How to use video effectively for internal comms

How are you using video in your organisation? Want to know how to use it better?

You’re in the right place as I’ve interviewed Sam Howson from Terra Firma Pictures to discover from a professional what we need to know. He’s shared what to avoid, what to try and the importance of starting.

sam-howsonI’ve known Sam (pictured) for 20 years. He recently set up Terra Firma pictures and partners with clients to make high quality video content.

What sets Sam apart is the fact each one has authenticity and depth and he takes the time to understand the role of each video in the wider digital mix.

Sam says: “I don’t just make videos, I want to make sure they’re used effectively.”

Music to my ears! I’m going to share our conversation with you…

Rachel: Sam, how can comms pros make the most of using video? What do we need to know?

Sam: Video is the next best form of communication after face-to-face.

Whilst Head of Video at Jellyfish, a digital marketing agency I became very aware of the role of video as the business grew. It was less than 80 people when I joined and over 350 after I left.

Video chat (Skype) became a really intrinsic way of communicating with other staff in American and South Africa.  In addition to video calls, video creation united the staff with something really tangible.

Whether it was with the CEO speaking about his plans for the business, or something more playful at Christmas involving staff making their own videos that we then cut together and shared with our clients.

Video became a shared language which helped soften the culture. 

We also found when asking for company participation for an upcoming charity event, Christmas, surprise people came out the woodwork who were able to demonstrate their creativity or confidence.

Rachel: What are the biggest trends in video use communicators need to be aware of?

Sam: I’ve been involved in so many projects that haven’t got off the ground because no one wants to look foolish or talentless.

The simple thing is just go ahead and start. 

No one picks up an electric guitar and can immediately play All Along the Watchtower, instead we start with Smoke on the Water.  The key to learning to play the guitar is to pick it up, learn to tune it, and enjoy it.  Video is no different.

Rachel: What are your top tips for using smartphones for video?

Sam: A great informal distinction exists in video between produced video and creator video.

Viewers are immediately tolerant of a shaky, badly framed video with terrible audio if it is filmed on a phone capturing a moment or conveying some information, as this is what the video is for.

If the purpose of the video is to do more, e.g. demonstrate a focus on detail, a quality and indirectly communicate being established or creative then a produced video should be done.

So phones are great for a throwaway video, something that has very little life, like a Tweet or a simple message.  And in the same breath don’t spend money on producing a video for this purpose either!

I love to break video creation down into a simple content strategy, it’s an amalgamation of the traditional marketing funnel and the Hero, Hub, Hygiene model that YouTube promote (imagine left to right as January to December):


What are your campaigns? What is coming up in your marketing plan?

Hero: Typically, a Hero video is where most investment is made; it can be a TV commercial, a homepage video, a display campaign etc.

Hub: Hub content is comprised of the stuff that makes you, you… your products, your services, industry insight, new approaches etc.

Hygiene: content ‘helps’ along your videos.  This is where news videos or specific messages can help – IE phone shot material.

Thinking about videos within the context of YouTube really helps position your videos because rather than creating videos in a knee jerk way or a reactive way – think of yourselves as having a ‘Channel’.

Just as with a TV channel, you have prime time and you have breakfast TV, you have the big budget drama as well as the cheaper soap.  Everything you produce has its place and it’s important to ‘schedule’ correctly.

When considering internal comms why not in a similar way think about ‘approach’. 

Why not set apart your different types of comms into approach and investment. Think of your CEO conversation as something well produced, make sure you use a company who knows how to make your CEO comfortable and communicate in the way that she wants to, whether this is informal or formal but not uncomfortable or self-conscious (interviewers with broadcast experience are generally better at this).

If some big news has broken and your industry needs to make a statement perhaps you use your retained freelancer and in-house spokesperson to create a fast turnaround video.

If you have a member of your business speaking at a conference why not encourage them to create a video on their phone whilst there about what they’ve learned, who’ve they’ve met.

Rachel:  What are the biggest mistakes you see people making with video?

Sam: The biggest mistakes generally made are business partnering with the wrong production companies.

A bad interviewer will make everyone uncomfortable. 

As we know, being on camera can be a painful experience, but like a job interview it can be great too.

Top tips:

  • Pick the right people to support you in your video channel creation.
  • Don’t ask for the questions up front, this will mean your answers will feel look rehearsed and awkward, and the majority of us aren’t actors.
  • Don’t ask for an autocue.
  • Above all, trust the team that you’re partnering with to create a video that makes you and them look good.
  • Team up with them prior to the filming and prepare and plan the interview in good time.

Rachel: How can we maximise budgets? We all want to do more with less, what can we do budget-wise when it comes to video?

Sam: Every video you make, make it with a mind that it can be used externally and put on your public channel.

Unless ‘top secret’, video can be your strongest asset for anyone interested your culture, your people, your buildings, your ethos.

Rather than simply making a Hero video for your homepage, why not think about when writing the brief, of how you might use it as a skippable ad in YouTube or create various cuts for your different channels.

Try and find a handful of production companies who know you and can support your efforts, perhaps think about a retainer so you are front of mind for them.

Keep experimenting with lengths, style, treatments and put the right level of creativity in for each brief.

Making ‘one video’ is a thing of the past. 

Think of video/ content creation as an expedition:

  • Dig out your maps and equipment
  • Do your research
  • Get training
  • Plan your route
  • Decide where you will camp each night
  • How much food you need and cover each section at a time.

Very often business continue to go into the mountain ill prepared without a map or a plan, and get frustrated when they get lost or don’t make it to the summit.

Get the right people around you to create a content plan, where do you need video, where will a blog piece be more effective. 

As you match your content plan with your content and video creation you can draw up clear KPIs and show a return on your investment.

Thank you Sam.

Biog: After completing a theology degree and spending five years as a youth worker, Sam Howson decided he fancied a change and enjoyed seven years building a reputation as solid freelancer in broadcast and commercials as a Sound Recordist.

He then bought some camera kit and began shooting as well as directing.  He set up a production company with his wife and they were bought out by Jellyfish (Digital Marketing Agency) to form a video department three years ago.

You can find him online at Terra Firma Pictures. Let’s take a look at the professionals in action…

What do you think? What works for you?

As ever you’re welcome to comment below, or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 28 November 2016.


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