Corporate Videos Do's and Don'ts | 5 Top Tips
Updated: Jun 15, 2019
Many commercial video directors shudder at the phrase 'Corporate Video'. For some, the same old horror stories come back to haunt them time again. Company CEO's dragged in front of a camera in between meetings, sweating under the lights and struggling to read dialogue that's been hacked away at by 20 employees in marketing. Or how about beautifully composed shots ruined with a Power Point presentation's-worth of text, describing everything our eyes are already telling us? Then of course there's the three months in re-edit hell as the same 20 marketing guys all put in their 'feedback'.
It doesn't have to be like this!
I'll come back to the production process in a minute, but one major, obvious point that always seems to hit corporate clients like a thunderbolt in the initial consultation is when they are told the following indisputable fact:
"Your video is completely pointless if nobody watches it."
Read that again. It's THE golden rule!
Sadly many video production companies shy away from revealing this stunningly obvious truth, preferring to just give the client what they ask for. Believe it or not, many of my colleagues have given up long ago when it comes to educating their clients. That is a big dereliction of duty. As video production professionals it's our job to convince our clients that there are better ways to communicate their message. The short-term gain of not having to educate a client is lost if nobody watches the video because it's a mess and they are left unsatisfied. The whole exercise has been a complete waste of time and most importantly, the client's money. Although the client may have had their objections satisfied initially by simply doing what they want they still have an uneasy feeling that they can't quite fathom. That feeling is easy to explain. Their video is garbage. In the end, even though the film maker did everything the client demanded, they same client eventually moves on because they are getting poor results.
For example, a demand many corporate clients throw around is to add as much explanatory text as possible. Think of the best commercials or short films you've ever watched. How much text was on-screen? I'll guess that apart from the logo, none. Web sites, social media posts, company literature - these are the places for text (specifically, in the accompanying description with the added bonus that Google will detect it). Film is a medium that when used properly directly enters your customers brain. And corporate videos CAN be cool! Fortunately some clients of mine totally get this. Check out this film I made for interior design company in Dubai called Roar - hopefully you get them and what they are about in 60 seconds and the on-screen text is done with panache and to reinforce the message, not tell the whole story.
This took a total of about 3 days to shoot - B-roll at the office along with interviews, some shoots at locations and stock photos of their previous work. The first enquiry from the client was for an 'infomercial' - but by the end their imagination had been fired-up and it was them telling me to make it even edgier! As a film maker that's a dream come true.
Of course for some this isn't what's required. Engineering companies, say, might need a sober film that communicates what they are about and is a great tool to give information to potential clients. Once again though, this doesn't mean it can't be cinematic and use the medium to communicate effectively, rather than spoon-feeding with endless text or people speaking on-camera for hours. Have a look at this video I made for Xylem water in Dubai - not a single graph in sight, and when they do need to add text it's done in a (may I say) imaginative and entertaining way. (It's 4 minutes long but believe me, if you're thinking of having Xylem put in the water pumps in you new skyscraper, you need to know everything in here).
So, as I mentioned at the beginning, getting the process right is vital. If you're a corporate client and thinking of hiring a video production company in Dubai, the following will make the process way smoother.
1. Have the film maker sit down and describe their vision, with examples of their work to back this up. Have them point at a film and say 'this is what you can expect'. Make sure everyone is clear on what you want to see before cameras start rolling. There's nothing worse than having a client decide what they want after everything has been shot, with your editor frantically trying to cobble together something totally different to what was intended.
2. This one is extremely important. Always have the audience in mind. What is the purpose of this video? Is it for information? Is it to just give an abstract feeling of what your company is about? Or - no offense - is to make high-up people at your company feel important? Of course include the experts in your company speaking about technical matters. But shoehorning in every senior executive in your company just to soothe ego's, or for that matter asking for a long running time to get your money's-worth, or making the same video you and your competitors have made time and again for years - this is not the way to go. Always be thinking of your audience and keeping their attention, not yours. Great content pays for itself. Which leads us on to...
3. Be ruthless with your casting. Many corporations feel the need to have high-ranking executives starring in their videos. Consider if this is a good idea. Sometimes it's very important because you have hired the best in the business and want them speaking techinical jargon on-screen. But if you are in a less technical field of work, think about if this is a good idea. For starters, if that employee leaves, your video is instantly out-of-date. And if they are uncomfortable on camera, it can lead to a painful experience for everyone as they try to recite their lines. Why not have an actor represent your company on-camera? Actors that come to mind over the years that I've seen in corporate videos are: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, George Clooney, John Cleese (yes I can see that women are under-represented in this dig around my memory - please feel free to redress this and I'd love to work with Robin Wright if you're asking). Hiring acting talent in the UAE is extremely easy - if you didn't notice there are a lot of talented and ridiculously good-looking people in this city. So long as they look the part and bring gravitas, your audience won't care if they are a real employee or not. If you must use staff members, give them plenty of time to learn their lines and shoot their scene, and keep the scripts very simple, in bite-sized chunks that can be recited easily. When you are writing their dialogue try remembering it and saying it our loud yourself before you hand over three pages worth of lines! Acting is not as easy as it looks or - hey - we'd all be doing it.
4. Expanding on point 2, consider the run-time and holding your audiences attention. My favorite quote is 'Brevity is the soul of wit' (William Shakespeare, who knew a thing or two about keeping an audience entertained). If you have to get a lot of information across because your video is a tool for information, like my film for Xylem above, then fair enough - just so long as it is kept concise and interesting throughout for people in that field. But most of the time, remember you have 3 - 5 seconds to grab your audience on social media... and then of course you have to keep them. It's much better to have your audience want more at the end and go back and re-watch your video a few times than have them switch off and move on. Audiences remember the beginning and the end of films - make sure you keep them until the end of yours so you can control the last thing they see and feel.
5. Trust the filmmakers. You watch a lot of Netflix, you have been going to the cinema since you were 6 years old, and you have a really expensive camera in your wardrobe at home. You're an expert too! Well, possibly and if you are then your expertise is welcome. But remember that even James Cameron doesn't produce a film and then tell his director how to do his job unless it's going VERY wrong, and even then it's highly unlikely he'd do that on-set. If you absolutely must be around during the shoot, please - no offense - keep your distance. Never make a film-frame shape with your hands. And don't stress if it all seems a bit low-energy during filming. Most clients that are juggling a thousand tasks a day struggle to understand or imagine the editing process and are worried when they see just how slow things seem. Don't worry! Film-making is a slow process if it's done right. If you've done your research then place your trust in the experts and let them do their thing.
So that's my thoughts. I'd love to hear from the other side of the corporate video experience though. Have you wasted money on a video that nobody ever watched? Or have you had an amazing experience and had a real buzz generated by a great film? Are you a film maker with something to add? Feel free to tell me about it below.