by Ahinsa Mansukhani, Microsoft US Partner Experience Team,
and Kirstin Turnbull, Mosaic B2B Experiential Design
For any business, videos are a powerful tool for connecting with customers. They can help you create a perception of intimacy that lets a customer get to know you and your company, and more easily envision working with you. They are versatile as sales tools and marketing assets that can be used by your team in a variety of ways at events, meetings, and on social platforms.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve criss-crossed the United States (and ventured into Canada a few times as well), interviewing dozens of partners and customers and capturing hundreds of hours of footage. Our Partner Spotlight series is a great showcase for you to see some of the work we’ve done, and our WPC 2015 award winners video was pretty fun, too. As we begin planning in earnest for US partner activities at WPC 2016 in Toronto this July, we are working on a new series of videos featuring partners and customers.
We’ve learned a few things about how to use video effectively to tell compelling stories, and we thought we’d share our top 10 list with you.
1. Establish your mission and goals
We find it useful to spend time defining our mission and goals before embarking on the creative process. Creativity is often nebulous, with lots of grey area. Establishing what you want to accomplish with your video will help you stay grounded through the process as you structure budget, pitch ideas, engage stakeholders.
2. Keep your audience in mind
Who is your audience? What are their priorities? How and why will this content benefit them? Define this early and use it as your center of gravity. This will help you guide the story’s narrative and decide how to best deliver the content.
3. Define your business priorities
Align the theme of your video to your business priorities. As with any project, you want to ensure that you are addressing a business need. Focus on providing a unique and distinct offering that does not duplicate or overlap with other efforts. Create an asset that everyone wants to share because it’s seen as essential to your business.
4. Identify stakeholders and maximize ROI
Create a one-page pitch that highlights the potential outputs of the content and share it with stakeholder who may want to utilize your content or who may have a specific need you can address. Building a library of video footage that includes general content about your company and more specific content about your products, programs, and personnel, lets you get the most out of your videography investment. For example, when we interview our US Partner Team business leaders on camera, we ask them to share their vision about the future of technology, which we can use in videos about the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference or in more general videos about industry trends.
5. Measure and optimize
Having a clear definition early on about how you’ll measure the success of your project will help you get buy-in from stakeholders and participants. While everyone dreams of “going viral” with their video, it’s probably not a practical goal. For us, the success of our videos is about how they are used in internal and external presentations, in executive keynotes, and at events and conferences. We also track requests from partners and customers who ask whether they may use our videos, as well as requests from colleagues internally who ask for clips or sound bites about specific topics.
6. Identify your stories and characters
Cast a wide net across your business to compile a list of possible stories to produce. Read case studies, peruse web sites, reach out to your teams. Learn about the industry, define the business case, map out the journey to success, identify the impact, and consider the point of view of each participant. Next, pare down your list to those stories that support your mission and goals (Step 1), fit the intended audience (Step 2), clearly align to the business priorities and stakeholders (Steps 3 and 4), and that will result in achieving success (Step 5).
7. Assemble your storytelling team
When it comes times to yell, “Action!” we leave that to the pros. You need an agency that can see beyond the business and infuse your project with creative design and storytelling. For us, Ahinsa owns the business objectives and story framework for the US Partner Team, and relies on Kirstin bring in the necessary creative elements that help tell a compelling, interesting story. We also recommend working with a director who can bring that vision to life. Think of it as building a house: the owner or investor has a mission, a set of goals, and a vision for what they want to achieve. The architect comes up with the design and plan. Then, you need a great contractor who understands the nuts and bolts, the materials to build it, and has a crew that can execute.
8. Brainstorm and differentiate
Consider all of the ways that your content will impact your audience and understand the mediums that are at your disposal: Are there interesting visuals to capture? What’s the human side to the story? How can we capture impact and end-users? What tools can we use to engage the viewer? We have explored and used many media forms to visualize our storytelling, from video to animation and graphics, use of videography techniques and tools like stop motion, drone capture, and Super 8 film.
9. Edit. Edit. Edit.
This part is tough. In the hundreds of hours of footage captured, our tireless editor helps us achieve the right balance between the personal side of storytelling and the needs of the business to demonstrate product and service solutions. It takes a lot of collaboration between editor, director, designer, and business owner to get this right. When you’re in the depths of editing, your intention can get cloudy, and every piece of footage can feel essential. Refer back to steps 1 through 8 as often as you need to, so you can stay focused.
10. Share and engage
After all that work, set yourself up for success and ensure that participants, viewers, and stakeholders can access the videos immediately after you share them. This is the point where the demand is greatest and propensity to share is highest. We use our Microsoft US Partner community digital and social properties to host, post, and share our work. We ensure that all of the relevant parties are aware of where we’ve published and promoted our videos, and can access the content as needed.
It is a privilege and honor to have our customers and partners trust us to tell their stories. When you’re filming, there is no better feeling than the moment when everything comes together and beyond the cameras and lights you hear a story that gives you goose bumps. This means it’s working. Enjoy it!