Archive for the ‘Informational Video’ Category

Video Challenge: Helping the Sales Team Make Software Products Catchy

September 18, 2014

In a business world populated by countless organizations relying on seas of software programs to achieve unlimited goals, breaking through the competitive landscape with a new offering is a very difficult task. It requires a sales team with a belief in and knowledge about the product at hand, enthusiasm, persistence – and a tool kit. While the box of assistance is likely to contain virtual demo programs, its effectiveness initially requires a simple and easily comprehensible explanation about the unique uses and value of the software. This messaging and its presentation is the key to getting the potential buyer to stop, listen for a moment amidst the constant hum of information, and peek in at the opportunity. It is also a challenging task that recently landed on our doorstep.

Among its diverse offering of amenities designed to meet the ever-changing business world, our client Ricoh has been providing IT services to the legal industry for over 20 years, including comprehensive document resources. One of its recent software products in this department is called REDI (Ricoh Electronic Discovery Insight). When installed in a company’s server, REDI enables a user to retrieve information through a simple-to-use search system, saving the company a lot of time and money in completing discovery requests.

To reign in new customers, the REDI group wanted to begin the sales process with a short and catchy video, which brought our video production team into the discussion. After reviewing the department’s written materials and getting walked through a demonstration of the software, we were convinced that explanations of its uses and benefits recited on-camera by programmers, executive staff, or professional voiceover artists would be too wordy to be impactful. This was particularly so when the topic precluded visual imagery to sprinkle over their sound bites.

Instead, we opted for a high-energy, visually appealing, and originally created kinetic typography video. V&V worked with the REDI team to understand the software in its minutiae, then to translate that knowledge into short, easily comprehensible phrases. Integrating the simple text with Ricoh branding, REDI screen imagery, a catchy melody, and creative motion, the alluring end product is causing heads to turn in REDI’s direction.

And that is its objective. Once a prospective customer pays attention to the introduction, the door opens to a demonstration of the product. That, I am convinced, will sell itself to companies inclined to improving their litigation strategies and defending against overly burdensome legal discovery requests.

Video for Private Equity Annual Investor Meetings

May 28, 2013

This is the time of year when many PE companies and PE divisions of larger companies are designing the content and activities of year-end annual investor meetings. Significantly, few industries are as friendly to the fashionable storytelling tool of video as private equity. Each portfolio company brings an engaging narrative of its roots that flourished over time and are expanding as a result of the vision, strategies and assistance brought by its private equity partner. Producing high-end and fast-paced yet short and comprehensive videos to showcase examples of companies in a portfolio that are encountering success is a great way to convey the information, break up the pace of the meeting in a popular and pleasing way, and encourage participation in future funds the PE firm will roll out.

The themes of the videos will depend upon the emphases of the companies or divisions. There is no one formula; decisions are tailored to the firms and their investor audiences. Here are some examples of videos created for The Riverside Company, the largest global firm investing in the middle market, for their 2012 Annual Investor Conference. The goal of these videos was to highlight the different funds:

North American Fund Portfolio Company: Baby Jogger

European Fund Portfolio Company: Reima 

Asia-Pac Fund Portfolio Company: Learning Seat 

North American Microcap Fund Portfolio Company: Yourmembership.com  

V&V has been working in PE and related industries for over a decade with clients such as The Riverside Company, the former AIG Investments, Private Equity Investor, and Duane Morris LLP. We also count as our clients pension funds investing in PE such as the Texas Teachers Retirement System.

Please contact us to brainstorm ideas about ways in which video can provide added value to your annual investor meeting.

Telling Stories With Video

February 27, 2013

Every corporation is built and sustained by individuals with stories to tell, and those stories can be effective marketing devices. (See “Endless Stories” blog.) Using internet video to tell those stories is particularly impactful: Audiences today watch more than they read, and the place they watch most is online. Consequently, introducing staff via video posted to websites and other online venues gives current and prospective customers a more personal – and therefore positive — feel for the companies with which they are or could be doing business.

One way of ensuring that online videos of staff are up-to-date, reflecting changes in personnel as well as the positions they occupy, is for corporations to build in-house video production studios designed for recording simple sound bites. The existence of such facilities at a company would enable each new hire  immediately  to record and post a video bio introducing himself or herself to the client base and the rest of the staff – or to record something else highlighting personality traits or interests, excitement about the company or its product, etc.  — depending upon the corporate culture. The initial investment in the studio is returned in the ability to inexpensively produce endless short and effectual videos.  


Once videos are edited, companies should consider posting them first on their own Youtube channels, then using those links to post them on their firms’ websites and other social media sites. This methodology will help boost  search engine optimization. YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google and Google owns YouTube, so enhancing a corporate presence on this social network is important. There are several key elements to optimizing videos on YouTube, which will greatly influence the rankings and quality of search results. Saving video files with keywords as well as tagging keywords when uploading videos are two important pieces to a much more complicated puzzle. (For more pieces, see post on Video SEO).

Designing In-House Corporate Video Studios

February 11, 2013

An in-house corporate video studio sans extra hires: the perfect solution for a constant and affordable flow of new video content with a professional look.

A little over a year ago Cisco predicted that within three years (now one and three quarters) all Internet traffic will be video. While that may be an overly ambitious timeline, there is no question that video is overtaking the web as the communication vehicle through which companies are (and increasingly will be) required to express themselves. It is also by now recognized that the DIY videos that seemed acceptable when Youtube first burst on the scene in 2005 are not professional reflections of the entities they represent. These facts are part of the larger shifting landscape of corporate messaging, mandating creative responses and re-created budgetary line items.

Among the most resourceful recent solutions to this conundrum on which we have had the opportunity to work came at the request of our client EisnerAmper, one of the largest accounting firms in the US, with almost 1,300 employees. Working with clients hailing from a broad spectrum of industries and providing a range of services, EisnerAmper has unlimited topics to discuss on a regular basis, for which ever-new online video posts would be a great asset.  When their expansion induced them to move their New Jersey headquarters into a new space subject to complete redesign, they contacted us about helping them build a studio for the purpose of recording simple sound bite videos as frequently as desired, then turning them around for rapid posting to their website and other online sites.

Basic keys to success of this project included designing the space effectively and efficiently; properly laying out the IT, lighting, audio and other technical needs; identifying high-end equipment on which non-professionals can be trained; and providing the training. The exercise requires a combined knowledge of professional cinematography with relevant engineering and architectural understanding.
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Our VP Curt Fissel met with the EisnerAmper marketing team to determine their wish list of video needs and goals within the context of the available space dimensions. He also spoke with the project manager and architect. Curt is our Director of Photography and Senior Editor. At heart, he is an artist and a complex model builder, so the opportunity to work on the video studio enabled him to combine a lifetime of personal strengths. Curt used a soft polymer clay that hardens when baked to design a model of the room to scale. Even the tiniest details were highlighted in the model he created, such as the precise placement of the electrical outlets on the walls and the track lighting across the ceiling. Curt then photographed the model from many angles, pasting the images into a document onto which he wrote technical explanations of the requirements.

As the project moves forward, Curt will be available for ensuing needs, such as helping EisnerAmper choose appropriate equipment; configure all the studio elements to enable the production of optimum appearance; and teach staff who will be assigned to this job how to use the gear, which is intended to stay locked into place. Upon the conclusion of videotaping, EisnerAmper will have the ability to edit the material in-house or upload it to a cloud accessible by an off-site editor.

The video studio will enable EisnerAmper to produce and post constantly changing, simple and professional-looking talking-head videos responsive to the news of the day or even the hour, as well as a litany of additional information the firm would like to share – all at no extra cost for field (and possibly post) production once the set-up is in place. While their totality of video needs will also undoubtedly require more complex productions utilizing the help of professional corporate video producers, the use of the studio will ensure that EisnerAmper is at the lead of the pack of businesses as the Cisco-like predictions regarding the proliferation of video grow into the reality.

Corporate Video: Endless Stories

January 31, 2013

When I got into the corporate video business over 15 years ago, clients wanted productions that were informational in content. They sought videos that would outline the work of the organization in all – or at least most – of its elements, even when the details required 12 minutes to roll out. Whether the video was to be used for marketing, HR or other purposes, an objective presentation of the nature of the entity was the fashion of the day

That tendency mirrored the appearance projected by news outlets at that time. Remember when the “fourth estate” was all about fair and balanced portrayals of facts based on research and widespread interviews with folks taking a diversity of positions?

Times have changed, and social media has played a critical role in this new world of information presentation. Today news correspondents can take the form of activists on the front lines of a revolt tweeting their eyewitness accounts on their smartphones in 140 characters at a time, reporting from the spots where they stand, unaware of the battle looming around the corner. Subjective by definition, they may nonetheless have more followers than nightly news stations, in large measure because audiences today are attracted to individual stories – real people, real events, real drama, real emotion.  The storytelling methodology resonates.

(One example of such a “story” we told through a video we produced for private equity client, The Riverside Company)

And it has influenced corporate video production. That extensive informational video style is passé. It has been replaced with short stories, endless short stories, each of which can stand on its own in a video or be grouped with others, depending upon a variety of factors including length of time needed to convey its heart. Stories can be about the company, such as the impetus that led to its founding or some cool community event in which its staff participated. They can focus on employees relating personal stories that integrate elements of their characters with aspects of their jobs. They can highlight a company initiative from the perspectives of those charged with implementing it, following the process through from idea conception to presentation. Endless stories.

While each video might max out at two minutes (often less), there may be many to produce, so ultimately far more time will be devoted to this format – and often watched by the viewers — than the single 12-minute piece in which the company invested 15 years ago. Yet unlike its old-fashioned predecessor, each piece will present only a slice of something related to the company. The viewer who watches a series of videos the company provides on its website and/or other social media sites may gain the larger umbrella perspective the company would like to portray. But the person who stops after the first will walk away with neither depth of understanding nor the larger picture perspective of the company.

This is the new communication reality. It is incumbent upon corporations still hesitant to find their video voices within its parameters. That may present some challenges, but a successful initiative will be worthwhile. Individual stories will resonate.

Investor Relations Videos

January 17, 2013

Funny thing about the category of “investor relations videos”: it does not enjoy the popularity of other adjectives associated with video, like “marketing video” or “web video.” The expression just doesn’t seem to have search engine appeal – at least not in this particular three-word combination.

Perhaps that is not so surprising. Traditional industries like financial services clothe themselves less in fashionable (or any) video than other business types. And digits – while long known to possess magical qualities that might make the stuff of a good story – often seem most legitimate when presented in typed black numbers on sterile white pages.

Certainly the nature of some types of financial services companies is less amenable to colorful storytelling than others. But investors today are presented with unlimited opportunities in a market that is still recovering economically. They have the difficult job of distinguishing between a wide array of different kinds of funds in which to invest as well as companies to trust with their investments. In a world in which people prefer to watch rather than read, why not enliven the marketing pitch with a compelling video?

www.riversidecompany.com

Storyline is key here.  Private equity and venture capital firms have an easier job than others in the industry since they are comprised by definition of companies in an array of industries that have wonderful stories about their origins, growth and substance.  But even traditional investment firms can unearth good stories to share with their investors. For instance, a new policy roll-out that is investment-friendly would be of interest to current and potential investors and could be presented in a creative way. Or a video created for a different purpose – such as an HR video – could be modified to focus on the skill sets and personalities of staff who play key roles in successful outcomes (and therefore impress investors).

An investor relations video can be a very helpful tool, especially in an industry in which this type of marketing initiative has not yet come of age, but the ages of younger investors see the world in visual motion.

Finland: First Impressions on a Videotaping Shoot

October 28, 2012

Since we spend a lot of time videotaping in different countries around the world, I am frequently asked my impressions of local communities and places. Often my response harkens back to the opening scene in the movie Blue Velvet. The viewer first sees a helicopter view of a perfect 1960s-era postage-stamp looking community with cute little houses and pretty green lawns. The camera lens then begins to zoom in, and imperfections appear on screen. The objects grow closer, and the viewer sees more details that paint a fuller picture mixing positive imagery with negative. And then, to foreshadow the harrowing movie to follow, the camera zooms into the creepiest microscopic insect behaviors, suggesting the ugliness of what lies beneath the surface.

The full analogy to this opening is apt when I describe the most awful of situations we’ve witnessed while videotaping particular documentaries, such as dangerous territories still reeling from recent wars.  But thankfully most of our travels take us to daily life in peaceful situations, so the Blue Velvet comparison stops before the last zoom-in. Yet it underscores my acute awareness that an accurate description of the pros and cons of real life anywhere on the planet lurks far beneath those first, surface-level impressions. I am therefore hesitant to convey opinions about places where we stop for only a few days to do a corporate video shoot for a marketing video or investor relations video .

And yet, of course, those first impressions linger. So I sometimes bow to the inquiry, hoping those who ask will recognize the shallowness of my responses.

It took that introduction to make me feel comfortable launching into my very favorable initial impressions here on the ground in Helsinki!

First one: Last week we were working in Paris. We had pre-rented a car online, as we did for this trip. At Charles DeGaulle Airport, we spent literally 45 minutes at the rental car desk with only two people in front of us. The experience was like waiting during a work slowdown, except there was no formal slowdown.  Questions we asked were answered in as few words as possible with looks of annoyance, despite our use of French language. In comparison, after arriving in Helsinki, we were second in line for our car. Our total time at the counter was under ten minutes. We spoke no Finnish at all, but the woman at Budget spoke fluent English. She smiled as she imparted key information, did not try to sell us anything we did not need, and literally mapped out our car ride from her counter to the rental car parking lot to our hotel, the Sokos Flamingo Hotel in Vantaa.  I felt stress-free despite a total lack of familiarity with the culture and the ancient and unique language spoken there. I even perceived the cold air that enveloped us when we walked out the airport doors as crisp and healthy rather than an unwelcome reminder of the upcoming winter.

Next: Thoughtful layouts. The wide roads were well-marked, sensible, and lined with sprawling landscapes – after all, this large country is populated by a total of only five million people. The hotel receptionist gave us a parking pass for the garage even before requiring us to check in, and the parking lot had plenty of spaces to accommodate all the cars. The spotless room was styled with simple but comfortable Ikea-type furniture. One entire wall was covered in windows enabling us to look out into the horizon, where fiery red sunrises beneath puffy dark clouds greeted us in the morning.

The food was less impressive, though I am spoiled by living bi-coastally in Los Angeles and the metro NY area – specifically, NJ’s restaurant capital of Montclair. Didn’t mind it too much – we had gone to Finland to work, not to eat.

One other footnote: A friendly encounter on the elevator with a businessman from northern Finland led to breakfast together the next morning. A few things I learned from him were:

  • Children in Finland learn to cross country ski when they are very young, and get around that way much of the winter in southern Finland, which is not mountainous
  • Ski country is northern Finland, but often the freezing temperatures (below -30 degrees centigrade is not uncommon) prohibit outdoor activity until February or March
  • In much of the country, you can see the Northern Lights
  • In the summer in the Helsinki area, darkness falls around 11 pm and dawn comes by 4 am. In the winter, of course, it is the opposite. (October wasn’t too bad. It got dark at about 6 pm and light before 8 am.)
  • The Finnish and Hungarian languages share the same root
  • Swedish is the second language of Finland since Sweden ruled the country for 600 years, from the 13th through the 19th centuries
  • In World War II, the Finns fought against the Russians, who had occupied the country after the Swedes. (This, of course, made them allies with the Germans, though they saw their participation as anti-Russian rather than pro-German, and they protected their Jewish population.)

Had the businessman not had dinner plans that night, we would have met again, underscoring my impression of the friendliness of local people. Of course, he was not talking in front of the camera lens. But those who were featured in the business video that brought us there shared the warm spirit of our hotel acquaintance.

Video Production From The Road: Interviews

October 26, 2012

One of the great upsides to shooting corporate videos at locations around the globe is that we spend our days at facilities with people with whom we have the privilege to become acquainted. After all, we are usually interviewing them on camera, and even when we’re not – such as in the production of a video that uses musical backgrounds without words – we are interviewing them off camera to understand the nature of their work so we can properly capture and present it.  Formal interview time is always bookended by plenty of informal chatter, making the former more comfortable for everyone. And so we learn things like colleges that interviewees’ kids attend or where they went on their recent vacations. Those conversations lead to others, and before we know it, we often all discover how much we are enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes dinner invitations follow, and even when they don’t, recommendations for good dinners (and all the colorful context) are usually a good bet. By the time we are departing, we find that we have collected valuable insiders’ perspectives about the places we have visited even if the trips are only for small amounts of time.

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Of course, we don’t always hit it off as good ol’ buddies with the folks we are interviewing, nor do we have any expectations. But we do maintain an attitude of “work hard, play hard,” so we find fun spots to spend the off-hours, with or without our professional colleagues. A few days ago at a pub in Rouen, France, we met a woman at the next table who had come to have a drink after week. After a few friendly comments, we all found that we had many things to discuss, and we spent quite awhile talking, laughing, taking pictures, and sharing stories. Today, of course, such encounters don’t end with the last drop of distinctive French wine. We have become Facebook friends, and if prior such meetings are an indication, I am confident our knowledge of each other’s lives and cultures will continue to expand over time.

Video Production From the Road: Interview Space

October 24, 2012

This is not atypical: We travel to the other side of the world for a corporate video shoot, then the interviewee takes us to a generic conference room that could be located in Anywhere, USA. I say, respectfully: Are there any other options for a background, and they respond, respectfully: No!

If possible, the story can’t end there. It just doesn’t seem fair to our clients, who – trusting our production values and committed to consistency in video production — invest in these international jaunts. And so the search begins for elements that resonate place (Melbourne or Hong Kong or Paris – or Houston or Wilmington, Delaware) or industry space (software or manufacturing or law or whatever). Decisions about backgrounds depend first, upon the substance of the material in the video; second, upon availability; and third, upon creativity.

corporate video production, travel, business, melbourne, australiaFor example: Two weeks ago we videotaped at two different companies in Australia, both of which escorted us straight into their conference rooms upon arrival. The first company is in the medical software business, the second in HR compliance materials for online consumption. The actual industry background for these speakers are rooms occupied by individuals at computer desks – a setting almost as common as white-walled conference rooms. But in both cases, the companies sell solely into the Australian market, so backdrops that say “Australia” fill in some color. In the first case, we set the interviewee in front of a large window that overlooked a recognizable panorama of Melbourne. For the second, we added to the side of a window view some distinctive company props that had just been used at a trade show the week before, emphasizing both geography (the view) and branding.

Note that skylines can be tricky. Natural lighting is not uniform in places around the world or during different times of day, and familiarity with details of how it might fall in a particular place at a specific hour cannot be easily predicted from another corner on the globe. Key to successful execution is a good knowledge of lighting that ensures thoughtful yet expeditious set-ups as well as a good kit that not only contains all the necessary components, but is also mobile-friendly.

At a video shoot a few months ago in Washington DC, the nondescript conference room into which we were taken was windowless.  With only about 20 minutes to set up a two-camera shoot, our director of photography washed the walls in colors reflective of the interviewee’s agency – another alternative when few tools and no time were at our disposal.

Hong Kong, corporate video production, business travel, video marketing, interviewsOutdoor interviews work well, too, if the choice is between a quiet space that says nothing and an interesting street scene where noise might be a challenge. Here the interviewee must feel comfortable with the setting, and proper audio is crucial; if carried out well, the end result can be very visually interesting.

Last week in Hong Kong, we conducted an interview from the top of the Peak, overlooking the city below. It was a beautiful scene, unmistakably highlighting the speaker’s location, which is an important aspect of the nature of his work. We walked around the path for a bit to find a spot less populated with passersby. Nonetheless, there were a number of cold stops in the middle of sentences as people passed or made other noise. It was a small price to pay for the beauty and inherent message of the background. And it was a far better solution than videotaping in another typical conference room, indistinguishable from millions of others everywhere.

Read last week’s entry for Video Production From The Road on Flying Tips.

Video Production From the Road: Flying Tips 2

October 12, 2012

Having become a semi-learned student of the airline rules, I wield them like constitutional rights.

Last year I chose to become an APP (my designation for the 25,000 plus mile status) on two airlines: United and American. The former is part of the OneWorld network, and the latter is a member of Star Alliance. Since my home bases are Montclair, NJ – 10 miles from Newark Airport – and Los Angeles, the most convenient airline for me to fly in the US is United, which has the Newark-based hub of its recent mergee, Continental.  American sometimes flies out of Newark, but more frequently its NY flights originate in and go to JFK and LaGuardia, making it a second choice for me.  However, the Star Alliance has more airline partners than OneWorld, and they fly to many more destinations, so I’m glad to have at least the APP-1 (more than Any Passenger and less than Any Passenger Plus) benefits.

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I write this blog now aboard a flight from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong. I am traveling with my husband/business partner Curt. We are videotaping for a corporate client in both locations. The decision to do the shoot happened late in the game, so arrangements were made last minute, when few flights were still available.  The only feasible and affordable option required traveling with Cathay Pacific from JFK to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Adelaide, Australia, then Adelaide to Melbourne, where we worked for three days. This flight goes from Melbourne directly to Hong Kong, where we will stay for two nights. The next leg is to San Francisco, where we will work for a day. The last segment will take us from San Francisco back to Newark.

Cathay Pacific is a Star Alliance member. With our American gold status, we are classified as Ruby travelers on Star Alliance, going through the first and business class check-in and security lines, and boarding earlier in the game than other passengers. Since the economy class tickets had been sold out for the eastward bound flights at the late time of our booking, we purchased the next level: premium economy. That gave us a little more room and an APP+ status. But here is how being a partner airline APP member served as an advantage: The flight from NY to Hong Kong was 15 hours; the one from Hong Kong to Adelaide was another 9. When we arrived in Hong Kong, a ticket agent was waiting for us, informing us that we had been upgraded to business class. With open seats on the plane, priority went to us instead of others who had bought premium economy tickets since we had a combination of those slightly more expensive tickets and APP status on another Star Alliance partner airline.

Business seats on these eastern airlines are amazing for a number of reasons, but best of all, the seats fold down flat like beds. As someone who has a hard time sleeping in planes, I slept more than half of the journey, waking up refreshed enough to work for the afternoon in Melbourne. It made a huge difference!

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Director of Photography, Curt.

The seats en route back west are only economy. But because of our APP status with Star Alliance member American, Cathay Pacific was able to offer us bulkhead seats, ie, front row in economy, with unlimited leg room.  For non-ruby passengers, these seats would have cost an additional $100 each, but our status ensured we could get them, and at no extra charge. We have reserved the same seats for the trip from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

The last leg of our trip will be provided by United, enabling us to return on a direct flight to Newark Airport. Checking over the seat availability, it seems we will be doomed to the last row. But as APP members, we stand a chance of getting upgraded, if anything is available.

I am well aware of the disadvantage of accruing miles in more than one airline per year. By this year’s end, I will have accumulated just short of 100,000 miles on all my flights combined. Had I stuck with one airline or partnership and taken a few extra trips to reach that mile marker, I would have been a lifetime status holder. Instead, the status I’ve earned over the last 10 months – which in another three weeks will be APPP on United and APP on American – will be good only through 2013. Come January 1, I will have to start all over again for 2014. But the offerings didn’t leave me much of a choice. The flights that gave me the most miles were available at specific times on particular airlines. At least I will enjoy my status in the coming year, always keeping an eye on changing rules and new opportunities.

Read Flying Tips 1.