As part of our series on the most effective video strategies for business, we have pulled together 10 tips to recruit staff with film – as well as engaging your colleagues. Part One deals with setting up your film for success, while here in Part Two we cover the business end of the process: shooting the film/s. In Part 3 we will look at getting the most from your recruitment films in the post-production stage.
1. Make it authentic
One of the most common errors in corporate film-making is writing the script for interviews in advance. Avoid this unless you are lucky enough to have colleagues who are brilliant actors.
So instead of telling contributors the exact words to say, use an interview setup to ask them questions that lead them to speak naturally.
Research is the key to ensuring that when the cameras roll, the director knows what they want the contributors to say. The director asking questions off-camera is a tried and tested way to interview. This applies to an interview on Graham Norton, to a talking head on Panorama and to your film.
The subject’s performance on camera is key too. The contributor must come across as natural, authentic, genuine. An experienced director will get this, and a really good one will get unexpected nuggets from the interview that will make the film feel really special. They could be moments of warmth, pain or humour that enhance the narrative like this film we made for Carphone Warehouse.
If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. It’s hard to coax a great interview because most of us are not naturals on camera. Add corporate management structures into the mix, and you’ve got a risky situation where a senior manager might come across badly on camera, reflecting badly on you as the comms manager. You don’t want to go there.
This is why many experienced comms professionals prefer to use an experienced crew and director. The stakes can be too high to get it wrong.
2. Share feelings and emotions
Film is a great medium for connecting emotionally with audiences. It creates emotional bonds between your brand and the audience, and people are more likely to share emotional content.
But to do this you need to get compelling content from your people. Personal stories are a great way of doing this. People remember stories and the way they made them feel longer than they remember facts and figures.
In particular, ask people questions that about their feelings. How did that make you feel? Why is that important to you?
People relate to feelings. Also when people are talking about their feelings they tend to be more animated and expressive on camera – which makes the film not only more powerful, but also more watchable.
3. Location, location, location
We are often asked to film interviews, and are then given a small office room to film the interview, with the obligatory potted plant in the background. They almost always look dull and grey on camera and they won’t help you recruit staff.
Very few broadcast interviews are shot in small office rooms as TV crews know this will look dull. A better option is filming in unexpected office locations, like the office stairwell or the roof. It is less expected for the viewer, so it tends to keep the audience’s attention longer, even if what is being said is exactly the same as in the small dull office.
If must be a room in your building, then generally the bigger the better. Space allows the director to add more depth and perspective to the shot and potentially light and dress the room to be more visually interesting.
Another option is to film away from the office completely. If you can, make it somewhere relevant to the interviewee and the story, like their home or a place that’s relevant to a hobby featured in the film. This film we made for Middlesex University with one of their lecturers is a good example of where taking them away from their office environment added to the story.
4. Use cutaways
Without cutaways you could be relying primarily on talking heads. Pure talking heads can be watchable (more so if you make the background interesting as in point 3), and it is possible to jump cut or use quick dissolves from one sound bite to another. But general interview sequences are helped massively by additional cutaways.
Cutaways add pace and visual interest for the viewer – subliminally keeping them more interested and engaged with the film. They work because in real-life conversations, we don’t stare non-stop at the person who’s speaking. Cutaways mimic that reflex to look away briefly while listening.
Cutaways also enhance the story by giving extra information that isn’t offered by just the talking head interviews. Our brains are hard-wired to blend different sensory inputs simultaneously. Associating images and sound, when done expertly, is hugely powerful.
And, as with the interview, a really good director will spot moments and cutaways that bring something extra and special to the film. The best cutaways might not be the obvious ones because viewers are engaged more by surprising associations than predictable ones.
These are just some of the filming techniques you can use to recruit staff. For the full picture, click here to ask a question or look out for Part 3 of our blog series, which will show you what to do at the edit stage.
Knowing how to retain your staff is the biggest challenge for many of the comms professionals we speak to. With skills shortages, high employment and political uncertainty, good team members may well have more options than ever.
As part of our series on the most effective video strategies for business, we have pulled together 10 tips for engaging your colleagues – as well as the talent you want to attract. Here we cover prepping your film, while Part Two deals with the shoot and Part Three will cover post-production..
People stories help retain staff
There’s a phrase in business: ‘People buy from people’. Your people are your brand, so putting those that best represent your brand on film can be massively powerful.
Putting your people on film motivates colleagues, customers and recruits by:
- demonstrating your company values
- making people feel proud of themselves, their colleagues and what their company does
- bringing your vision and strategy alive
- encouraging them to share best practice stories and raise standards
- showing customers stories of how much they rate your company
- showing your brand personality through your people.
Other than face to face, film is the best way of bringing your brand alive. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, and people can get it wrong.
How do you make people stories?
1. Find the story
The first step is to find powerful stories that reflect your brand – that show your company’s human character and culture. Unearthing those people and their amazing stories is the most important step in how to retain staff with film. It’s also the most important one to get right.
People stories might come from colleagues or customers. Customer testimonials are the most influential, so don’t be afraid to ask them to feature. A satisfied client will often be more than happy to endorse what your business does.
You will need to hunt down the best stories, so actively ask people to send them in. Don’t just look in the work environment, some of your people will reflect your brand values in their own time. Life at HSBC is a great example of a brand covering everything from diversity to sporting achievements and weight loss. These narratives communicate powerful emotions that resonate with the brand’s values.
2. Research the story
If finding the story is the most important part of the film process, researching it is the most under-rated.
Filming is expensive so it is important to get the most from each shoot day. Brands can miss out on the best deal by filming without proper research, resulting in wasted budget. Good research costs less than a crew day, so it’s better value to prep the shoot carefully.
Smart research will include topic, locations and contributors. The result will be a crew who know how to make the most of the schedule and interviewees who are confident and well-briefed. It is possible to make an effective brand film on the hoof, but your budget will generate stronger and more predictable ROI with research.
Good research and a recce led to an extremely organised shoot on this story for Aviva, which we filmed in one day. Without the recce it would have used more crew days and added to the budget.
3. Find the best angle
Every comms professional knows that a story has a beginning, middle and an end. But how can that work amid a torrent of content on social media?
In our world of decreasing attention spans, the beginning needs to grab attention quickly. It could be something visual, or a hook at the start that makes people want to watch. In broadcast we talk about what question are you posing at the start, a question that the audience will want to keep watching to find the answer to. The same applies to brand film.
That’s partly why the research stage matters. It allows the creative team to look at the components of the story and work out the most powerful way to tell that story with the available elements.
This film from The New Zealand Police grabs the audience’s attention right from the start. The force chose an action-packed theme laced with humour that gets the tone just right.
With good pre-production, your film project will be built on strong foundations. Successful brand films deliver high ROI because video is uniquely able to generate a positive emotional response. It’s that emotional response that helps your business retain staff, but engaging content is rarely created in a hurry. If it is, good fortune plays its part.
So you’re all set to start filming. What are the expert tips to delivering your finished film in time and on budget? In Part Two of this article we look at the second key step in production: filming.
Click here to ask a question.
Why is pre-production so important for your film?
In the broadcast world a huge amount of work happens in the pre-production stage (before any filming starts). Filming is expensive so the aim is to get the most out of filming days – and being prepared helps do that.
Information on the topic, potential contributors, locations, archive that could be used and much more is all gathered in advance – usually far more than can go into the programme. The creative team will then look at all of this and start to work out the most powerful way to tell that story with the elements they have. Usually the director will talk to potential contributors in advance, or even better meet them in person – and also go and recce potential filming locations.
The main benefits of thorough pre-production:
- It allows the producer/ director thinking time to come up with the most compelling way of telling the story
- it means filming days are efficient– and that saves money
- it means people (including contributors and crew) are far clearer of what is expected from them on filming days
- at the end of the day you get a better film for less money
Pre-production is just as important when filming branded content and corporate films – it means the client gets a better film and can often save them money.
A trend we’re seeing in 2018 and 2019 is brands wanting films that are genuine. Films that create emotional connections with their audiences - with real people telling real stories.
We work a lot with the finance, tech and cyber security sectors where there isn’t a physical product to show – so getting your own people or customers on film is a great way for brands to bring their purpose and personality to life.
But it’s moved on from simple talking heads. Short editorially strong films are on trend – mini documentaries. And brands are investing more time into contributor research finding those who have a great story to tell and telling it with passion.
One day roughly a year ago, Rich, (our Creative Director) and I were working in the office brainstorming ideas. I could tell he was annoyed but I wasn't sure why. Then he said – “Rich…” (yes, we’re both called Rich – I know it can be confusing, even for us) “… why do you call them videos? We don’t make videos, we make films”
At first I didn’t understand what he meant. The vast majority of what we do is work with big global brands making short marketing or comms ‘messages’ for them. We generally don’t make feature films you’d see at the movies. But then he explained.
“Over the last 5 to 10 years the term video has been de-valued. If you have a smart phone you can shoot a ‘video’ and the term video is now associated with lower quality”
I understood straight away. Rich and I and many of our team came from the very top end of the BBC and broadcast television. We don’t ‘do’ low quality and we certainly don’t want to. We make high quality, creative films for our clients.
It still took me a while to stop using the term video but, after being shouted at several times I’ve finally stopped. So, if you want a video then I’m happy to lend you my old i-phone – but if you want a film, please give us a call.
People often ask about what we do about the rain. Very expensive commercial shoots and movies pay for weather insurance, but, generally we don’t and that’s because it’s costly, and unless it’s really important that you only shoot in sunshine it isn’t really worth it.
What I’ve discovered over the years is that it very rarely rains hard for very long. There have been exceptions, but generally, if you leave it an hour or two, things clear up anyway.
However, the way to deal with rain is to shoot with it. A lot of things actually look visually great in the rain – cars can look spectacular in the rain for example. Cameras and equipment can be put in rain covers and the crew carry waterproofs – we can still shoot in the rain.
The only real problem is when the rain combines with wind and blows back into the lens – that can be a bit tricky. But, as I say, that only happens once in a blue moon.
So, don’t worry about the rain, we’ll work with it, or we’ll work around it.
When my first child was born roughly 19 years ago, I was a bit overweight and occasionally smoked. I decided I wanted to make sure I lived to see my daughter grow up and, hopefully, grow old – so soon after I stopped smoking for good and took up running as a hobby.
Eighteen years on and I am still a regular runner. For the last 4 years I’ve set myself the target of running 1000km in the year. It might sound a lot to some people, and it is (for me) but I tackle it by breaking it down into 20km a week (with a couple of weeks off in case I’m ill/ away or just need a break).
It’s still 3 runs a week (1 x 10km and 2 x 5km) and if I miss a run or even a whole week of runs then I have to make it up. But that yearly target motivates me for the whole year and keeps me on track and I’ve hit 1000km (sometimes with just a day to go) for the last 4 years.
I do a similar thing with the business. Set myself a target I want it to achieve for the year – and monitor it every week. It helps me keep on track to grow the business in the direction I want it to go.
It’s not quite as easy to make that final push to hit the target if we’re a little behind. With business other factors (like the economy and client needs) can come into play. But we’re never far off – and for me it’s a great way of keeping motivated throughout the whole year.
It’s an age old question. Or at least, it’s as old as Autocue. Surely if you have to deliver a piece to camera then the easiest, simplest thing is to use Autocue right? Well, sort of. It probably is the easiest way, but it isn’t the necessarily the best way.
The trouble with Autocue is that as soon as you start reading Autocue, you sound like you’re reading, because you are. You’ll get all your facts right, but you won’t necessarily sound like you know what you’re talking about, or that you are even really thinking about what you are saying.
It takes professional presenters years to be able to read autocue and sound like they are just talking to you – in fact some still can’t do it. Ant and Dec are pretty good at it, but then that’s part of what makes them worth the money they’re paid (probably).
So autocue is great if you are really good at reading without sounding like reading, but otherwise, memorise the key points of what you want to say and then freestyle straight to the lens – you’ll be a lot more believable and people will take more notice of what you have to say.
My Grandfather was a professional musician – he once explained to me that the difference between an amateur musician and a professional is that an amateur practices until they get it right, a professional practices until they can’t get it wrong. I’m sure he was right – he was a very good musician. Practice really did make perfect.
However, that isn’t always true when it comes to performing in front of a camera.
The truth is there is a big difference between professional presenters and amateurs. Professional presenters can learn a script and then deliver it as if it has just come into their heads. This is a lot harder than it looks.
If you’ve been asked to appear in a film, it’s tempting to go away and rehearse a script of exactly what you want to say. However, unless you really do have a future as a professional presenter, that might not be the best idea.
Let me explain. If I asked you about your job, over a pint, in the pub, you wouldn’t have a problem explaining what you did. You’d naturally remove all the jargon, that you know I wouldn’t understand, and you’d speak quite seamlessly, without having to stop and correct yourself. It’s because you’d be speaking ‘off the cuff’.
However, if I told you I was going to film you answering the same question, you’d be likely to go and prepare what you were going to say – and then you’d suddenly struggle to remember, you’d become stilted and unnatural. It’s what everyone does – it’s what I’d do if someone pointed a camera at me. The trick is to try and pretend you’re just talking to a mate in the pub – that way you’ll sound natural and believable. And it’s that authenticity that will make your audience listen to you.
So, don’t over rehearse. Certainly make a list of points you might want to mention, but unless you are a professional presenter – don’t bother learning a script – it’ll never be as good as you ‘talking in the pub’.
Choosing the right location for a shoot can make the difference between an ordinary film and one that really stands out. But what makes a good location?
The secret is to think with your eyes, think with your head, and think with your ears.
You need to find something that looks visually great. But it needs to be relevant too. The right kind of location adds to the story, the wrong location just confuses things.
Ideally the location tells you something about the story that you’re not hearing from the script. If it can’t do that, then at least it should be visually interesting, but neutral.
Think about light. Everyone knows the sun moves through the sky, but people forget that when planning where to shoot. A location that can look amazing in the morning, might be in deep shadow by the afternoon.
And of course, a location needs to work for sound as well as vision. A location that looks stunning visually, but has a jack hammer working just out of shot isn’t going to be much good if you’re filming an interview or pieces to camera.
Finally, think about the practicalities – that fort in the middle of the Solent might be a great location, but how are you going to get the crew and kit there – and how long is it going to take?
Remember the three Ps – power, provisions and parking. Find a location that looks great, is relevant, quiet, and has easy access for crew, kit and food, and you’re onto a winner.