to connect one-on-one or with a group, but delivered properly a video message will always have more impact than a written or audio one, whether you're demonstrating a process, presenting a testimonial, or simply wanting to communicate a message with all the passion that you can,” he says.

Graham Elliot, from Picture Talk Productions, agrees. “When executed well, video can be a very powerful method of delivering messages. It can create a sense of trust and confidence in a business, be used to explain complex ideas and procedures quickly and easily,” he adds.

If a picture speaks a thousand words, what does a video say? “There are so many things a video can convey that a photo could never convey,” says Lumiere Corporate Video’s Karen Bardach. “A video can show more than one side of a product, it can show a product being used and it can show the excitement of an event. We live in a digital world where social media is ingrained in our daily lives. People shop online and want product or service information provided quickly and concisely. I believe video can hold a viewer’s attention much better than text and photos. Research shows websites with video have higher hit rates and click through rates than static websites,” she adds.

The idea is that a video has more potential for engagement with viewers than any written article would have. Videos are particularly powerful when it comes to spelling out complicated messages – for example, training staff to use complex tools – or when presenting customer testimonials.

“People are sceptic of written material. You cannot verify that they really said that. But watching someone speaking has a whole other level of authenticity, explains Steve Murray of Synergy Films, who specialises in B2B and business to staff communications. “You can say a lot in a short time. Whether we like it or not, people are moving away from reading stuff. They don’t have the time to read stuff. Video is a very engaging way to spread a message. It can also be very authentic. A video of a customer talking about their experience is way more compelling than a written testimonial.”

Murray believes the true power of video is in telling authentic stories. It’s all about people connecting with people. “I have a thing about authentic stories. Whenever possible, I want to get people involved – the videos are almost mini-documentaries in some respect. That’s how I prefer to approach things,” he adds.

Steve Adams, from Socialize, agrees – you can add all the bells and whistles you want (and sometimes you should) but, in the end, it’s all about the people. “Online video is all about telling authentic stories, not manufactured content like TVCs, so we look for real yarns: real customers talking about their experience of the product, the founders of the business telling the story of why they started the business, and so on.

“What makes a good story great is human emotion. I have worked with people for an hour to help them unpack their story and tell it in a way that resonates,” he says. “Most of the people we shoot have never been in front of camera before, so it takes time and patience to help them get comfortable enough to tell us their stories. Every business owner has a great story to tell, it's just a question of finding it.” 

Content is still king

While video may allow for a whole lot of special effects that written case studies and documents don’t have, it is still all about having a message and transmitting it effectively and in a compelling manner. The old adage that “content is king” is still true for video productions and no amount of editing will save a video with an unclear message.

According to Adams, online video is, among other things, great for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) purposes as “Google loves YouTube clips”. It is also a great tool for social media engagement because “Facebook loves video posts”. “It converts traffic, as websites with video get three times more visitors and they visit for longer and it converts sales as visitors who watch a video are 85 percent more likely to buy,” he adds. For these reasons, it is no wonder video is set to account for 70 percent of all internet traffic in the next few years, up from 57 percent in 2012 (source: Wipster).

The thing to remember is that effective videos don’t have to be fancy or even expensive. All you need is a clear message and a solid knowledge of who your audience is and what you should be telling them.

“A message that needs to impress or instil confidence or desire in its audience may require much higher production value than one from an executive delivering regular updates to his or her team. In the latter case you generally don't want it to look like it's had a lot of money spent on it! But it still has to have competent production values and be delivered in a manner that doesn’t undermine their authority/leadership- in other words it has to make them look good. Good videos – or at least the most engaging ones – tell a story. And they need to be as long as necessary but as short as possible,” says King.

Being creative won’t hurt either. Elliott gives the example of a video series that Picture Talk has been working on for Mighty River Power over the last two years: the company has been producing a series of advent calendar videos with a different video each day from a different sector of the business leading up to Christmas through an interactive Christmas-themed web page, much like an advent calendar. The videos are presented by staff from different sectors of the business and are quick punchy overviews of highlights of the year. Because it is all about people connecting with people, the series, Elliott says, has been very popular.

Pure Productions' Jamie McKenzie says that any successful video needs to be relevant, punchy and creative. "People's attention spans for video are getting shorter and shorter. We used to watch videos that were five minutes long and now they need to be 60 to 90 seconds," he says.

His company offers a full video production service to corporates, including external messaging and internal communications (with a lot of work around recruitment and staff training). While internal communication videos don't need to be quite so short, external messages posted online need to get to the point quickly. "If it's posted on the internet and people have a choice of how and when to watch it, then the shorter the better," adds McKenzie. 

Gio Jin, from Plus Alpha, specialises in providing digital content to businesses, including 2D and 3D video clips. He says video’s biggest attraction is the element of “interaction” and the level of engagement that you can’t get through another medium. “Clients these days don’t want to be reading stuff on websites,” he says adding that “dumping all your company information on the website does not work”. Instead, companies should opt for video clips on their homepages, ideally less than two minutes long (in the age of instant gratification, that’s about as much as you’ll get out of someone’s attention span). 

Production values

The explosion of smart devices equipped with fairly decent cameras means that, these days, a lot of people fancy themselves as amateur video producers and directors. While that’s not a bad thing if you’re trying to record your baby’s first steps or your cat doing something silly to share on Facebook, it is of little or no value when it comes to your corporate video.

Corporate video productions don’t have to be expensive but should be carried out by professionals with the right skills and access to the best editing tools.

To creative effective videos, a lot of work goes into pre and post production. “Based upon personal experience, the best video comes from extensive pre-production planning,” says Bardach. “Pre-production is everything we do before we point a camera at anything. It involves client meetings to flesh out what they want to accomplish with their video. We help them define their key messages and make sure they understand the benefits and limitations of video. The challenge is to help the client focus their effort by defining their goals and identify any misperceptions they may have about video. Without definitive pre-production, a client may not end up with the video they want. This is by far the most important step in the process and sometimes clients want to skip over it. Pre-production takes the guess work out of making a good video,” she adds. Summing up: a good video is the result of interesting content, smart editing and appropriately timed voice over and motion graphics.

The good news? Corporate video production doesn’t have to take very long. In fact, most of them will take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. The ideal movie can’t be very long anyway and, since most of them are distributed online these days (through the business’ website or through social media channels such as YouTube or Facebook), they are restricted to being a couple of minutes long. 

Up in the clouds

Tim Norton’s video production company, 90 seconds, is a true example of how the internet is revolutionising video. Norton’s company is a cloud-based global service using freelancers to create videos for anyone, anywhere in the world. He currently has 50 countries on his network but that number continues to increase.

“The whole production process is managed beautifully in the cloud,” says Norton. “It’s all online – it’s amazing.” He says global companies in particular have a lot to gain from this type of service as they can get shots from anywhere in the world with consistent quality. Because it is cloud-based and does not require heavy infrastructure, Norton says the service is also very affordable for businesses of all sizes.

Norton seems more and more brands and businesses these days wanting to move into becoming publishers in their own right and wanting to take control of what is said about them and how the content is distributed, rather than hoping a media company will pick up on what they’re doing.

It’s not all about marketing, though. Norton says a wide range of businesses also use his services to create videos that engage with customers in terms of customer support – so they do not need to call up to get answers to their questions. 

Looking ahead

According to King, the corporate video revolution has only just started. “More and more businesses are identifying the video production tool that staff already have in their pockets – a smartphone,” he says. While there can be a limited level of DIY in video, it is important, however, to seek professional guidance, or you might risk hurting your brand with a cheap-looking video.

Synergy Films’ Murray warns against the pitfalls of this democratisation of video. “Because video is so accessible, there is this perception that it’s easy and anyone with a smartphone can do it,” he says. “Video is not about the technology, that’s just a tool. Video is a craft that requires skill and the old Kiwi DIY mentality doesn’t really work in this context.”

While realistic people-stories will never go out of fashion, animated videos and augmented reality are changing the playing field and expanding the opportunities for businesses. Plus Alpha’s Jin gives the example of companies using augmented reality to create flyers or brochures that customers can scan with their smartphone to load a video on their devices as yet another way to distribute the message.

As the technology continues to develop and become more accessible, video continues to get more powerful. Pure Productions' McKenzie says "buttons within video" are coming and they will help revolutionise the industry. "We're seeing interactive video become more and more popular because it allows users to choose the storyline," he says. "It's a huge opportunity for businesses because it allows them to monitor how users interact with the video and allows them to measure results."

Whether you choose a 3D animation or a more old-fashioned customer testimonial, one thing is for sure: video is here to stay and the explosion will not slow down any time soon. With Ultrafast Broadband being rolled out across the country, more and more businesses will be able to take advantage of the opportunities in online video and digital content in general. And you wouldn’t want to be left behind and go the way of the radio star.

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