Video: Where do I begin?

If you’re an organization wanting to add video to your marketing strategy, you realize the value but might not know where to start. You’re struggling to come up with a vision, you don’t have a creative team on staff, and maybe you’re terrified of that blinking red (or solid green) light.


There’s a lot to unpack, but it’s all attainable if you have the right framework and perspective.


How do I know this?


After 10+ years helping organizations define and execute narratives that move their audience to action, I’ve seen what works.



First, get in the right mindset


Learning anything new is tough, especially when it feels like everyone is way ahead of you. Being self-conscious in front of a camera doesn’t help either.


So start small.


Explore a number of directions and pick what feels most natural. I realize talking to a camera is anything but natural, but the goal is to stay true to who you are and what your organization stands for.


Yes, it will take a couple of awkward starts, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution since every organization is unique. But when used right, video can make a big difference.


You have so much to offer, so let’s figure out how to tell your audience all about it.

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Second, determine your strategy

(a.k.a. define your vision)


Video is a means to an end, so begin at the end.


Video can take many forms and serve a multitude of purposes simultaneously. Eventually, you’ll generate content that speaks to your audience’s needs throughout their customer journey, but for now pick one goal.


1 | Identify your goal


When you think about your organization, where do you think video can give you the greatest lift?


Are you trying to build awareness? Do you need more general inquiries? Then a brand video telling the story of your organization might be the way to go.


On the other hand, if you want your audience to take action – purchase a product or service, donate money – testimonials from past clients, or how-to’s educating your audience (and therefore showcasing your talents) will build trust.


If you’ve just acquired a client and want to excel in customer service, you could film a quick selfie video thanking them for trusting you, and expressing excitement to work with them in coming days.


Regardless of approach, video has the power to make an emotional connection and cut through the noise. That’s why it works and why in 2020, 85% of organizations are using video in their marketing strategy.

Source: Hubspot


Suddenly, you’re no longer just another Google search result. You’re an imperfect human being, just like your next client.


If there’s anyone reading this thinking, ‘but I don’t want to pour my heart out on camera,’ that’s not what I’m talking about.


The goal is to craft a story that connects with your audience, lets them know you understand where they are right now and how you’ll get them to where they want to be.


Storytelling is powerful. It’s where the magic lies, and it can be applied to any approach.



2 | Determine distribution + optimization


Where are you going to publish your content, and what are you going to do to maximize reach? Yes, SEO applies to video too!


Organizations often post videos on their website and on their social media channels. But where you host the video matters to the customer experience, as well as how you track metrics.


Will your audience easily find you on YouTube but be lured into promoted content having nothing to do with your organization? Or do you create an account on Vimeo or Wistia to control the user experience and track metrics beyond just the number of views, but at the expense of making it harder for audiences to find you?


Also, be aware that every platform registers video differently. The more you can post natively to the platform (i.e. upload straight to Facebook, Twitter instead of linking through YouTube), the better your content will perform. If you’re aiming for YouTube or Facebook, film as horizontal. If you want to reach viewers on Instagram, IGTV is vertical.


Then, how long will your video run? You’ve got eight seconds (or less) to hook a viewer, but once they’re hooked, the skies the limit. Recent studies have shown viewers will watch 15+ minutes if it’s really good content.


But again, let’s start small. General rule of thumb for promotional content geared towards a general audience is 60 seconds.


3 | Define success


This gets back to your original goal. How will you measure the video’s success? What data will you point to and say, ‘yes, this worked!’ Or ‘man, that was an epic failure.’


Is it number of views, number of email inquiries, newsletter signups, or clients walking through the door? How about increase in sales? What is the needle that needs to move, and how far does it have to move to be considered a success?


Video is a long-game. Like photography, it's subjective and not everyone will watch all the way to the end. But one day you’ll have video library that speaks to all your client's needs exactly where they are in that moment.


So start small. Choose one goal, one measurement, and test the waters.


Third, plan your production


So how do you get from a spark of an idea to a video that checks all the boxes?


Once you’ve got strategy lined up and vision clearly defined, decide how you’re going to translate everything into video. Will this be interviews, how-to series, webinars or motion graphics?


Next, do you have the talent in house to create, or will you need to outsource to a production company?


Regardless, be sure everyone is on the same page before you press record.


My golden rule: Assume nothing, ever. Ask everything, always. And make sure every detail is communicated to the right person (i.e. budget, concept, etc.).


Ok, time for tactics. I’m going to assume you want to create a video with people in present-day environments.


When you think about video, which ones grab and keep your attention? I bet it’s not ones with a lot of talking heads.


It’s all about broll, or illustrative footage. You need to show, not tell.


For someone to believe you, don’t just tell them why they need xyz; show them how doing [fill in the blank with your organization’s product or service] will get them from A to B. What does this mean for filming?


60%+ of your time should be dedicated to capturing illustrative footage; the rest to interviews.


For example, if you’re creating a brand video about your construction company, talk about how your passion for building began as a child with Legos while showing a series of childhood photos.


If your team’s reliability and approachability is important, show the crew in action on a construction site.


If you hold relationships and community in high regard, film your interactions with staff and clients in and out of the office.


And if you really want pull back the curtain, show you at home with your family.


As your audience sees all this footage, they’re hearing your voice captured during interviews. By the time they get to the end of a 60-second video, they’ll have a very good sense of who you are, what you stand for, and whether they’d like to work with you.

But how do you know what questions to ask? And how do you blend responses into a powerful, emotive story that encourages trust?


Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What are they skeptical of? What are their pain points, and why is your product or service the ideal solution?


If you think multiple voices are necessary, schedule back-to-back interviews in a dedicated location that enhances your message while reinforcing your brand.


For example, if you are the owner of a construction company, you probably wouldn’t film your interview at a sports arena or in the park, but rather on a building site.



And finally, be aware of roadblocks


So you’ve got a strategy planned out. You’re ready to go with interviews and a list of broll shots to film.


Smooth sailing from here, right?


In 10+ years of video production, I’ve had my fair share of roadblocks. Here are a few to avoid:


1 | Approvals


Identify all the cooks in your kitchen; anyone with veto power needs to sign off on concept, success metrics, and anything else that’s make-or-break before you press record.


2 | Appearance releases


All identifiable persons needs to sign an appearance (model) release – and I mean everyone.


To maximize ROI of your video investment, you want to the ability to re-purpose content in as many ways as possible – more videos, website copy, presentations, etc.


To make that happen, have everyone sign a release. Otherwise, you may find one day you need of a lawyer.


3 | Timeline


Video takes time, not only to shoot, but also to edit and revise. You have to select the right combination of quotes, broll and music to convey just the right narrative.


And then of course leave plenty of time for edits. Remember all those cooks I talked about? Be prepared for a few I-don’t-like-it-but-I-don’t-know-how-to-fix-it’s.


In other words, hiccups inevitably happen. Leave yourself plenty of runway for it all to come together as calmly and fluidly as possible.


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This framework is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it’s a helpful starting point. The power of video is unquestionable and limitless. You just have to give it a go, be prepared for a few speed bumps, and keep trying!


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maryknox@maryknoxmiller.com