Call the Video Category What You Want; In The End, It’s “Informational”

Last week a prospective new client of a major corporation asked me to fill out a vendor application. Among the questions listed, I was asked to break into categories the types of videos our corporate video production company creates. I thought about one we finished for a client last week which he intends to use to sell his product, but before I realized it would be popularly classified as a “sales” video, I started to type “informational.” Backspace, backspace, backspace. “Sales.”

The one we finished a few weeks ago on a corporate sustainability initiative, I thought: When it is shown to the private equity company’s investors, it will be seen as an “investor relations” video. When it is shown to other CEOs to give them ideas about how to better the planet and increase profits, it can be called, hmmm… “Marketing?” No, it’s really “informational.”

Or the video for the federal government, explaining to ex-offenders the services in the community that can assist them: “Informational.” But for the sake of sounding more professional, I’ll classify it as “educational.” Same for the video we are about to start with a major pension fund whose beneficiaries need to know details about the plan.

The videos for the nonprofit dinners? “Event” videos. But not event-entertainment, like a wedding. Really, they are informational, telling attendees about the organization or the people being honored. (And come to think of it, a wedding video can be informational too, but that’s not my business.)

We live in The Information Age. We have learned to crave information, even when it comes in substance-less 140 character tidbits, hourly headlines sans supporting facts that major newspapers blast into smartphones, or friends’ comments on banal subjects that glide past them as a day progresses. The information yearning permeates the media formats; it is found not only in written words, but in spoken radio and song form, in photographs, and, of course, in video. Spreading information via written links is good; bolster it with video, and you might create a “following” — and that’s a magic word in the advertising industry these days. Even sitcoms are chockful of product placements, indirectly providing information about the product that is the subject of the actors’ banter.

For some folks, it seems to sound more justifiable to the budget process to label a video as having a grander purpose, like marketing, sales, IR, or HR. The relationship to ROI might be easier to calculate. And indeed, videos serve those functions. But through my window, most times the camouflaged intent of video is to be “informational,” to create little bites of enlightenment that audiences will love to digest.

3 Responses to “Call the Video Category What You Want; In The End, It’s “Informational””

  1. Mark Flamendorf Says:

    Ellen, I absolutely agree! One thing I would like to add is that videos also appeal to the visual side of the brain (many people learn this way) and are a much more powerful an influencer than any written informational document whether it be a brochure or a web page.

    My present challenge in using role modeling videos to demonstrate management and leadership development skills is that most commercially available training videos, although informational and thought provoking, are too US centric. Feedback from my foreign audiences are that the people and the settings are “too American.” Maybe you can point me in the direction of some international producers of off-the-shelf training videos that will better hit the mark.

    • ellenfriedland Says:

      I agree about the attractiveness of the visual message, Mark. I also agree with the importance of portraying global perspectives. One time, on a corporate shoot in Asia, the businessperson we were interviewing started by saying he would not answer any of the questions we had sent him in advance; rather, he would tell us what he felt we should hear. We went with it, listening (through the translator, so we got a sense of nuances as well), taking in what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. After he finished, he was perfectly open to questions about the substance that he had stated. I wove the questions for which I needed responses to satisfy the goals of our corporate client into the context that he had outlined. In the end, he was perfectly happy and I walked away with the necessary sound bites.
      When we videotaped for a documentary in Uganda, there were totally different cultural norms about how to ask and answer questions. In that case, because the project was very lengthy, we allowed ourselves several days to just be there, befriend different folks, develop a basic trust, and get a more intimate view into the culture. Later, we were able to structure questions — and get helpful responses — around what we had learned.
      I don’t know of any “off the shelf” training videos that take into account the enormity of cultural differences, although it is a good LinkedIn question! I think often the real gold comes from taking tailored time to learn about the subject and the culture. The result, of course, resonates with all the global audiences.

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