With the popular response to our earlier review of Steve Garfield’s book “Get Seen – online video tips every marketer can follow,” I decided to further satiate our ReelSEO audience and have a “casual, authentic” conversation with Steve about what makes interviews with online video a powerful marketing tool, and tips for learning how to be a good interviewer with video. (Little preview: It’s not the camera, people!)
I picked out the subject of online video interviews because of my own experience and enthusiasm with doing them. I always prefer doing interviews over single-person shows, since you can really feed off the energy of your interview subject, and have a much better opportunity to come across as casual and authentic, giving the appearance of capturing something “in the moment” rather than a cold rehearsal.
Originally I did this as a Skype online video interview piece (fitting, right?) – but the frame rate, and more importantly, the audio quality went ka-blooey. So I decided instead to be more matrix-friendly and showcase the full interview with not-so-new-media – podcast (at bottom of post) and photos!
The New Rules Are Now the Old Rules Again?
Steve: The new rules are now the old rules. A lot of companies I talk to now want to get away from the full production costs and everything. They’re going back to the early days of video blogging. I started in January of 2004, when there was no video blogging. What we did, and I found other people who were doing the same thing online, was we were just recording and sharing moments of our lives. We ended up watching each other’s videos, and we really got to know each other on a personal level. What’s happening today is companies are interested in capturing that. They want to share what they’re about and what the employees are about with what we call, “casual video.” I think we’re getting back to that – personalizing companies, just to show you the people behind it.
Casual, Authentic Online Video in the Corporate World
Grant: Many other companies are still uncomfortable with sharing their personal stories, especially with video. What examples are out there than can persuade them to do just that?
Steve: OK, I was recently at the South-by-Southwest (SWSX) conference. The auto company Chevrolet was down there with the Volt. They have a blog at cheverolet.posterous.com where they have clips of no one from Chevy, but instead of all of the social media people who drove the new Volt. They have little videos embedded in the blog, and some of the videos were only little clips of 5-7 seconds, of these people saying what they thought about the car. I had never seen that before on a corporate video blog. That’s what I’ve been helping companies try and do. You would think that Chevrolet would want to keep their message and their advertising all in a corporate kind of thing. But it’s really smart, because instead they took these video blogs and put them over on to this side blog, this posterous blog, and they’re doing the casual, authentic video. They might be afraid of tarnishing their image with all of their commercials and things by doing the casual video, but they were smart because they put it off to the side, so viewers who visit the site know what they’re going to get.
Good Audio Quality = Good Video Quality
Grant: What are some big mistakes you see companies doing with online video?
Steve: That’s a hard question; in general, I think a lot of bad video online is done with bad audio. Even if the video is really great, if you can’t clearly hear what’s going on, then people will click away.
I’ll flip the question and say what’s really effective is when they do good audio. When I bring up a video and it has good audio, I can listen to it in the background while I’m working on other things (like checking my email). In the end, I may not actually even be looking at the video and at who’s talking.
I think video is really great to include in an audio interview format. I can see who they are and get a sense of the person by looking at them in video, and from there I can just flip that behind into my work background while I can multitask with other things.
Grant: Good point. It does seem that people are willing to forgive poor video quality over poor audio quality. Poor audio can be a lot harder to put up with, and can be much more distracting.
Steve: Exactly. In classes that I teach, we bring up exactly that point. I show the class a video that isn’t that great video quality, but has a great story behind it. I have everyone in class watch the video, and then I ask the class what are their thoughts. They talk a lot about the story; and when I ask them about the video quality, they really don’t say anything there because they tell me they really weren’t thinking about it.
On the other side of that is good content or a story will override poor video. But these days, you really don’t see as much poor video. It’s like we’re thinking back to last year or a year and a half ago when YouTube was known for crappy videos. But with the HD pocket digital video cameras being so accessible to everyone and with YouTube having HD display, it’s amazing. I even amaze myself at some of the quality that comes out of these little cameras. I used to use all of big equipment that you’d see – big light kits, huge cameras and everything. Now I tend to use the small pocket cameras.
Stick to Your Strengths
Grant: It seems like what has been successful is that you’re not expecting these people to be professional videographers. You’re just expecting them to understand the basics – how to plan, produce, and promote video online; and have them just focus on what they’re already good at – telling their own story and the stories of others.
Steve: For example, there’s a reporter at SMSX whose skill is being good interviewer He did a great interview and it was just with his Flip cam. As we were in the middle of our interview, I was asking him if we should have moved to somewhere that was better lit, or where there was less noise. He was answering my questions right in the middle of the recorded video interview, saying that he likes to be in the middle of the commotion, that it give a sense of place and the audio still sounds pretty good.
Grant: I call to call that the National Public Radio (NPR) style of interview. It gives the audience the feeling like they’re right there with you.
Steve: Exactly. The reporter said that he really doesn’t like bringing someone over to a blank wall; that is the last thing he does. His video came out really good, we had a nice conversation, and that’s because he listened! His skill was interviewing – listening and having a conversation.
Grant: So do you recommend to marketers and other people who are typically not journalists, perhaps take a class on storytelling with video? Do marketers need to be more like journalists? And maybe on top of that, learn how to be better personalities on video?
Steve: It couldn’t hurt! Myself, I’m someone who doesn’t have any formal journalistic training, but am really interested in media. I try to learn as much as I can about things, like film and, well not actually movie making; but at SXSW, where I was at this last week, I got the interactive and the film badge. I like to go to those film sessions to try and get knowledge about how it should be done. People suggest that before you break the rules with videography, you should at least know what rules you’re breaking. So while I don’t have any formal training, I have gone to sessions to learn how the pros do all of this stuff.
Think Like An Editor
I think like an editor, because I have a background in editing. So when I shoot a video, I’m already thinking in my head of the story. I want to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. I always start my interviews with my own introduction, because I want to give people a way back to find me if they should find my video elsewhere.
Overcome Time Constraints – Capture the Moment
Grant: How do you convince companies to be doing any video when they say they don’t have the time?
Steve: For video, the cameras have gotten so much smaller that they can just have a camera in their pocket, and be ready to capture a moment. With the iPhone especially, the video quality is so surprisingly good, they can “capture the moment” with the device they already have on them.
Grant’s Nutshell Tips from Steve Garfield’s “Get Seen” Book.
Here are just a few of my own selections on the best guidance the book has to offer with online video, which Steve’s book goes into excellent (and easy-to-follow) detail with many examples and interviews. Buy it today!
- Focus on great content over equipment.
- When you do choose equipment, focus first on your audio and lighting over the camcorder.
- Go with smaller equipment for capturing the moment, which will make you appear casual and authentic.
- Be passionate. Share your love about what you do and what you’re interested in.
- Practice interviewing, both in a controlled environment and around activity; and make the interview subjects more interesting than yourself.
Listen to the full podcast show to hear more of my interview with Steve, including our discussion on companies doing “stealth” video, and what he sees as the next great thing with online video.