Public companies invest substantial amounts of time, energy, money, and other resources in carefully crafting their corporate brand, messaging and stakeholder communications. Whether it’s through a corporate website, a sustainability micro-site, an employee intranet or an online annual report, companies are trying to communicate with, and influence, their target audiences.
A trend is developing in the area of online corporate communications. More and more companies are adding video to their online annual reports, sustainability micro-sites and corporate websites. 23% of the Fortune 100 companies included video in their 2013 annual reports, up 15% from the year before. Companies that haven’t taken the plunge into producing corporate videos could be missing out on one of the most effective ways to communicate with investors, current and potential employees, business partners, customers and other key stakeholders.
Companies are discovering the real benefits of including high-quality video on their corporate website, the interactive version of their annual reports and sustainability reports. An annual report video can feature a message from company leadership, a tour of facilities, a demo of specific products, or nearly anything else that will effectively communicate the company’s strategic message.
I recently interviewed Vern Oakley, the CEO of Tribe Pictures to get his views on corporate video best practices. Tribe is a video production company that specializes in making human-first, story-based videos that help companies better communicate their message.
Maximum Impact Corporate Video
I asked Vern why companies should make video a part of their messaging and how they can get the most impact from their video budget.
Vern replied that “video is often the most effective communication tool available to an investor relations team because video has the power to evoke emotions in a way that’s impossible through a static website, a printed annual report, or the PowerPoint presentation and speeches that frequently go along with investor conferences.”
He also said that video allows investors to see your company in a light that’s just not possible in a printed report or even in a presentation. “Video takes the viewer places that they can’t go. It shows them things that make a big impact. If a company is opening a factory in Asia, and I go and I see that factory, and it’s stacked with rows, and rows, and rows of a product, it gives me a kind of impression. If I sense the passion of the people in a company’s distribution center in Dubai, and I see a huge lot full of trucks ready to roll, I have a real visceral understanding that that company is not just talking about going global, they are global.”
Objections to producing an annual report video
Many companies are resistant to producing an annual report video because they feel that medium doesn’t work with institutional investors. They believe that institutional investors simply want the numbers, not a stylized production of the company’s story. Vern says that’s not necessarily the case. He said it depends on the investors’ interests.
He breaks institutional investors into two groups. One is the activist investors, who he says, “just want to pull the parts apart, make as much money as they can in the short term, and they aren’t interested in building business value. Those people are never going to be moved by a video.”
However, he says the other group of institutional investors are interested in annual report videos. He describes them as “people that invest in businesses. Investors that really are interested in the company—what’s the culture, what’s the business, what’s the leader’s vision.”
Another common objection to producing an annual report video is cost. Many companies believe that they would have to secure a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a quality video. Advances in video and editing technology have brought the price of producing video down. These days producing a corporate video can start around $15,000 at the lower end and go up into the mid-six figures. When it comes to corporate video it’s important to keep in mind that you get what you pay for. The kind of quality planning, scripting, executive coaching, production and editing that results in a first class video packed with emotional draw is going to cost more than a standard talking head shoot.
Vern suggests that rather than viewing the production budget as an expense, “think of it as an investment. You have a certain amount of dollars to invest in your communication and investor relations and you’re going to get a return on that. We’ve seen a tremendous return on the use of video.”
He also said he’s seen companies get creative by repurposing video across multiple functions. That allows companies to pull from various budgets to fund the video’s production. The video can be used in human resources, marketing, or even as just stock footage for future productions.
Says Vern, “That’s sort of an unintended benefit that people have. The other thing is, it really starts to build a custom stock footage library that a company can use over and over again for many, many different videos. As companies invest in and increase their use of video at a high professional level, people begin to perceive the company differently.”
Taking corporate video from good (or bad) to great
Vern Oakley on set directing a corporate video shoot
Of course, a video has to work for the investment to be worthwhile. Vern cautions that getting the video right is critical. He says that having a bad video is almost worse than not having any video at all.
So what makes for a bad video? For one, putting people in positions in which they’re not comfortable. Many companies go with what Vern calls “the talking-head CEO” approach, in which the CEO reads a scripted message off of a teleprompter.
Vern says there’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it’s important to consider all options. He says, “There are a lot of different ways to tell stories. And it’s important to put people in situations in which they’re comfortable.” He says, “If somebody really doesn’t want to be on camera and you’re making them, it isn’t a formula for success.”
“Many of the investor relations projects we’ve done do not focus entirely on the CEO. They’re about the company’s mission, a new leader’s vision, or a new product.”
He also says it can help to put CEOs in environments in which they’re more comfortable. “We’ve put them in round table situations or in front of audiences if they’re someone who is better interacting with audiences. We’ve done interviews. There are a lot of techniques that really work well.”
Vern says the most important thing is to start with strategy. What is the message? What stakeholder group are you looking to engage and inspire? And how will you measure success? From that starting point, it’s much easier to determine what elements will have the most impact and will best serve the message.
5 Tips for Creating High-impact Annual Report Videos
1) Make your video subjects comfortable. If the people you’re filming don’t feel natural speaking directly to the camera, put them around a conference table and have them speak with other people. You could also film them as they’re addressing a group of people.
2) Budget prep time before the shoot begins. Even 30 minutes of prep time for the video director to work with the featured executive can have a significant impact. Don’t let the executive just walk in and start filming without at least some preparation.
3) Use B-roll. Your CEO or other executives may be lending their voice to the video, but that doesn’t mean they have to be shown the entire time. Use their words as narration over shots of new products being used, your production facilities, or any other important actions.
4) Mix it up. Companies often use their CEO by default, but investors want to hear from the people who have the most relevant perspective. If there’s an aspect of the company that you want to highlight, feature an executive or employee who is close to the action.
5) Repurpose the video for other functions. You can save money and share budgets by having the video repurposed for human resources, marketing, and other functions.
Webinar: Corporate Video Comes of Age
Thursday July 10, 2014 from 1:00-2:00 PM ET
Join Nina Eisenman, President of Eisenman Associates and Vern Oakley, CEO and Executive Creative Director of Tribe Pictures as they share best-practices and tips for using video to enhance your online annual report and corporate website. Topics will include maximizing your budget, scheduling, theme development and prepping senior executives for video shoots. Register now for this free webinar
To find out how Eisenman Associates can help you take your interactive annual report, corporate website, or sustainability website to the next level by adding video call Nina Eisenman at 212-941-0550 or contact us here.