Getting the Most out of Video

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YouTube is now the number two search engine, after Google. What does that mean for those involved in fundraising, marketing and branding? That people are searching for videos about your people and your organization, not just looking for written content.  So in 2011, you may need to be ramping up your video presence on the web.

What do you need to know about video content best practices?

After having produced hundreds of videos for advocacy, motivation, education and marketing, here are my Ten Commandments of Video Content (OK, really only 7 because 10 is just too long for a blog post):

1.  Know Thy Brand. If you are a 100-year-old institution, you may have a great (and lengthy) brand story. What part of it makes sense to tell through video? Who are the voices that can best evoke your essence? If you’re a new group, do you need to establish some gravitas? How do you do that without being staid? Knowing your brand will help define your creative approach—the most important element in your video toolkit.

2.  Know Thy Target Audience. What compels your prospective audience? How old are they and what is their predisposition towards your subject matter? (translation: how long will watch your video before bailing?) If you don’t spend some time thinking about your audience, and better yet getting to know them through surveys, focus groups and face-to-face contact, you can waste a lot of time and money on video that doesn’t connect.

3.  Know Thy Goals. “To create a really great web video” doesn’t count as a goal! Are you trying to generate support for a fundraising campaign? Promote a new program or initiative? Let people know about a new product or service? Give a window into your people or your operations?  Each type of goal requires a different creative and technical approach, from camera selection to list of interviewees.

4.  Know Thy Technology. I like to shoot in 16×9 Hi-Def whenever possible with cameras that record to P2 cards rather than tape, to avoid lengthy digitizing sessions and ensure great-looking images. Although I recently became enamored of the new DSLR option to shoot video and LOVE the way it looks and feels. [For techies—the Canon 5DMKII with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens] If you didn’t acquire hi-res or render your animations in the right way, you will have pixilated, crummy-looking video on any size screen—and often you end up wanting to use web video in a live event context where image quality really matters. Viewers are sophisticated, and this has an impact on their perception of your brand or their consumption of your content.

5.  Know Thy Budget. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked to produce a proposal without knowing the client’s budget. This is a waste of time for everyone. Consider this analogy. Would you go to a realtor and say “I’d like to see some houses” and not tell him/her what your price range is? You might see some mansions but not be able to buy any of them. Or, you’ll walk through homes without any of the features you want and need. Figure out what you want to spend not just based on a budget line-item but the cost-per-view or cost-per-acquisition you are willing to pay.  Then your vendors can give you a fair assessment of the best bang for your buck, both technically and creatively.

6.  Know Thy Downstream Uses. If you plan right, you can multi-purpose your raw content for other projects. If you don’t, you can’t.  Most of my projects for return clients use anywhere from 25% to 80% recycled content, but that’s because we’ve discussed in advance asking alternate questions of interviewees, shooting additional b-roll in a particular location, and produced alternate graphics options.

7.  Measure Impact. How are you rolling out your video? Can you offer sneak previews to a live audience so they can help you promote it online? How will you measure the effectiveness of your project?  How are you driving traffic to it? Who are you enlisting to drive the traffic there? (more in a future post on helping your staff and board use social media to do this).

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