VIDEO SPOTLIGHT: CAPTURING RAPPORT

You can have the best camera and lighting equipment on the market and still create lousy video. 

Why? Because quality interview-based video is all about establishing a good rapport with your subject and putting them at ease to be their best. That’s the big secret. Whether it’s a video for your business, a case study, or testimonial, you cannot create good rapport in post production. 

You can try to mask a lackluster interview with graphics and music swells, but if you’re trying to capture a genuine connection with your on-camera subject, you need to be able to help them feel safe enough to be themselves.

If you can do this, you get something magical. Authenticity. Honesty. Believability. And your subject does not even have to be the most dynamic individual to be interesting, They Just need to be connected to what they are saying.

So, next time you're writing a script or in pre production on a video for your organization or small business, spend some time thinking about how you will direct your on-camera talent.  

If possible, talk to the person you will be interviewing prior to the shoot -- either by phone or face to face. A lot of subtlety can be conveyed when you hear someone's voice as opposed to just exchanging a barrage of emails or texts.  

Even a short conversation can put both you and your subject at ease and help establish trust. It will make a big difference when you get to the set or location and pay big dividends in the editing room.

Because once you capture a natural, conversational interview, the rest you really can do in post. 

Don't Skip The Script

RKW Scripts.jpg

I’ve seen it happen many times. The Communications Director gets a call from a C-Suite exec, Marketing Director, or VP of Human Resources to create a video. 

The deadline is tight. The strategic direction is vague. Panic ensues. 

If there is an in-house video department, the key person from that department is summoned for a meeting. If the organization does not have in-house video capability, a local production company or freelancer is called in to work on it.

There’s only one problem. There’s no concept for the video, no outline, and no script.

Whether it’s a video testimonial, "talking-head" interview with an executive, or introducing a new HR initiative -- the most successful video projects have one thing in common. They start with a script. 

Why? Because video is a temporal creative art, not static. Like music, it has an arc. And, while it ebbs and flows as it moves along, a script provides the through-line that keeps the audience tied to the overall objective. Think of it as a spine.

You can even use a script when the video is interview-based and a conversational tone is critical. While you never want to write out answers for interview subjects, you will absolutely want to shape your questions to guide subjects to hit your main points. 

Think a script is creatively limiting?  Not true.  

Having a script:

  • Provides you with important creative parameters to keep you on message
  • Reveals where your video needs to be "broken out" visually to sustain interest
  • Ensures that you have a story arc -- a clear beginning, middle, and end
  • Informs the production team what footage needs to be captured
  • Gives you a concrete way to present to clients before you start shooting
  • Allows the production team to plan for the shoot and maximize your dollars

So next time you get that panic call, take a deep breath...and don’t skip the script.

A Meeting to Eliminate Meetings

EVERY ACTION TELLS A STORY
 

I was once called into a meeting to analyze our meetings. Stop laughing.

There were over 30 people in attendance, including 10 mid-level managers, three directors, and the Super Director leading the way. The cost of this two hour meeting was significant. 

It was all very exciting. 

Giant pieces of paper were taped along all four walls, each listing the name of a different department meeting. And there were a lot of meetings. 

Monthly All-Hands Meeting, Weekly Manager Meeting, Daily Creative Meeting, Weekly Marketing Strategy Meeting, Monthly Creative Meeting, Bi-Weekly Editorial Meeting, Quarterly Update Meeting, Bi-Annual Self-Improvement Meeting, Weekly One-on-One Meeting.

You get the picture.

Anticipation was high when florescent sticky notes and sharpies were handed out so we could rate the meetings on a scale of 1 to 5 (useless to valuable).

Frenzied, the group attacked the boards. Our voices would finally be heard as we joyfully rated the value of each meeting. There were a few large zeros put up, which drew a noticeable grimace from the Super Director, and a reiteration of the 1 to 5 rating system.

When the frenzy died down, it was clear that several of the meetings were doomed, dominated by lousy ratings. We were informed that the next step would be to tally up the average ratings for each meeting, distribute this list to the group, and decide which meetings to eliminate. 

It didn't exactly play out like that, instead: 

  • No meetings were eliminated
  • The decision was made by the Super Director, behind closed doors
  • The spreadsheet with the ratings was never shared with the group

And thus, a story was born. 

The intentions of this exercise were essentially good: increase efficiency, show respect for our time by evaluating and cutting a few meetings, and give each member of the team a meaningful voice.  

However, the lack of follow-through turned this into a story that had a lasting negative impact.

  • The "Meeting to Eliminate Meetings"  became comic legend within the organization
  • Attrition increased significantly over the next two months, many leaving without another job lined up
  • No meetings were eliminated


I believe that we're all hard-wired to tell stories.

Stories help us make sense of the world, regain perspective, and provide comic relief in a stressful environment. (Just attend an after work cocktail hour and listen to the gossip, worry, and impressions.) 

Actions like holding a meeting to eliminate meetings are the birthplace of office lore. But the story didn't have to end this way. It could have changed dramatically if our main character would have: 

  • Shown some understanding and empathy for the audience
  • Admitted the mistake (there's strength in vulnerability)
  • Apologized
  • Fixed the situation by following the original plan

If the story followed this trajectory, it could have been very powerful. A comedic opening, a little suspense, a climax, and a nice reversal that showed some growth in our main character.  

Not as funny, but a much happier ending for everyone. 

Bobby Wittenberg has been telling stories since he was five. First with a tape recorder, later with a camera. He has also helped major brands connect with internal and external audiences across a variety of media, leveraging his experience as a writer, director, creative director, playwright, and screenwriter. You can reach him at rkwcreative.com.

The Path To Great Creative

3 TIPS FOR GETTING GREAT CREATIVE WORK

Use A Creative Brief
This is where you'll define strategic aspects of your project such as: target audience, objective, and message context. 

While there are many key questions in a creative brief, from brand positioning to competitive advantages, here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What do you want your prospects to know, think, or do?
  • How and where will your prospects see this communication? 

Pretty basic, right? But you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve seen this step skipped due to time constraints, assumptions, or just general panic.

Don't skip it.  It will serve as a roadmap and ensure that you and the writer are on the same page. If you're new to the process, An experienced freelancer will provide a creative brief and step you through it. 

One more tip, The more specific you can be to put yourself in the mindset of your audience, the more you will open up creative possibilities. A few examples of how to think about message context:

  • Is your prospect sitting behind the wheel in traffic reading your ad on the back of a bus?
  • Maybe he or she picks up your teaser postcard in the mail next to a bunch of bills.
  • Or maybe your prospect gets your leave-behind after visiting you at a trade show.

You can see how thinking about message context allows you to speak more specifically to your audience in terms of the situation and opens up creative options. 

You Deserve Choices 
Hiring someone to come up with headline-driven ads, lead-generating postcards, or marketing material? You should be seeing a few options. You’re paying for an exploration of ideas, not just one. 

If this is a new business relationship, this is important for you and the writer. Why? 
One, you'll get a sense of the writer's range. Two, when you look at several creative options next to one another, you’re likely to experience that visceral reaction when you see the ideas that really pop.

Need to get buy-in from other key stakeholders?

The concept stage is the right time to get them involved, before you develop an idea that does not have the necessary support for approval. It’s more cost-effective to take in feedback at this stage and, if necessary, come back with a few new ideas before you move into detailed body copy or extensive design work. 

Provide Constructive Feedback
This is a creative partnership. ideally, you’re building a long-term working relationship that will benefit you and your organization over the long haul. Open communication is the key. 

Providing feedback is a learned skill. And it's critical if you're going to get an idea that’s on target. Find it difficult to initiate these conversations? Here's a 3-step approach that's been successful for me when my role was to provide feedback to my creative team at the conceptual stage.

1.  Make a positive connection
2. Get specific

3. Be collaborative

A typical creative feedback conversation can go something like this… “I like where you’re heading with these ideas. Humor can work well for this product. I also like the second approach that's more focused on product attributes. I think there's a third path we can explore. something that elicits more compassion from our audience. Can you show me a few concepts in that direction?" 

Why does this work? It's professional, constructive, and provides direction. A versatile writer can hit the various notes you want, he or she just needs to know what they are. You're also showing that you have some understanding of the creative process and how to work collaboratively.

Creating is fun. Enjoy the process.

Bobby Wittenberg has helped major brands connect with audiences across a variety of media, leveraging his experience as a writer, creative director, and screenwriter. You can reach him at rkwcreative.com.