At a time when marketers are hearing that they need video, video, video, establishing realistic expectations for output and finding that middle ground between production value and ROI is the key to a sustainable video content program. One way to ensure a steady stream of video content is to have a staff videographer in house or on retainer.
Today, we speak with Jason Christofferson, in-house videographer at Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR Company, to get a feel for how having a staff videographer can help you do more video on a consistent basis.
Nvoicepay has been very forward thinking, adding a videographer to their marketing team early on. You’ve been there for five years now. What has that journey been like?
When I started there was a two-person marketing team and fewer than 50 employees. They had previously had an outside agency create one animated video. But they wanted to do video on a consistent basis. They hired me fresh out of college, handed me some camera equipment, and said "OK, what do you want to do?"
My goal was to figure out how we could make content without asking for budget every time. We started off filming a YouTube series on accounts payable topics that we ended up not launching because we couldn't get enough people in the office to be in front of the camera.
The other thing was that the way I was producing wasn’t sustainable. We were taking the tables out of a conference room on a consistent basis. Putting the lights up, the backdrop, the mics, writing the script. All for a video that was going to end up on YouTube without any real way to promote it at the time. We quickly realized, "Hey, these videos look really cool. But is this really going to drive sales?"
Talk to me about the challenge of getting the people in front of the camera.
If you want to make a video, your options are animation, finding actors or voice over talent, or finding people in the office. Obviously finding people in the office is your lowest cost option, but probably not even five percent of the people in the office want to be on camera. Even people who are great public speakers, who seem like naturals, shut down in front of the camera. We ended up with just one person.
I realized how intimidating it can be. You're blinded by the lights. You're trying to remember what to say. You’re worried about how you look. When I put myself in that position, I started thinking about how to make videos differently. We made a few with just animations, B-roll and voiceover, and we focused on improving the audio and video of our webinars. Eventually, we hired a new team member who was previously a news reporter and TV producer. She was very comfortable on camera, and became our webinar emcee.
We also started leaning into customer testimonials. The marketing manager and I would fly out, and do a half day shoot of a customer interview, and get some B-roll. But we wouldn't just make one customer testimonial video. We would get a good cut, and then repurpose a lot of those interview questions that didn't make the main video into snippets for our sales and our SDR teams to be able to prospects.
Many of the videos and snippets are still being used today by our sales team. I started getting a lot more gratification from knowing that the content wasn’t just being viewed by random people on YouTube, but being used to advance the organization throughout the year.
Is it any easier to get customers on camera than employees?
It actually is, because if you have someone who has a success story, they're usually somewhat proud of it, and they're totally fine talking about it. They have a personal relationship with it.
The problem with the earlier videos is that they were reading a script we had given them. It was not personal. With customers, we were interviewing AP clerks and accounting professionals and chief financial officers. They’re not performers. They just felt that buying our product ended up benefiting their whole organization, so they felt good talking about it.
It’s even easier doing customer videos at conferences. You’ve got a branded booth that looks super cool as a backdrop, and most of the time trade show floors are so well lit you don’t even need lights. They would just bring me along and I would set up the camera and we would get people to come to the booth and shoot a short interview. I noticed that people are even more comfortable in that setting. They’ve been talking to people all day. They’re a little bit excited. We were able to work super quickly, most of the time in single takes, in an interviewer off camera on-the-street style, with no B roll. We could get five or six short videos out of one ten minute interview.
You do need a lavalier mic so you can hear people clearly against the background noise, but these are actually easy to edit because some background noise is ok, or even desirable.
It sounds like one of the keys to working in house is lower production value. Now with everyone working from home, we’re seeing lower production values even from TV networks. How low is too low?
We've been testing doing customer testimonials over a Zoom call. We're learning that there's a really fine line, because people want an engaging story above all. But there are certain things that will always distract people from the story. Bad audio is the worst. Most of the time you can get away with bad video if you have good audio. But if there are glaring visual problems, like the person talking is in a cave and they're not well lit, or they have like a crazy virtual background of "Star Wars” behind them or they’re wearing something weird, that's also going to distract from the story.
The cool part about right now is people are accepting these forms of content. If you can get just enough light into the camera where you can see people’s faces, and your background isn't cluttered, your audio is not echoey or tinny, that’s enough production value to get you over the line.
What else have you learned making customer testimonials over Zoom?
Initially we tried to treat it like an in-person customer testimonial, with an off-camera interviewer, and then cutting in a bunch of graphics and B-roll, which is a more cinematic approach. It didn't land as well as it would in person. There’s something weird about it — it just doesn’t feel authentic.
Webcam interviews seem to work better when you include the person who is conducting the interview and you don't try to cut out so much. I've been watching some webinars where you have someone interviewing someone else, and they're just in their living rooms and it's still great because you have the energy of the interaction.
What are some other COVID-era things that you’re working on?
Recently I’ve been training some of our salespeople to make videos of themselves. We send them a webcam and a USB mic, and I coach them. It's hard to get them to do it — just like it was hard to get people to be in those early videos — but they’re looking for selling tools right now and if you can make sure they look good on camera and the video turns out well you have a higher chance of them actually using it.
I've also been doing a lot of animations, which is not always something that companies have access to. We have a sales event coming up, and most of the content that's been created has just been motion graphics. If you have access to After Effects, there are a lot of plug-ins and templates that allow you to get really high-quality animation without being an expert, and without having to have people on-screen. A 20-second animated promo with some music in the background is a perfectly sustainable piece of content that you can keep making.
It sounds like a lot of what you've done as an in-house videographer is not just making video but helping create a culture where video is part of everything marketing does. What would you say to companies that want to go down this path?
To the video producer coming in, I’d say you can get a lot of gratification from making content that's not necessarily cinematic. The simple videos that don't take a lot of effort but that look great can really sustain a marketing team for a long time. The ones where you can do it on a weekly basis without taking up everyone's time or draining your budget. If every time you want to make a video, it’s "Here's my idea. It's going to cost $5,000," it's not sustainable.
For the marketing team that wants to start doing video, compare the cost of hiring out for a single video versus the cost of having a staff video producer, and what you’ll get for the money. You’ll get so many more pieces of content on a regular basis having someone in-house than you would if you paid for a couple of video productions a year. It’s not just market-facing video. There are a lot of opportunities for internal content as well, like the videos for our sales kickoff, or internal documentation on how to use our software. All those things can be equal in quality to your public-facing videos if you have an in-house video person.