(Editor’s note: This was one of the top viewed stories of 2014. We’re rerunning it as part of a look back at the articles that captivated our readers the most.)
The words “corporate video” rarely spur excitement. When you ask someone to watch your corporate video, they usually think, “Do I have to?”
Corporate videos have a bad rap, and rightfully so. Most of them are horrible.
They’re often full of platitudes and devoid of information. It seems the wishy-washy feel of so many corporate videos is the result of the legal department. Legal is afraid to make any claim about anything, and therefore says nothing at all. In a “two steps forward, two steps back” case, you would be just as successful producing nothing at all.
The reason so many corporate videos are poor is because communicators don’t realize they have options and don’t have to make a boring video.
To raise the bar, I offer up the following creative recommendations for your next video. This is just an initial list; add some suggestions of your own.
Corporate culture/recruiting videos
1. “Funny company story” video
No one ever experiences something the same way as someone else. Pick a few employees to tell the story of the funniest thing that happened in the office. (It could also 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 jobs” video
Do one-on-one interviews with employees and ask them why they love their jobs. Get them to talk about the specifics of their jobs and the work they do. Avoid a lot of “it’s the people” answers. Ask them why they’re proud to have their jobs, and what makes their jobs fantastic.
3. “Day in the life” video
Pick your most interesting and camera-friendly employee, and film one of his workdays. Follow him everywhere and have him narrate the entire day. Tell him to be specific about what he’s working on and the challenges he’s trying to complete. Start and end at home.
This well-produced video from the Adobe Careers page is a combination of styles two and three. 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 looks like it was expensive to produce and, as a result, Adobe probably wants this video on the site for a long time. Because Adobe wants this video to be evergreen, no one provides any details on specific projects.
The problem with this technique is that the video is so broad that it ends up not saying anything. The video is peppered with hackneyed phrases such as, “people are approachable,” “family atmosphere,” “good work-life balance,” “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 the video is good, but the messages couldn’t be more tepid.
4. “Award-winning employee” video
Every time an employee wins an industry award—or even an employee of the month award—interview her about what she did to win it. Interview others as to why they think that employee deserved the 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 his job for at least six months, do a one-on-one interview with him describing all the details of his job. Have him be as realistic as possible and describe the good and bad parts of the job.
This is a far simpler style of video to shoot and produce than the day-in-the-life video. Use it for future recruiting efforts. When the person leaves or an identical position opens up, post the video along with the job listing.
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 you saw a new product you have to start using, or learned something at a talk. Most of all, we hope to meet someone with whom 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?” Ask someone what she learned and what, when she gets back to the office, she will tell everyone they “have to do right now.”
Get a lot of people to answer that question, and compile their answers in a short video. Now you have a sales piece with multiple reasons why people should attend your next conference.
7. “End-of-show report” video
For those 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—you’ll see how well everyone in your company actually knows the company story, or you may discover a company story you didn’t know.
9. “Before and after project” video
At the start of a project, shoot a video of what everyone’s hopes are and what challenges they think are ahead. Upon the project’s conclusion, ask the team 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 secrets you don’t want your competition to know about.
11. “How would you solve this problem” video
Your product solves a problem, but 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.
12. “Customer demos” video
Have a customer give a demo of how he uses your product.
13. “How-to that involves your product” video
These aren’t how-to videos about your product, but how-to videos that would be of interest to anyone in your space. It just so happens that you can use your product in the video.
For example, if you make tennis rackets, produce a video on how to do a proper backhand.
14. “Inappropriate uses of your product” video
What’s a funny, inappropriate use of your product?
A well-known example is the Letterman-esque series of videos that Blendtec, a blender manufacturer, created called “Will it Blend?” In the videos, Blendtec’s founder blended objects that shouldn’t be blended, such as an iPhone.
15. “Highs and lows” video
Have an executive tell about her greatest success and biggest failure. What did she 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 is to have them guess what it is, or talk about why they chose you over the competition.
18. “Taste test” video
Even if it isn’t edible, ask people to taste your product and your competitor’s product just to get their reactions.
19. “Folgers taste test” video
Switch out a competitor’s product with yours and film reactions—especially if the competitor’s product 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.”
20. “Inappropriate question” video
Asking people how much they weigh or how much money they make is completely inappropriate. What question is inappropriate for your industry? Whatever it is, ask it not to get answers, but reactions.
For example, at an information security conference, I asked attendees: “What’s your password?”
What type of video tells your company story best?
I wrote this article as an exercise to think of some common and uncommon formats for corporate videos. They tell a story and/or get honest reactions from people, and you need to do one of the two in any type of corporate video. If you don’t, what’s the point of creating it?
Also, if you’re going to tell a story, tell an original one. We’ve all seen glitzy movies with horrible dialogue. Don’t let your corporate video fall into the same trap. Graphics will never sell your company. The people on the screen and the tale you tell will make or break your video.