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The importance of a great video in PR, and how to create a film that works

3rd July 2013

Video is not an add on for PR campaigns, it is a key component. Andrew Marcus, deputy head of communications at the Museum of London, says that video is firmly integrated into the museum’s consumer and corporate PR work. And there are figures to prove why this is the right strategy: “Research commissioned by Metrica tells us that YouTube is a top-ten media outlet for our target market segments alongside titles as The Sunday Times, Evening Standard and BBC.”

Marcus says these findings underpin the museum’s investment in creating YouTube videos which help to inspire a passion for London, as well as meet two strategic objectives: to reach more people and become better known. “As well as building a great YouTube channel, the videos give the PR team another asset to use for blogger engagement. The History of the Suit and Michael Caine receiving Freedom of the City are two of our recent hits, both of which supported a wider PR and marketing programme and piggy-backed upon important events for London.“

Discussing how videos help the museum achieve corporate aims, Marcus says: “Video helps us bring our corporate messages to life like never before. We have just launched a new five-year plan and not only did we produce a vibrant print and PDF document, but we also signalled our new direction with a video. You’ll see much more video content from the Museum of London as we increase our profile in London, the UK and beyond.”

All modern PR agencies are aware of the power of a great film. As Andy Barr, co-founder of PR agency 10 Yetis says: “Video is now a vital part of cross-platform digital media campaigns. They give us PR folk a great vehicle on which we can hang campaigns. For the last five years we have been supporting big announcements and campaigns with dedicated videos and the media often run these videos in their own right on direct-to-consumer news platforms. PR people are also well positioned to help seed and bring in audiences for client videos via pushes to online media platforms.“

However, Barr offers a key warning before you commission a film: “It is important to remember that if a video is dull it is unlikely to get mainstream consumer interaction. We all have clients that fire us emails that contain the dreaded words "how can we make this viral?" and this is the point where we need to employ some form of Jedi mind trick and explain that nothing really goes viral any more, without a comprehensive and well thought-out seeding campaign."

The secrets of a successful video

Tips from an agency head

Pam Lyddon CEO of digital agency Bright Star Digital says:

Make it interesting. Would you watch it – would your target audience want to watch it? Make content that people will take the time to consume.

Be honest. If you are making content for a client make it watchable otherwise it’s just a corporate video – which is fine if that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Be original. There are lots of cookery videos out there – what will make yours stand out? I recently worked with Warburtons who used real people – a clever strategy that worked.

Beware of too much branding. This is especially important if you are seeding the content. Even if your client wants the brand everywhere, it’s a waste of money, it won’t get picked up and it becomes an ad not a piece of content. People understand that there is a brand behind it, but use it subtly.

Use good production people.

Tips from a director on how to brief a film company

Paul Gowers, writer and director at Buddy Films, says:

Get us in early. This gives us a chance to help you achieve what you want to communicate in the best way both in terms of creativity and cost-effectiveness.

Think about the brief. We need to know who the audience is and under what circumstances they will be watching the video. What do you want them to think and feel as they watch it?

Be realistic about budget. These days you can get an awful lot of technology for your money, but experienced and talented creatives don’t come two a penny.

Be professional. Don’t assume because a film’s going on the internet that the production values can go out of the window. There’s a thin line between looking raw, gritty and cool and just plain amateurish.

Tell a story. Have a strong clear idea running through your video. Don’t think having a celebrity or a stunt is always enough. The right celebrity can attract a lot of views, but there are a lot of them out there competing for attention. An example of a film that works is for Cancer Research UK’s R UV Ugly campaign warning teenagers about the over use of sunbeds. A strong concept replaced a celebrity-led approach and the film became one of the most watched ads on YouTube on the month of its release.


How to use video

James Alexander, head of audio-visual content production at PR agency H+K Strategies:

“Video should not be seen as a priority in its own right, but a vehicle to deliver great ideas and tell compelling stories. If video is the best way to bring a story to life, great, particularly as the demand for content continues to spiral upwards, but it must have purpose and be married with a great idea. That is the biggest priority.”

Kieran Kent, MD at PR agency Propeller:

“Video allows you to communicate complex points in an easy-to-digest format, which will generally require less attention than an article or speech. Great video in my opinion is 90 seconds or less, explains a problem and how a brand/company can provide a solution using visuals which maintain the interest and visible stimulation of the audience.”

Written by Daney Parker

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