Your boss just called, and they want a video for (fill in the blank) and you’re in charge. The boss is a little short on detail, but they know they can count on you to get it done — even though you’ve never done video. Gulp.
Here’s why your boss might be right: If you’re someone they can count on to get things done, chances are that you have good project management skills. Making video is an exercise in project management, more than a lot of other marketing projects, because there are just more people and more moving parts. There are some nuances to the medium.
1. Decide on production values.
Can you get away with something that isn't quite as produced, but will get your message across? A how-to video doesn't need to be done by a marquee ad agency that's going to charge you a premium. On the flip side, you don’t want to go to a rinky-dink shop for a more splashy brand building piece.
2. Get a handle on your budget.
The price range for video is very broad, from a couple thousand dollars to six figures. It depends what kind of video it is, and what the production values are. A promotional video with on screen talent, music, voiceovers, B-roll, special effects, etc. is going to cost more than a product demo video where you have a narrator taking you step by step through screen shots. If you’re not using an agency, you can probably make a video for somewhere between $2,500 at the very low end up to about $10K. If you're using an agency, then you’re likely going to be closer to the $20 - $25K range, assuming you’re not looking for a Hollywood production.
3. Agency or in house?
Although it’s more expensive, working with an agency can be a good value because they can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. You have to be pretty involved in script and storyboard approval, because they aren’t the subject matter experts, but once you get that nailed down you won’t have to be in the trenches doing the legwork of looking for resources and managing the shoot.
I think of it as akin to doing a kitchen remodel. If you’re going to be your own contractor, you're going to have to find all the subcontractors, understand the sequence of the work, and do a lot of day to day management. You're probably going to save some money, but probably not as much as you think because someone has to put in the time. If you don’t have the internal resources or skill sets, it might be worth it to hire out.
4. Think about getting multiple assets from the same shoot.
One of the most expensive elements of making video is the shoot. If you plan ahead, you can get your main video, but also some shorter clips you can use for different purposes and maybe even some still photography. So many times ideas come up in post production and you think, wouldn't have been really great if we had had somebody say, X, Y, or Z? But by then it’s too late, so try to get all those ideas out on the table up front.
5. Do a work back schedule.
Even if you’re working with an agency and they provide a production timeline, you still need to do your own work back schedule, starting from the day you need the final files and working backward through all the review points and approvals surrounding the production on your end. That could include legal but also product to make sure that all the information is correct, corporate comms to ensure speakers are on message, etc. Be sure to find out who all the approvers are so you can build in time for them. Include communication with all stakeholders in your workback schedule, to give approvers a heads up about what’s coming, what you’ll need from them, and when.
6. Be realistic about the time frame.
Video projects always take longer than you think. You’re not going to get anything of quality done in a week or two. The adage “good, fast and cheap: pick any two” applies here. From the moment your boss says, “we need a video” to the time it’s posted somewhere is typically going to be at least four to six weeks. If you’re on a tight time frame, you can speed the project along by making sure the script is in order and all the vendors are lined up and ready to go.
7. Loop in approvers early.
Be sure to leave time for sign off of the final product by all partners and participants. That approval process can sometimes extend the premiere of your video by quite a lot of time, especially if legal needs to be involved. One way to speed up the approval process is to get everyone to sign off on the script or storyboard, rather than waiting for them to see a first cut. Making any sort of edits to a video is far harder than making an edit to a script, or even to a website or an ad. For some edits, you might have to do retakes after everyone's moved on to another project. I once did a project where legal wanted us to change the phrase ‘multiple locations’ to ‘multiple business locations.’ We had to call back the voiceover talent to re-record that whole bit and then cut it in. Just that one little word added over a week to the project.
8. Allow ample time for editing.
You don't want to make the video too long, because that will add to the cost but what you really have to think about is people’s attention spans. They might sit through a six-minute how-to video, but not a six-minute promotional video. You need your video to deliver the message as crisply and tightly as possible and that takes time and a critical eye in the editing room. It’s best to tighten it up as much as you can before shooting. A good agency will be able to tell you based on the script how long it would likely be. You can also test your script for length yourself by recording a quick scratch track on your phone. Do your best to cut it down at that point, and you’ll save time in post.
9. Figure out how you’re going to drive traffic.
Yes video is popular, but there’s also a lot of it out there. It’s not a magical “if you build it they will come” situation. You're going to need a strategy to actually get people to view it. There are lots of different vehicles — social media, on your website, in a tradeshow booth or in sales emails. If you plan ahead of time and get your 10 little sound bites, you can use those in a lot of different ways so you don't feel like, "Oh, I spent all this money to make a splash in just one channel.”
Video is popular because it’s such an engaging medium. It’s unparalleled for letting people see how a product or process actually works; in making emotional connections, and supplementing written communications. It can also cost a lot of money, and the process can require a lot of collaboration, and have a lot of dependencies. You don’t have to be super creative to bring a video project to fruition, but you do have to have solid project management skills. If you go into it with realistic expectations, put the right people in front of and behind the camera, and use those skills to support a smooth process, your performers and creatives will shine, and so will your video.