A-roll, B-roll, or eye-roll? The art of the corporate video

Dom Ho, co-founder, Blacklist Creative, examines the art of the corporate video and its many uses.

video

According to a LinkedIn Study from earlier this year, video is in high demand for B2B marketers. Some 62% in fact considered it an important content format for their roles, while over nine in ten admired the flexibility of video to allow them to expand on storytelling elements for their brands.

So why, then, when many people think of corporate or business videos, is the mental picture on offer so dire? Images come to mind of low budget, iPhone recordings of bad dance moves in the manner of David Brent, or cheesy team building renditions of pop hits. At the high end of the budget spectrum often come very polished but ultimately soulless collections of stock imagery designed to communicate how deeply an agriculture or pharmaceutical business, for example, cares about the environment. You know the ones – waving fields of wheat, happy smiling children in greenery, diverse smiling workforces.

Video has power. No other marketing tool can convey so much with so little, both subtle nuances into company culture and the overarching business story. Video can educate and make people feel at the same time. This is why we believe the corporate video is long overdue a re-examination. It doesn’t have to be more cringeworthy than Oscar-worthy, and will be more effective if you rethink your approaches to the objectives for the film, and what you most want it to achieve.

Cheesy

No-one wants to dim the lights, start a company film which has taken a lot of time and effort, and be rewarded with rolling eyes or bored expressions. This partially explains why so many businesses leap to singing popular hits to demonstrate team spirit, togetherness and ‘fun’. And while some of these videos can deliver those objectives, so many of them just come off as inauthentic, or cheesy. We find the most effective starting point to be a genuine one. What does your business really want to convey? It could be a showreel for a company conference or simply a more compelling way of conveying internal corporate knowledge. Either way, start with the end reel in mind. If you’re clear about what you want to get out of it, and how you want your audience to feel, you can avoid slipping into clichés or hackneyed archetypes.

Emotion is the lynchpin of a good video. Where so many ‘bad’ examples fall down is failing to take the audience’s feelings into account. Do you want them to feel proud, enthused, entertained? Finding something funny can be a very personal reaction and unless you are convinced you want to try to be funny about the business, may be best avoided. Ideally you should be looking to tell a story which is relevant to your audience, and one which they will be interested to hear. If it is novel, different, authentic and drives that story forward, it should avoid the eyeroll.

Secondly – don’t scrimp on costs. Yes, production values sometimes don’t come cheap, and if you are trying video for the first time, it might seem cost prohibitive to those not familiar with its uses. But if you think of your cautionary tale ‘bad videos’, often its production value which let them down. Allowing for a little more budget for good on screen graphics or animation, shooting on good quality equipment to evoke a more cinematic feel, using a skilled camera operator or director who can be mindful of framing and depth of field, location shooting and other techniques should also make sure you have a professional polish to your finished screening. Even reasonably basic talking head shots of your business executives can be brought to life if you have a good team with vision and knowledge directing the camera.

Ultimately if you want to get the most value out of your video, think beyond its primary use. Can it be edited down into shorter snippets for multiple platforms? Do you want to shape your new set of announced company values from the presentation into a series of sharable gifs for the office Slack account, to encourage them to be shared in everyday office life? Is there a chance that, with a slightly different cut and a new voiceover, the video might have the makings of a good ad in it? If you’re hell-bent on trying for humour, could you consider a bloopers reel (strictly for in-office screening at the company party only)? Could your social channels benefit from short videos from unused b-roll footage? While video gives you almost endless options, if you are clear about how you want to use it. Tone of voice and pacing can vary dramatically depending on its intended purpose, and context is key. A shareholder meeting video is unlikely to be effective if shared in full on Twitter.

Video has many advantages, and with careful planning and storyboarding it is possible to produce something you and your business can be proud of. Take an honest look at what has been done before, and look at which elements worked well, and those that didn’t get the response you hoped for. The most important piece of advice to offer is this: know your audience. If you put yourself in their seat and consider what they most need to know, and what could be an entertaining way of conveying it, you’re well on the way to avoiding David Brent dancing.

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