Bringing Video In-House: Establishing a Style, Building a Staff… And Reaping Unexpected Benefits

In the last of the start-your-own in-house studio series, we look at determining what type of video is best for your brand and the staffing needs required to bring your video to life.

At this third stage of development, you’ve dipped your toes into the water, experienced some of the positive benefits, and made the move in-h

ouse with your own gear and editing facility. Now it’s time to grow and evolve–and start discovering the unexpected benefits of joining the production scene.

Picking the Right Video Approach

Obviously, the quality, style and relevance of the entertainment are critical factors to any successful video brand extension. Your video must measure up to both your brand standards and the standards of your viewers. Therefore, selecting the right approach to video requires a careful review of your brand mission. What do you stand for? What do your brand followers expect from you? What lifestyle elements are at the center of your brand experience, and can you contribute in a meaningful way to that dialogue? As I’ve argued here before, don’t underestimate your own brand’s entertainment potential, or your ability to provide a relevant entertainment experience as it relates to your more expansive brand vision. Set big, audacious goals for your online video effort, and then steer your ship in that general direction. With your brand identity as your compass, try things, and recognize that occasional failure is part of the package when you’re still figuring it all out.

With your own studio, you’ll find opportunities both big and small for your brand. Yesterday, I found my son browsing The Gap website and watching this jeans video, a short, 12-second, “what does it really look like?” video clip. Simple, basic, utilitarian, helpful.

On the other hand, the rewards-based social media site, Lockerz went big with a new original web series, The Homes, which bills itself as an indie rock musical, complete with commercials, behind-the-scenes extras, a Hollywood premiere party, and more. Whether or not the series will succeed remains to be seen, but it’s understandable why Lockerz is stepping out in this online video direction. The company’s mission is to be the homepage for men and women ages 13 to 30, building a community of trendsetters and tastemakers who love to shop, play and connect on the Web. Clearly, entertainment is part of that equation. Similarly, the folks from Nike went documentary style with this new 4-part web series on Jonas Jerebko, of my beloved Detroit Pistons, the first Swedish player in the NBA. The program is both aspirational and inspirational, two of the primary emotions driving the Nike brand. The most important lesson here: your video should mirror your brand in quality and brand attributes.

Building Your Staff

While it is possible to produce a video with only one person, two will greatly improve quality and provide a welcome backup, while also allowing for specialties within your staff. The videographer sets up the lights, operates the camera, runs audio, and often serves as editor as well. A producer, on the other hand, concentrates on logistics and “talent” (the person appearing on camera), which may require conducting an interview or running a teleprompter, or coordinating with third parties. After the shoot, the producer will typically screen the footage, select sound bites and write a script that the videographer uses to edit the video.

In my case however, as is the case with many startups, my initial budget to launch a video production team was small, so I built my staff in stages. First I hired a great videographer, proficient in both shooting and editing. That meant for the first year or so, I acted as producer for all of our video shoots in addition to my other marketing job responsibilities. As our work expanded and grew more integrated with our overall marketing strategy, I was able to hire a junior producer. She did some editing herself, but her main focus was content ideation and review, plus all logistics, like location and crew needs, managing the edit and publishing schedule, and coordinating whatever talent we might need. Typically, it’s hard to find someone who is equally skilled in the technical aspects of videography as well as reporting and content strategy, but in the early days, multi-taskers—those people able (and willing!) to do whatever is necessary to get the job done—are highly recommended. Getting your hands dirty is a requirement when you’re in startup mode.

Hiring a producer allowed me to focus on our overall content strategy, and as our quantity and quality improved, that ability to focus on big-picture direction for our online video strategy was both necessary and welcomed.

The Benefits I Didn’t Predict

I was always mindful of making sure my video output lived up to my brand expectations, but the more I understood, the more I wanted to try. At the beginning, my appetite sometimes went beyond the capabilities of my small team.

That’s where I learned about the benefits of being part of the broader production community, thanks to my video production manager at Borders, Rodney Johnson. “Video is predominantly a freelance business, and once you’re in the game and shooting your own video, you naturally become a part of the close-knit community of video professionals,” Johnson explains.

“As your own efforts become more sophisticated, you meet others and develop contacts. Day rates are affordable – often $500 for someone with very specific specialties. And each time you reach out to the community for help, you not only get their services, but you learn from them as well,” Johnson says.

That was certainly the case for me. For the price of a freelancer’s day rate and a few hours of equipment rental, I was able to learn about using a jib, the seesaw boom device for camera, or a teleprompter and teleprompter operator, or professional audio operators. I made contacts with video and audio professionals in cities all over the country, building a network of contributors and freelancers that kept growing with every shoot. And as my network grew, so did my capabilities, without the expense of a full, salaried position or expensive new equipment purchase. And most importantly for anyone entering the online video game, as your network and experience grows, the quality and engagement levels of the video go up, creating an in-house brand extension that everyone—your brand followers and your own company—can get excited about.

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 or follow on Twittter @richfahle.