By Michele Linn published May 8, 2015

Stop the Checklist Mentality: Why You May Not Need a New Video, Podcast or Infographic

video-podcast-infographic-coverAdmittedly, I was cranky with sick kids and snow days when I started this post (OK, rant), but even though spring and health are upon us my feelings haven’t changed:

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

This, of course, can apply to many things, but this year I have read too many blog posts that tell brands that they should jump into video, audio, and infographics. They regale readers with stats that say, “Everyone is doing it, so you should too,” or “Comprehension jumps when you use video.”

Can these be effective formats? Absolutely. Yet, in all CMI’s 2015 research, at least 40% of brands using at least one of these formats say it’s not effective.

Just because many content marketers are doing something doesn’t mean you should.

All content types have their merits – and you can always find data that shows the growth in a channel and brands that are having success. But does this make it the right channel for you?

If you are thinking of trying a new format or getting pressure to “create an infographic” because your competition is, please take a step back and make sure it’s the right format for you. This post includes:

  • Stats on how many people are using these tactics – and how effective they consider them to be
  • Examples of when you should not use these formats
  • Examples of when these formats work well
  • Tips for getting more out of each of these formats

Video: Not another talking head

Why your video may be failing

Every time we ask our CMI community if they like video, the majority respond that they prefer to read. It’s faster and it does not require as much of their attention (i.e., with video you need to listen and watch).

I say that I’m not a fan of video, but truth be told, I like to watch videos of things that interest me. I have a queue of shows and movies on Netflix, and I sometimes turn to YouTube when I need to understand how to do something (say, how to complete a kid’s craft or fix something around the house). Videos have a place in my life.

But, there are many instances where video is not the best format. For example, does your “talking-head” video offer viewers something they could not get from reading a Q&A article with the person.

Ask yourself: Is there anything that would be lost if the viewer did not have the visual and sound? Would audio or text only serve the same purpose?

When video really works

Recently, Robert Rose shared this video during our Executive Forum, and I was this close to crying (and I just watched it again and was crying):

I was so moved by this – and I consider it to be such a great example of content marketing and cause-based marketing — that I suggested to CCO Editor Clare McDermott that we run a story in the magazine about this. While she too loved the story, she did not think it would work well in print because it would be too difficult to capture the emotion in text in a way that did not feel contrived.

She’s right – and it was an “aha” moment for me on when video really does work. No other medium would do this story as much justice. There is often no better way to capture the emotion and passion of an experience than in video.

Jay Acunzo shared this video from Liberty Mutual that illuminates another example of when a story truly works best in a video format.

McDonald’s used video to “Share the Love” – while the campaign might have worked without a video, visualizing the experience brought it to life for viewers who in turn were more likely to share the video and the message.

Video is also a great medium to use to walk someone through a process. In this episode of Claim Your Fame, Jenny Doan shares how the power of how-to videos helped build her quilt empire.

Audio: What’s the story?

Why your audio may be failing

When people talk about podcasts, I often hear them mention that it’s a great medium because people can consume content while working out, walking the dog, or commuting. Yes, people can multitask when listening to podcasts, but that should not be your primary reason for using this medium.

There are many cases where audio may not be the right fit. For instance, I just read this review of an audio book, which offers a good reminder for anyone creating audio:

“The material is interesting and well presented, but frequently too abstract when you have to compensate for frequent minor distractions. It would be best listened to with the accompanying PDF in front of you and the rewind button easily at hand to review what the author has written when he presents examples.”

Ask yourself: Can someone get as much out of a PDF or key point summary as they can by listening to the piece?

When audio really works

I’m a big fan of This American Life. The stories are often intriguing and entertaining – and l often look at the world in a different way as a result. While this is not an example from a brand, this message on the transcripts in the This American Life archives serves as a good reminder of when audio is the better format:

“Note: This American Life is produced for the ear and designed to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that’s not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.”

Can you say that about your podcast? If so, audio is likely the right medium for your message.

Clif Bar’s podcast is an example of form matching function. What do a lot of athletes have in common? They listen to something while they run, walk and exercise. Clif Bar’s podcast is a mix of tips on running, nutrition facts, and interviews.


Infographics: Do they really help?

Why your infographics may be failing

Infographics absolutely have their place, but I’m tired of bad infographics. Much of what I see feels like something that was created to “check off the infographic box.” In fact, I fell into that rut this winter.

I tried to create an infographic from an article I loved. However, when I tried transforming this idea into a visual, it fell flat. I found myself having conversations around what the graphic meant and what it was showing. Of course, if I had to explain what the graphic was showing, it was not working.

We ended up not using the graphic simply because it didn’t help tell a story more succinctly or simplify a complex idea. The infographic was not the right fit for that piece.

Ask yourself: Is this visual helping to simplify a process? Does the infographic simplify something in a way that text could not explain? If not, the visual isn’t working. Regroup or use a different format.

When infographics really work

The best infographics tell a story that you can’t tell as well in any other format (good infographics are not stats that are simply listed in one looonng graphic). I like this infographic from Restaurant Choice that quickly tells travelers the dos and don’ts of dining internationally. It’s straightforward, and the different entrees for each country are a great visual. You can also read the original post where the infographic was published, and you’ll see how much more enjoyable it is to see the graphic instead of reading the post.

Dining Etiquette Around The World – An infographic by the team at Restaurant Choice


I’m all for experimenting with different mediums, and failure is OK (in fact, it’s needed if you want to succeed). We’re all trying to figure out the best mix of content for our business and audience. So, experiment away! However, next time you contemplate a new video, podcast, or infographic, ask yourself:

Does this channel provide a better way for my audience to understand this topic or experience something that text alone can’t offer?

If you can’t answer yes, rethink whether it is the best format for your content. Don’t be afraid to say no.

One item that should be on your content marketing checklist and will never disappoint – attend Content Marketing World 2015. Use discount code CMI100 to save $100 on registration by the end of the month.

Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

Other posts by Michele Linn

Join Over 200,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples FREE!

  • Dianna Huff

    Excellent article and spot on with all of your observations. One thing many marketers forget is this: We’re all on overwhelm. The more I talk to people, the more I realize that many of us have cut way back on media consumption in order to stay sane.

    For example, I don’t listen to podcasts nor am I on Facebook. I don’t want all my quiet downtime moments filled with noise. We have so much technology and so much content and so much of everything these days that I personally find myself opting out of everything simply so I have some space and quiet. What happens is that I have more time for the better quality content — and that’s what I pay attention to and remember.

    • Michele Linn

      I completely agree with you — and I see the same in myself as I look for “space and quiet” (although I do love some podcasts). I think when form matches function — with quality content — it’s something that makes people want to pay attention. Thanks for dropping by, Dianna!

  • soniasimone

    Great article! One additional benefit I’ve found to audio content — people really start to feel a personal connection when someone is talking into their ear. 🙂

    My copywriting business (back in my freelance days) took a major leap when I started producing audio content. Obviously this tends to work best when there’s a well defined “face and voice” of the company — a personable founder or CEO or some other human that people want to make a connection with.

    Video can work that way as well, but there’s something really powerful about audio.

    • Michele Linn

      So glad you mentioned this, Sonia. I was listening to an older episode of This American Life today, and the reporter interjected this comment about something the interviewee just said: “When she says, them, she means every one of you listening to this show.” It felt very personal . . . and I thought, “One more way that audio works well.” As you say, video can do that, but it’s not the same kind of intimacy. Thanks for the comment!

    • Steve Faber


      So true. In addition, audio is perfect for many situations where other formats aren’t: the gym, while cooking, or driving.


  • Steve Faber


    Terrific post. You nailed it with the talking head video part. Too many brands rush to put up video, even if it adds no value, by employing the “talking head” format. Sure, it gets them more all important video content and another chance to be discovered in YouTube’s search engine. In many cases however, it’s worse for the audience, who could have gotten the same info much faster through old fashioned reading. GASP!

    Blasphemous though it may be, video isn’t always needed, nor does it always improve UEX. Save it for those times when it is, and does. You’ll lower your content creation budget, deliver content faster, and have more satisfied audiences.

    Many thanks,

    • Michele Linn

      I couldn’t agree more — thanks, Steve!

      • mayra9898


  • Neal Cosby

    I think it would be very funny to take specific elements from each country’s dining etiquette infographic and make a single place setting for American kids using only those elements that American parents find incorrect or disturbing. Show this graphic with a line like “every action here is considered acceptable and proper in another culture”. Then show the full infographic with each ‘improper’ action highlighted.
    This would demonstrate the same concept but in a different way.

    • Michele Linn

      If the audience were American kids and parents, that could be an interesting take!

  • Kimota

    Excellent. Love this post, and some great examples! That Emirates NBD video is incredible!

    • Michele Linn

      Thanks, Jonathan. I have told several people about the Emirates NBD video, and I can’t do it justice. “You just need to watch it,” I tell them. The power of video when it’s done well!

  • Hannah Rodabaugh

    Great post! Some really useful advice here.

  • Marketwired

    Great article, and a great takeaway here for content creators – “does this channel provide a better way for my audience to understand this topic or experience something that text alone can’t offer?” If it’s not a definite yes, it’s a no!

  • Mio Ristic

    Hi Michele, it’s a great article, but I’m still disappointed that you haven’t been able to see an advantage of having a Video FAQ.

    The video examples you presented are great and they are mostly engaging their audience on an emotional level and serve mostly in cause marketing as you said and are also used to achieve a high level of awareness.

    A strategic approach to video goes beyond awareness, and beyond one video (no sliver bullet) and has to be spread along a buyer’s / viewer’s journey, across a whole sales / marketing funnel (Referral or Repeat stage).

    Please find below just one example of effectively using video for FAQ.

    Why use videos for FAQs?

    First add value to your customer:

    – Installation Video

    – Troubleshooting Video

    – Employee Induction / Orientation Videos

    – Help page videos

    Finally, what’s in it for a brand:

    – Better customer engagement

    – Better after-service

    – Personalisation – there is so much talk among marketers about personalisation and how good it is to show who is behind the brand…

    – Benefits of having a further Video SEO and better exposure for your website with all these videos connected to it.

    – Further loyalty from customers realising that you went an extra mile to make those videos and make sure their satisfaction is met.

    Hope your epiphany won’t stop there just with motivational and emotional videos. Give a chance to yourself to understand the other types: Enjoyable, Usable, Comprehensible, and Functional ones, although you already mentioned that you are watching some of those in different situations.

    • Michele Linn

      Hi Mio,

      While the examples above are mostly those that use video to tell a story, I think there are many other uses for videos as well. As I mention, I love videos that show me how to do something. I use this as my barometer if a video may be warranted: Is there anything that would be lost if the viewer did not have the visual and sound? Would audio or text only serve the same purpose?

      That said, these are not the only use cases. If FAQ videos are working well for your clients / business, that is fantastic.

      I checked out the site, and I like how you offer the transcript + videos. This way, people can consume the content in multiple ways.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Russ Benblatt

    As interactive video matures from companies like Rapt Media and TouchCast, I think we’re going to see video content go in a whole new direction…quickly. @mioristic:disqus, video FAQs could take off in a whole new direction. Painful and cryptic customer service pages could suddenly become useful and shareable.

  • rogercparker

    Very powerful writing and well-chosen examples–a wake-up call for practicality and asking the right questions. I’d like to see some more examples and dialog on the topic.