How video can revolutionise your internal communications strategy
When you entertain the notion of doing an internal video, your first question is – more often than not – “Why bother?” Your customers never see it, it doesn’t directly drive business, and it costs money. Besides which, almost all internal videos are really dreadful. For years, more or less every last one followed the same format. The CEO – or some other executive if they weren’t available – would sit down, look into the camera and say one of two things: “Thanks for making me money, now keep making me money”, or “You’re not making me enough money. Please try to make me some more money” – or words to that effect.
Nonetheless, times have changed, and the argument for video as a way to boost your internal communications strategy is getting stronger – to the point where it may be an essential part of getting every employee on the same page. Firstly, it’s engaging. People just plain like video, to the point that 78% of people in the UK watch one online at least once a week – and the click through rate for video search results is 41% higher than text.
Furthermore, it’s versatile: it wouldn’t be inaccurate to call video the Swiss Army Knife of internal comms. You can do a series of training films instead of a handbook; behind the scenes event recordings instead of random tweets with blurry pictures; if you can do it in text, you can almost certainly translate it to a more effective visual form.
Finally and most importantly, however, it works: a survey from Ragan found that 76% of those using internal video found it ‘improved communications with employees’ and 58% found that it increased alignment with company or organisational goals. Of course, like anything, it only works if it’s done properly. It frequently isn’t, for a variety of reasons that usually have to do with the commissioning process: people believe they can write the script themselves, that half an hour is a reasonable length, and that production values are optional. Add to that the strange belief of many that the fact it was filmed on a camera phone will be enough to make it go ‘viral’ (Spoiler: nope).
1. Honour thy viewer’s time
There are two kinds of internal video viewers in this world: those watching on work time, and those watching in their leisure time. Where the former group are concerned, the benefits of keeping it short should be abundantly clear: even if it’s great, you don’t want it to hamper productivity – that is, more or less, the opposite of why you’re doing it. But as a rule, you want them to watch the whole thing without feeling like their time has been imposed upon: people have shorter attention spans and more options than ever, and if they’re not into what you’re doing, they will do something else. They may even venture outside. Don’t let them!
Keep it long enough to effectively communicate your message – but, as P.T. Barnum said, always leave ‘em wanting more.
2. Don’t cut corners
People are obsessed by technology, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the audiovisual industry. Even amateurs know their stuff these days: there’s an outcry every time a video game is 1080p rather than 900p; many major blockbusters are released in IMAX, and audiophiles have been known to have knock-down, drag-out brawls over sound quality.
So you’re not going to get away with shoddy production values, and you should put any idea of doing so out of your mind. “It’s not ‘filmed on a phone’, it’s Bourne-style shakycam!” “It’s not got a needlessly limited colour palette, it’s cinema vérité.” Yeah, you’re not fooling anyone. Distorted sound, grainy visuals, slipshod, random editing – your audience notices these things, and they will call you out on it (if they don’t dismiss it altogether). If you’re making an internal video, you may as well take the time to do it right.
3. Know your audience
Who’s this video going to? What’s the point of it? What will your employees respond to? You need answers to these questions before you make the video, and you need to make sure you keep them in mind as production is progressing. For example, if you’re a hip, Tumblr-style company, you can probably go nuts with image memes, jokes about selfies – whatever it is young people are into. If you’re a Goldman Sachs-style Big Serious Company, then you probably want to go with something a little more conservative.
This can even vary with each department: accounting will typically not be as boisterous as sales; the checkout staff at a supermarket chain won’t understand references to KPIs, funnels, etc. that the marketing team might lap up. Your video always needs to have messaging that aligns with the interests and needs of your target audience. Overall, however, you’ll usually be fine if you abide by one simple (yet frequently defied) rule: don’t make a video just to make a video. If it exists at all, it should have a clear, defined purpose, and a place in your internal communications strategy.
Again, your audience isn’t thick. Create a video with no meaning, no narrative, or no direction, and they’ll see through it in an instant. What’s more, they’ll resent you for it, because you’re also making an unspoken demand for their time and attention. When it is freely given, it deserves to be repaid with something worth watching – make it simple, make it stand out, and make it stick.