What we imagine oftentimes supersedes reality. In leadership videos this however shouldn’t be the case. If it’s is well made, there’s no better way for an employee or a stakeholder to get close access and an insight to the company’s CEO. The other way around, from the point of view of the CEO, the effort that has to be put into making a video message is clearly greater than if the same information or greeting message were transmitted in the old school way, in writing. So, what should a CEO-video – whose message speaks clearly to its target audience – look like?
For many companies and bosses CEO-Videos present themselves to be a tricky undertaking. It contradicts the DNA of any true CEO, to not be able to control and have a say in processes, which are relevant to professional success. But that’s exactly what you’re letting yourself in for if you decide on communication through video: The CEO leaves the audiovisual interpretation of his or her image in someone else’s hands. That’s where ones self-image and public image may collide.
For those collisions to work in your favour, the development of the CEO video’s format has to be approached systematically. It’s not about having an idea, but instead drawing the right conclusions from a careful analysis of all factors and translate all that in a practical, convincing final form. Throughout this process the most important elements of content should never be lost sight of.
Videothink, in this three-part series outlines what should be kept in mind in top-level communication with video. Part 1 explains planning and conception, part 2 preproduction, filming and postproduction (image and sound). While this third instalment reflects upon how to correctly translate your content into an audiovisual form.
Types of leadership videos
CEO videos can be differentiated by the following criteria (in no particular order):
- Amount of people in front of the camera
- Amount of cameras
Defining the amount of people that will appear in front of the camera, determines if a CEO video is to be approached in the style of a monologue, as an interview situation or as a group discussion. Deciding on the amount of cameras, defines the visual code and the extent to which the content of the videos can be aided through editing. Simultaneously, how many cameras you chose to film with can also transport the visual code. The newsreader on professionally produced TV news in a studio will in international TV stations always be recorded by more than one camera. Contrarily, live reports will always be shot with one single camera. Emotions and information are not only transmitted by the person in front of the camera, but also to a great extent communicated by the filming location (aka the set). A CEO video filmed in the office is not just literally words apart from one filmed outdoors. The same goes for the style: Leadership videos can be static or dynamic, a CEO can be portrayed in images in a formal or distanced way or in a more approachable, humane way.
Recommendations (Pros and Cons to each type of video)
Amount of people in front of the camera:
|Amount of People||Pros||Cons|
|1 person (CEO)||Focus on CEO||CEO carries the video on their own|
|2 people (interview)||Dynamic between CEO and interviewer, CEO does not have to be the presenter and leader of the video, but can concentrate on his role as a professional leader||With professional interviewers the focus can be taken away from CEO (interviewer might take centre stage)|
|Group discussion||Authenticity, spontaneity and diversity of a group dynamic make video stand out.||Coordination and defining of the different sequences can be demanding|
Source: Condor Films, March 2017
Amount of cameras at shoot:
|Amount of Cameras||Pros||Cons|
|1 camera||Less technical effort and cost involved; Image postproduction (Editing) easier, due to lesser options||No possibility for subtle cut-aways, to hide weaker takes; camera is pointed non-stop at CEO. The recording of segments or single sentences not possible.|
|2< cameras||The feeling of space is enhanced. The video benefits from the phenomenon of invisible cuts.||Higher costs for camera equipment; due to higher amount of footage, slightly more effort involved in editing stages.|
Source: Condor Films, March 2017
Video set/ Filming location:
|Office||Familiar surroundings for CEO (feels „at home“)||Not necessarily congruent with the video’s message; possible space restrictions (might restrict camera distance, possible varying angles) and often involves time pressures, as equipment has to be set up quickly so as not to intrude into CEO’s office/work.|
|Further||Location can be adapted to core message of content and requirements of a video production.||when exterior locations come at an extra cost; if they depend on weather.|
|For series of videos: same location||Location is a format-forming element; less logistics involved if location is repeated as place and process are already familiar.||Reduced attention (the viewer already „knows“ the location and the codes from previous videos)|
|For series of videos: Altering locations||Heightened attention of viewer||More logistical effort, as new locations have to be defined for every shot.|
Source: Condor Films, January 2017
Style of video:
|static (no camera movements)||The viewer focuses more on video’s content.||The CEO can – especially when only one camera is being used – come across as stiff and inapproachable. Video can appear outdated and boring.|
|dynamic (the camera moves)||heightened authenticity because camera movements give the illusion of space and come closest to a natural „listening“ environment (as long as camera movements aren’t to abrupt)||requires greater effort from camera person. Camera movements can’t be made on a whim and require planning if more than one camera is being used, in terms of perspective and with subsequent editing in mind.|
|Mixing the two styles||Ideal starting point for powerful and effective videos, as long as movement falls in line with content (this congruency can be created later in editing, if one camera has been used)||places high demands on director and filmmaker.|
Source: Condor Films, March 2017
A CEO as a weather girl: a role conflict with consequences
In general a CEO can take on two roles in a video. Either a CEO presents information in the video, adding his or her own comments, or he or she speaks about connections, creating their own insight and outlooks with reference to their function as a leader. In the first approach – if the CEO relies too much on numbers – there’s a danger they might come across more like a weather girl, rather than the executive of a company. Weather girls and CEOs both have presentation skills. The weather girl presents the meteorological climate, the CEO the climate of their company. But like Susanne Müller-Zantop of CEO-Positions once said: a weather girl – unlike the CEO – is not responsible for the factors they present. If the CEO is to be perceived as a responsible leader, their message has to go beyond simple transmission of information. This is where narrative tricks of the video trade are implemented. A professional video maker’s toolbox is a brim with helpful instruments: graphic elements, off-commentary, video setup as interview and many more.
Use of graphics and animation
Many leadership videos are crammed with information. And the viewer is often bombarded with additional information in the form of animated graphics. Graphic elements either serve to highlight the CEOs statements, provide more detail or a conclusion. Often however, exactly the opposite is achieved. The use of graphics is only plausible, if the viewer can really process the information provided. Reception of visual information that is presented in motion, requires time. Especially if there is a voice you simultaneously have to pay attention to. Less is almost always more, when it comes to CEO videos.
Situations aren’t stories. But even ceo videos should go by a clear narrative structure and concept. While employees might watch a CEO video motivated by their own interests, tolerance – when it comes to whatever additional audience the video may have – drastically diminishes. If a video is posted online – nowadays it not only has to provide a valid answer to the question: Why am I watching this? But also – after the first few seconds – why should I keep watching this? The WILD- principle can be applied to CEO videos too. And to double-check, the CSI-principle is advisable too: is the CEO video plausible? Does it stimulate the viewer by means of resonance and involvement, to think beyond the video?