In PR, videos can deliver an emotional, engaging message in an appealing visual package that can be custom-tailored to each campaign. In fact, most market research studies indicates higher direct response rate from video. The challenge is: how do you help your client stand out and get noticed in the crowded sea of moving images and sound?
Drawing upon my experience as a video editor, here are a few things to consider when embarking on your next project.
• Show Don't Tell. Watching five talking heads in a row is basically radio. People want to see examples of what's being discussed. For example, if you are discussing how your company has grown throughout the years – show some pictures from the “good old days”. If your voiceover says “this app makes it easy to keep your mailbox clean” - show an inbox emptying-out. That's not to say that you should never show someone talking on screen. But constant visual examples are key.
• Focus on Emotional Storytelling. While facts are important and there's a lot of information you'd like to convey, we’re hardwired to respond better to story and emotion than facts and figures. So, the trick is to craft your message in such a way that it tells a human story that viewers can connect with -- not only in their head, but in their heart.
• Showcase Human Interaction. Showing real people doing and discussing real things is the best way to connect with an audience. Animation is good at getting across abstract subject matter in a slick and visual way. But it can devolve into a “moving PDF” presentation that loses its audience quickly.
• Keep it Short and Sweet. It's almost a cliché to say that viewers are so inundated with content they have developed short attention spans. That's not quite correct. Viewers have just gotten much more discerning. They will give your content a chance, and within a short time, will decide if it's worthwhile to continue, or move on to the cat video sent by their girlfriends. So, if your video drones on with no compelling story arc, no hook and too much detail, the viewer will surely be bored.
• Make Sure It Is High Quality. In a nutshell, video quality comes from:
- A strong concept/script – your story well told.
- Professional image acquisition - it's a visual medium after all.
- Audio - often treated as an afterthought but can actually make or break the piece. If viewers can't hear or understand your message, you've lost them.
- Professional editing – brings all the pieces together to effectively tell your story. It's in the edit that your video is truly created.
And now for what to avoid when shooting video:
• Bad Audio. Nothing turns a viewer off faster than poor audio quality. If your interviews or voiceover sound like you recorded them with your laptop's built-in microphone and a lawnmower is going off in the background, no one will be patient enough to take in your garbled message. Take the time to either invest in some quality microphones, or better yet, hire professionals who can focus solely on making sure the recording is crystal-clear.
• Over/Under-Preparation of Interviewees. Knowing the questions in advance allows your subject to think of stories and come up with the best answers -- without the pressure of having to do so on the spot. However, they shouldn't write down or plan out responses. The goal is to achieve a balance between familiarity with the questions and not being overly rehearsed.
• Too Much Detail. Video is not the best way convey that detail. Video is better at delivering the top-level, bird's eye view of your message – with emotion and a spark that leaves an indelible mark in the viewer's mind. Excite and intrigue your audience with your fantastic video, leaving them wanting more information - which you can then provide through other mediums.
• Skimping on the Finishing Touches. Now that you’ve gone through the process of crafting your message and shooting your material, be careful not to rush or skip the final steps that give the piece an overall polish. Those include music, color correction and mix. Music can be your ally and secret weapon – turning a staid, dull piece into a riveting one by amping up emotion and pace. Color correction is what gives your video images that polished, clean, professional look that shows quality and style. And the mix evens out the audio levels to deliver your message loud and clear. While these can be noticeable line items in your video budget, they are worth it.
If you remember one thing it should be this: when people watch your video they are giving you an undivided chunk of attention – they just haven't decided how much yet. So your video better grab their interest quickly and not overstay its welcome.
Oren Castro is creative director at Lytrix Productions and has won a Primetime Emmy for his editing work on American Idol.