In a previous post I talked about how communicating using social media is being caught up with the idea of gadgets rather than looking at whether the tools are fit for the purpose. Video is another area where the mere fact of having a video is seen as good enough by some communicators when, like everything else we do, establishing the purpose of the medium is the key.
Anyone who has read any of my posts will know I talk about this idea of purpose regularly and often. In my view, it's Comms 101 (and often when I write these posts it's why I feel like I'm telling people how to suck eggs). Before you attempt any form of media communication, including videos, ask yourself, what is its purpose? Answer this and you usually have an answer to the other questions that automatically follow:
· Why should they care?
· What do I hope to get out of it and how do I measure that success?
This post was prompted after I visited the University of Wollongong media website where the media team have recently started putting out videos to go along with some of their media releases. Despite having an excellent video channel that has been going since 2010, the university appears to have only just started using videos in tandem with their media releases.
At the time I looked there were two new videos, one on surfing....
Yet, for all of these pluses, my impression was that the videos didn't appear to have an intention about how they were to be used in a media context. They felt like a bit of an afterthought. This led to what I see as a problem with their structure and resulted in them being not nearly as shareable in a media context as they should be. Shareability is the coin of media communications, particularly in the online and social media world, as memes show us on a daily basis.
If the object of these videos was just to add a little colour to the media release, then both have fulfilled that task. But that seems like a significant time investment for a marginal benefit in terms of media or promoting the institution.
If our Centre needs a video to go with a media release, I try to take a more focused approach to video storytelling.
I go to my video experts and researchers to work out the key points of the story we want to tell. We then work out how to tell the key parts of that story in short, sharp, quotable chunks that can be cut up and edited by broadcasters or used by print media to extract quotes for the story they want to tell. I workshop questions and answers with my researchers.
Where possible, especially where complex ideas are concerned, we try to introduce an animation. Animations are a massive bonus in a video. In a high speed news cycle, animations can be very time consuming for a broadcaster to put together, so if you can supply one there is a very good chance it will be cut and pasted into part of the news package - with your branding.
In short, the videos we produce that will be tied to media releases are designed to be quotable, easily cut and to include content that would be almost impossible for a news broadcaster to put together themselves without considerable effort.
The result: we have often had videos that have been cut into news packages with the quotes or animations used as part of the broadcast. This is on top of other news websites embedding the entire video.
The video below on the cause of the hiatus in global average temperatures with Prof Matthew England from earlier last year is an example of creating a video specifically focused on being useful to broadcast and online media. Not only did it achieve this purpose, with the animation and video quotes appearing on numerous news broadcasts, the quotes from the video were also used in print and online media. This was on top of the quotes taken from the media release. I felt we got a real bang for our buck with this video and the experts at UNSWTV played a huge role in making it do its job.
Another series of videos being worked on by UNSWTV from an idea we helped develop are designed as five minute science snapshots for television networks but which can also be collected together as a stand-alone series. This series is called Catastrophic Science and its aim is to bring the university's research to a broader audience in an interesting way across multiple broadcast and online outlets. I will link to the series when it goes live in mid May.
You can already see a similar series of videos developed by UNSW TV, How Did We Get Here? This series already has a home on a major media organisation.
While these videos are different in terms of their audience and purpose, they are still clearly structured and aimed at a specific target audiences. Videos need to be planned in exactly the same way we plan media releases if they are to be effective.
Regardless of technical expertise, great equipment or having an expert videographer on hand, you must answer the fundamental question about purpose and structure your video accordingly if it is going to be worth the time and investment these productions require.