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The changing rules of the video game: Integrating online video into everyday communications


June 29, 2009

Copyright © 2009 PRSA. All rights reserved.

By Mike McDougall,  APR

The following article appears in the July issue of PR Tactics.

Chances are that you’ve recently watched an online video,  joining the millions of people worldwide who have made Web sites such as  YouTube a success. But have you ever stopped to consider how you can integrate video into your everyday communications?

With staggering advances in video-related technology in recent years —low-cost video cameras, simplified software-editing packages, plummeting PC prices and, of course, online sites for free distribution — opportunities for communications professionals to tap into this phenomenon are ready for the taking.

At the same time, the notion of what constitutes “acceptable” organization-produced or organization-endorsed video has shifted.  While good production values such as bright images and clear audio are still appreciated by viewers, content is paramount. Likewise, with the move toward more authentic communications, videos that are shot and edited in a more amateur fashion may resonate more deeply with your audiences than a professionally produced gem.

Quite simply, the rules of the “video game” have changed to your advantage.

Shooting and editing video
A do-it-yourself video shoot is easier and more cost-effective than ever. High-definition and standard camcorders can be found for just a few hundred dollars, and many offer the option to store video on internal memory or an integrated hard drive, which will make transfer to a PC for editing or uploading to a Web site much easier.
 
At the same time, low-cost digital-video flipcams are becoming widely available. Don’t forget to see if your digital camera also offers a video mode — most do, and some even record in HD.

Self-editing has also become much more intuitive, whether it’s done on a Mac or a PC.  Software packages from well-respected companies are available for less than $100, offering professional-quality, multitrack video transitions and layering, audio tweaking, titling and output to DVD or digital files.  A number of more basic but still capable free editing tools are available for download via a quick Web search.

Video for employee engagement
A decade ago, company video networks were the rage, with TV monitors scattered across lobbies, cafeterias, break rooms, plant floors and more. But with the advent of intranets, the monitors were soon gathering dust as employee communication shifted online. Intranets killed the video star.

Fast-forward to today, and you’ll find video re-emerging as the employee engagement tool of choice. Some organizations may have the resources to host video content on their own servers, or to partner with a third party specializing in back-end video infrastructure.

But for others, hosting video for employees can be as simple as establishing a free organization YouTube channel or Facebook group, then uploading their videos by following the provided step-by-step instructions.  As long as you don’t mind the possibility of the video content being viewed by nonemployees, then these options represent an ideal solution for smaller organizations with smaller budgets.

So how are organizations using video to engage employees now? Here are a few common examples:

Time-shifting: In the same way that your home DVR allows you to watch a favorite TV program at a later time, consider recording and posting employee town hall meetings, training sessions and more for on-demand viewing by those who couldn’t attend in person.

Broadcast stories and ad spots: If you have existing broadcast advertising spots or positive news stories, then upload them to broaden exposure to employees. Make sure that you’ve cleared the usage rights with the content owner first.

Organically created video: Open the doors to employee-created video using their own or company-loaned equipment, dramatically increasing the size of your communications team. At Bausch & Lomb, employees have taken the initiative to shoot trade show highlights, philanthropic events, group outings and more. Set the parameters for what’s on- and off-limits from the start, and be sure to retain a degree of editorial oversight as a communications professional.

Management Q-and-A: If your company management is comfortable being on camera, record a series of ongoing Q-and-A sessions with leaders about timely topics. Not only does this provide a refreshing change to the unending flow of documents, but—if unscripted—also helps build a spirit of authenticity and trust.

Ultimately, some of the organizations that are best at incorporating video into their employee engagement outreach are finding success by repeatedly asking a simple question: Could the use of video in this particular situation be more compelling, more timely, more effective or more cost-effective than what I’d traditionally do?

Video for external stakeholders
Using video for external audiences, whether these include media, customers, analysts or other influencers, is becoming easier and more powerful by the day. Consider these possibilities:

Let your spokespeople speak. If you’re listing spokespeople on your Web site, include a link to a short video clip, which will show that they’re articulate and camera-ready.

Become an expert. Make sure that your organization’s expertise is apparent in online video searches. Shoot and post a series of videos illustrating a particular area of competence and highlighting your team members.

• Dust off your archives. Convert archival film and videotape to digital video files, and make the footage available to customers and retirees so that they can reminisce, while reminding viewers of your heritage.

• Make complex things simple. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth 100,000 words. Don’t always rely on the written word to tell your story.

Add life to your B-roll. B-roll video is no longer just for journalists. Make your B-roll available for bloggers, fans and others who want company news without the filter of the media.

• Turn a blog into a vlog. Add short video clips to your external blog posts, highlighting certain points while also giving readers a new level of visual richness.

Highlight success. If your company has received positive broadcast news coverage, link to the archived video clip on the news station’s Web site or obtain rights to the video and post it.

Entering the world of online video can be a bit intimidating, but taking part in this revolution will soon become less of an option and more of a necessity. Commit the time to learn more about your options and to explore new ways to integrate video into your everyday programs. By doing this, you and your organization will open new and more expansive lines of communication to the delight of your internal and external audiences.

Mike McDougall,  APR, is vice president, corporate communications and public affairs, for Bausch & Lomb, the global eye health company. A frequent industry speaker and winner of multiple Silver Anvils, he pioneered some of the first Web-centric PR campaigns in the mid-1990s.



Comments

Bob Rock says:

I would agree with some of the comments in this piece however, having successfully operated a video production company for 30 years, I am inclined to take exception with what appears to be the main premise... do it yourself. I suppose on that basis, Mr. McDougall would agree with the idea that corporate America could save a lot of money and still turn out "acceptable" communications and PR by embracing the "lower quality standards" that are gaining ground by "do-it-yourselfers." Having a copy of video editing software doesn't make one any more of an editor than having a copy of Word makes one a writer. Good thing for the camera manufacturers that the production community is populated with fools who don't know they could have saved tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and still do "acceptable work." Perhaps Mr. McDougall in his next installment could help us understand exactly how to get "bright images" and "clear audio" out of a camera that costs a couple hundred dollars. The bottom line is, "you only have one chance to make a good impression, do it cheap and save a couple bucks!"

June 30, 2009

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