The words “corporate video” rarely spur anticipation. When you ask someone to watch your corporate video it’s usually met with a “Do I have to?”
Corporate videos have been given a bad rap and rightfully so. Most of them are horrible. They’re often filled with platitudes and devoid of information. It seems the wishy washiness of so many corporate videos is the result of the legal department fearful of making any claim about anything and as a result say nothing at all. In a “two steps forward, two steps back” case you would have been just as successful producing nothing at all.
The reason so many corporate videos are poor is they don’t realize they have so many options available to not make a boring video. In an effort to raise the bar, I offer up the following creative recommendations for your next video. This is just an initial list. I invite you to add some suggestions of your own.
Corporate culture/recruiting videos
1: “Funny company story” video: No one ever experiences the same thing the same way. Pick a few employees to tell the story of the funniest thing that happened in the office. It could also possibly be a customer story. Sequester three people and have them tell the same story. Pepper them with questions that will lead to other interviewees, such as, “What do you think Steve would say about this incident?” If your culture allows it, create a dramatization of the incident to include in the video.
2: “Why we love our job” video: Do one-on-one interviews with employees talking about why they love their job. Try to get them to talk about specifics of their job and the work they do. Try to avoid a lot of “It’s the people” answers. Why are you proud to have this job? What makes your job fantastic?
3: “Day in the life” video: Pick your most interesting and camera friendly employee and do a day in the life of their job. Have them narrate their entire day and follow them everywhere. Be specific about what you’re working on and the challenge you’re trying to complete. Start at home and end at home.
This well-produced video, found on the Adobe Careers page, is a combination of the two above styles. It’s trying to be everything to everyone by showing profiles from multiple people in different careers in different locations. The video is long, about 14 minutes. It appears that it was very expensive to produce and as a result probably want this video to live on the site for a long time. Given they want this careers video to be evergreen no one provides any details to any specific project.
The problem with using that technique is you fall into the trap of being so broad you end up saying nothing. The video is peppered with hackneyed phrases such as, “People are approachable,” “Family atmosphere,” “Good life-work balance,” “At the end of the day, people buy from people,” “We’re making leaps and strides every day,” “My job is challenging, but a whole lot of fun,” and “I like to solve a real world issue that’s a burning issue for the customer.” It pains me to hate this video because Adobe is awesome and the quality of this video is so good, but the messages couldn’t be more tepid.
4: “Award-winning employee” video: Every time an employee wins an industry award, or even if its an employee of the month award, interview them about what they did to win that award. Interview others as to why they think that employee deserved that award. This has greater impact than just seeing a series of awards on a shelf.
5: “Tell me about your job” video: After someone has been at their job for at least six months, do a one-on-one interview with them describing all the details of their job. Have them be as realistic as possible talking about the good and parts of the job. This is a far simpler style video to shoot and produce than the more involved day-in-the-life video. Use it for future recruiting efforts. When that person leaves or an identical position opens up, post the job listing along with the companion video.
6: “What are you going to do tomorrow?” video: The point of any conference is to inspire some level of action. We all get inspired in different ways. Maybe we saw a new product we have to start using. Or learned something at a talk. Most of all we hopefully met someone for which we’d like to do business. Whatever it is, that’s the core of the success of your conference. Ask people, “When you leave this conference, what are you going to do tomorrow?” What is the one thing you learned or person you met that you’re going to go back to your office and tell everyone, “We have to do this right now.” Get lots of people to answer that question and compile their answers into a short video. Now you have a sales piece with multiple reasons why people have to attend the next conference.
7: “End-of-show report” video: For those people who couldn’t attend the conference, provide a five-minute summary of the entire event. Here’s an example of one I produced for the RSA Conference.
Corporate “About” videos
8: “The company story” video: Ask all employees to tell the company story in their own words. This video will be revealing as you’ll see how well everyone in your company actually knows the company story. Or you may discover a company story you don’t know yet.
9: “Before and after project” video: At the start of a project, shoot a video of what everyone’s hopes are for the success of the project and what challenges they have coming ahead. Upon conclusion of the project ask them the same questions. Did it turn out the way they expected? What were some of the unexpected surprises along the way?
10: “How it’s made” video: Produce a step-by-step video showing how you make your product. Feel free to skip any secret sauce that you don’t want your competition to know about.
11: “How would you solve this problem” video: Your product solves a problem. Many people may not know about your product. Ask people on the street or at an event, who don’t know about your product, how they would solve that problem. Show your product solution in response to their answers.
12: “Customer demos product” video: Have a customer give a demo of how they configure and use your product.
13: “How to” videos that involve your product: These aren’t how to videos about your product, but a how to video that would be of interest to anyone interested in your space. It just so happens you can use your product in the video. For example, if you make tennis rackets, produce a video on how to do a proper backstroke.
14: “Inappropriate uses of your product” video: What’s a funny inappropriate use of your product? Why not film it? A really famous example is Blendtec, a blender manufacturer, that created a Letterman-esque series of videos called “Will it Blend?” where they blended objects that shouldn’t be blended, such as an iPhone.
15: “Highs and lows” video: Have an exec tell a story of their greatest success and biggest failure. What did they learn from both?
Customer relations videos
16: “Favorite customer” video: Ask employees to tell stories about their favorite customers.
17: “What’s our secret sauce?” video: Customers try to explain what your company’s secret sauce is. The point of it is to have them guess as what it is, or rather talk about why they choose you over the competition.
18: “Taste test” video: Even if your product isn’t edible, ask them to taste it and your competitor’s product just to get their reaction.
19: “Folgers taste test” video: Switch out their competitive product with your product and film reactions – especially if the product they use is way more expensive or established than yours. Here’s the original Folgers commercial where they switched the coffee at the high-end Manhattan restaurant “Tavern on the Green.”
The “Other” Videos
20: “Inappropriate question to ask” video: Asking people their weight or how much money they make are completely inappropriate questions. Those may not be right for you, but what question is inappropriate for your industry. Whatever it is, ask it, not to actually get true answers, but rather to get reactions.
For example, at RSA, the information security conference, I asked attendees, “What’s your password?”
What type of video best tells your company story?
I wrote this article as an exercise to think of some common and not so common formats for corporate videos that didn’t fall into the same pattern. They either told a story and/or got honest reactions from people. My feeling is you need to do one of two in any type of corporate video. If you don’t, what’s the point of even creating it? Also, if you’re going to tell a story, tell one that’s original. We’ve all seen glitzy movies with horrible dialogue. Don’t let your corporate video fall into the same trap. Your graphics will never sell your company. It will always be the people on the screen and the tale you tell that will make or break your video.