We’re going to do great things together. That’s not an opinion, or a promise – it’s a guarantee. Over more than 400 video productions, we’ve earned a 100% satisfaction rate. We make the best corporate videos, and it’s not because we’re technically or creatively better than other agencies.
Well, not just because of that.
We’ve got a good idea of how to draw up a sensible shooting schedule. We know how to get value out of small budgets (reasonably small budgets; we don’t work with camcorders) and large ones alike. We’ve also got in-house directors, producers, editors, scriptwriters, animators, and an extensive network of reputable specialists for those occasions when we don’t have the right internal expertise, so we’re not going to spin the Wheel of Freelance Fortune and hope everything works out.
But the real reason we make the best corporate videos is that we’ve learned from our many production experiences, and we understand the actions and behaviours that correlate with success. For many of the businesses we work with, this is their first commission, so we thought we’d share some advice – some of it hard-learned. It’ll help you avoid some of the more common pitfalls of working with a video company, and ensure you get a finished production that exceeds expectations.
“The first draft of anything is shit.” We don’t entirely agree with Ernest Hemingway there, but there’s a few nuggets of truth in what he’s saying.
No matter how good the agency, they’re going to get a few things wrong in the beginning. If there was a company that reliably produced perfect work based exclusively on an initial brief, they would have a ridiculous, Coca-Cola level market share and every other video agency would be run out of town. It doesn’t happen.
Maybe you don’t love the way something in the script is phrased. Maybe you’re not sure about the way a particular storyboard is framed. Maybe you’d like the file exported in a specific format. These are all valid concerns, and we’re always happy to make changes based on your feedback. To make the best corporate videos, you have to be prepared to iterate and reiterate.
That said, the way feedback is given can sometimes make the production process more halting and awkward than it needs to be. Making lots of little alterations over the course of a project can cause you to go over budget: it takes more time to make a series of small edits when they’re drip-fed to us than it does to action a bunch of changes at once, especially since after each set of changes we have to spend hours rendering the footage to show you the next version.
You’ve invested in this video, and you’re worried about it, but don’t freak out. We won’t forget something crucial if you’ve mentioned it in a block of other feedback; it’s our job to make something you’ll like, so we’ll address your comments to the best of our ability. But we need a little breathing room in order to try things out: we guarantee Kevin Bacon didn’t get the angry Footloose dance right the first time. If you’re asking for a continuous stream of small alterations or calling for daily updates, it’ll only slow the process down.
Of course, sometimes you’ll think of something brilliant when you least expect it, and we’d obviously like to hear about it when it happens. But if you can consolidate feedback from everyone who needs to provide it wherever possible, you’ll be making our jobs easier – and you’ll get a better video out of it as well.
Respect the schedule
One of the easiest ways to temporarily derail a production is to call asking to move the shoot with a day or two’s notice. This isn’t ever done out of malice: sometimes it happens due to crises, often it’s a matter of inconvenience and shifting priorities. We understand and appreciate that things don’t always go according to plan, and we’re certainly not going to complain if someone asks to move a shoot a month or two before the date we’ve penciled in.
That said, if it can be helped, it’s better to avoid rescheduling – particularly with little advanced warning.
To make the best corporate videos, a lot of moving parts need to come together. Production isn’t like other businesses where, in the wake of a cancelled meeting, you can just get other work out of the way: if a shoot is cancelled, an entire day has effectively been wiped out for a whole bunch of people. It is not just the producer and director that are being cancelled on. Any freelancers that have been hired need to be paid anyway, we need to schedule in another day making sure the whole team is available at the same time that the location is available at the same time that you, the client is available. As well as this, you need to add cancellation fees to all of the above, re-hire equipment, re-book the venue, re-source actors, and abuse underlings. All in all, there is a cost involved when someone hits the abort button.
Pay the piper
We ask businesses we work with to pay 50% up front, and 50% when the video is delivered. It’s a pretty solid model: it ensures we don’t take on too much risk, and it reassures our clients that we’re going to deliver as agreed.
Sometimes, however, people forget to pay the second half of the agreed fee: they’ll say they need the video for an event that week, and that they sent the invoice through, but it’s going to take X weeks to clear with the finance team/the board/the bank/their significant other, etc. etc.
This puts us in kind of an awkward position, because more often than not, we still can’t release the final video. We’re neither inclined to take the financial hit nor encourage delinquency. When we explain this, the payment is usually pushed through pretty quickly – but sometimes it’s not so easy. To avoid this – and get your video on-time and intact – it’s best to give the invoice plenty of time to clear and alert the finance people in advance.
Tell us what you want (what you really, really want)
…and stick to it! We’ll frequently get video briefs that instruct us to be bold, creative, different, innovative, quirky, offbeat, outré, far out, zany, wackadoodle, humorous, freaky, or some combination of the foregoing, only to find that the company prefers a slightly more conventional approach.
The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with being conventional. For many businesses, it works quite well, and in some schools of thought it’s even quite fashionable. If you want an effective straight-down-the-middle, route one video, we can do it. Just say that’s what you want. It’ll make things a lot easier.
If you do sincerely want to take a risk: don’t panic! It’s natural to feel a little anxiety, but we’re professionals, and we’re not going to waste your money. Our whole process is designed to avoid big ugly surprises. You sign off on the messaging before we write the script. We don’t start producing anything until we have a final version of the script. We create storyboards and style frames to make sure you are happy with the creative direction before it’s in the expensive phase.
Distil key points
On the subject of briefs: the biggest clue about how to write one is in the name. When it’s more like a manifesto itemising every last detail about the company – mundane or otherwise – it becomes harder to translate to effective live-action or animated content. The best corporate videos are seldom long affairs; you need to be selective about what you include.
Try to look at your business from a distance: what you find interesting won’t always appeal to your target audience. If you have a cool “how we met” story that isn’t necessarily relevant to your offering, you might want to write a short blog post instead of featuring it in the script. It’s also wise to avoid getting too bogged down in the nitty-gritty of your products or services: if it comes in several different colours, you can just say “it comes in several different colours” instead of listing the various shades.
You’re trying to hook customers, not lecture them. Save the little things for your website.
See the potential
A black-and-white storyboard represents a very rough idea of what the final product will look like. It doesn’t mean you’re gonna get some monochrome art film about disaffected middle-class Frenchmen. Equally, when we send a voiceover sample, frequently we’ll get a complaint along the lines of: “He’s talking about plumbing. We’re not a plumbing company.” Naturally, he’ll be saying different words in the final performance. If you’re looking for a basso profundo voice, we’ll find it; if you want something a bit more high-pitched, we’ll get there.
Storyboards, guide voiceovers, and anything else you see at this stage are used to help the director get a feel for the narrative: they’re not representative of the end product, and they’re not supposed to be.
Let the director…direct
When a marketing manager intervenes on set, it’s usually well-intentioned – but it’s often unnecessary. Suggestions about messaging and terminology are always welcome; suggestions about lighting or cinematography less so.
Our directors will ask your opinion, and regularly: we want to make something that makes you happy. But again: we’ve made more than 400 productions, and we’ve picked up a few things on the way. You’re always welcome on set, but we know what we’re doing – and we know when we need more input.
The best corporate videos are the ones people actually watch. Our guide explains how to get yours in front of as many eyes as possible!