If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth ten thousand. That’s why You-Tube, Vimeo and other online video tools have become so useful to small businesses, nonprofit organizations and federal agencies who in the past may have avoided video because of the cost of mass distribution. (The cost of quality production isn’t necessarily cheap, but if you are able to get your video 100,000 views rather than 100, obviously your cost per view goes way down).
So what are video content best practices?
After having produced roughly 400 such projects, here are my Top Five Tips for Creating Successful Video Content:
1. Know How the Video Fits Into Your Brand Plan. You have a great story—someone touched by your organization, or some important piece of information that needs to be disseminated to the public. Great. But know how it fits into your overall messaging and branding strategy. Will your name or the name of a particular product/service be consistently mentioned? Are you trying to promote recognition for your organization, for a particular project or person? Do you need to build support for an initiative or connect viewers to your larger mission? Will there be other supporting media for this video content? (i.e. direct mail and/or email campaigns to drive traffic?) Do you need other lives for this content after it is first published (see #4)?
2. Know Your Target Audience. If your audience is “everyone,” think again. Develop target sub-demographics and learn what kinds of content appeals to them. If your story has multiple parts/levels, consider breaking into smaller pieces and placing the content with different headings/links in order to attract the right audience.
3. Buy the Best You Can Afford. Remember what your mother once told you about buying a dining room set? “Buy the best you can because you want it to last.” Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that if something is going to appear on the web or in a podcast, it can be produced on a shoestring because it’s a one-use item. To the contrary, every penny you spend should be powerful and credible. The production plan should include multiple ways to use your source material after the initial roll-out. For example, if you have an interview-driven story, plan the interviews so that other selects can be used elsewhere (and make sure your permissions cover this alternate usage!). Background footage (“b-roll”) can also be re-purposed. My personal preference is to shoot high definition, widescreen video because it makes a bigger impact even when compressed for the web, since it degrades less. But whatever your format, a polished production, professionally produced, will also allow you to “multi-purpose” the end-product more reliably, pulling parts for your website, your intranet, an email campaign, or a large-screen projection at a major donor event.
4. Make it Short and Sweet. When watching television, people can relax in their favorite comfy chair, and even then the average program contains only 22 minutes of actual content. On the web, viewed in a tiny box, in a show that likely does not contain professional actors and perhaps offers a glimpse of you speaking or some kind of advocacy message, your time-frame for catching attention drops to minutes. And when you consider mobile video going to iPhones and the like, we’re talking seconds. So make every second count. That means using visuals, music, audio, graphics–everything at your disposal–to make a message with impact. (Important note on copyright: make sure the visuals and audio belongs to you, or that you’ve licensed it for mass distribution!)
5. Measure Impact. Speaking of impact, measure it! So many organizations produce video content without a handle on whether or not it is effective. Plan a way to find out. It could be a short email survey to a random sampling of people who received your web link or signed up for you podcast. It could be an audience survey for a live event. It could be simply aggregating the data already provided to you by You Tube or your podcast distributor. Analyzing and disseminating this information amongst your leadership and communications team will help you refine your approach the next time.