3 Steps to Sell Your Boss on the Need for Online Video

Rich Fahle, Founder, Astral Road Brand Media

[This article is the first in a three-part series on creating your online video strategy and creating your own in-house studio.]

It is 2011, you are a marketer, and the online video revolution is happening all around you: The golden-voiced Ted Williams has become an international star; two million-plus weepy folks have forwarded-to-a-friend this wonderful father-daughter duo; and brands everywhere are jumping with both feet into online video and discovering a new world of marketing possibilities.

You recognize the trend, but are stuck on the edge of the moment, barely dipping your toes into the water. To your bosses, the words “video production” conjures images of huge Hollywood studios and six-figure budgets. In short, the idea of an online video strategy, in-house or otherwise, feels about as close as the moon.

It’s time to sell the idea.  The reality is that it’s never been less expensive to shoot, edit, and distribute video, and in the coming year we’ll see brands that stand out from the rest by taking a more sophisticated approach to the video they produce, chasing real results and not just view numbers. The shift is coming, and brands will want to get their growing pains out of the way while the audiences are still forgiving.

We start the series with the first challenge: Selling the idea of online video in a traditionally non-video company environment. To help you push down the path toward an in-house production studio, here are three key steps to convincing your colleagues that now is the time to embrace online video – without spending huge dollars to prove your point.

1. Identify Video that Makes Sense for Your Brand

The first step in selling the idea is identifying the right type of video for your brand. Be realistic and start modestly. While everyone may dream of a wild viral smash, the reality is that your brand has a niche focus with an audience that congregates online. That group—the people that you can potentially convert into brand followers—is your target. What are they doing there? As it relates to your brand, are they looking to be inspired, entertained, or educated? Do they need more utilitarian home-shopping network-style product descriptions, or are they more interested in ideas and examples of the brand mission at its highest level?  Critical to the success of your online video experiment is the need to accurately reflect your brand voice and mission. If it doesn’t resonate, it certainly won’t sell.

Also, when thinking about what type of video to produce, remember that the right video doesn’t need to cost a fortune. It is worth pointing out that, of all the programs we produced during my time working in the bookselling industry, the feature that most consistently delivered the highest views and shares was also the easiest and least expensive to produce. Taking advantage of the authors and musicians that would regularly visit our stores for customer events, we’d simply schedule a few minutes before each event to follow our subject – each with an audience of their own – with a camera as they browsed the store, talking aloud about their favorite books, music and movies. The program was a double winner for us. The idea of sharing an author’s personal recommendations and influences was both useful and entertaining to our audience, while the browsing concept itself showcased one of the most valued elements of the bookstore experience and our brand – the limitless sense of discovery.

2. Get Your Hands Dirty—Or Find a Partner that Can

The best way to convince your company of the value of online video is to show value in real-time. To get off the ground internally, you’re more than likely going to have to produce the video without much help and without much budget.

Let me be clear: I strongly believe in professionals when it comes to video and audio and in part two of this series next week, we’ll discuss the cost/benefit and advantages to bringing editors and videographers in-house as video becomes an accepted, indispensible part of your marketing campaigns and business strategy. In the meantime though, we’re still trying to prove the worthiness of the concept as inexpensively as possible.

To get off the ground, there are plenty of online video approaches, such as people on the street interviews or other unscripted conversations, that don’t necessarily require top-tier professional production values. If it’s both real and relevant, your audience will be more tolerant of your entry-level production. A decent HD camera can be had for $200 or less, and editing software has become much more affordable and ubiquitous, to the point where I now have a copy of iMovie on my iPhone, where I can edit my on-the-fly creations for less than the cost of a single trip to Starbucks.

While it’s never been less expensive to shoot and edit good quality video, it might still make more sense for your brand to find a partner. Some of the biggest buzz from last week’s CES 2011 show in Las Vegas revolved around the rise of personal broadcasting and new technologies for do-it-yourself media creators. New devices and tech features will continue to drive the growth of homemade web video stars, opening the door to more collaborative partnerships for savvy brands looking for new trends and broader audiences.

To pinpoint a suitable partner, research the websites and bloggers that are the most popular within your niche. Who are the up and coming web and social media stars? For some, it may make more sense to reach out to an existing voice within your target community, one with an established brand platform, to collaborate on your online video project in exchange for the connections and credibility your brand provides. To take the idea further, you might consider putting a microphone in your blogger partner’s hands, allowing them to serve as the host or spokesperson for your video, a solution that provides credibility for both collaborators.

3. Start Shooting

That’s right, jump in and try something. Grab your camera, your copy of Final Cut Pro or iMovie, and put your good ideas to the test. Publishing and distributing your video is not nearly the technical challenge that it was just a few years ago. Even without a video distribution platform on your website, you can sample your video on Facebook, Vimeo or other sites. Youtube makes it easy for brands to customize their channel with logos and brand messages.

Each of these sites provides metrics to gauge how popular and effective the video is, providing real-time data in your quest to grow your online video presence. And real-time data—actual metrics about how your audience is consuming your video—is a much more powerful tool to prove your point than a pre-launch Powerpoint slide. With real data, you’re in the game, and that means you’re past starting. From here on out, you’re improving.

Next week: Part 2 – Logistics and Cost of an In-House Studio

Now that you’ve established an interest, we’ll examine the real cost of in-house versus outsourced production, including an inventory of what you’ll need – and what you won’t – to get started with in-house production.

Rich Fahle is the founder of Astral Road Brand Media, a brand platform marketing agency for authors, artists and content creators of all types. He is the former Vice President of Content, Digital Outreach and Entertainment for Borders. Email Rich at rfahle@gmail.com or follow on Twittter @richfahle.