With in-person audience connections on hold due to COVID-19, video is taking center stage.
But which filming formats, conversational features, and delivery options work best for your audience and your goals?
Before you grab that webcam, open a video chat app, or upload that stream-of-consciousness conversation to your social platform of choice, use this decision-making guide. It’ll help make sure the video assets you create suit your marketing purpose and deliver a worthwhile viewer experience.
#Video assets should suit your marketing purpose and deliver a worthwhile viewer experience, says @joderama via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
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Get clarity on the goals that drive your decision-making
At the start of any project, consider why you are choosing to connect and what you want that interaction to accomplish. Your goals should factor in to all the decisions – from how the experience will take shape to how your audience will interact with the video and apply its insights.
Answering these questions helps solidify that vision and will set you on the right path to achieve the desired results:
1. What is the primary goal for your video to help your brand achieve?
- Customer service: Are you looking to distribute factual information or technical assistance to customers who have purchased your products?
- Brand awareness: Are you looking to generate initial interest in your brand or increase awareness of its offerings, vision, and values?
- Sales enablement: Are you looking to generate demand and leads or to help your sales team generate revenue through your video efforts?
- Thought leadership: Are you looking to promote your executives’ subject-matter expertise or generate new business partnerships and opportunities?
2. What level of participation are you looking to provide?
- Are you looking to start a collaborative dialogue between your brand and its audience?
- Do you want to simply offer your brand’s unique perspective on a topic?
3. What is your tolerance for risk and desired level of control?
- Is it critical to deliver a fully constructed message or is there room for spontaneity and creativity in your delivery?
- Do you operate in a highly regulated industry where video scripts need prior approval?
- How will your stakeholders react if your video isn’t polished and perfect?
- How skilled and comfortable on camera is your presenter(s)?
4. What do you want viewers to do while they view the video? What should they do after they’ve watched it?
- Do you prefer to create a passive or active viewing experience?
- Can viewers react and respond in real time or should they follow up separately?
We’ll revisit these strategic decisions – and how to match them with the most appropriate video experience – in a minute. But first, let’s look at the creative possibilities.
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Establishing the foundation for the video experience
You need to make two big decisions at the start of your video creation process:
- How will you capture the conversation? Will you livestream in real time or record it to be shared later? Will it be a stand-alone asset or part of another experience (e.g., a virtual event, online panel discussion, video playlist)?
- How will your audience interact with it? Will your video conversation be a monologue or a dialogue? In other words, will your brand simply broadcast the message to viewers or will viewers have a hand in shaping the message directly or indirectly?
These fundamental decisions will set you on one of four paths that determine which creative and structural approaches to pursue to move your video content project forward.
As you can see in the matrix above, the paths fall into four main categories, ranging from completely closed loops (prerecorded with no direct audience participation) to freewheeling experiences (livestream with active participation).
Let’s explore which path fits which goals.
- Prerecorded – no direct audience participation: Host your prerecorded video on a brand-owned and -operated media channel, such as your website or blog, and disable on-page feedback. By creating a broadcast-only environment, you maintain the highest level of control over the content your audience will see, though you sacrifice the audience’s ability to directly weigh in on the experience.
Well-suited for: thought leadership, research findings, product/service information, and company announcements (especially in highly regulated industries), and crisis response content
Less suitable for: social media and other engagement-based content, customer service efforts
- Livestreaming – active participation: Make it a fully participative experience by using a webinar platform or video-conference tool to broadcast live and enable viewers to post comments, ask questions via a chat feature, or even join the conversation as it unfolds.
Well-suited for: social media, interactive experiences, time-sensitive or exclusive-access events (e.g., virtual conferences or panel/community forums where engagement data is only collected during a set time frame)
Less suitable for: highly regulated industries; risk-averse brands; online education initiatives; or sensitive, controversial, and crisis-related messaging
TIP: When executing this type of experience, have a monitor or moderator so the presenters don’t have to divide their attention between speaking and fiddling with the conversation tools.Use a moderator in #livestreams so presenters don’t have to divide their attention, says @joderama via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
Between these extremes lie two hybrid models – prerecorded with active or passive participation and livestream with passive participation.
- Prerecorded – active and/or passive participation: Record your presentation in advance and let viewers weigh in with their thoughts, questions, and ideas using conferencing tools, chat windows, social media platforms, or other means. These feedback mechanisms can be leveraged in an on-demand setting (such as posting comments in a chat window for your presenter to address after the video airs) or as part of a larger live event (e.g., by adding a live question-and-answer session immediately after the recorded video is presented).
Well-suited for: virtual events, conversation forums, trade shows/exhibitions, brand awareness/engagement content, online education, product demos, lead generation
Less suitable for: thought leadership, certain crisis communication, and situations where the audience might expect immediate answers to their questions and comments
- Livestreaming – passive participation: Using those same tools and platform options, enable your audience to conduct side conversations during a live broadcast without disrupting the flow of the main presentation (e.g., the way e-sports events let fans comment on the action in real time without directly impacting the gameplay).
This is a common technique used on social media platforms like Instagram. For example, your brand might post a cocktail-mixing tutorial video story, ask viewers to submit ideas for recipe tweaks or new cocktails, and incorporate their suggestions in subsequent stories.
Well-suited for: webinars and other virtual events, social media, brand awareness/engagement, loyalty/retention efforts
Less suitable for: sales enablement, lead generation, product demos, detail-rich or complex discussions
Regardless of whether viewers can contribute to the conversation in real time, you can still monitor the conversation, send follow-up messages in response to questions, and leverage that engagement into additional videos and other content conversations. If you are considering livestreaming, here are some helpful tips from Ian Anderson Gray, founder of Seriously Social and a 2019 Content Marketing World speaker.
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To stream or not to stream
To decide whether to go live or prerecord, start by determining the tone you want to set, the level of control you want over the conversation, and the ultimate purpose you are looking to serve.
Livestream video might be the better option if you answer yes to these questions:
- Is your target audience likely to catch the video while it’s airing and spread the word?
- Is your audience community large and active enough to drive the level of reach and impact you are looking for?
- Do your audience insights indicate audience members have an interest in or preference for engaging with your brand through livestreaming?
- Will the value of your message fade if it isn’t delivered in as timely a way as possible?
- Does your brand voice and tone align with casual, spontaneous messaging?
- Is your desired conversation immersive and attention-grabbing enough that audience members won’t mind waiting to provide feedback until after they finish viewing?
- Do you have the right mechanisms to monitor the conversation and respond appropriately if your video causes unforeseen consequences?
On the other hand, prerecorded video might be the better option if you answer yes to these questions:
- Do you want to provide a safety net for your presenter(s) in case they lose their train of thought, stumble when speaking, or encounter disruptions?
- Do you need the ability to edit your message in post-production to ensure that it meets your brand’s quality standards and/or receives the required approvals?
- Do you want to add interactive features like polling, commenting, or augmented reality that might require integrating third-party tools?
- Will your intended conversation involve detailed explanations, touch on sensitive issues, or communicate concepts that might require your audience to take time to process the information before responding?
Constructing your video conversation
Once you know whether you’ll stream live or prerecord, there’s one more creative decision to make before producing your video experience: Should you meticulously script your message in advance or allow for a more casual, responsive, and unstructured conversation to unfold?
Scripting vs. spontaneity
First, consider the parameters of your delivery platform – your website, social media channel like YouTube or Facebook, virtual event, etc. Then consider a few more key factors to determine whether you’ll take full command of the conversation, commit to an improvisational experience, or strike a balance between the two content creation extremes:
- What kind of information will be shared?
- What is your marketing purpose?
- How much control do you (and your presenter) need to have over the message?
- How tolerant will your brand stakeholders be if the experience doesn’t turn out exactly as planned?
For example, marketers in health care, financial, legal, or other regulated industries may want to stick to prewritten and preapproved scripts, while startups and established brands in retail, entertainment, tech, and media might have room to improvise.
Yet, this decision making should also be situation dependent. For example, if the goal is to gather feedback from customers who have used your health care services to identify areas for improvement, you could take a hybrid approach. Prepare a few talking points in advance but let the audience’s questions dictate where the conversation goes from there. On the flip side of that coin, even the most freewheeling startups might need to stick to the script when responding to a brand crisis or delivering detailed information where precision is key.
The comfort level of your on-air personalities – and their degree of media training – are factors too. If your presenter doesn’t have a lot of on-camera experience, a script may help calm their nerves and keep them focused on the topic. In contrast, if you’re working with brand-savvy spokespeople, they will likely be better prepared to keep the conversation flowing in the right direction should an unexpected tech glitch or off-script question arise.
Putting it all together
Earlier, I mentioned the importance of matching your creative and distribution decisions with the video’s marketing goals. Keeping in mind the options and explanations above, use the matrix below as a quick reference tool to zero in on the video approaches most likely to suit your purpose:
Click to enlarge
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute