Who’s more believable in a company video: actors and top-level executives, or rank-and-file employees?
Employees, of course. They get high marks for adding authenticity to videos, which helps build viewership and makes messages resonate more deeply.
However, building a cache of videos featuring employees—either created by them, or created by corporate communicators and starring employees—takes time and some convincing.
How do you get busy workers to set aside time to create a video or take part in one? Gathering video from employees requires thoughtful planning and creative ideas about how to encourage participation. Still, the process isn’t easy, says Lizzie Costello, writer and video producer at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
“It’s especially challenging in a health care environment, where it’s against hospital policy to take video or pictures at work outside of the marketing and communications department,” Costello says. In high-pressure places like a busy hospital, asking employees to set aside a couple of hours to participate in videos is a real challenge. “The focus is on patient care, and there are high expectations for employees. How can they find time to engage with communications?”
Here’s a look at how to overcome those challenges and get employees excited about video:
Contests encourage video makers
Costello has generated employee videos through two methods: running a contest, and shooting video of an event in which many employees were participating. For the contest, employees were asked to create “music videos” highlighting the need for patient safety—and the prize was box seats to a Denver Nuggets basketball game. “People tend to like friendly competition,” Costello says of the contest.
Every Halloween, costumed employees participate in a flash-mob-style dance in the hospital’s spacious atrium, in large part to amuse the children being treated there. Costello records the event with a simple phone camera, then encourages employees to share it as much as they want.
“We’ll get thousands of views within minutes of posting the videos,” Costello says. Because employees are already taking part in the flash-mob dance—and because they like to publicize the good work they’re doing for children—taking part in the dance and sharing the video are an easy sell.
Videos show off brands and help drive home training messages
Costello and other communication experts point out that their efforts to develop employee video are more successful when they make the request with a plan in mind.
“We need to decide what we are asking people to do as a result of the video,” Costello says. Though the request might be fun and have a prize attached, the result should be something that relates to your organizational mission.
At MyCorporation, a legal document filing service that helps people set up corporations, videos starring employees are a deliberate way to put a face on a business, says CEO Deborah Sweeney.
“We use employee videos to highlight the human side of our business—to show that we’re about building relationships with our customers,” Sweeney says.
The videos, all created by and starring employees, are posted on the company’s YouTube channel. They’re both are educational—such as showcasing MyCorporation products, or detailing the ins and out of incorporating a business—or simply fun, such as videos showing off the office’s holiday decorations. Because employees understand the need to highlight the “real people” behind the brand, they’re more eager to take a starring role, Sweeney says.
Patty Salcedo-Morton, global internal communication program manager for Driscolls, supplier of fresh berries, develops contests to spur on employees to create videos—but every contest has a purpose.
“We always have a clear objective,” says Salcedo-Morton. For example, she recently asked employees to create videos congratulating their employee newsletter on its 10th issue. The resulting videos, she says, helped highlight the value of the newsletter and drive more employees to read it regularly.
Salcedo-Morton is also a big believer in getting the higher-ups to connect with the rest of the organization via video-delivered messages. For campaigns promoting user-generated content at Driscoll’s, “we ask leaders to collaborate and also to encourage employees to participate,” Salcedo-Morton says. “I made a video myself, so we could show that people at every level are empowered to do this.”
Keep in mind, if you’re going to engage employees in creating content, consider using a vendor or purchasing software to standardize video format and playback. You’ll never know which video will become a viral hit, and you won’t want to limit its reach due to network constraints.
Leaders must show the way
Having a purpose to your goal of gathering employee video is an important first step, as is showing employees that people at all levels, including their bosses, are behind the effort.
“Get people who are higher up to lead by example,” says Paolo Tosolini, director of emerging media for RUN Studios in Kirkland, Wash., and a former new media manager at Microsoft. In addition, support the people who come on board first, Tosolini says: “Nurture them and make them feel like heroes,” because they’ll inspire other employees to create videos.
Salcedo-Morton, too, is a big believer in getting upper-tier executives to develop videos. For every campaign to generate employee videos at Driscoll’s, “we ask leaders to pull together the first ones,” Salcedo-Morton says.
Another way to encourage employees to take the first step in creating videos or participating in them is to reassure them that they needn’t be expert videographers. Now that nearly everyone has a smartphone with a viable camera, communicators can let employees use these familiar tools—they don’t have to be trained on high-end video equipment, Tosolini says.
At Textron, a multi-industry company whose businesses include Bell Helicopter and Cessna, corporate communications specialist Allison Manning supplies each business unit with camera kits and associated training.
“It helps us maintain quality and consistency,” Manning says. All Textron videos are created by employees; they also feature employees—flying Bell helicopters, for example, or explaining how products work.
Getting buy-in from employees also starts with new hires, Manning explains. The company holds monthly meetings for newbies who are then assigned to develop videos, promoting “ERIC TV” (Enterprise Research Information Center), the company’s internal portal for videos, and encouraging business unit communicators to establish their own video channels.
Helping employees get hands-on experience with making and posting videos gives them confidence, Tosolini says.
“When you have knowledge of tools, you’re more confident and you can shoot videos more often,” he says. “Otherwise, it feels like the barriers are too high to do an acceptable job. People don’t like to look stupid; they want to look smart.”
This article is presented in partnership with Kontiki.