What Does Your YouTube Video Really Communicate About Your PR or Advertising Agency?

Extra effort can make your video worth watching.

In this post, I’m going to critique a video that was produced by a large public relations agency and put on YouTube recently.  I’m going to make some points about what it takes to produce video of acceptable quality.  And although I have a lot to say on this subject, I want readers to understand: I think agencies should produce video.  I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying. I do want to encourage large agencies with ample resources to give it their best effort, however, and to call Fletcher Prince, or another video producer, to help them, if they need it.  Anything less does a disservice to our profession!

You know, Fletcher Prince is a small company of two people.  But when we do something, we give it everything we’ve got.

I can forgive a lot of things in business, but one thing that I find hard to understand is a laxity in execution, especially when it comes to social media — and especially when the resources are there to do a good job.  Amateur efforts from amateurs is understandable.  But amateur efforts from professionals is not.  It is easy to use social media.  It takes focus and effort to use it well.

I was thinking about this yesterday while watching YouTube video.  I subscribe to many YouTube Channels, including ones presented by large public relations and advertising agencies in town.

I just watched a video produced by one of these large agencies, at their office.  I know this agency, and I’ve shot video there.  I know what resources they have at their disposal, so I know that there is no excuse for them putting out this low quality of content on YouTube, especially with all the video professionals working in this town.  Their video was designed to communicate a message from one of the executives, but even at two minutes in duration, it was punishment to watch.   It was so poorly produced, it was distracting, and the message was lost, at least on me.

I don’t like to go around randomly criticizing the best efforts of people.  I don’t think that’s productive.  But this was clearly not the best effort of a multi-million dollar, global agency.  It bothers me that some public relations and marketing professionals do not take YouTube more seriously, especially when it comes to the brand of their own agencies!  Don’t they know that clients and potential clients watch these videos?  YouTube is one of the most visible and optimized representations of your brand.  Forget the intended message for a moment; what does a poorly produced video really communicate about your agency? Or your people?

Agencies are often guilty of not treating themselves like their best client.  Actually, that is a very good rule of thumb. If you would  not produce a video like that for your best client, then you should not produce it for your own company.  I expect my clients to look at the work I do for my own company and think “that’s what I want, too.”  The exemplary promotional and social media work an agency does for itself should be it’s very best: its most well-conceived and executed; its most creative — because, after all, you do not have any limits when it comes to self-promotion.

When all is said and done, what can you deduce from a public relations agency that does not promote itself well, or an an advertising agency that does not advertise itself creatively?  Why not showcase what you can do?

But back to video.  Video is especially important.  At your peril, do not cut corners on your YouTube video!  Video is an emotional medium, and it is not a forgiving medium.  It magnifies flaws, without mercy.  If you produce a cold and uninteresting video, with no heart at all, your people will come across as robotic, bureaucratic, or unfeeling.  Your message will come across as unimportant.  Nothing is more revealing or authentic than video, so when it flops, it’s like dropping an anvil on all your other hard work for your brand.

Here are some reminders about what it takes to produce good corporate video.

1. As a company producing publicly available content, you have a responsibility to your subscribers to provide quality content that is relevant, informative, and easy to understand, and that delivers on the promise of your brand.

When you produce something that is not your best effort, in my mind, that is like saying to your subscribers, we don’t care enough about you to try.

This is true for Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, but particularly for YouTube.  It is possible to review content for quality before it is published on YouTube.  If your video does not make the grade for your level of business — and for you large PR and advertising agencies, that bar should be pretty high! — it should not be published.

It’s not okay, for example, to create titles and slides that are illegible on YouTube, or that are flashed for too short a period to read, as I saw in this video today.

2. Your video must have a point, a key message. WHY did you just produce this video?  For whom? What problem are you trying to solve?  What emotion did you want to evoke?  And what is the ultimate goal you’re working toward?  Is this all working in concert with your brand?  And is all this obvious in the video?  If none of these are blatantly apparent to the viewer, then I have to wonder, why did they make this video and why should I care?

3. Your video should be visual. Don’t make a video just for the sake of making video.  If what you have to say works better as a blog, write a blog.  Do not assume what you have to say will work as a video because you turned on a camera.  If you can storyboard your message, it’s a video.  If you can bullet-point it, it may be a blog.  Consider. Think about cutaway images, photos or video to illustrate your points.

If this is a subject matter expert talking (like an executive at your company), you could use props, or different angles, or a different setting.  Or more than one person.  You need lively spokespeople for video.  People who change expression, move their head, use their hands to talk.  Looking at an unexpressive, rigid face from the neck up — or simply seated at a desk — is just boring.  

4. Your video should tell a story.  Don’t just make a list of points.  That’s not convincing or memorable on video. Share a vivid example or personal anecdote.  Have a clear beginning, middle, and end.  Some videos just end like they’re falling off a cliff.  Videos need closure.  Here’s a tip: show it to your kids (if you’re appearing in it).  If your kids wouldn’t like it to watch it, don’t put it on YouTube (my son likes all my videos).

Here is my advice for you large public relations and advertising agencies who are using YouTube and other social media.

1. If you don’t know how to produce quality YouTube video (or blog posts, or Facebook Page content), invest some money and hire ME to help you.  Or hire someone else.  Just recognize your limits.  I do!  I can’t do what you do.  I don’t know how to manage global accounts.  But let’s face it.  You can’t turn out decent YouTube video right now, and I can.  As a large agency, your standards should be higher than the YouTube video I am seeing you produce.  Recognize your limits, and outsource, if you need to.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of YouTube and other social media to enhance or undermine your brand. This is your brand.  Don’t cheap out on your brand! Come on! Your employees are going to see this! Do you think they’ll share that video on Facebook?  Make some video the whole company will  crow about.  Why would you spend all that money on a receptionist and a DC office that relatively few people will ever see — while spending nothing on a video that everyone will see?  YouTube is your lobby. Step it up!

3. LOOK at other videos. A lot of them. Hundreds of thousands of videos are uploaded to YouTube each day.  Look at other PR and advertising videos.  Look at videos that are produced for your target audience.  What worked?  What did not?  What would be right for your agency?  What would be involved in producing a video like that?  Think about this the next time you prepare your script or outline.

4. Craft an effective message people watching online will care about. I mean, this is basic marketing 101, right?  There are no hard and fast rules about video, or communications, but in general, if you are delivering information (and not entertainment), you have to give people a compelling reason to listen to what you have to say.  You might start with hello.  And a smile.  And some eye contact with the viewer.  So many communicators on video just skip over the niceties.  But, would you walk right into someone’s living room and start a speech?  Without even looking in their direction?  No, of course not.  Hello is a start.

Then, you’ve got to get right to the point, and you’ve got to grab their attention (and whose attention, by the way, you might say who this message is for).  You have to speak to some need that your company or program addresses, which you may pose as a question, for example.  In other words, you present the problem (their pain), then the solution (what you offer) and the payoff (how their problem will be solved/business will be effective/lives will be better).  Basic stuff, right?  But elements that are missing from so many videos.  The next video you produce, you might ask if those elements are in place, in one form or another.

And, don’t forget your call to action.  This is like packing your bags, going to the airport, checking in…then forgetting to get on the plane.  What do you want people to do next?  Call you?  Visit your site for more information on a specific topic?  There’s nothing wrong with fun videos — we do them all the time.  But they have a point, and anyone watching them would pick up what we really want them to do.

5.  Don’t put someone on camera who is not enjoying themselves. Prepared people enjoy themselves.  This is why all my LinkedIn recommendations say I am “fun” to work with.  You would think I was a clown!  I’m not.  I just know how to make people feel prepared and in control of the situation.  This is where direction comes in, and where David and I excel.  You would be surprised how many people who work in advertising and public relations do not understand how to communicate their thoughts on video.  They need to be prepared.  You have to know how to get people in the right frame of mind and spirit for a video.  You have be willing to be brutally honest with them, if that’s what it takes, but also kind and supportive.  And you also have to know when to hang it up.

This is because a director, even one person behind the camera, has to make the person look and sound good so the message gets across.  Anything less is distracting, and the message gets lost.  If someone is less than enthusiastic, they look like a zombie on video — or angry, or tired, or even depressed. If you produce a video, and on previewing discover there really is no life or energy in it, it is better to just kill it than put it up on YouTube.

6. Good video takes some effort.  You can still shoot at the office, but spend 15 extra minutes and set up lights and an external microphone. The large agencies in town should have a few more resources than Fletcher Prince!  If we can afford lights and mics, so can you.  Your people sound like they are in a can.  That’s because all the sound is bouncing off your hard walls of your chic and minimalist offices by the way, and because you used the camera’s microphone.

And lighting?  You need diffuse and flattering lighting on your subject, and plenty of lighting for your “set” or your video will be grainy and look out of focus.  Proper white balance settings are essential — and you’re going to have to turn off those overhead fluourescent lights — unless you want your people to look blue.  Let’s be honest, for your executive men and women, anything less is unkind.  Your people look haggard.  While we are speaking of kindness, never, never shoot up from below at any woman over the age of 30, and make sure she is wearing some makeup, so her mouth and eyes don’t disappear.  The video I saw was hideously unflattering. No wonder people shy away from participating in corporate video when they see results like this!

7. Be intentional about your communication style. There are so many ways to communicate. I have a list on my wall of synonyms for the word communicate.  Think about the different nuances associated with each of these words.

You can communicate by flirting.  You can communicate by impressing. You can be influential, seductive, compelling, convincing, touching, urging, or informative.

You can explain, show, tell, prove, reveal, demonstrate, share, or report.

All of these communication approaches are different — quite different, in fact.  When you produce your next video, think not only of what you are communicating, but how you will communicate it.  Decide, before you turn on the camera.


About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on November 16, 2010, in Social Media Tips, YouTube Video Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.


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