How to commission a corporate video production company: a step-by-step guide
Step 1: Decide your brief
It's worth remembering that a pointless video is also a worthless one. If you’re starting with the sentiment that a video would be nice to have – but not much else – then you need to have a bit of a think about what you want to achieve. More sales? A steady supply of excellent CVs for your vacancies?
Whatever it is, tell the production company about it and they’ll be able to guide you through your options in terms of style and content.
If you need to prove to your clients that your product works, for example, you’ll probably be advised to consider a brief demo video. But if it’s not a particularly exciting or flashy service – or if the way it works isn’t something that can be conveyed easily in live-action visuals – you might be told that an animated explainer video is the way forward instead. It’s not an exact science. Look at your potential video from every angle, and go with the one that feels right for you.
Step 2: Set your budget
Everybody wants Michael Bay-level explosions; not everybody has Michael Bay-level finances.
Be realistic, and find out how much the video you want is going to cost as soon as possible. Your agency should be happy to walk you through the costs associated with different types of video formats – and crucially, they should be transparent about their pricing. Your company, in turn, should be honest about what you can afford from the get-go: a half-finished clip is no good to anyone, so you really don’t want to run out of money partway through.
Step 3: Source an agency that you trust
Whether your brief is good or bad, whether your company works a tight or extravagant budget, and whether you go for live-action or animation, your production company will be the difference between a good video and a waste of money.
Finding an agency you can trust is necessary for an honest, productive and creative relationship. You need to have a borderline-spousal level of intimacy with whoever you go with: you need to be prepared to tell them everything, and be able to deal with whatever feedback they happen to provide.
If your CEO’s adamant that he should perform in the video, but acts like Keanu Reeves’ anhedonic little brother, you have to be able to accept this criticism and communicate it in order to create the best video. Broadly speaking, it’s worth trusting your agency’s judgment in matters like these – they’ve shot many more reels of film than you have, after all!
Step 4: Give them the brief and get a proposal
Supply the production company with a clear brief so they can propose the best plan for your video. When you're reviewing this, remember it's a two-way conversation and work together if you have any feedback. Once you're agreed on the proposal, the production company can get ahead with planning the logistics.
You know Aladdin, where the genie’s a nice dude and tries his best to get the young hero to hook up with the princess and defeat the bad guy and that? The genies in the original mythology weren’t quite as benevolent (understandably so, what with the phenomenal cosmic power/itty bitty living space deal): they’d grant wishes, but twist them around in a messed-up sort of way. Nanabozho the Trickster Spirit, for example, turned someone into a stone because they said they wanted eternal life, another turned someone into a fox because they asked to become a great hunter.
The moral of these stories, typically, is that poor communication is potentially lethal, and it’s always worth being as precise as possible with your words. It’s a lesson that can be applied to production companies too; though they’re usually not evil, they can usually grant your wishes when it comes to video – as long as you communicate your intention clearly.
To this end, it’s vital to have a brief that outlines precisely what you want; if you don’t, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get something entirely different, but technically in line with what you asked for. If there’s any confusion, clear it up immediately – nobody expects you to have storyboarded it in your head, but at the very least, you should be able to point out the kind of thing you want in your film.
It’s also worth taking the company’s feedback into account: their experience makes them able to communicate 1) how practical your ideas are, and 2) whether or not they’ll actually work if implemented. Once you’ve agreed a plan, the production guys can go ahead with the tedious but all-important business of sorting out the logistics.