WORDS BY JORDAN GROSS & OWEN LESKOVAR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY COLIN MACFADYEN
For the last several decades, if you asked schoolkids what they wanted to be when they grew up, the most common answers you’d get were “astronaut” and “teacher.” But recently, a new answer has climbed the ranks. The most common response is now, overwhelmingly, “YouTuber.”
Is it any surprise? Video is king. There’s more of it uploaded to the internet every 24 hours than you could watch in a year. Collectively, we watch over a billion hours of video every day.
The importance and ubiquity of video isn’t news to you (we hope). But no matter how much you’ve worked to prioritize video in your communication planning, you’re likely still underestimating its power and value. Video stands out. It is essential. Consider this: the average person retains visual information several times better than they retain text alone1.
We all lament the amount of unread emails in our inbox and the number of meetings in our calendars. But 90’s-era training modules aside, have you ever heard someone complain that they “have too many videos to watch”? Exactly.
Video isn’t the future of communication. It’s the present. Here are some of the principles you need to know to maximize how you’re using it:
1. Quality is non-negotiable. Fortunately, “quality” doesn’t correlate with “cost” or “time to produce” as strongly as you might think.
“Good, Fast, and Cheap: you can only pick two.” It’s a catchy adage – but it’s outdated.
The truth is, many of the “flashy” staples of high-quality video production – microphones, rendering hardware, even drones – are now quite affordable. A five-year-old cellphone can shoot in HD quality (1080p) and a $100 lavalier microphone will cover most audio needs. This democratization of hardware means that a great video doesn’t require a huge crew and it doesn’t need to take 6-8 weeks to deliver. It can be as nimble as you are.
Implicitly, your audience already knows that production value and price have uncoupled. They see high-quality video delivered quickly everywhere they look, whether it’s their favorite YouTube fitness vlogger or the recipe page they follow on Instagram.
The biggest challenge now isn’t about the technological constraints at all. It’s about authenticity. Audiences are used to informal, personal content, and this type of content is simple to produce, effective, and can represent your brand (and your leaders’ brands) with strength.
The bottom line? Great-looking video is no longer aspirational, it’s table stakes. And it no longer means (or conveys) that you “spent a lot of money.” It only conveys that you cared enough to get your message right. You can afford to stop worrying about optics and make something great.
2. The difference between video and other channels is larger than you realize.
Attention is the single biggest bottleneck that communicators are fighting. Audiences’ attention is being tugged at from countless directions – email, chats, notifications, their environment, etc. – and it takes an especially compelling message to cut through that noise and actually be heard. Video is one of the best ways to create a compelling message that audiences notice.
If you have an important message to deliver, are you going to risk putting it in an email that takes five minutes to read and that many employees will just skim? Or will you create an impactful video that only takes two minutes to watch and conveys your message in a much richer, more memorable way?
The answer should be obvious. Video is less time-consuming for your audience and it gives you greater control over the message. The written word is hard; without tone and body language, text is easy to misconstrue. Video helps ensure that your message is received the way you intend.
Of course, there are other options. You can communicate your message live, either in person (post-pandemic) or through a tool like Zoom, Skype, or Teams. Live meetings are effective and engaging; for some purposes they are the only appropriate channel. But they also increase the time commitment significantly (often being a minimum of 30 minutes) while imposing much more rigid scheduling demands (everyone needs to be available at the same time to attend).
These are the kind of tradeoffs communicators need to consider. But to efficiently convey important messages to a wide audience, video is the ideal channel. Use it.
3. Video is now part of a leader’s job.
Leaders know that their personal brands are built the same way as their organization’s: over time, through repeated touchpoints. This is why they spend hours (or days) preparing for major pitches or keynote presentations. Employee communication – and especially video – is no different.
When shooting video, leaders need to communicate clearly and naturally, show emotion, move their hands, make “eye contact” with the camera, and stay fresh over multiple takes. This is hard work and it’s no longer optional. After all, audiences are only becoming more distributed and video is often the best way to get leaders in front of employees in a way that connects. So, even though calendars are packed and time is a precious resource, invest the extra 30 or 60 minutes to get your message right.
You’ll be glad you did.
Cutting through the noise
Communicating through video has never been more important. Fortunately, it’s also never been easier.
Whether it’s a self-shot video of a senior leader answering employee questions or a beautifully-edited piece to kick off your next town hall, video is unmatched in its ability to deliver a controlled yet emotional message to an extremely wide audience.
1 Neural correlates of the episodic encoding of pictures and words
Cheryl L. Grady, Anthony R. McIntosh, M. Natasha Rajah, Fergus I. M. Craik