Marketing professionals, journalists and content curators are, once again, turning to the value of online video. In reality, we probably never left. Rather, other trends in online communications have flared up and faded away while online video has slowly built an audience and boosted its infrastructure.
The return to prominence of online video has public relations experts and brand managers running to produce video. But plenty of those folks will get their video wrong. At the very least, it won't be as good as it needs to be so it can easily stand out from the rest.
Here, five tips for making good online video for your company or campaign.
1. Production value
About two years ago, I was at a lunch with Chris Anderson, the founder of TED, the global idea-sharing phenomenon. I asked him why he thought TED talks succeeded when so much talk and lecture-style video content had been online for far longer. He said, “Production value. We invest heavily in production value.” He explained that they treat each presentation like a music video -- great lighting, different camera angles, engaging graphics, audio mixing, etc.
There’s no question. TED talks look great. But the lesson for current video marketing is that investing in production quality matters. Even if you can’t hire a professional, don’t cut corners.
The first rule of marketing and communications is always to be as clear as possible about your audience.
Don’t invest in making a video just because it’s the "thing" to do. Be crystal clear about the people you want to reach with the video. Are you selling to potential customers or generating leads? Raising brand awareness with a key demographic? Expanding your thought leadership position?
3. Go pro
If you can swing it, hire professionals ( tips).
True, this is generally good advice for everything from plumbing to surgery, but it’s applicable here as well. Hiring a real video crew costs money. But it can save money as well by saving time, adding creative insight to your goals and allowing you to focus on big-picture marketing instead of small screen production issues.
4. Story arc
One of the most important keys to making good video -- video people actually want to watch -- is telling a compelling story.
Cats and pratfalls help too. But if filming a chipmunk playing with a sloth doesn’t exactly fit with your marketing narrative, tell a good story. Find sympathetic characters, highlight their conflicts and journeys and end with a powerful conclusion. If you’re selling online e-mail services, for a random example, resist the urge to put your product VP on camera and find a great customer story instead.
5. Location, location, location
I can’t tell you how many marketing and communications meetings I’ve been in where someone proposes making a video. I invariably say, “Great idea. What are we going to do with it?”
An example of an online video that gets these things right is this one from startup HearNotes. They made it specifically for their Kickstarter project, had a product story and really emphasized production value. The results are easy to see.
"We understand the importance of getting the video right," Patrick Donohue, CEO of HearNotes wrote me by e-mail. "It's why HearNotes invested so much time in developing a unique and compelling story as fundamental to producing a high-quality engaging video that would be a true reflection of our company and our product."
Having video -- even good video -- isn’t a victory. To succeed, your target audience needs to watch it which means it has to have a home, a place where the people you want to reach will find it. The best and most successful online video marketing is designed with a destination in mind before a single production idea is put on paper.
When the idea of online video communications comes up at your next team meeting -- or you raise it -- be sure to ask and answer these five questions in order: Who is our audience? What will do with it? Can we afford to hire someone? What story will we tell? And, how can we drive up the production value?
Those questions are my online video checklist, and they should be on yours too.