Take it down before you embarrass yourselves: knowing when to kiss a YouTube video goodbye

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It was fun, in the moment, wasn’t it?  But now that it’s over, and you look back at it, your realize there wasn’t any substance in it.

No, I’m not talking about some long-ago romantic fling. I’m talking about YouTube video.  As more and more advertising and public relations agencies move into the YouTube space, they’re putting up all kinds of video — some good, and frankly, lots and lots of bad.  Expert communicators who can tell you what comprises good communication in their sleep are putting up video that conveys neither message nor brand nor value for their clients and prospective clients.

I’m seeing PR and advertising agencies put more care into the message in tweets that have life spans of seconds than the message in evergreen YouTube videos with superlative search engine potential.

Don’t Be Goofy on YouTube if You’re Not a Goofy Brand, It Doesn’t Work For You

This week, a well-heeled agency with national accounts put up a video of their staff doing a physical activity for a full minute.  This video irritated me just as much as the cheesecake-eating video another PR agency produced that I talked about last month.  So this agency is big time.  They only have five videos on their YouTube Channel.  And this is the topic they chose for their fourth upload.  On the third most popular Internet site in the world.

Let’s examine that.  There is no other message associated with this video than the fact that they are trying to break some unspecified world record.  There is no description.  There are no tags.  There is just a group of laughing staff, jumping up and down.

Do they have a health client, by any chance?  Would that justify a seemingly completely-unrelated-to-PR activity?  No one knows, because there is no context or explanation.  A video without context is just noise.

The video should never have been made, or if it was made, it should never have been uploaded, because it’s pointless and about 55 seconds too long.  Try watching the full minute.  I’m going to tell you, I’m easily entertained. I watch all kinds of stuff.  And this got VERY old after 10 seconds.  Very good videos with lots of substance are lucky to get 1 minute of views.  No one is going to watch people they don’t know do jumping jacks for 1 minute because it’s not novel, cute, funny, interesting, or englightening.

Let’s just review the basics, shall we?  All communications, including video, has to have a point.  A message.  A big idea.  It should be clear.  No one should have to work to get it or even guess at it.  The intended audience should be fairly obvious, if not out and out obvious.  A call to action should be in there, even for informative videos.  They should resonate with your audience.  Add value for your clients.  Otherwise, they have no reason for being.

I get it.  It’s fun to get the staff together and do something crazy or off-beat.  It’s fun to create a video that involves almost no effort.  It’s easy to convince yourselves: our clients will LOVE this!  They will look at this video and think we are fun and creative.

Well, you are deluding yourselves if you believe any of that.  Go ahead and record it.  Look at it as a group and have a good laugh.  Then delete it.

Just don’t put it on YouTube.  Or if you do, look at it again in a week and ask yourself: if I didn’t work here, would I ever watch a video like this?  Then take it down.  Because you know, honestly, you wouldn’t.

The Unbearable Conference SME Videos

Okay, second example.  A lot of agencies do this. They go to a conference and they record interviews  with their staff and speakers.  They put up the name and title of the speaker, and the conference.  But they don’t say what the VIDEO IS ABOUT.

One agency put up more than 20 of these in a row.  I subscribe to them, so, yeah, I’m resentful that they did this.  They’re wasting my time, frankly.  I would like to learn from them and their subject matter experts.  They’re making it too hard to do that.

If you don’t say in the video and the text description what is the main point, the central value of each and every video, you give the person no reason to watch it. Pure and simple. You have to put some freaking effort into it.

I can tell these videos cost them some money to make, by the production value.  My worst videos get more views than these.  Because why?  Because…the YouTube viewer has absolutely no reason to watch them.  You have to motivate people to watch.

Video is a Form of Communications, and Communications Has a Point

One video: one point.  If you’re going to record a conference speaker in a hallway, for heaven’s sake, give them a question and ONE question only to answer that you know is burning on people’s minds, and then record JUST that.  I don’t care if they are the CEO; don’t let them ramble on for more than 5 minutes and just put up the video.  With no description associated with it.  Watching people talk (without a point) IS NOT interesting.  The viewer experience is: you’re watching this video and there’s no context and you’re not sure what the main point is and you’re waiting for some real nugget of value to be delivered and it just ends up being frustrating, from a subscriber’s point of view, and I can imagine, completely underwhelming from a client’s point of view.

These videos are communications failures and these are from smart people who should know better.  With their resources, experience, and brain power, they should be doing much better video than I could dream of, and yet, they don’t.  From the numbers of views, it is transparently obvious that not even the agency’s EMPLOYEES are watching it.  Now that’s bad.  Video like this is not good communication.

These agencies already have a great reputations.  Why mess that up with pointless communications?  They need to ask themselves for every video they put up: what will our clients get out of this video?  What do they need and want to know?  What value are we providing?  How are we making their jobs and lives easier and better with our communications, including video communications?  Honestly, it is that simple.

These videos are not about you and how CUTE you are or HOW MANY conferences you speak at, because no one cares about that.  They are about your clients and your subscribers.  Tell their story.

PR is Not a Comedy Club, and You Don’t Have a Funny Brand, Capisce?

Would you mail riddles at random to your clients?  Would you call them up just to tell them a joke you heard on the radio that morning?  No, you would not, because that would be pointless and unprofessional.  So don’t do this kind of video.

There’s nothing wrong with entertaining content for video for B-to-B brands — but it is VERY hard to pull off.  It takes real effort. Even then, it’s hard to do.  It’s not for the inexperienced.  We do it at Fletcher Prince because it’s right for our friendly and accessible brand.  It’s NOT right for these buttoned-up, conservative brands!  And when we try to pull off humor, we put hours and hours of effort into it: planning, writing, directing, acting, and recording, and even then, I wouldn’t say, yes, we do gangbusters PR humor.  So when an agency tries to pull it off in one take is just unrealistic.

For Heaven’s Sake, Break Down and Write A Text Description, Would it Kill You?

And as I have mentioned ad infinitum, in 2011, there is no excuse for any professional communicator to neglect text descriptions.  That is SO basic, it’s just pathetic when it’s not done.  PR professionals know how to write press releases, annual reports, and white papers.  Writing YouTube video descriptions is a cake walk compared to that — but it’s REALLY important.  It is one of the only ways you will get views for your videos.  Everyone seems to understand that on YouTube EXCEPT people who work in public relations.  Even the local chapter of the PRSA is neglecting to include text descriptions on their videos.  Why, why, why?  It takes 10 minutes to do.  Not writing it looks like whomever uploaded it is incredibly lazy, and that is NOT a good look for a PR or advertising agency, trust me.

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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 October 20, 2011, in YouTube Video Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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