Good briefing helps make a good video

'We tend to get nothing or everything'Corporate videos that fail to live up to the expectations of the client can often be traced to inadequate briefings, a concern with cost over objectives, and the tendency to see corporate video as little...

‘We tend to get nothing or everything’

Corporate videos that fail to live up to the expectations of the client can often be traced to inadequate briefings, a concern with cost over objectives, and the tendency to see corporate video as little more than taped speeches, say corporate video producers.

‘There are very few clients, even those I have worked with for 10 years, who can give us a good briefing,’ says Doug Keeley, president of Toronto-based Multiple Images.

‘Here’s what we want’

‘We tend to get nothing or everything, rather than ‘Here’s what we want to say, and here are the priorities,’ ‘ Keeley says.

Ron Moore, president of Ventana Video in Toronto, agrees the end result could be improved if clients provided better briefings up front.

‘The success of any video requires extremely detailed briefings on what [the clients] expect the video to accomplish,’ Moore says.

‘The briefing must answer, ‘What do people think now? What would you like them to think after they have watched it?’ ‘ he says.

More success

Rob Bromley, marketing director with Vancouver-based Force Four Productions, says clients would have more success if they knew exactly what it was they wanted before bringing in the production company.

‘Because it is a fair chunk of money, the client will often try to combine two or three objectives, which doesn’t produce a good video and doesn’t do the job for them,’ Bromley says.

Bromley also says clients waste everyone’s time when they call for proposals without revealing what they are prepared to spend.

‘They will get three proposals to choose from at different prices and how can they compare?’ he asks.

‘One company I know of got 10 proposals that ranged from $30,000 to $140,000, when they were only prepared to spend $25,000. They didn’t get one within their price range.

‘They would be better off to say they want to spend ‘x’ amount, and let the companies tell you what they can do for that amount of money.

Producers say that in some cases, the drive toward cost-cutting over the past few years has assumed more importance than the video’s overall objective.

Communication needs

‘Certainly, the one thing I would like them to do differently is focus on the communication need, rather than the price, right at the beginning,’ says Lawrence Marshall, president of Toronto-based Lawrence Marshall Productions.

‘Even sophisticated and knowledgeable clients are saying ‘We have $10,000. What can you do for that money?’, rather than saying ‘We have a communication problem or challenge. We have to introduce a new program to our people or a new product. How would you propose we do that? What kind of budget do you need?” Marshall says.

Gerry Bascombe, president of The Bascombe Group in Toronto, agrees clients can end up with less than satisfying results in their enthusiasm to cut corners.

‘It’s okay to be cost-conscious, we are the same way with our suppliers,’ Bascombe says. ‘But if the budget should realistically be $40,000, and they are going to grind you down to $29,000, that’s different.

‘On the surface, you save money, but in the long run, you’re really hurting the quality of the video,’ he says.

‘Another common error is they don’t allow us sufficient time to do the production. It’s almost like when we used to do slide presentations.

‘It’s not a matter of running the camera and shooting the plant in a two-hour period.’

‘It’s a lack of understanding. You can get a video in three weeks, but you have to realize there is going to be a cost there in terms of the level of effectiveness.’

Many clients fail to see video as an integrated part of their communications strategy, viewing it instead as a last-minute addition, says Ted Regan, president of Toronto-based Regan Productions.

Too late

‘I can’t tell you how many times we have been brought in after the print package has already been designed,’ Regan says.

‘We had a call not too long ago, and the client said, ‘We’ll call you back just as soon as we’ve finished the print package,’ ‘ he says.

‘I had to say, ‘Hold on, wouldn’t it be nice if the colors in the brochure were the same as those in the video?’ It sounds easy, but some colors just don’t work well on video.

‘They tend not to think about the merger of information,’ Regan says.

For Les Nirenberg, president of Toronto-based Nirenberg Communications, the most frequent error clients make is using corporate video to deliver speeches.

‘They tend to repeat the message a million times, until it gets nauseating,’ Nirenberg says.

‘The president starts out by giving you a preamble, telling you what he’s going to tell you, then he tells what he said he was going to tell you, then he finishes up by giving you a recap,’ he says.

‘There’s a tendency for them to visualize [corporate video] as nothing more than a speech on tape,’ says Nirenberg, who calls the lecturn a ‘killer’ on video.

‘It’s like having a giant shield between you and the audience,’ he says.

‘Those barriers are what we need to knock down. I like to get [management] on the shop floor, chatting to ordinary people, asking them how the company might solve its problems together.’

Michael Taylor, president of Montreal-based Stonehaven Productions says many clients think video should be used to ‘educate’ an audience, an assumption that Taylor says makes him uncomfortable.

‘I would like more of our clients to start with the premise that their audience is smart, rather than stupid,’ Taylor says.

‘We do an enormous amount of employee stuff, and our experience has been that the front line people in big corporations are really ticked off at being talked down to and are, in fact, very interested in the wealth and health of their companies,’ he says.

‘They are also not sure management understands them or their customers.

Inexperienced people

‘Then there is the problem, and it’s increasing, of allowing the direction of video to be handled by inexperienced young people. When we started doing corporate films and documentaries, we would deal with the president.

‘We are now dealing with people whose spending authority is less, and whose knowledge of the company is far less,’ Taylor says.

‘Very often the senior people don’t see it until the last minute, and then, of course, everybody is in deep yogurt because senior management says, ‘This isn’t what we wanted. You’ve missed the point,’ ‘ he says.

‘Anything that is going to 20,000 employees has to have some senior understanding.’