No Signal Strength: Why Videos Fail to Communicate and What To Do About ItBy Joe Walsh and Stephen White
May 15, 2014
If video killed the radio star, online video will eventually beat down the slumbering mix of text and photos on most modern professional services firm websites. Thank goodness.
The evidence is everywhere:
• According to Brainshark, YouTube averages 4 billion hits each day and 61% of B2B marketers leverage YouTube to extend the reach of their messages and brands. Thanks, YouTube!
• Video is now the 6th most popular content marketing tactic, as 70% of B2B marketers use some form of online video with their overall strategies. Social Media Examiner reported that video was the number one area where marketers planned to increase their investments in content marketing in 2013. As a result, online video usage rose 12% amongst B2B content marketers according toContent Marketing Institute.
Speaking of recruiting, it’s important to note that videos are not only for the young and young of heart. While Generation Y (ages 18–32) has the highest percentage of people using the web for watching and downloading videos, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly the same percentage of Generation Xers (ages 33–44) and almost half of Young Boomers (ages 45–54) watch online video, as well.
So more online video is inevitable. Getting yours watched and remembered is not.
IT CERTAINLY IS DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN, YOGI
The wide majority of professional services firm videos we’ve looked at are uncannily similar. They are long, winding video narratives with talking heads discussing early responsibility, collaborative environments, challenging work and people making the difference. In other words, most professional services videos look and sound oddly similar, like the interchangeable firm brochures of yore. That is, firms are investing in the same difference, or lack thereof.
Accountants, consultants, lawyers and those that sell to them are not the only ones driving into this rut. In an article calling for web video innovation, Wired Magazine writes: “Marshall McLuhanpointed out that whenever we get our hands on a new medium, we tend to use it like older ones. Early TV broadcasts consisted of guys sitting around reading radio scripts because nobody had realized yet that TV could tell stories differently.”
So beyond adopting the new media on our sites, how can we use it to make our firms unique?
SOME FUNDAMENTALS (AND EXAMPLES) OF BREAKTHROUGH VIDEO
1. Unearth a driving concept and a unique creative idea. The best definition of a brand is “a unique identity based on a promise of value different from others.” To be engaging and memorable, you’ll need to dig deep to articulate that difference—especially when it may be only a few degrees different than the next firm. Boston-based Choate Hall & Stewart’s YouTube inspired site, www.choate.com/careers, is a clever, interactive joust that positions Choate as a smart alternative to its larger competitors, by any measure.
2. Be authentic, but in a very practiced way. Cheesy hucksterism will be sniffed out and even derided on the web. So, using your own people can be a plus. However, authenticity is tough to capture, especially when your people are not comfortable in front of a camera. Even some of the best trial lawyers we’ve filmed—all very comfortable story tellers—can freeze up when the light turns green. Yes, you want to be authentic, but that doesn’t mean you can wing it. Practice, along with multiple takes, does make perfect—ask any professional actor.
3. Seek talented professionals who know video, people and good creative. While your brother-in-law may be an excellent wedding videographer, that does not mean he’s a big idea person. If he’s on your short list of providers, make sure he also has a keen creative point of view and an ability to drive it from thought to finish (see item 1 above). Also, be sure he can coax a performance out of your people. Capturing the open-bar-fueled personality of your uncle at the reception is different than putting your managing partner at ease under the bright lights in your reception area.
4. Brevity is a common courtesy. Many online videos play like feature length documentaries, minus Ken Burn’s gift for the craft. Our rough rule: Five minutes of online video is probably four minutes too long and many of the professional services videos we see run to up to ten minutes. Lieff Cabraser does a nice job of cutting the views of its people into bite size chunks with a sharp concept and good editing. They share why they do what they do. See for yourself at www.lieffcabraser.com.
DON’T LIMIT VIDEO TO RECRUITING
While many of the examples shared here are recruiting efforts, limiting the online video discussion to recruiting is, well, limiting. There's wide open space for video on the rest of your site. How so? Less than a handful of top professional services firm sites use video on their homepage, practice pages and bio pages (three of the most trafficked portions of your site.) That’s a missed opportunity to engage and impress. The next frontier:
• Video case studies that not only give a sense of who you've worked for and what you've accomplished, but also capture how you go about your work and what it might be like to work with you.
• Partner profiles that become partner viewpoints. Taking the partner bio to another level, this approach features your industry or service experts talking about developments in their area of expertise.
• Video distribution of thought leadership, downloadable as podcasts, are another way to go.
These are just a few of the areas ripe for innovation. But first, you are probably dealing with a threshold challenge: leadership teams who ask why professional services firms should embrace the video-centric web that YouTube, ESPN, The New York Times and others are making mainstream. Why bother, they ask? The best answer is video gives you a better medium for building relationships because your visitors can see and hear people they can relate to and connect with.
Isn’t that the point of professional services marketing?