Go for Quality, Not Quantity
The difference between a good video and a bad video is the difference between a top-billed comedian vs. a guy doing standup at open mic night at a local bar. One has you laughing out loud; the other has you running for the exit.
Here’s the thing about bad videos: People can intuitively sense the difference between high-quality and low-quality videos. They might be fine with low-quality Instagram stories or cat videos on YouTube, but they’ll be less forgiving on your organization’s website, especially when their website experience involves an investment on their part (e.g. joining, donating, purchasing, or applying). A high-quality video can be very effective; low-quality videos are less effective and can even lead to a negative experience or perception of your organization.
What Makes a Video Good?
Good is admittedly a subjective term. But when it comes to video on the web, there are consistent best practices to rely on to ensure your video resonates with your audience.
- Keep it short. Online videos do well when they are relatively short. Something in the 2-3 minute range is ideal.
- Show, don’t tell. Videos should do more showing than telling. Talking heads are fine, but if all you’re doing is talking, you might as well make that text. Action, imagery, and emotion are what make videos truly engaging.
- Choose wisely. Pick a topic that works well as a video. Avoid the temptation to do a video just for the sake of it. If it is a struggle to come up with good content, maybe that isn’t the right topic for a video.
- Go professional. Invest in professional writers, editors, directors, etc. You might have professional in-house talent, but many organizations need to go work with external vendors for professional quality.
- Be engaging. Make sure the video gives the audience something to get excited about or captivated by. Maybe it’s stunning imagery. Maybe it’s a riveting story. Maybe it’s a compelling ambiance. Your video should never bore your audience.
So here’s our challenge to you: start by making one really amazing video. See how it goes, how long it takes, what roles, skills, and technology you’ll need, and how to include it on the website effectively. Then you can plan that 10-part video series you’ve been talking about.
Videos Are Part of Your Brand, Too
Hopefully your organization has a brand, and hopefully that brand has guidelines for your logo, color palette, photography and the tone and voice of copy writing. But wait—are videos included in the brand guidelines. No?! Why not?
As a digital asset, often a high-resource, high-profile one, videos deserve just as much brand love as any other asset on the site.
Making Branded Videos
The nature of your brand and the video in question will dictate the specific approach you should take. But here are some general principles for applying your brand to your videos.
- Be consistent. Make sure the video has the basic brand elements you use to identify your organization. It’s a good idea to have a branded intro that you can use on all your videos. Usually this includes the logo and name of the organization, and a series subtitle if the video is part of a series.
- Be personable. Your brand should reflect your organization’s personality. Are you fun and edgy or formal and sophisticated? If yours is a more serious and reserved organization, avoid flashy effects and manic editing techniques. You don’t want to look like a music video or Vice documentary. If you are a trendy and informal organization, you don’t want your video to feel like it’s a commercial for a local bank or insurance company. Make sure you talk about brand with the team or vendor responsible for writing, filming, and editing the video. Before production even starts, everyone involved should be able to articulate what personality the video is supposed to get across.
- Be intentional about your message. Regardless of the topic or subject of the video, make sure you weave your main brand message in somehow. Even when a video isn’t strictly a marketing piece, it is a marketing piece if your audience is going to watch it. When planning the video, think How does this reinforce our primary messaging?
- Be authentic. Don’t want your audience to cringe? Don’t be phony. Resist overly staged shots and eye-rolling clichés. If you’re a college or university, show real students pursuing their real interests, bonding with their real friends. If you’re professional association, show real members excelling at their jobs, making a difference in their industry. If you’re an environmental organization that protects native ant species, show real ants building kickass ant hills and doing cool ant stuff. Highlight those special details that make your organization different.
Videos Are a Lot of Work
We’re not going to sugarcoat it. Making a good video takes a lot of work. Videos involve resources and skills that often surpass other digital content needs, and budgets and timelines often go past expectations.
But don’t despair! With solid planning and execution, you can overcome common challenges and avoid common mistakes.
Planning & Execution
- Brainstorm. You might already have a good idea what the topic or goal of the video should be. But take the time to explore your options. What topics work well as videos? Where will a video have the most impact? What does your video idea offer that non-video content cannot? How does the video align with your brand?
- Plan ahead. Review and reserve available resources. The important factors are budget, skill set, and timeline. Are you going to use in-house resources or an outside vendor? Remember that a lot of people go in to making a video: you’ll be looking for people to write the script, storyboard, recruit actors, scout locations, film, do sound and lighting, and edit.
- Create a schedule. Work as a team to create a realistic schedule. If you want the final product to be high quality, don’t commit to an aggressive schedule that you haven’t run by the people who will be producing the video. Certain aspects of video creation take planning and scheduling that can’t be rushed. If you want video of your annual conference, that’s a pretty specific window to work in. If you want footage of college students lounging on your campus green, you can’t schedule that in the dead of winter, or the middle of summer when most of the student body is not on campus.
- Remember post production. Video doesn’t end when you turn off the lights, camera, action. Post production often takes longer than filming does. Going from a load of raw footage to finished product requires a lot of work, including:
- Video editing
- Sound editing, mixing, and soundtrack
- Motion graphics and visual effects
- Color grading
- Finishing and mastering
If you are not familiar with the post-production process, learn more about it before you commit to a video project. Whether you are doing a one-minute segment with an iPhone or a short feature with a professional video crew, good post production is essential for getting a high-quality finished product.
Videos Need to Be Accessible
Web accessibility refers to the ability of all people to use the web, including people with disabilities and people using assistive technology like screen readers. (If you’re new to accessibility, it’s an important topic to learn more about.) When it comes to web accessibility, videos attract a lot of attention because many of the major legal cases brought against organizations, from Netflix to Yahoo to UCLA Berkley ended with requirements that videos be made accessible for everyone.
Why is video accessibility so important? Videos are not natively accessible, and people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or low vision won’t be able to experience the video unless you take the steps to make them accessible. The components of video accessibility are captions, transcripts and sometimes descriptions. And if your website needs to meet WCAG 2.0 AA (the most widely-recognized web accessibility standard)—which it should—then you need to make videos accessible in order to be conformant.
Here is an overview of the steps for meeting accessibility guidelines for videos.
Captions are a synchronous (timed with the media) text version of the information conveyed through sound. They should capture dialog with speaker attributions, as well as other non-speech information and sound effects. Captions are required for all videos that contain information conveyed through sound.
A transcript is essentially a full text version of the captions, with additional formatting and information as needed. Unlike captions, which appear within the video player itself, the caption should be HTML (text on the webpage) so it is screen reader accessible. A transcript is required for all videos that contain information conveyed through sound.
Description (Audio and Text)
Descriptions can be an audio recording or as a descriptive text transcript if audio description is not possible. Descriptions include all the information conveyed through sound, as well as visual information that is not conveyed through sound, including scenery, facial expressions, etc. A description is not required for all videos; it is only required if there is information in the video that is important that is not conveyed through sound.
Figure captions are short summaries of the information in the video that appear adjacent to it. Figure captions are often useful, but they are not required for accessibility.
Note that these requirements are relevant for videos that contain information conveyed by sound that is not explicitly conveyed through other text on the page. For instance, if you have text on a page that describes all the features of a dorm in detail, and you have a video tour of the dorm on that page, you may not need captions or a transcript.
Ready to Get Started?
We hope we haven’t scared you off or dampened your enthusiasm for using video on your website. You might be overwhelmed (especially if video accessibility is new to you), but you should also feel empowered. Understanding these four topics will help you create and deliver video more effectively on the website, and you will avoid pitfalls that end up undermining your whole effort.
Want to talk website strategy? Get in touch with SAI Digital today!