Monday, May 10, 2010

Using Your Video Tool

You're a creative person.  You're always thinking "out of the box" during meetings and finding different, unique and, well, creative solutions to problems facing your team or your oranization.  You keep your budget in mind and work around the constraints to produce quality results.  You could have been a writer, or an actor and your friends think your funny, always cracking jokes like you do. 

So it makes sense that when your organization has a need to create a video for social media purposes, you're the one tagged to put it together.  Now you're faced with the huge task of creating a video that has to be interesting, useful and, most likely, funny.  Suddenly your muse has left you and what once felt like a challenging but fun project is looking more and more like the daunting task of climbing Mt. Everest.
Never fear.  Your friends at Real Public Relations and Growing Communications are here to help you through this social media dilemma.  And it is a dilemma since you're faced with so many options, so many alternatives, so many questions.  But creating a company video doesn't have to be a huge task.  It can, and should be, fun. 

First, you have to know what your options are.  As we've covered in this space before, you really have three options for video when considering it for your various social media platforms.  To review:

1.  Third-party generated video - This is video created by outside sources that relate to your product or service.  Generally you can link these videos from YouTube to your platforms with no problems.

2.  User-generated videos - This strategy encourages your users to produce videos themselves and post it to your site.  Your users can take videos of your product in action or or a testimonial.  

3.  Self-generated videosThese are videos you create, shoot and edit yourself.

There are pro's and cons to each option.  Obviously when you use third-party videos, you have to worry about copyright issues, plus you're at the mercy of the creativity and production skills of someone outside your organization.  Lastly, using third-party videos doesn't really say anything specific or unique about your organization.  More than likely, even though it might feature a product or service that is similar to yours, it will focus on another organization, which does little for you.  On the plus side, it's easy and fast and cost next to nothing.

User-generated videos can be a huge boost to your efforts.  To begin with, it encourages interaction among your base, and others outside of your circle of friends and customers.  This is particularly true if you offer a regular prize to the best videos.  This is also a very cheap way to build up your bank of videos to use.  You don't have to spend any money or time to create separate videos, you simply let your base do that for you.  For instance, the Bovine Metropolis Theater in Denver that has its performers create individual videos telling viewers about themselves, about the theater and about specific shows. 

This is a great use of user-generated videos because it not only introduces the players, the theater and the shows to the general public in a fun and interactive way, but it gives the theater a low-cost way to build up its in-house video library.

The biggest risk for user-generated videos is that you have to be very careful about what you post from outside parties.  They won't always be on board with your overall message or it might not fit the style or look you are trying to achieve.  As long as you're careful about what kind of user-generated videos you post, this is always a great option.

Self-generated videos:

Now we're into the meat of the issue here and really, the purpose of this entry.  Frist, the downside of creating your own videos; cost.  Really, that's the biggest issue when putting together your own video.  cost in terms of equipment, cast, crew and the time involved in shooting and editing your own video. 

Even if you have your own equipment, including editing software, you can safely assume you will have to spend a number of hours to produce a high-quality, interesting and fun video.  Let's say you have an idea for a video that will run, say 3-5 minutes.  For every minute of useable video, you will likely shoot an hours worth of tape.  These are industry estimations, by the way.  You can also figure that for every minute of finished product you will end up editing about an hour per minute. 

Of course with proper planing and experience, you can cut down that time significantly.  But even the most experienced videographers I work with estimate an hours worth of time for every finished minute of finished product.  So if you have a five minute video, you should figure it will take approximately ten hours to produce this video.  Time is really the biggest obstacle for small businesses and non-profits when producing self-generated videos.

Your Style:

Now that you understand the time issues involved you can begin to create your video.  You can go any number of routes from funny to serious to infomercial.  It's really up to you.  One of the things I encourage clients to do when they're considering creating their own video is to take a look at their organization.  How are they perceived in the community?  How do they WANT to be percieved.  What is their "style"?  It's a little like dressing for success.  If you want to be considered as a mover and a shaker, you dress like one.  You want your video to express a similar message. 

Maybe you want potential customers to think of your organization as a fun, exciting place to do business with.  Maybe you want to be thought of as a very professional, more conservative organization.  Your video should reflect your image as much as possible.

You also have to take your message into consideration.  What are you trying to do with your video?  Are you attempting to motivate people to become involved as part of a call to action?  Are you simply letting people know what product and services you offer?  Are you raising awareness for an upcoming sale or event?  The purpose of your video is important when trying to decide how to put it together.  It will combine with your overall message and style to guide you when choosing your story and characters.

The Details:

Which, of course, leads me to the next step; story and characters.  Not all videos have to have amazing characters with tons of backstory and depth.  We're not shooting a movie, this isn't Star Wars.  But your story should be clear and concise with your message in full view at all times.

One of the things I encourage clients to do is to consider a series of videos.  Shooting and posting a single video is fine, but it's a lot like a newspaper article.  It's big news for one or two days and then it disappears.  Instead of spending your entire budget on a single five minute video, why not produce five one-minute videos instead. 

This allows you to actually create a character that viewers can follow with interest, plus you can develop a storyline that will keep viewers coming back to see what happens.  This will help you build an audience and hopefully a following.

An example:

I'm working with an animal spay and neuter organization in Colorado.  They are producing a video series designed to raise awareness of spaying and neutering dogs and cats.  Instead of blowing their budget on a single video, they have decided on a storyline video that features a primary character.  The video will be campy, fun and interesting. 

This is important because the campaign is focusing primarily on individuals 35 years old and younger.  Since this demographic seems to be the least likely to spay and neuter their pets, the focus is on raising awareness among this demo.  This means the video has to be fun as well as interesting all while giving a call to action.  A staid, buttoned up video wouldn't get the job done.  At the same time, you can't go the other route and make it some kind of extreme video, as if you were selling energy drinks to skateboarders.  By staying true to their organizational message and style, but packaging it in a video that is funny and interesting, the video will appeal to members that fall into the target age range.

This is an excellent strategy for a number of reasons.  First, because the video will be built around a primary character, this character can now be folded into other social media efforts.  You can build a Twitter for the character, a Facebook page, even a blog.  You can do a photo shoot with the character and make this character a kind of ambassador for your organization. 

Another benefit for a video series is that it's easier to tell compelling stories in a series than it is in a singular video.  Think of those old serials they used to show at the movies years ago.  The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, etc.  Every week there was a new cliffhanger and people would come back just to see how the hero survived or got out of the mess. 

Finally, a series of videos won't cost you anything extra in terms of time or money, you'll end up spending about the same as you would for a longer single video, but you'll get more bang for your buck.

Toot Your Own Horn:

When you get right down to it, your self-generated videos are, in essence, little commercials for your organization.  And, just like regular commercials, your creativity will help you stand out from the others.  Consider the crowded and competitive world of insurance.  If I were to ask you to name three insurance companies off the top of your head, it's likely you would list your own, followed by Geico and/or Prorgressive.  Geico has used a variety of commercials to appeal to different audiences very successfully.  From the caveman, to the celebrity spokespeople to the Geico lizard, they're campaigns have been both fun and successful. 

Progressive has reaped huge rewards from their "Flo" series of commercials.  What started out as a simple three set commercial contract has now blossomed into a series that is now the face of the organization, expanding into print ads and radio spots. 

You can do something similar with your own videos, you just have to keep a few basics in mind when creating your masterpiece.  

1.  Keep your organizational style in mind
2.  Keep your message at the forefront
3.  Determine the purpose and make the purpose clear in the video
4.  Consider your audience when creating your video
5.  Be prepared to spend some money and time to produce your video
6.  Have a clear and understandable storyline
7.  Have a strong character, even if that character is your organization
8.  Work with videographers you trust.  Don't leave this project to just anyone, the final product 
     is too important.
9.  The lighting may not be the best, and the picture may not be HD, that's fine, but make sure 
     the sound is top notch.
10.  Incorporate your video into other aspects of your social media efforts whenever possible.

There you have it.  If you keep these things in mind, you'll be able to produce a quality video that meets all your requirements and will attract viewers and, hopefully, new customers.  You don't have to be George Lucas to create an excellent video.  And you don't have to go viral for your video to be a success.  It's nice if it does, but as long as your video reaches the audience you're targeting, you'll reap the benefits.

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