Online Video: Not as Scary as You Think

By: Cindy Loffler Stevens

As online video continues to grow as a medium, it means videographer, director, and video editor are all new hats for an association professional to wear. One association communicator has found great early success with video and shares her tips for doing video right. Plus, a visual guide to an effective video. (Titled "Simple Steps for Better Video" in print version.)

It's no surprise that associations have limited budgets, and online videos often fall in a gray area where they are scrutinized—desirable on the website but expensive to produce. Because of this, it can be difficult to get buy-in from leadership to go ahead and shoot. Your job is to convince management that online video is another effective distribution channel to let the association communicate successfully with its members.

At the Consumer Electronics Association, we first dipped our toes in the water several years ago. Today CEA produces online videos using both an internal team and professional firms, including TMG (The Magazine Group). The videos fall in two general categories: tradeshow coverage of the International CES show that is hosted on and coverage of the consumer technology industry that is housed on and is branded with our flagship magazine.

Web-analytics firm ComScore released data for online video usage in October 2009. While Google and YouTube continue to lead the pack with more than one billion views per day, both Hulu and Facebook had double-digit percentage gains, crushing their previous video records. With so many consumers accessing online videos, this could mean a lucrative opportunity for your association to engage members in a new way.

Top Takeaways
  • Use online videos to create a rich experience, generate increased page views, encourage longer site visits, and increase revenue opportunities.
  • Use videos to promote and increase attendance at events. In CEA's case, we use video to promote the innovation competition at our Industry Forum and the International CES show.
  • Don't be dull. Use B-roll or stock photography to inform, entertain, and engage your audience.
  • Keep videos at three minutes or less.
  • Promote and distribute videos using social networks such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and Ning.
  • Get your editorial and marketing team involved. The people who understand the brand will best represent you.

Getting Started

The first step to developing online video is to write a script that gets your message across succinctly. We have found online videos are most effective when they do not exceed two or three minutes. This timeframe forces you to craft your messaging carefully. Also consider how the videos will be used. Is it a one-time video or part of an ongoing series? Will it be purely original programming or mash-ups of existing content?

Next, you need to capture short internet attention spans as well as target various demographics. It's back to basics with storytelling 101, including character development, structure, and even dialogue for short projects. It also is important to know your audience. Who will watch your video, and how will they access it? Associations have an advantage since they know their members. However, you still need to deliver engaging content to members whenever they want it on your site.

Analyzing search and click-through-rate data will keep the content your audience wants top of mind. The metrics give you immediate feedback on what is working and what is not.

It's also important to identify an idea for your video that takes advantage of what the internet has to offer, such as adding dynamic music to make it come to life.

Develop a unique voice and identity, and choose an area where you are recognized as a legitimate expert. Also, branding is crucial to further underscore your expert status. It can be as simple as a banner on the opening of the video or signage placed within the scene itself.

Sample Videos From CEA
Below is an example of video that CEA has produced to highlight i-Stage, an innovation competition at its annual tradeshow. CEA features a variety of other videos on its website, as well. See the CEA Multimedia Library for more examples.

Of course, garnering revenue from online videos will help to ensure that you can produce more of them in the future. Partner with an advertiser, if possible, from the beginning and develop the idea together. However, balance brand promotion carefully so that you don't turn off viewers.

It is possible to produce high-quality content without breaking the bank if you hire professionals and offer them some creative freedom. There are plenty of studios available that can be rented at reasonable prices that provide complete solutions. On the other end, some online videos are produced by staff with just a Flip video camcorder.

Don't be afraid to take the plunge. Start small but beware of the "talking head." Unless you carefully add B-roll (supplementary footage of relevant subjects or action) to the mix or delicately balance the camera on both the interviewer and the subject, this format can be dry and unappealing to viewers. And don't forget to promote your most recent videos to your subscribers via email and other channels and on the homepage of your website, and also be sure to archive the others for easy reference.

The good news is that you may already have talent in house. This may be just the project that your new intern is waiting to showcase for the association.  

Cindy Loffler Stevens is senior director of publications at the Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

Producing with Pizzazz   

By Kate Ottenberg

Whether you are embarking on a network-quality production or a do-it-yourself video shoot, the following are some best-practice production guidelines to follow.

Know your message. When starting a video, treat it as you would a newspaper or magazine article. Know what you want to say, and make sure you have a beginning, middle, and end mapped out in your head.

Be prepared. It sounds easier than it is. If you are interviewing a guest, make sure you do a pre-interview before the shoot. This allows you to have a clear outline of what you want out of the piece and allows your guest time to consider good and concise sound bites.

Have a set. Between worrying about making sure the camera gets the right angles and asking the right questions to the guest, it's sometimes easy to forget how important it is to have a good background. Make sure to choose a set where you can control the lighting, as an office or conference room with too much natural light washes people out. Plus, how do you want your brand portrayed in the video? Do you have any backdrops or large magazine covers you want to display? Think this through before setting up the shoot.

Get some safety shots.
It may add a few minutes to the production, but if you or your guest says a really good sound bite, shoot it a second or third time. It doesn't have to be verbatim, but it does help to have as many usable takes as possible during editing. 

Get B-roll and listening shots. During editing, you may need to splice and dice sound bites; the end result may sound like one complete sentence, but in reality, it could be the combination of a few different sound bites. To avoid your viewers seeing this type of editing job, make sure to grab video you can use to replace the talking head, such as having the interviewer "listening" or relevant B-roll or pictures.

Outline your editing. Before you go into editing, have a script that outlines the audio and visual aspects of the video. Editing goes much faster and smoother if you're prepared from beginning to end.

Kate Ottenberg is director of video publishing and media relations at TMG in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

Cindy Loffler Stevens