Communication experts know this – just as well as anyone on the executive echelons of a company: Communication skills and leadership skills go hand in hand. Videos have become indispensable in the world of corporate communication and most companies sooner or later decide to raise the stakes with leadership videos. No other form of communication grabs your boss’ attention like moving image does. A means of communication, which provides great opportunities, but is not without its risks.
You’ll have a hard time finding a film school graduate who chose his field of study because they dreamt of a career in CEO-video production. The quality of most of these videos is proof of that. Only once his dreams of making it big in Hollywood have been shattered, will a filmmaker resort to producing leadership videos. To pay the rent, in most cases. This is bad news for those of us who dream of perfect leadership videos. But it can be good news too: In no other genre within professional communication with film and video, is there as much room for improvement as in leadership videos.
In this exclusive four-part series – written by professionals for professionals – Videothink explains what to keep an eye on when it comes to leadership communication with video. Part 1 (this article) will focus on planning and conception; part 2 on preproduction and filming and part 3 on the subsequent postproduction of image and sound. And part 4 will analyse a series of examples of leadership videos and provide a conclusion on of its findings.
Before we can talk about cost, it would be helpful to visualise what an ideal course of action, from conception to realisation of a leadership video looks like:
4 Steps to perfect Leadership Videos
When it comes to conception and planning of a leadership video it is recommended to proceed in four steps. All the more so, if video production is a regular component in a company, be it for regular videos for internal communication or for use at a company’s annual media conference.
With one-off video productions some of the four steps listed below can be skipped or resumed. These steps aim to provide general guidelines, the details of which can be adapted to best suit your project and circumstances
Step 1: Definition
As strange as it may sound, the first thing to consider when aiming for the perfect leadership video is to ask yourself whether video really is the right medium for you. Video means to step in front of a camera and talk to people. Even though directors like Patrick Merz claim that: “We are all good actors”, stepping in front of a camera does require a certain skill. And simply being photogenic won’t suffice here. When it comes to moving image there are people who look “good” in front of a camera and others who the camera struggles “to love”. Here, regardless of function or position within the company, the medium of video, doesn’t abide by the same hierarchy – it’s whether democratic, nor fair.
In a video, people talk to people.
Prof. Dr. Ch. Beck, University of Applied Sciences, Koblenz
If it’s numbers that have to do the talking, video will probably be wrong medium for you message.
Communication with film and video is also a part of corporate communication as a whole. Having your CEO in the picture won’t change that. It is commendable to replace a newsletter with a video, but ensure that the look and feel of the video corresponds to the company’s brand and image. Another important factor to keep in mind is something that also applies when incorporating social media into your communication: once you start, you have to keep at it.
Videos transport and connect emotions and information. If your sole goal is to transmit information, a PDF will do the job just as well as a video. Leadership videos also don’t apply, if your aim is to explain something in a highly complex context, that’s what explanatory videos are for.
Step 2: Formatting
Formatting simply means providing filmic form to your content. This form is the concept. It defines, what the video will look like. Important factors when determining the concept are the so-called formatting elements (see below). An essential aspect of formatting is also deciding where your concept stands in comparison to other, already existing videos, which have similar purposes. Your future video – as a product – can either be received by the viewer as a “me too” or can stand out as a frontrunner. Both are viable options, but regardless of what you decide, it should be a decision you consider carefully. When evaluating the “best in class”, benchmarking can prove to be a helpful tool. First draw a comparison with broader, cross-sectoral videos that have similar objectives, then hone in on videos by more direct competitors with the exact same objective.
Step 3: Piloting
A pilot project is a prototype. In the TV industry a “pilot” is used to get a feel for the marketability and reception of an idea for a TV series. When it comes to more complex production setups for CEO-Videos (i.e. if more than one camera will be used) piloting is not only recommended, but will also improve the quality of the video. This is because a test run allows the person who will appear in front of the camera, as well as the crew involved, to get used to the new format, what needs to be considered (i.e. point of view) and how it can be achieved (Will it be shot in one single take? Or in sequences?) For planning reasons and also with regard to the costs a test run can entail, when it comes to leadership videos, a test run isn’t always crucial. Sometimes a test run can put unnecessary pressure on the CEO who will appear in front of the camera. Oftentimes a CEO – instead of loosening and warming up – will try to perform in tune with his function and fail. And also if the test shot fails and cannot be used – as can be the case too – the pressure to get the “right” take increases. That why it’s better to either refrain from doing a test take or clearly declaring it a such from the very beginning, to ensure a relaxed environment.
Piloting serves both the client and filmmaker as proof of concept. It’s an important milestone and an opportunity, if necessary to further tailor the concept – or parts of it – to the person in front of the camera and their skills.
Step 4: Production and impact assessment
The production process of leadership videos will be explained in detail in the third part of this article series. If the leadership video has been completed and is online, it is time to evaluate its effect. That involves internal feedback and possible email feedback from stakeholders, but also the analysis of hard facts and comparing online views or clicks, interactions, traffic sources, audience retention, reach, frequency, demographic and media the video is being reproduced in.
What does a leadership video cost?
The cost of an expertly made CEO-Video with a duration of between 4 and 7 minutes usually falls within the parameters of around 15’000 to 25’ooo CHF. The price of a CEO-video always depends on the concrete, formal and content related means of each production. When choosing your ideal production partner it’s always a good idea to check with different providers and request and compare non-binding estimates before you commit. (A few tip and tricks on how to chose a competent production partner can be found here.)
CEO-Videos are top-level domain. Nevertheless it shouldn’t be forgotten that video communication is only is an instrument in the greater orchestra of corporate communication within a company.
In an ideal world the different videos within one company should share the same values and be geared towards the same sub-brand. Stakeholders, just like any viewer of a video search for characteristics of that connect one video to the next. This should also be considered with CEO-videos.
So-called formatting elements are the elements that give the video series its form and – with the viewer of the video in mind – make it stand out from other competitors’ videos.
Formatting elements are just as important for serial videos as for one-off productions. With production value they more or less make up the blueprint for success.
Examples for such elements are:
- Amount of cameras
- Movement and point of view of the camera
- The way in which the CEO addresses the viewer (looking straight into the camera, looking slightly off-camera)
- Filming Location
- Props (armchair, high-standing desk)
Formatting elements can only be describes as such if they are original and differentiate themselves to other videos with identical objectives. Only then can they – consciously or not – become a constituting factor of a video and fulfill their role as a recognisable feature for the viewer.
Continuation of article series (Part 2)
In the second part of this Videothink articles series about leadership videos will focus on the preparation for filming and filming itself. And like always with Videothink, it will be packed with tried and tested tipps and trick.