Larchmont Films Online Video Workshop
Just before Christmas 2011 we ran a very successful online video workshop at the central Brighton coworking space The Skiff. The aim of the event was to provide a set of sound principles applicable to all kinds of video production. What follows is a precis of our top tips from the session.
A. WHY DO YOU WANT TO MAKE A VIDEO?
Explaining who you are and what you do?
Building your brand?
Driving people to your site?
Making people laugh?
Making people think?
After identifying the reasons, we now need to strip this down to a few key ideas to focus on – too many ideas may confuse the main message, so try to keep it down to about 2 or 3 concepts. It’s very effective for big projects, but also advisable if you’re just starting out.
So you’ve decided what you want to achieve – now it is a question of how to get your message across.
Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Force yourself to think about your message from the perspective of the customer. What do they know about your product/service? What do you need them to know? What’s the No.1 issue your customer has that your product/service solves? What is your company’s USP? What does it do the best?
The South Coast Bikes film from Larchmont Films is a good example of communicating their core message instantly:
Never stop asking the obvious questions. Never stop being curious, always take it to the next level:
Level 1 – we save you time – how?
Level 2 – by making your match day bookings easier – how?
Level 3 – because we have more people working in a call centre/better computer systems – how?
Level 4 – because we reinvest more in customer care because we care more than our competitors.
See how each journalistic line of enquiry has taken the story on, and is developing it in a focused and clear way. Those three or so points and only those points, should be the focus of the video. Don’t try and put everything in. Less is more.
Love this quote from the French Philosopher Pascal who wrote a series of letters known as The Provincial Letters. He ended one letter with the line:“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
So what we’ve done, perhaps without you noticing, is get started on the story-telling process. All good videos tell a story. And you need to tell your audience a story. People learn from story-telling. They also remember stories better than lists of facts. So far we have the basis for the story. Now we need to look at who is going to tell this story.
C. WHOSE STORY IS IT ANYWAY?
There’s no one way to tell your story, it is always about adapting the approach to the audience you are trying to reach.
Sometimes a different story is required for a different audience depending on how new your company is and how developed your brand is. But there are some simple guidelines that will help you mould and shape it for nearly all contexts. Who is going to tell your story? Who is your character?
Make sure they can deliver on screen with passion. It may be that you have no choice – the CEO casts himself. No matter how boring, try and find a human element to what they do. Keep it short and use other ways to convey the majority of the message.
Alternatively think about using a combination of first-hand customer testimonials, and testimonies from company employees. Something that connects them with the audience. The golden rule here is that the best testimonials will always be delivered by people who are both engaging & believable. In business-to-business communications you could also argue, the more expert they are in their field the more seriously the message will be taken. With testimonials, one idea could be to use a case study from a happy customer.
How they had great success using your product/service might be a way to structure a film:
What was the customer’s problem/dilemma she was looking to solve?
Why did she try your product/service?
What happened as a result of that?
Can depend on budget whether you want to shell out on a third person voice-over
Can lift a film if choose the right voice
Can bring an extra layer of humour or empathy
Can convey authority.
Don’t be afraid to keep it short – everyone’s busy and time is precious.
Short films with good quality/content garner most views, links and comments.
Draw people in.
Try to emotionally engage with people.
A really good example of the final point is this video from Larchmont Films, which White Hat Media plans to use on its new website:
And a bad example is this one – promoting the new Green Deal – which is longer than it should be:
D. PICTURE THIS
Wherever possible show rather than tell. Showing is always better than telling especially as we are working in a visual medium. The dating analogy – some people will say they have a GSOH whilst others will tell an amusing story. Who are you more likely to think is funny?
So don’t tell us about the new heavy-duty motor you put in your vacuums. Show us your vacuum sucking up heavy ball bearings from the thickly carpeted floor. Keep it relevant. Nobody cares how proud you are of the entrance to your new company headquarters. Unless that gorgeous sign over your door helps your customer in some way – leave it on the cutting room floor.
Here’s an example of a corporate film about the Sussex Innovation Centre that could have had a better visual start:
Quality versus Homespun.
Once again, I think this really depends on who your audience is, what you are trying to say to them and how developed your brand is. This ALDI ad is very short and as a result probably not that expensive to produce, but it works because ALDI is such a developed brand:
You see amateur videos everywhere, they get thousands of views on platforms like YouTube and no one seems to care about the quality. If you run a T-shirt company or a small cupcake shop then maybe a semi-rough, unprofessional video is just what you need. A home made, simple video might work perfectly for a lot of small businesses. But beware – a video says a lot about your company.
A good video shows confidence, care, success. If your video is poorly lit, badly scripted, shot or hard to hear or understand – it could make a company look amateurish. You cannot redo a first impression.
So if you sell software, IT services, or healthcare-related products or services – or you want to sell to companies much bigger than yours, take care to make the right impression – the last thing you want to do is look like the kid on YouTube who plays air guitar in his bedroom.
If you want a precis of this afternoon, this would be it:“One of the most important lessons to be learned by any communicator (and one of the most easily forgotten) is that you don’t instruct people to do something – you inspire them.”
John Hegarty, Turning Intelligence Into Music
Follow that advice and you’ll never go far wrong.
December 15, 2011, The Skiff Brighton.
Copyright Larchmont Films, December 2011.