Unfortunately, when I started creating corporate videos, no one handed me any rules carved into tablets of stone but along the way I’ve learned a few things. Here are 10 rules that have helped me survive:

  1. Why are you creating this video? You have to have a reason for making your video. Creating a video for its own sake is pointless. Making a video because you, or your manager, thinks you should have one is not adequate motivation. Video is not your product: many corporate video creators forget this. They get caught up in trying to create a cinematic masterpiece that will look great on their reel and their company’s message gets lost along the way. Video is just a tool to communicate something to someone. Video is just the medium not the message.
  2. Know who your audience is. If you don’t know who you are talking to how do you know what to say or how to say it? Throughout the process you must always consider who your audience is and let that guide you through the project.
  3. It’s all about your customer. Your message is so much more engaging, real and authentic in the words of your customer. Make it all about the customer and only about your company in passing. What big problem were they facing and how did they address it? How was their business changed by that transformation? How did they use your product to help?
  4. It’s all about Story and emotional connection. The temptation in corporate video to to pack in all the technical details that you can at the expense of narrative. If the story loses out to the technical content you will lose your viewer long before they get to the end of the video (yes, even the most technical video should have a story arc). No one will watch a video listing every new feature of a new product release but they might watch a video of a customer describing how one small feature has helped them in their business to do better. No one likes to be sold to but if one of your customers describes how your product saves them time at work so that they don’t have to work on the weekends and, instead, they can always go to their kid’s game, a prospect might be more inclined to listen to your sales team’s pitch when they come calling.
  5. Fast, cheap, great – you can have any two but not all three. Know which two you have chosen and why. Make the right compromises with this choice in mind when you plan the project. Also, you have to define what each of those three terms means to your organization. Your cheap might be my expensive or visa versa.
  6. Perfect is the enemy of done. Recognize that sometimes good enough is the best you can achieve and it is perfect for the purpose. We can all spend weeks tweaking the edit but sometimes it’s much more important to get something published. Identify the projects that really do need to be perfect and which just need to published within the next 4 hours. If it’s a TV ad spot it has to be perfect. If it’s instructions to your sales team on how to beat a competitor’s newly published feature, every day your sales team does not have that information your company is losing money.
  7. Prepare: Fix it in pre-production. It seems to cost 10x more to fix something in production than it would to address that same thing in pre-production. It’s another multiple of 10x to fix that thing in post-production. You cannot be over-prepared, although your subject can but that’s another story. Shooting days are stressful enough without being under-prepared. It only takes you forgetting one tiny piece of gear to throw a shoot into chaos (hands up who has forgotten their media cards or your tripod quick release plate). The bigger the crew the more time you need to spend on prep and communication so that everyone is one the same page long before the clapper strikes.
  8. Coverage: you cannot shoot too much. You spent the money to get everyone on set so don’t get lazy once you’re shooting. Shoot interviews with multiple cameras to give yourself lots of options in the edit. For a one person interview two cameras is good, shooting in 4K is prefered, and three cameras is even better. Shoot lots of b-roll. Ask your subject if they have any existing assets you can use. Know what’s available to buy in stock libraries. No matter how many cameras you roll during the interview a talking head can get very dull, very fast. You need lots of b-roll. Get footage of the subject in their working environment, even if that environment is a boring office: shoot them on their phone, using their computer; bonus points if you can get them using your product. Shoot their employees, their product, their production process, their customers. Don’t forget establishing shots of their building: more bonus points for drone or time lapse shots. Shooting days can be long and exhausting but that’s why you’re paid the medium bucks, so do your job the best that you can.
  9. Get permissions signed before you shoot. Your customer might have verbally agreed to be on camera but you can’t publish unless you have it in writing unless you want to open yourself up to legal action. It can be an awkward moment putting a semi-legal document in front of your customer while they’re in make-up and preparing to go on set so we always try to get signatures before we even turn up to the location. It’s easy to send the permission form as part of the preparation package then the subject can review it at their leisure. Also, make sure they have authority to sign and to speak for their company. We’ve been burned more than once by subjects who have signed a permission form only to get vetoed by their own marketing, PR or legal departments. Make it clear what they’re signing, how.if they will be involved in the review process (we always give our customers final sign-off but that’s a cultural choice) and exactly what you intend to do with the finished video.
  10. Once you publish you’re only half done. You can create the greatest video but if no one sees it it is worthless. You need to get it seen by the right people. Is that your customers or is that your sales organization who can be more effective if they watch your creation. When you’re planning your video project you need to consider promotion from the outset. If this isn’t your project you need to make sure that the project owner has considered this or your wasting both your resources.

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