Oh, technology. You make everything seem so easy and straightforward. You give us the ability to shoot a video with our phones, edit it with $3 apps and share it with the whole wide world. You tell us we don’t need to pay a production company that understands the craft of film and video storytelling. You convince us we can mostly or completely DIY it on the cheap. Ah, but your tempting words hide a dirty little secret, which is this: Anyone can make a video; very few people can do it well.
Perhaps more than any other marketing discipline, video has the most moving parts (dad joke very much intended). A high-quality website, brochure or mailer requires talented designers, writers, developers and their laptops. Sometimes a professional photographer is involved, but stock photography may also be able to convey a professional level of quality. Generally speaking, that’s it. But if you want that same level of excellence in video—the kind that makes people stop what they’re doing, watch and keep watching—you’ll need more people, more equipment, and yes, more budget.
Good film and video professionals know how to use lighting, cinematography, directing, editing and sound design to bring a script to life. And those who are better than good? Well, they know how to enhance it. They know how to captivate rather than merely execute in a workmanlike way.
So when do you need great, when do you need good and when do you fall back on good enough? Consider the following scenarios.
Do you want to create brand awareness, reposition your brand or set the tone for an industry event?
This is the part of the blog where I become the good friend who tells you the thing you don’t want to hear but need to anyway. This is no time to skimp. You need more than a production company that can produce a video that looks professional. You need a production team of filmmakers—the kind of people who understand the power of a well-told story. You’ll recognize them right away by what’s on their reels. You’ll be drawn into their videos, rather than just nodding at their solid production skills. You’ll feel more like you’re watching very short movies rather than mere commercials. People capable of this kind of work may stretch your budget beyond what you’re typically comfortable with, but they may also help you shine brighter in your audience’s eyes.
Do you want to explain how a product or service works, produce a testimonial-focused video or train employees or an external sales force?
Just about any production company should be able to produce these with a quality level befitting your brand. When you’re looking at reels, make sure the samples have a look that feels current and that there aren’t any (unironic) spinning and flashing starbursts. For explainer videos, which often are a perfect choice for animation, make sure you’re not excluding animation houses from your searches. Or if the subject matter is extremely simple, and your budget is extremely small, consider an off-the-shelf tool like GoAnimate. (Just take a quick peek at your competitors’ explainer videos to make sure they haven’t been using it, too.) Also consider that if you want to add a joke or two into a training video to make it more engaging, look for reels that show experience with humor.
Do you want to create a video for an informal company event, or showcase your culture or thought leadership on the company blog and social channels?
Now you have my full permission to break out your phone and go to town with iMovie or other free resources. There are plenty of them out there, and your company likely has someone passionate enough about video to be up to the task. If you plan on producing a lot of this type of content, such as a weekly vlog featuring a member of your executive team, consider investing in a few key pieces of equipment to give the video a bit more polish (as informal as YouTube celebrities’ videos seem, there’s often some hidden lighting magic involved). You might also want to set up accounts with stock video and music services. But in general, you can produce these types of videos inexpensively and without much equipment.
With all marketing materials you create, it’s important to remember that their level of quality is a reflection of your brand. That means that unless your brand prides itself on being scrappy and rough around the edges, you don’t want most of your videos to have a casual, unpolished look to them. So as enticing as it is to create all your videos in-house with limited equipment, it really is important to know when to leave things to the professionals—and when the cost is warranted.