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Corporate Video- getting the right message across

15SepCorporate Video- getting the right message across

Everyone’s a consumer- so talk to them like that. Yes, even in corporate communications


Go back to the first time you used the internet- can you remember it? Depending on your age you may or may not… For me, it was a bumpy 45 minutes in the summer of 1995 that felt like a tutorial in a typing class. It was during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and I was a young delegate to the TV and Film Festival. I remember it fairly vividly because the journalist and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter was there too and she seemed both frustrated and intrigued…was this her first time online too?

What I took away was a feeling that the world just got a little closer to me- people in California were now just a couple of keyboard strokes away (I was using Hotmail), communication and commerce were exploding in the blinking, window’s 95 CRT monitor in front of me (in the now, I assume, liquidated internet café). I was a Netscape Navigator.

I don't remember the second time I used the internet. But now I can't think of anything more essential to my daily life outside of food, water and shelter. I include my mobile in this description, because as you will surely agree, the two are now in one.

As the use of the internet has broadened and expanded, users of all ages and backgrounds are constantly online. Over the past 10 years, however, we have seen one of the biggest changes in how we engage with news, information, products, and services. While we have always (in the modern era) had a very close relationship with video and the moving image for sales, news and communications, mobile engagement has put video into every minute of every day.

If you like your statistics, then it’s worth checking out Cisco’s insights on the use of the internet, both now and projected (Cisco- the Zettabyte Era- Trends and Analysis). It really is eye-watering and yes, go Google a zettabyte! By 2019, they state that video traffic will account for 80% of all internet use for both business and consumers. It is already at 67% (in 2014 stats). 

Video communication needs to be strategic and planned

So, we agree that we are watching more and more video and we are doing this online. We are speaking to each other more and more with video and we are doing business more and more with video. We expect video. What’s not to like? Could it be that, just like with anything else that becomes our minimum expectation, we start to demand more and more from it? If we think about the evolution of print then we can see some previous form – audiences always want more, faster and in a way that's easier to engage with. It needs to be right for their eyes – looking appealing as the printed font but also in how it has been laid out. Then, of course, there are pictures. We all love a picture – it sparks something off in our heads that takes us in the same direction as the printed word, only faster and more forcefully. You know how powerful pictures are already and every day we see this impact. All of this combines with the story – without which we find disjointed spaces – the text, the imagery, the font, the print. It has to have a shape.    

Video has to be treated with the same respect as the written word in my opinion. I still like the written word and it is still important (that’s why I’ve not made a video of this article…yet). We are always keen to ensure that video complements print – online, on paper, on screen. If we understand the rules and methodologies that work with video, that can help us break the conventions and push the medium. Again, let me reiterate, this applies for business and consumer audiences. Videos speak to every audience – from the President of the United States drifting off to sleep on Air Force One with his iPad to the burger-flipper at lunchtime laughing at a cat on their phone or the office administrator pouring an early-morning coffee in suburban Paris checking a news feature on their desktop…they get engaged with a story.

We all love to be told a story, it’s part of being human and moving pictures are just not the same without the storytelling element. Storytelling comes not just from a clever narrative but from the voice and the personality – it all combines to make a film, of any length, watchable and engaging.

When we are working with our clients to develop their message with video, this is one key feature that I always try to highlight early on: tell a story. Even the most complex corporate information films or shareholder information or training videos work better with a little narrative. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be epic, it just has to inspire and engage.

I think people tell the story better than anything else – helping businesses to find their voice through their own people is so important. Should you need something more direct, the voice of the author (and business) needs to be present in a script or voice over. So think about this: who is the voice of your company, who speaks to your audience, what is that personality? Too often, I believe corporate video is presented in the voice of people trying to sound like the corporation – as opposed to people being the voice of the corporation. You need to know your voice first; and your video company need to know it next.

How can this work in practice?

Think about a corporation as a family round a table – when Mum is addressing the house she is Mum. Everyone knows she is Mum – she sounds like Mum, she thinks like Mum, she talks about “Mum” things. She has a voice and a personality that is consistent with Mum. When she’s excited, you can tell. When is she being serious, you can tell immediately. Her voice is always consistent, though – you know it’s Mum.

The same is true for Dad and the kids. Their language, their tone, their voice tells you much about them even if you could not hear the words themselves. Each member of the family has a voice but no matter who is speaking, you know the family, you know what they are about and why they are speaking as they are. They are individuals, but they are also a family with a common voice and style.

Very often we meet corporations that have complex communication strategies which have everyone speaking through Mum’s voice – or, in fact, not really Mum, but a pre-written and stage-managed Mum who makes us worry that something is up with Mum! It dehumanizes their corporation and messaging and ultimately, makes any narrative or storytelling much harder. People respond to people. Using well-managed and focused interviews can encourage people to converse naturally – you can still hit your key messaging objectives, you can give insight and present facts, but you can also help your audience to engage.

As with the corporation as a whole, it is possible to look at departments or divisions of the corporation and give them their own voice. When HR is looking for people to take on a new and exciting project, it will surely sound a little bit different to a health and safety briefing on new targets for the company. You will find that by introducing a little imagination to the narrative, any department can engage people with its message. Instead of a voice-over or even just straight interviews about the health and safety record, tell a story. Use animation, use real people, use pictures!

Style and delivery

I think a short example helps to explain some of this – in terms of how voice and delivery with people can work differently. It doesn’t mean that when making a corporate video, you simply always interview your staff – but people do need to feature. Take these two examples for introducing a health and safety video briefing.

Version 1

A voice-over led piece that delivers key information over stylized general visuals in stills and video of a manufacturing plant and operatives at work.

Voice Over: At Great Corp we take health and safety seriously. Both occupational and process safety is integrated across our business. When returning from a period of leave or vacation, it is important to take the time to ensure you have all of the correct safety systems in place. This is often when most preventable incidents take place.

Version 2

A light-hearted but personalized illustration using a real member of the team with some direct to camera action. John is filmed working in the factory and occasionally responds as if being spoken to by the camera - he communicates non-verbally with gestures and body language throughout.

Voice Over: Remember John? (John is walking into the facility) John works in our main manufacturing base- Hi John (John waves). John has been away for a couple of weeks of well-earned vacation - How was the break, John? (thumbs up from John). Now that he’s just returned to the factory floor, he’s got to get back up to speed fast - he’s catching up with everything he’s missed. (John looks wide-eyed). John knows that most accidents can happen just after a vacation, so he’s on top of his game! What will you not forget John? (he starts checking his health and safety checklist).

These two examples are completely fictional, but hopefully you will see the difference. By simply using a “character” in the second example, albeit a real person, you instantly get a different style of film. You give your audience a memorable and engaging way to engage with your message. The message is still the same: it tells them the information you want them to know, but it should be easier to remember and have more impact.    

Corporate communications have for a long time been at the end of the line when it comes to the art of storytelling. Yet this market has been perhaps one of the most vibrant in terms of engaging with the methodology. We have all seen corporate videos pastiches and parodies - The Simpsons are full of them!

Things are changing - B2B communications in video are becoming much more sophisticated and conscious of their audience. Business internal video communications are still lagging behind, but there are signs of change. Business to consumer (B2C) has always been at the forefront of video communications – driven by demand and by the absolute understanding that it works with advertising and information/campaigning.

As I stated right at the beginning of this article - all video communications should focus on delivering the message to the audience with the understanding that everyone is a consumer.

If you keep this in mind then your video will gravitate towards advertising and storytelling in its production. Everyone from CEOs, CFOs and CMOs to Plant Operatives, Chicken Pluckers and Data Clerks behave like consumers because they are consumers. They will recognize your voice, your brand and your messaging better if they engage with your video better. Without question, you need to find your voice or voices and start working with video now.

Oh, and I wrote this article because a little video on LinkedIn told me a story about someone else who did it!


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