You’ve no doubt noticed video content is exploding on social media. You may also have heard that video is useful for marketing. It is common knowledge that video is the darling of the search engines. Here are just a few compelling statistics from 2018 HubSpot blogger articles about video marketing:[i]
All the above is enticing to a marketer, of course. But if you’re a start-up, a nonprofit, or even a larger company with a limited budget, how can you create a promotional video affordably?
Set out below are six simple steps to producing a professional and cost-effective first video.
(Important Disclaimer: we have listed suppliers of software and services related to video production based on our use and experience over the past decade. Digital video is a fast-moving technological discipline. Mention in this blog does not imply that these vendors are the "best" in any particular field. Nor is our mention of any software or service a formal endorsement. We make no guarantees as to the quality of the software or service. We urge you to shop and experiment for yourself!)
1) Find Your Organization’s Story. Every company or nonprofit has a story about a product, a service, a cause, or an event that its people use to explain what they do and how they do it. These stories can vary. It could be an amusing anecdote about the organization’s founding. Maybe it's a client success story that shows how your organization fulfills a market or social need. It could be a trend that your organization helps to address. Or, it can be a show-and-tell presentation that a senior executive gives to introduce the organization to outsiders. Whatever that story may be, it is typically the best place to start when planning a successful first video.
2) Write the Story Down. The most successful promotional or explainer videos are relatively short – under two or three minutes is best. Experts counsel that you budget about 150 words per minute in a script. The tone of the script should be conversational, easy to understand, and with short sentences. We use Hemingway Editor software to reduce the number of complex sentences and increase readability. Read the script yourself out loud to test it.
3) Identify Your Voice Talent. Obtaining a professional-sounding voice recording for a video needn’t be a problem. Most of us don’t like the sounds of our voices, and it takes a little practice to learn how to make our voice inflections move past that first, awkward monotone. A great way to sidestep this issue and quickly develop a professional recording of your script is Voice Talent Now. (There are. no doubt. other vendors, but this is one we know well.) The website provides a four-page array of male, female, younger, more mature, American, British, and other language talent samples. You can choose the voice that best fits your project. Upload a double-spaced Microsoft Word File, select the voice you have chosen from the dozens available, pay the fee with your credit card, and back comes an MP3 or WAV file recording of your script, usually the same day. And, at this writing, they do this for about $49.00 per double-spaced page.
4) Choose A Video Source That Fits Your Story. Depending on the look you want, your video path may diverge here. Listed below are eight ways of obtaining engaging video footage. Many of these video sources can be used in conjunction with one another to create the finished product.
a. PowerPoint. MS Powerpoint will allow you to add audio tracks to a PowerPoint presentation, then use its Create Video functionality to produce a video. Since most companies have a PowerPoint lying around that tells their story very effectively, this is often a good option for developing the first video. To match the audio to the PowerPoint slides, you can use Sound Forge or Adobe’s Audition CC to cut the sound files into slider-sized pieces then add the appropriate voice clip segment to its matching slide. Once you're happy with the look and sound of the finished presentation, you can use the Create Video functionality to generate a finished video. We have found PowerPoint video presentations are most successful when they include build slides and other animations to create synchronized motion that ties to the words in the voice track. The build keeps things interesting for the viewer. With more than a few seconds with no movement on the slide, your viewers will become restless and more likely to leave.
b. Still Photos. You can use high resolution still photos together with video editing software (see below) to pan and zoom in on high-resolution photos. Video produced in this way can be particularly effective in an institutional setting. Archival photos of a church, college, or university, for example, can be paired with voice and music to evoke a bygone era or sentiment. An interesting touch, if you have a large number of photographs, is to have your photos blend visually into a mosaic with a final photograph or image.
c. Archival Video. Sometimes organizations have old, archival video. Services are available that will turn this old film -- for example 8 millimeter from the 60s -- into digital content. Old video can be powerful and evocative, especially when celebrating organizational milestones (for example, a 200th church anniversary) and especially when trying to connect an audience today with a shared experience (for example, a college 50th reunion.)
d. Computer Screen Capture. If you have a software application that you need to demonstrate, Screen Recording software is available that will allow you to create video walkthroughs. The screen capture solutions range from the simple screen recorders bundled with Pinnacle’s video editing software to the very robust online, responsive e-learning toolsets in Adobe’s Captivate product. Whatever solution you pick, be kind to your viewers by compressing the video timeline, cutting out the pauses and slow data entry moments. Your viewers will not wait patiently watching while you type information into online forms. Always start your demo with completed forms and use the mouse to highlight fields of interest and move between pages. (You or an engineer may want to do a video demo, then use voice recognition to capture the spoken script and turn the resulting script over to professional voice talent.)
e. Animation. VideoScribe (a whiteboard image drawing software) and Animaker (a Simplified Digital Animation Software as Service application) are two online services we have used successfully to generate animated videos. Both VideoScribe and Animaker permit the user to lay in voice track files, then work in imagery that visually tells the story. Either software permits the production of light-hearted, attention-grabbing explainer videos. We like this approach because it allows us to spell out a new product or business concept in an easy-to-understand way. Platform-based animation is an emerging field, and there are many more animation software services becoming available every day. To see a more exhaustive array, click here.
f. Member or End-user Testimonial Video. If you’re working for a cause-related organization, some of the most effective promotional work you can do is to set up a digital video camera at a gathering of some of your members or beneficiaries and ask them what your organization has meant to them. If a for-profit concern, satisfied customer testimonials from end-users can be equally powerful. You’ll want to obtain authorization from each participant (parents if subjects are under 18 or from employers in a corporate setting.) Be sure to pair the video down to a few seconds per testimonial to keep things lively. Real emotion from real people is powerful; it is what makes us click the buy or donate button.
g. Video from Handheld Devices. On-phone camera video and digital SLR camera videos have become so advanced that high definition videos from either have become usable even for business video applications. The key to professional results here, however, is a steady hand and careful digital editing. (See below discussion of editing software.) We suggest you go the extra mile by purchasing an affordable tripod and smartphone tripod mount or, if moving with your subjects, an affordable gimbal to keep your video smooth and professional-looking.
h. License-Free Stock Video. Type a keyword from your script into istock.com or pond5.com or shutterstock.com, and up will pop thumbnails from dozens of videos related to the word you entered. Typically, these clips will be short, and you will need to bring together several clips to tell your story. Stock video is much more expensive, serious, and “professional” than the other sources of video listed above. This professionalism is both a strength and a weakness. Most of us dislike cliched service firm websites that show stiff photos of steel and glass office buildings and employees seated uncomfortably in mahogany-paneled meeting rooms. With video, the same concerns apply; it is hard to become engaged by videos of a bunch of buildings or two minutes of a talking head in a gray suit. Work hard to find a video that is fun, visually interesting, and engaging. Make sure your video doesn't take itself too seriously and that it supports your brand in a new and interesting way.
5) Use Video Editing Software To Combine Your Video With Your Audio Script. Once your video resources are together, you can combine clips with your recorded script using video editing software. A few we have used include Pinnacle Studio, Adobe Premiere, and Sony Vegas for video editing on a PC and Adobe Premiere or Final Cut on Macs. All have strengths and weaknesses in terms of usability, quality of training tools, etc. but all four will be equal to all the professional video editing tasks you want to throw at them.[ii]
6) Lay in Royalty-Free Music To Set the Mood. All the video software programs listed above allow you to lay in a background music tracks in addition to your voice recording. Use this music to set the mood for different scenes, but be careful to complement, not drown out your voice talent. Also, make sure you understand completely the licensing terms of the music you are using. Facebook and Google both have listening algorithms that match vast libraries of music to uploaded videos on their platforms. They do this to guarantee that your published content does not violate any existing copyrights. An easy-to-use license-free music site is Bensound.com. Make sure you pay close attention to and follow the licensing requirements of any royalty-free music provider you decide to use.
Does all this sound like it’s too much work for you and your team?
If so, break the project down into pieces. The first step is the hardest. Start working through the list above, by identifying your organization's story, writing a script, and identifying your voice talent. Accomplish as much on the list as you can using internal resources. You can leave the editing and combination of audio, video, and background music to a professional or talented amateur.
For a video production professional, much of the cost of video development sits at the front end of the process -- simply herding a client (or, more likely, a group of them) into a working consensus about what the video should say and how it should look. By eliminating this ponderous process and its associated expense, you will have a running start, save a great deal of money, and be well on your way to an affordable marketing video. Remember, this video will be worthwhile and have lots of uses: on your website, on social media, and in meetings with customers, partners, or donors. Good luck!
[i] See https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-content-marketing-strategy and https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/state-of-video-marketing-new-data
[ii] Video editing demands lots of storage, and memory, and works best when you have a large monitor and a fast computer. We use low-end gaming PCs souped-up with more substantial, one or 2TB solid-state hard drives. For video storage, we use external drives connected to a gizmo that allows us to swap out six terabytes 7200 RPM plus hard drives according to the project on which we happen to be working