Planning A Corporate Video Production

"If you fail to PLAN, your plan to FAIL" - Sadly, this well-worn quotation has become the epitaph for many a video project that fell pitifully short of the expectations raised before work commenced.

The absence of proper planning for a corporate video production is rather like setting off on a 100 mile journey to an unknown destination, in a car with a near-empty petrol tank, no Sat-Nav or road map, 2 bald tyres and no roadside cover. You're literally ASKING to run into problems!

... Yes I know you could call for help on your cell phone, but you get my point, right?

So, let's consider the following preparation essentials:

OBJECTIVES:: Purpose and Message

The first question should be "What exactly do we want this video to achieve?" What is its purpose, what is the message we want to communicate?...

and most importantly... WHO is our target audience?

A corporate video should be a powerful business tool that communicates clearly with your target audience, raises brand awareness, or helps to increase sales revenue.

You must have a crystal clear objective. If not, then the impact of your video production is likely to be blunted. So, "Maybe it's about time we had a new video" is NOT an objective. Yes, that old video may well be dated or even embarrassing, but simply replacing old for new is unlikely to dazzle your customers or inspire your employees.

There are many tales of woe about videos that have left the viewer wondering what message is being conveyed, due to an ill-conceived and poorly structured storyline.

Start by making a list of the main points you want to get across. Then develop some detail for each of the main points. Obtain some input from employees and stakeholders. Your video producer should also be able to add valuable input, so long as you choose a qualified professional.

YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE :: Whom are you addressing?

Make sure you consider all the cultures you will be addressing in your video. Is your message aimed at a specific age group? Is your audience global, or local? Will you need subtitles, or even different language versions? And most importantly, what do you want your audience to get out of your video?

All of the above considerations will help you to decide on the communication style of your production, as well as the personalities who will appear in the video, such as a presenter and other supporting cast.

Production Style:: TV-commercial? News report? Documentary?

There are many different ways to tell a story. And that's exactly what your video production is - a story.

It should be sufficiently well structured to take the viewer through a sequence of information, in much the same way that a book is written, or a feature film is produced. It should have a beginning or opening sequence that gets the viewer's attention and leads them deeper into the story (middle), and an ending sequence or conclusion. If your video calls for some kind of response from your audience, as in a product promotion, then you should have a clear 'call-to-action' sequence at the end.

So, structure is very important. But what about the actual style of your production? Unless your video is simply the recording of an event such as a conference, where the structure and style is often determined by the event itself, you may want to consider the various options for presenting, or packaging your message. What production style would best match your organization, your product you're your target audience?

Consumer audiences have become more sophisticated. People seldom respond to the kind of blatant, in-your-face sales pitch seen in TV commercials of 15+ years ago, however you dress it up.

Nowadays, a more subtle approach is often called for. As previously mentioned, people now want to be "edutained". They want to be informed and educated about something, in an entertaining way.

Now I'm not suggesting that we dig out the stripy blazers and straw boaters and do a song & dance act, or use a fake opera singer to annoy people into comparing various products. Although amazingly, some of these styles do actually get results!

Creative video producers today can offer many different and highly effective production styles. So, whilst a typical 3 to 4 minute programme might be introduced by a professional TV presenter and feature shots of your products, include staff interviews and customer testimonials, the video could actually be produced in a news-report or documentary style, which comes across as impartial, and not a thinly disguised sales pitch. Ideal if you want to announce a brilliant new product range, or highlight the benefits of your service, through the eyes of your customers. Remember, people like to BUY. They seldom like to be SOLD to.

Your video producer should possess the necessary skills and knowledge to advise you about the style, flow and pace of your production, as part of the planning, or "pre-production" stage. However, you know your company, product and customers better than anyone, and it's YOUR video, so you must have the final say.

Content:: What needs to be included?

Most productions will require additional content to keep the video interesting and informative. A basic "talking head" is unlikely to keep your viewer's attention for very long. So, if the programme includes "cut-away" shots of static images such as photos and diagrams, as well as other related footage, you will stand a much better chance of holding your audience till the end of the video and secure that all-important direct response.

Your video producer will appreciate receiving high-resolution digital images of your company logos, products and people to include at the post-production stage. If you can have these ready in advance, it helps to ensure that your production is not delayed later on in the process.

You may also have previously recorded audio, video or even legacy film that you want to include, particularly if your programme contains historic content. Make sure that you discuss this requirement with your video producer at the pre-production planning meeting, to ensure that your media can be successfully converted.

Shooting Locations:: Your business premises or in a studio?

Whilst most corporate videos are shot at the company's premises, there are occasions when external locations are a necessary part of a production. Let's consider the four most common locations:

1. Your own business premises is by far the most obvious choice of location. You have everything to hand - your offices, showrooms, or manufacturing facility are all accessible and usually provide the most ideal backdrop and environment in which to carry out most of the filming. You also have easy access to your products and your people - provided you can find some willing participants - but more about that later.

Be sure to find a suitably quiet room for shooting interviews or presentations. There's nothing more distracting than trying to film in the corner of a noisy office, or a room adjoining the factory!

Also, do remember that your video producer may require access to nearby electrical sockets for powering cameras, lights and other equipment. A site survey may be required prior to filming.

2. Your customers' premises can often be the best choice for testimonials - especially if they have your products on display, or equipment supplied by your company in situ. Do discuss this with your clients well in advance, so that they are well prepared, know what they're going to say and have appropriate facilities arranged.

3. Public places often require permission from the Local Authority. Your video producer will know who to approach and should be able to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement with the Authority, without incurring special license fees. There can sometimes be exceptions to this rule, such as in some parts of central London, where tight control over filming is operated.

4. A studio - fully equipped with lighting and sound recording, various backdrops, and a chroma key setup may be recommended by your producer. This is the perfect situation for shooting corporate pieces to camera, interviews and presentations. A presenter can be filmed in front of a green screen, allowing alternative background imagery to be added. Most video production companies either have their own studios, or have access to studio facilities when the need arises.

Talent:: Your staff or a professional presenter?

Filming your staff going about their normal daily duties, operating some equipment or assisting a customer is one thing. But the subject of who to appoint as a presenter or spokesperson always induces a wry smile from me. I have witnessed numerous occasions when a keen employee, who may be quite used to doing the odd presentation, fluffs his lines for the twenty-seventh time, amid fits of laughter or deep frustration.

There is a vast difference between presenting your company and product to a group of seminar delegates, and addressing an invisible audience with a camera pointing at you. It's surprising how most, otherwise supremely confident people, develop a stutter, or memory-loss, when under the pressure of being filmed.

So, unless you have a confident and experienced member of staff who is used to presenting to camera, its best to leave it to a professional presenter - unless of course, the speaking parts are short & sweet, or in cases when the message needs to come from the CEO.

Appointing professional talent, whether it's a presenter, actor or voice over artist is best discussed with your video producer, who should have access to a good choice of freelance professionals.

PERMISSIONS:: Don't get caught out!

If you're going to commission a professional video production, you really want to ensure that you obtain written permission from all concerned, to use the captured footage (and still images) of people and places, as well as any intellectual property such as logo's that your company does not own.

This important factor is often overlooked by people who are unfamiliar with professional video production and correct procedure for safeguarding against potential problems in the future. These days, people have more civil rights than they used to and the last thing you need is a disgruntled former-employee threatening legal action unless you remove his part in the video.

Such incidents can incur unwanted delays, as well as additional costs, if you have to re-shoot a scene, or if several hours of re-editing are required.

Your video producer should be able to furnish you with correctly worded "Release" forms for locations and people appearing in your video.