GUEST POST: No, it doesn’t always need to be a video

Good communications is working out the audience and deciding the best tool to reach them. It’s not always using the tool of a poster, a Twitter account… or a video. Telford & Wrekin Council’s digital communications and campaigns manager Emily Taylor reports from CommscampNorth.

As the manager of a digital comms team which includes a film team, my response should perhaps always be, yep, let’s make a video. But *whispers* sometimes, it just doesn’t need another video.

Immediately that someone pitched her idea at CommscampNorth, I knew it was a session I’d be attending. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in the near daily struggle to convince the good and the great that their very important subject just doesn’t need a video.

The conversation during the session showed, perhaps frustratingly, perhaps reassuringly, that we all face the same challenges. Indeed someone likened the video to the press release of old. Got something you want to shout about? Where once you might have asked for a press release, now you ask for a video. It’s the new shiny thing to be coveted.

The conversation certainly provided a few top tips.

How to say no:

1.       Have guidelines. When do you use video – and, more importantly, when do you not? How long will a video be? What style? Etc etc.

2.       Don’t just say no. Come back with alternatives. A manager I used to work with always said, don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. I think this holds true here. Don’t tell someone what you can’t do for them, tell them what you can do.

3.       Use data. In a digital world we have tonnes of data at our finger tips. We need to use this to show what is working and what isn’t.

4.       Sometimes you might need to say yes, so that you can then say no. Hear me out here. Even when we know we should say no – so that we can gather the evidence to say no next time.

5.       Not every video has to go on every platform. We should be creating specific videos for specific platforms. Each platforms appeals to very different audiences and different length films work better on different platforms too. Just because you CAN post a video that is 240 minutes long on Facebook definitely doesn’t mean you SHOULD. In fact, you should probably be looking to say what you want to say in 60 seconds or LESS!

6.       Have a YouTube strategy. Someone suggested having a separate strategy for YouTube. This was a completely new idea for me. We use YouTube – as the person who suggested this very correctly surmised – as a dumping ground for videos.

The session did give me a very clear lightbulb moment. Someone was talking about design (slightly off-topic) and how much time was wasted with a lack of clear guidelines (mentioned above) and understanding when something is finished (designed) and the client decides they want to tweek it. 

Comms certainly seems to be a profession that those outside of it think they can do. It would seem highly presumptuous of me to try to tell my highways colleagues, who have trained for years, how to build a bridge or repair a road. And yet, many colleagues (and I’m not picking on highways here) seem to think they can “do” communications.

I digress.

The lightbulb moment came and it was this: we often have colleagues/managers/whoever who give their subjective feedback on design work or a press release or social media but I realised, that is rarely the case with video.

That actually, we are often trusted as the experts when it comes to video. I remember giving feedback to a senior elected member that most people won’t watch much beyond 8-10 seconds of a video on Facebook and so any introduction was just long enough to lose any viewers.

Without question, he agreed to cut the intro and launch straight into the video. Clearly there are exceptions to the rule but very more often than not, when it comes to videos, we are regarded as experts. And we need to harness this and not be afraid to say no when a video really isn’t necessary.

For me, I’m coming away from the session with a clear goal in mind for my own film team: to make shorter videos. I feel like this is constantly my mantra: I’m always asking, what can we cut. But I want to be even more ruthless.

Emily Taylor (she/her) is digital communications and campaigns manager at Telford & Wrekin Council. You can follow her on Twitter as @EA_Taylor84

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