[ WEBINAR ]

Video with Heart: What B2C Can Teach B2B Brands about Emotional Connection

Eric Pound

Eric Pound

Executive Producer

As StudioNorth’s executive producer, Eric is responsible for most things that move or make noise (video, audio and live events). Outside of work, Eric spends as much time as he can fishing and hunting, where he tries not to move or make noise.

Most B2B brands recognize that video is an essential way to reach their audiences. But there’s a big difference between “reaching” and “connecting.” Do your videos stand out from thousands of others? How can you make sure they connect with your audience emotionally?

In this 60-minute session, StudioNorth Executive Producer Eric Pound:

  • Shares videos from the B2C space that will inspire you
  • Shares ideas for capturing people’s attention with video from smartphones and webcams
  • Shows you ways you can stay agile and on budget without compromising production values

These days, just being present isn’t enough—your videos need to stand out and connect like never before. Let’s make it happen together!

Eric Meerschaert: Welcome to Video with Heart, What B2C Can Teach B2B Brands About Emotional Connection. We’re going to give people a few minutes to get online and settled. We’ll begin soon. Thank you.

Eric Meerschaert: Welcome to Video with Heart, What B2C Can Teach B2B Brands About Emotional Connection. Hang on for a few minutes while we let others to get online and settle, and we’ll begin soon. Thank you.

Eric Meerschaert: Welcome to our webinar, Video with Heart, What B2C Can Teach B2B Brands About Emotional Connection. My name is Eric Meerschaert. I’m the Executive Director of Strategy at Studio North, and I’ll be your moderator for today’s session. Our producer, Derek, will also be helping facilitate the technology. Derek, thanks so much for your help. If the technology cooperates, we’ll plan to send each of you the deck with an audio recording after we’re done.

Eric Meerschaert: Joining us today is Eric Pound, StudioNorth’s Executive Producer. Eric has 25 years of the most eclectic experience imaginable in production, the last 15 with StudioNorth. Eric’s worked on lighting, special effects, editing, and produced a major cable news channel, and helped launch one of the 24 by 7 online broadcast channels, first one. He’s filmed all over the world working with leading brands and consumer products, healthcare, technology, and other industries, and actually produced content grade ranging from product launching to national ads for brands like Verizon, Home Depot, Oracle, UPS, and Coca-Cola.

Eric Meerschaert: We’re going to, today, try to be limiting our comments to about 35 or 40 minutes because we’d like to leave you as much time for Q&A as possible. Please submit a question, if you have one, and we’ll do our best to address it at the end.

Eric Meerschaert: Eric, let’s dive right in.

Eric Pound: Certainly, Eric, and thanks for the setup. And thanks everyone for attending today. So we’ve all seen the data. We’re making a lot of video. That’s a huge understatement, I know. But, yeah, we’re making a ton of it. YouTube tells us that right now there are 300 hours of video that’s being uploaded to that platform alone every single minute of every single day. That is a ton of content that’s being put out there. And with that much fresh content that’s coming online every single minute, every single day, you can see how it would be really easy for content to just kind of fade back into that background and get lost in the big mix of things.

Eric Pound: There’s a lot of visual clutter out there, which obviously creates problems like brand differentiation, amongst other things. But it presents a problem not just on finding the content, but actually creating something meaningful out there and discovering content that you can relate and connect to as a viewer. But it presents that same problem for brands as well. How do you make sure that your brand, your message, your content, stays relevant and important and provides something that your audience can actually connect to?

Eric Pound: Before I jump into that, I’m going to take just a few moments to start this thing off by showing you how we got to all this visual clutter in the first place. And as we started off here, with this much content that’s out there, if they’re viewing it, do they even care about your content? What are they connecting with? Are they connecting with the brand? Are they connecting with your message? Are they connecting with your personalities, your on-camera talent, or are they actually connecting with something much bigger? And we’ll talk about that.

Eric Pound: In the second part, we’re going to talk about what connection actually means. We’re going to give some definitions to it and give you some ingredients. And I’m going to show you exactly what that connection looks like, especially in times of … part of that I’m going to include some examples of how brands are actually putting content out there that connects, both in the B2C space and the B2B space as well.

Eric Pound: And lastly, with the world going through such disruptive times, I’m going to show you how we’re actually using some technology, some new and some old, and definitely some new workflows to create content during this time of disruption. And hopefully, as we’re creating this content, we’re creating content that people can actually connect with.

Eric Pound: So with that, we’ll just get started. Remember these people? Man, we spent a lot of time over the years talking about these millennials. This right here, these are millennials, as suggested by Google in early July of 2020. We learned a lot from them. We learned that about 80% watch online video during the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey. Video is really important to them. We also learned that 76% followed brands on YouTube, which was really stunning to me when I originally heard this. Not that people would follow brands, but that large of a percentage would actually follow brands tells us that brands are important to this group of people. 64% are actually more likely to buy a product online after viewing a video.

Eric Pound: We learned a lot by studying this group over the years, particularly their media consumption habits. And we know, as a result, that video is an essential part of that buying experience, at least in the B2C space. And it’s been really amazing to see how certain B2B brands have jumped on this and taken this and ran with it. In fact, I’d say that most marketers have. We saw the stats, so it has to be applicable to how we want to market. So we’re going to make a bunch of video, and that’s what we’ve done as marketers.

Eric Pound: According to YouTube, in fact, unboxing videos and product videos, they’re the most popular viewed videos out on YouTube’s platform right now. Product review video ranked number one in the most types of content viewed out on YouTube. Product videos became so important, we even made videos, put them out on YouTube, about how to make really good product videos. That’s how important this became in our world.

Eric Pound: So you did this. You made this an important part of your marketing strategy. You put content out there. You’ve got the data that supports that everybody wants to watch this kind of content. Your video should be a total hit, right? You put it out there and you didn’t get any views. None. Or maybe you’re getting views, but you’re not seeing the results. You’re not getting the ROI out of your video. Why? Product videos are what works, right? Well, we’ve seen that with the stats. You did everything right, at least you think you did. You posted it in social media. You put some paid support behind it. For some reason, people just aren’t connecting.

Eric Pound: So here’s the question: What is your content actually missing if they’re not connecting with it? What is your brand missing? So what I want to do now is I’m going to transition for just a moment here. And we’re going to take a look at some of the events in our current world, at least in our recent history, as a little bit of a case study in how brands created content during this whole COVID-19 pandemic when it arrived on the scene. What did people do to actually put content out there? What did it look like?

Eric Pound: Well, we’ll start with this. Remember back to your college days when you had to go and you had to take that social science elective or whatever, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? This is straight out of Psych 101. And if you remember back in those days, the general gist of this is you’ve got to solve for those layers down at the bottom of that pyramid before you can start moving to layers that are higher in that pyramid.

Eric Pound: So why does this matter to us, as content creators and as marketers? Well, as we mentioned, people are worried about things in those lower layers. As content creators, if we’re putting things out there that aren’t helping people in those lower layers, chances are we’re not going to be paid attention to. We’re going to be forgotten about. We’re not important. We’re not valuable at that point while people are trying to solve for the basics of their life. You’re not a priority. Those bottom layers, those are priorities.

Eric Pound: Now, unless you’re solving for one of those problems down at the bottom, you’re going to be overlooked unless, that is, you’re considered trusted. And that includes not just people, but brands. Brands become trusted brands. And once you become a trusted brand, you actually get to be in a little bit different spot, and the prioritization becomes a little bit different. But if you think back to March, I’m not sure any of our personas, even for trusted brands, had people dealing with health concerns, viruses, this new work-from-home environment, what to do about your kids, now having to homeschool, employment concerns, grocery store shelves empty, murder hornets. I feel like that was a thing in the news for, like, a minute and then it was gone. Thank God we don’t have to deal with that again. But, yeah, I feel like we skipped over murder hornets.

Eric Pound: Anyway, there was a whole lot of this that was happening back in March, if you remember. The world had changed dramatically, and all of a sudden people’s eyes weren’t on those top layers of the pyramid anymore. They were on the bottom layers. And most likely, if people were watching a video back in March, it was probably how to install a bidet. And as you know, that bidet video I just mentioned, it solves for actually one of those foundational challenges. That’s why it’s important. That’s why it’s relevant. And, yeah, it’s going to get eyeballs just out of necessity alone. But unless your business is really built around marketing products and services to fulfilling physiological needs down at those bottom two layers, your product video isn’t going to get a whole lot of attention, not during these kind of times.

Eric Meerschaert: Eric, you talked about Maslow’s hierarchy, and it’s actually a psychological profile for an individual. So it makes me wonder, what about business? Is there a hierarchy of needs for business that actually governs or affects the response of the individual? What do you think?

Eric Pound: Yeah, we could probably fill up an entire webinar just on this topic alone. So, yeah, the hierarchy of needs obviously was built with individuals in mind and not with businesses, but I think there are some things that we could find this very applicable to the business world. Businesses have different rungs on their pyramids as well. It may be that cash flow down at the bottom and then there may be profitability and market penetration as you move up the pyramid there. There are things that businesses deal with as well. And if companies are working on that bottom rung, it’s going to be really hard to kind of move them up the top there with communication that only focuses on, like, layers three and four, for example. There are some brands that do this really well, though. They mesh this idea of understanding that there are physiological needs that their audience is dealing with, and there are also business needs that their audience is dealing with as well.

Eric Pound: I’d like to show you an example right here that was released back in the early COVID-19 period. This video was released by Jack Daniel’s, and I think I’d just like to play it for you now. And we’ll talk about it at the end, come back with some observations.

Video: (singing)

Video: Miss you.

Video: Miss you.

Eric Pound: So what was it about this video that actually worked? And we know it worked. I can see the goosebumps on your arms all the way through the webcam here. I’ve got them myself, so I promise it worked. It worked for me. It’s going to work for you. But what was it about it that gave you the goosebumps, that made that actually work, that gave you this moment of connection? Was it just the stirring use of music? Was it, I don’t know, clever wordplay at the end there with the… tying social to socially distant? Was it just these tender moments that you got to see that was captured on film? Was it the expressiveness of it? Was it the pacing?

Eric Pound: Truthfully, it was all of it. But there’s a little more there, and we’re going to hone in on those things in just a moment here. This idea that they created this authentic moment. Something that was genuine, something that was a relatable experience. We could look at that and we could see ourselves in it or we would like, as viewers, to put ourselves in that scenario. That’s all critical. And more importantly, what Jack Daniel’s did is they got out early in this, which the timeliness of things is going to be a super critical element moving forward.

Eric Pound: But while Jack Daniel’s was early out in their content and their messaging, you had other folks that kind of became [inaudible 00:15:19] that got in a little bit too late. Now, were they well-meaning and well-intentioned, and were they nice-looking? Probably, yeah, I’ve seen a lot of really great COVID-19 videos from a lot of different brands. The ones that fell flat almost seemed a little too formulaic.

Eric Pound: There’s an independent filmmaker out on YouTube. His name’s Microsoft Sam, and he put out this video showing how all these COVID-19 videos all started to look the same over time. They all had kind of the same music, the same cadence and pace to it. Even the color grade, the way they did motion graphics, all of that started looking very, very similar. Even the verbiage they were using. I think we probably hear more than anything, now more than ever or we’re in this together or in times like this. Those are common little things and wordplay that a lot of folks have used in their content here. And it all just kind of becomes part of the same background plate, if you will. And there’s something a little bit different in what we saw in that first example. It connects with us. It’s believable. Why? What is it that that has that the other videos that Microsoft Sam put together to show us? What does that Jack Daniel’s spot have that the others don’t?

Eric Pound: Well, I believe, what the difference is, they didn’t just tell us that we were in this together. They showed us how we can get through this together. Here’s what I mean. You can put out platitudes, “We’re all in this together,” but the Jack Daniel’s byte gave us ideas. They stimulated our thinking. They showed us, if not a way out, a way to live within, and that’s super important. It goes beyond what their brand promise was. And as brands go beyond just offering your product, your service, all your features and benefits, all that, if that’s all we’re getting out of you, then that’s great. You can be a successful business, but you’re going to miss connection. We connect with it because we’re not just looking to buy a product or service. We actually got something out of that content itself, beyond just figuring out what price points and features and benefits and that kind of stuff was.

Eric Pound: That content they put out showed empathy. They took away some of the fears and the unknowns. And by the way, if you want to be trusted, the quickest way to become trusted is to remove people’s fear and remove the unknowns. Take the mystery out of things, and you’ll be trusted real quick.

Eric Pound: Right now, we’re all trying to figure out what the world is going to look like and how are we going to spend time with our family and our friends and our loved ones and our co-workers and everything else? And to some people, this might just be a funny moment in a video, but we get these really light-hearted examples, whether it’s just putting an iPad up on a dummy on the couch next to you so you can watch TV with your best friend or getting to play a game of tic-tac-toe on the other side of a sliding glass door. They give us creative ideas on how to solve new problems, new things in our lives that we’ve never had to deal with before. And brands that are actually able to offer up something that helps us get through those moments, the things that we’re worried about on those bottom levels, while still giving us everything that their brand might be about on the top levels, that gives me something that I can connect with. And that’s when brands become trusted.

Eric Pound: And when you become a trusted brand, you actually become an information source as well. People actually start looking to you to see how you’re going to respond to the world and the environment around you, and that’s why it’s so important that you look for those moments of connection. That way you can become trusted, and you can actually build some influence. And for all the talk about influence or marketing these days, brands themselves are now the influencers.

Eric Pound: I want to show you another example here because it’s not just B2C companies that are doing this right. There are B2B brands out there also that are doing this really, really well. So let me play this for you. [00:19:47]

Eric Pound: You guys know Slack. You guys probably use Slack. Slack is great. I love it. I love this particular sample that Slack made as well. Has a lot of the same ingredients that that Jack Daniel’s video did that made it so effective at connecting here. Obviously, they told us, in a way, that we’re in this together. But they didn’t just tell us, they showed us. They told us visually. They gave us this path forward. They showed us that, yeah, it’s going to be different working from home, but here’s what it could look like. So they’re taking some of the fear and the unknowns away.

Eric Pound: There’s a lot of different lifestyles represented in this video, different working styles represented in this video. And because of that, you ought to be able to find something that you can relate to. Almost anybody in your audience can look at that and go, “Wow, how am I going to work when I get home? I don’t have a home office.” You know what, that’s fine, not that I’ve ever worked out of my swimming pool or anything, but I know that I can do that. Slack just told me, and it kind of gave me a little bit of a path to enjoying and getting the most out of the working-from-home experience.

Eric Pound: What I love that Slack did is they still managed to include the features and benefits of their actual service in this piece. How many of you guys noticed that? You still saw how people were going to engage, how you could communicate, how you could respond, how you could react, how you could collaborate. All of that was in here, but it was subtle and it was almost secondary to the idea of allowing the viewer to be able to relate and connect to you. They still gave us all those features and benefits, but they packaged it in a way that it became relatable. They showed us that they’re paying attention to the world around them. They’re being really intentional with how they get their stuff out, and they’re very responsive. They were timely and out early. They didn’t wait too long. And those right there, those are really the three keys that I’m going to talk about in creating content that connects. It’s this idea of being attentive, being intentional, and being responsive.

Eric Pound: So what does this mean? What does it mean to pay attention? Well, usually we just think of it as listening, like being attentive. Are you listening well? Well, where are you listening? What are you actually listening for? We know that you’re probably following folks on social media. You should be, if you’re not. You’re listening for conversations that are happening. But there’s more of this happening than just on the social media side of things. You’ve got to broaden your range of listening and attention. What does your audience actually pay attention to when they’re off the clock? Have you had conversations with these people, actual conversations? It can’t just be about following business accounts and following people that you do business with and seeing what they’re talking about on social media. Get involved in that broader conversation. It’s really important that, as creatives and as marketers, that we pay attention to that broad conversation and make sure that it’s a part of what we do in our messaging that’s going out.

Eric Pound: Honestly, how has it informed your creative? How has listening and being attentive informed your creative? It should be informing your creative. Have you gone beyond just putting socially distant stock footage in your content? There’s more to this. Did you put more than just a black box on your social media account recently? What have you done to extend that attention and that listening into the rest of your creative? Have you changed the way that you write scripts? Is there different verbiage that you’re starting to use these days because it’s more appropriate to the national and global conversation?

Eric Pound: What about things like animation style? Have you… take your animated explainer videos, a very popular type of content out there. Marketers use it all the time. So have you changed little things about it? Have you changed the way that your characters maybe move across the screen? Have you changed the modeling? Are they a little less cartoony or maybe they feel a little bit different. That’s attention. And good, trusted brands, they pay attention.

Eric Meerschaert: So you mentioned social media as a way to listen. I wonder if there’s a couple more ways you think are really effective to listen to the market so that our videos are more relevant?

Eric Pound: Yeah, certainly. Usually when we think about listening or paying attention, we naturally, these days, think about what we’re doing on the social space and following the conversations that are happening within our orbit. And social listening is certainly part of it, but I think that we have to maybe get past that single orbit there. Who are you listening for beyond those people that you typically follow, your industry influencers and your customers? Are you listening to your customer’s customers? Are you paying attention to those conversations? Those are things that I think it’s important to be attentive to. Not just your sort of inner orbit, if you will.

Eric Pound: This probably goes without saying, but I think another important thing that shows attention to what’s happening is keep up with your market, keep up with your industry, read the trade publications. Like I said, I know this seems so basic, but there’s a lot of people that just kind of overlook this. We get busy, and we work on other stuff. And we forget that we have to actually take the time to do the research and see what else everyone else is doing.

Eric Pound: And then lastly, for… technology is great, all these new things are great, and the industry publications are great, but to me there’s nothing that takes the place of having a one-to-one conversation with people. That’s where you actually get to know them. You build these connections with people personally. And it’s that personal thing, I think, that’s really important that’s probably missing, particularly in today’s day and age where we’re all working from home and no one’s getting together. You have to be really intentional about that, and I think it’s really important you actually have, if not in-person conversations, take use of this kind of thing where you’re doing… using collaboration software to have conversations with people. If you can get together for a socially distant drink, great, do that. But it’s important to carry on those kind of conversations. That will ultimately lead to insight, but it will also lead to connection as well.

Eric Pound: All right. Intention. What does it mean to be intentional? Well, the relevancy and the authenticity of your content is really what demonstrates your intention. Now, what do I mean by relevancy and authenticity? You’ve got assets. You want to repurpose some content. What did you do with it? Did you just repurpose it and put it out there? Did you find that it fell flat when you did that? Were they trying to have another conversation and you put something out in front of them, and it just fell totally flat. It didn’t work, and you don’t know why it’s not working right now?

Eric Pound: Well, chances are, it’s a matter of relevancy. This is kind of the same, if you think about it, inserting yourself into some conversation at a cocktail party or something. And you didn’t add anything to the dialogue, and then you just changed the subject altogether. We wouldn’t appreciate that in some sort of social setting, so why would we do that with our marketing material? Honestly, it’s pretty amazing how many times brands do this. We’re just going to repurpose something. We’re just going to stick it out there without any kind of sensitivity to what the dialogue is around us or anything right now, and we then wonder why our content isn’t connecting. Well, it’s because of relevancy.

Eric Pound: Relevancy is completely critical here. Not just from the perspective of how relevant your product or service is, but how relevant your tone and your approach is and your timing of things. Really, there’s a lot of things that go into relevancy, but you don’t want to put content out in front of people when they’re concerned about something else or they’re not talking about what you want to talk about. They’re not going to be concerned with you, and you’re going to fade back into that background, as we talked about earlier. You’re irrelevant at that point. So make sure that you’re relevant to the conversation that you’re going to jump into.

Eric Pound: And then the second part of that is authenticity. Authenticity is just as critical. In fact, it’s more so, I would probably argue. Yeah, particularly on the social space, you’re going to be challenged if people suspect that you’re being inauthentic with your content when we see the same stuff over and over again, the same verbiage, the same tone in the video, the same color grading, even the same stock footage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same stock footage used over and over again recently or the same stock music track. Content will eventually all start to look the same. And like it or not, authenticity implies originality. Now, I know that we borrow. As creatives, we borrow and find inspiration, but really authenticity implies that it means something personal to you. And, look, no two businesses are exactly the same. So your marketing shouldn’t be either. You’ve got to be original, got to stand out.

Eric Pound: And then the third and final point I want to talk about here is this idea of responsiveness, being responsive. It isn’t just about being agile. Anybody can be agile, just put stuff out there quickly. But the idea of responsiveness is about amplifying conversations. So you get out early and you be a driver of conversations. Responsive brands, they don’t create echos, and here’s what I mean by that. They’re not late to the conversation. When somebody else has already said it and then a brand comes in and says the same thing that some other brand, like Brand A did, you’re creating an echo. When you’re late, you create echos. And trusted brands, responsive brands, they don’t create echos. They actually create amplification. Amplification of messages and stories and conversations that are happening in the world around us right now. They continue to actually speak together and not after the fact, but speak together with the national dialogue. And a responsive brand can certainly do that.

Eric Pound: Likewise, responsive brands, they actually stay in the conversations as the conversations start to shift. A responsive brand will actually shift with it and maintain that connection. That’s why it’s so important not only to be attentive and be intentional, but be responsive and get out there early. People will know what you value, and that’s important. It’s not just enough to put content out there. It’s not enough to say that you just went to the dance. You’ve got to get out of the chair. You’ve got to start dancing and be a part of it.

Eric Meerschaert: For features and benefits videos, I hear you say we still need to do them, but I think what you’re implying is let’s start with where the market is today. Let’s not use phrases that six months ago made sense or some grand promises of benefit. Let’s connect it to reality right now. Did I hear that right?

Eric Pound: Yeah, Eric. I think about it this way, we’re not actually creating a new genre of video. We’re just being really deliberate with the types of video that we create. So those features and benefits videos, we’re always going to create them. There’s a need out there, and it solves for a certain problem in the marketing world. So we’re going to continue to make those, but let’s actually start baking in some of this conversation, some of the dialogue, some of the events that are happening in the world around us, to make things a little more timely, a little more relevant.

Eric Pound: Now, I know that there’s a trade-off with this. You lose shelf life or you risk dating your marketing material. But I would argue that connection, particularly during times of disruption, is so much more important. So make sure you’re wrapping that messaging back into what you do. That is the essence of not just being intentional, but being responsive as well.

Eric Pound: So speaking of responsive, what does responsive production actually look like today? Look, production is a little more difficult these days, but it’s certainly more accessible. We already have companies all over the world that have given us little production environments. We have webcams. We have a nice set of headphones. We have little LED light rings that can go near your webcam and give us some lighting. We have microphones, decent microphones. We’ve got basically mini video production studios that are sitting on almost every home office desk all over the United States and the world right now.

Eric Pound: You’re going to miss out on a few things. You’re going to miss out on the big crew, the big cameras, all the additional lighting, some of the little nuances that you can do to up your production value. But in times like today, and any time of disruption, what people really want is quality of information. They’re not as concerned about the production value as they are the value they’re going to get from the content itself.

Eric Pound: A good example of this is you take something like Parks and Recreation. So they created a whole television show, produced an entire television show. Still, everyone had to be socially distant. Nobody could be in the studio or on set or on location. They had to figure out how to make this work, and they just used webcams and mobile phones to be able to do what they needed to do. It was really kind of inspiring to see how they were able to write in elements from the national dialogue and give us a way to show that they were being attentive to what was happening in the world around us. So the whole COVID-19 situation was actually written into the plot line of the story so that even, like, married couples would have a reason to be in different rooms or different locations. They were able to do some things with just webcams and phones and be able to generate a show that actually was quite a hit. It was really impressive, and I really love the way that they did that.

Eric Pound: Likewise, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, they had to start doing things in their basements and living rooms as well. They couldn’t be back on stage like they typically are. So they’ve done the same stuff they’ve done in the past. They have the same basic sketches. They do the same types of interviews, but they’re all doing it out of people’s homes. In the interest of figuring out how to make content, NBC and the Jimmy Fallon show, The Tonight Show, they made this thing work.

Eric Pound: So what can you do with a webcam and an iPhone? Apparently, you can produce late-night talk shows and sitcoms with them. And these guys, NBC has given us some ideas that can help make those kind of things work. What happens, honestly, when you go from a studio like you see on the left here to a studio like you see on the right? And, yeah, this is the modern production studio right now. It’s basically a laptop, a good mic, a decent camera, set of headphones, maybe a little ring light, something like that. And these aren’t really new technologies. They’ve been around for a long time. We just haven’t used them this way. So, yes, this is the current trend in production work. And trends are great, and we need to follow and we need to look for them. We need to see how they’re applicable to us, but I beg you, don’t chase after a trend. Don’t chase after it. Chase after a connection.

Eric Pound: So what are some of the things that we’re using and that other people are using today to help them produce content? Well, everyone has collaboration software nowadays. We’re all using it. We start off every single morning with a team meeting through Microsoft Teams. Here’s my goofy bunch of colleagues doing something a little silly one morning. You can actually use this in your production, tools like Webex or Zoom or Teams or a host of other options available. We happen to use Teams. Any of these allow you to be able to collaborate and pull audio-video content for your purposes.

Eric Pound: I like Zoom for one reason alone when it comes to content production. It’s the ability to do isolated recording for each participant. So like with some of the other solutions out there, when you go to record, you record everybody at one time, and it’s all in kind of one audio and video file. What Zoom will actually allow you to do is allow each individual person participating to be recorded and to have only their audio come in. So for something like a podcast episode where you need, like, a panel discussion, Zoom is a really good tool to be able to do that. You can record everybody independently. You get a lot more flexibility with that. So there’s a place for collaboration tools. We’re actually going to be using collaboration tools, like Microsoft Teams, in different ways moving forward. Not just as a way to actually capture content, but to allow participants to be a part of productions that they typically wouldn’t be able to be a part of.

Eric Pound: Now, as I said, I don’t know that I would actually recommend using a collaboration software for video and audio capture. If you’re looking to truly do video capture and get the highest quality possible, you’re going to want to use a service kind of like Open Reel. I really like OpenReel. It’s similar to the collaboration software, in a sense, in that you go to some sort of link or you open up an app and people can jump into this little portal. So you have the on-camera talent that’s able to go in there just through an app on their phone or on their actual computer. As a producer or director, I can jump on there and I can serve them up even a teleprompter so that they can be reading it on their phone or their desktop and be able to read the content and record.

Eric Pound: And what I love about this approach is that everything is recorded locally. It’s not recording over the internet. So you don’t have to deal with all those video and audio artifacts and stuff that you have from cloud-based recording a lot of times or that you get when you’re on some sort of collaboration software. It’s just the nature of it. Tools like OpenReel will allow you to get a much higher quality read audio-video-wise than you could out of collaboration tools.

Eric Pound: But if you’ve got to get a bunch of people pulled in or you’ve got a lot of content and you’re looking for a really agile way to do something, one of the things that we use is a tool called Wirecast. I’m actually using it right now. I’ll show you this. We’ll cut over to this camera here, and you can see that there are different interfaces that you can have. And you can actually pull multiple people in to a session at one time. You can see that I’ve got a PowerPoint deck here. I’ve got me that’s showing up as part of my ability to talk to Eric. Eric Meerschaert is joining us today. Eric, how you doing? Yep. So there he is. So we can talk real-time, and I can still pull them in as individual sources in Wirecast. I can also pull in all these video. This video content that we’ve been sharing through this presentation all gets ran out through here where basically we can edit on the fly.

Eric Pound: And so Wirecast will allow you to do that. And what it also allows you to do that’s pretty cool is that you can actually stream live out to the web. You can put it out to different content distribution networks, multicast them out there to different channels at one time. You can record. It allows you to do a lot. We’re actually using Wirecast to help produce these webinars here that you see.

Eric Pound: So Wirecast is wonderful. It’s definitely something to look at if you’re looking to up your production game and be able to get a lot of folks into your production from remote locations. It’s an excellent tool. But as I mentioned earlier, if you need to upgrade that look, you can still use these types of collaboration tools that I talked about earlier, like Webex or Teams, and you can use those in conjunction with traditional video production.

Eric Pound: We were actually able to go into a studio recently and we were able to have talent. The producer was there, and there was a camera guy. Everything was disinfected. There was masks and gloves available there. Everything was sanitized. We kept social distance. But instead of having this big, massive crew of people where we would typically put seven or eight people in a studio for something like this, we actually only had three people. And we were able to patch everybody else in via Microsoft Teams so that they could monitor and provide feedback as we were going. So in doing so, you’re able to keep things socially distant, which may be important to you and the way that you work. But at bare minimum, it’s going to make you more efficient, operationally efficient. You’ll be able to keep your costs down. So there are still ways to do production in the field and still make use of these new technologies that we’re using every day.

Eric Pound: Lastly, I want to show you this. This is a screen from American Idol. This is actually how they’re producing American Idol these days. You can see, right, there’s an iPhone there. It’s actually mounted on top of a nicer broadcast camera. There’s a little monitor right down in front so that talent can see, a confidence monitor there. One of the things I don’t think is going anywhere is this idea of micro production kits. That’s probably going to be one of them.

Eric Pound: Now, what’s a production kit exactly? Well, for a couple of grand, you can put a brand new iPhone 11 into a little, small case. Put a light ring, small tripod, a little lav mic, and send it off. And then you have the ability to connect with remote talent and get some creative consistency in the way of what video might look like. This is really important if you have multiple people that are going to be contributing to the same project. You might want to have a little kit that you can send out to everybody so they can participate and you get a consistent look and feel across the board here.

Eric Pound: I did mention earlier the collaborative software, like Webex and Microsoft Teams. They’re not going to go anywhere. We’re going to continue to use those, even at StudioNorth, just to help us operationally. It makes sense, as far as the work flow is concerned, so I don’t anticipate collaboration software going anywhere. We use it in our regular business, but we’ll see it broadly adopted, I believe, in the video production world as well.

Eric Pound: The cloud has definitely changed a lot of things over the years, and I believe that cloud workflows, cloud-based workflows, are going to be sticking around. It’s not going anywhere. It’s already allowing people to share files for feedback and review and approval. But we’re getting to the point now that we’re actually storing our media out on the cloud and using it to manage our media. And as we get better bandwidth and better storage and just better workflows in general, tools that Adobe has come out with, like Adobe Anywhere where you can have remote editors working off the same remote cloud-based media, those are some really cool tools. There’s some great cloud-based storage out there, like Aframe, that will allow you to do the same, have the same kind of post-production workflow in the cloud. Really good systems out there, if you’re trying to figure out how to do remote production, you really should take a look at because they’ll change the way that you work, not just during this period, but moving forward.

Eric Pound: Likewise, there’s other tools out there related to the cloud, like file acceleration technology that you’re probably going to want to look into if you’re working with big media files and you’re planning on using the cloud. You’re going to need a service like Signiant or FileCatalyst to accelerate those files and get them up on the web or on the cloud quicker than you probably could otherwise.

Eric Pound: So I don’t believe those kind of technologies are going anywhere. In fact, I think we’re going to probably settle in on a lot of these things in the coming months and years. So when this thing is all over, and quite honestly, I know a lot of us are looking forward to coming out of our basements and home offices and everything else, and seeing friends and neighbors and co-workers, we’ll have these workflows in place. And then it allows us, once those workflows are in place, to focus on the creative that’s going to get us the kind of connection that we want. These days, workflow is important. It’s not really about the workflows as much as it is the heart that you put into this. And whether you’re being attentive and whether you’re being intentional and whether you’re being responsive. So, please, deliver on what your product and service is, but go beyond that and look for those opportunities to connect.

Eric Pound: I want to show you one last video here.

Video:

It’s like a Hollywood movie script, isn’t it? You couldn’t write it like this.

Video:

Hello? Okay. We’re doing okay actually. What about you? How are you managing?

 

Video:

Yeah. Not bad, mate, not bad. How about you? How are you getting on with this lockdown business?

Video:

Hello?

Video:

Hi, Granddad.

Video:

Oh, hi, Tom. How are ya?

Video:

A girl down at one of the houses along my road here, she’s just moved in from New Zealand. She even offered to help me. She didn’t know me, but she knows me now.

Video:

The last few days, been out in the garden. So that’s been really nice, and helping the neighbors.

Video:

Yeah, definitely.

Video:

I’ve got five different neighbors that have offered to get things for me, all sorts of things that last me for quite a while.

Eric Pound: When lockdown is over, all of this doesn’t need to be over. I just love that. I love it. It’s a message of how we’re not going backwards. We’re moving forwards. But let’s take the best of what we’ve learned and what we’ve innovated with and move forward with that, make sure that we’re moving forward together with our audience, having the same conversations, because togetherness is really the essence of connection.

Eric Pound: And with that, I guess we’ll move into some Q&A.

Eric Meerschaert: Yeah, Eric, thanks a lot. Just sitting here listening to it, I really love the idea of avoiding being an echo. And it’s easy to do a product video that’s an echo if we talk about the same features in the same way for the same reasons as everyone else in our market, we’re an echo. And so if we rise to the challenge of just the medium, like you were saying, it’s not good enough to say, “I’ve got that in video.” We have to amplify the discussion or find a unique angle, and I really loved that. I also like the idea of connection and relevancy. So thanks for all of that.

Eric Meerschaert: There’s a number of questions here. And let’s see, our first one is: How does emotional connection and customer loyalty work together? Do you see a connection?

Eric Pound: Well, I guess the big picture view is that there’s really no loyalty without connection. People are loyal, I guess, and loyal is probably not the right word, but people will actually patron and consume products and services for reasons other than connection, whether it’s price, convenience, product availability, service, et cetera. So you have stuff like… take, for instance, what we use every day in the business to business world. I use various software and services for content creation. Well, we’re going to obviously continue to use those kinds of products and services even without a connection because there’s no loyalty there. It just happens to be that it’s convenient or the right price or whatever. But as soon as somebody else comes along with something better, faster, cheaper, convenient, whatever, I’m willing to give them my business unless I have some sort of emotional connection to that brand, which is why they go hand in hand. But connection is so essential. It’s an essential element of that equation for loyalty.

Eric Meerschaert: All right. Thank you. Hey, we got another question here, Eric: Is it advisable to have a CTA at the end of your video, or is that just too blatantly tacky?

Eric Pound: I don’t think there’s ever a reason not to include some sort of CTA, but the question becomes are you including it in your video, or where is that video being contained? If there’s a way to actually bake it into the environment that it’s in, whether it’s a website or whether you put it out on YouTube, take advantage of video for what it is. Allow people to have this kind of almost, like, a lean-back experience. And then when you want to engage and lean forward, that’s where the call to action should be readily available. And so if it’s baked into the end of that video or if it’s surrounding your content itself, I think call to actions are certainly important. Otherwise, you’re just putting it out there and you never get that opportunity to hear back. And conversations are based on two ways, so I think it’s super important to have call to action included somehow with your content.

Eric Meerschaert: Yeah, makes sense. Continue the conversation, as long as the call to action allows me to either get more information or amplify the dialogue by finding something new.

Eric Meerschaert: Let’s see, there’s another question here: Is live streaming your content a good option for responsive production?

Eric Pound: Well, it certainly can be. Live is great for social platforms. We talk about it at StudioNorth a lot, just pushing something live out into the social gives you some prioritization. It also notifies your followers. So it’s good in that respect, but as a content creator, I believe it’s important to have an actual reason to go live, other than the fact that you just want to do it because you can do it. You have to make sure that the information that you want to share is recent, relevant, and valuable. And honestly, if it doesn’t fit all three of those, I would probably consider another option other than live. Most content is viewed on demand these days anyway, and that would include, like, DVR, stuff that you would actually DVR on your television. You do have certain genres, like sports and news and events like the Grammy’s, that make really great live content. Why? It’s because there’s immediacy and urgency, that fear of missing out. And so it’s important that those kind of things become live.

Eric Pound: When live video is distributed and notifications are sent out and you’re doing that, make sure that your content is valuable enough for your audience that they’re to stop what they’re doing and jump over and watch your content. It needs to be that immediate and that important to them. Otherwise, you risk actually doing… I don’t want to say damage. That’s probably overstating it a bit here, but you’re being intrusive. So make sure you give them something valuable if they’re going to take time out of their variable schedule to join you for a live moment.

Eric Meerschaert: Yeah, that’s great. Thanks. One last question here. And by the way, anybody who hasn’t, if you’ve got a question, just press on the Q&A button and drop it in, but… because we do have a few more minutes. Here’s the question: How has COVID impacted the speed of content creation, and what bottlenecks should I anticipate?

Eric Pound: Whew. Well, so when I think about production, there’s really sort of three stages in content creation. You have pre-production, you have production, you have post-production. And the pre-production elements, I don’t think they’ve really changed much. You still have scripting and storyboards and messaging and all that that you have to kind of do up front. And we still collaborate internally and with our clients on that process, so that really hasn’t changed any. Production, as I mentioned earlier, is certainly different, but I’d say that the process itself isn’t really any more time intensive than it’s been in the past. There happens to be fewer and different people involved.

Eric Pound: Case in point, we haven’t thought much in the past about IT support during shoots, but with so much dependency on software and stable networks for our production workflows nowaday, IT is more important to that process than ever before. So that’s changed a little bit. I think probably if there is anywhere that there is a bottleneck, a larger bottleneck is probably in post-production, and that’s mostly due to media sharing. It’s really difficult to work, as you can imagine, with 4k and 6k media and an internet.

Eric Meerschaert: Yeah.

Eric Pound: But there are ways to do it without the edit and the effect stage kind of grinding to a halt. The obvious thing we’ve been doing for years is just sharing drives. Before there was cloud-based workflows, you’d pack up your stuff, you’d send it to an editor, an animator. They would work with that. And then during the meantime, you can work with proxy media, which are really compressed files that you can share and push up super easy.

Eric Pound: So that’s kind of how a lot of people are working nowadays, and it eliminates some of that bottleneck. If you do want to make that investment, you’ve got organizations like Adobe and Avid and I even believe Sony, they have remote edit solutions with cloud-based centralized media storage where it will actually send you an appropriate stream based on your available bandwidth, which is really, really awesome. And it’s a fully integrated post-production solution, but it’s very expensive and most people aren’t willing to kind of put that capital investment in place, and it’s hard to operationalize those costs as well.

Eric Pound: So you may want to look at a hybrid approach, something that allows you to upload proxies to the cloud and with some sort of, like, a SaaS solution, like [inaudible 00:52:36]. You can actually edit cloud-based media with a cloud-based, non-linear editor without ever downloading footage. So you don’t have that bottleneck that bandwidth actually happens to mess up our process here. And since you’re never uploading that full-res media, you actually have time, at that point, to package things up onto a drive, send it to another editor or animator. And by the time you’re done with your cloud-based stuff, they’ve got the drive and they’re ready to go.

Eric Pound: So even though things have changed and there have been potential bottlenecks that have come in place, there’s been a lot of innovation and newer technologies and workflows that allow us to kind of get past that bottlenecks and create content in a timely manner.

Eric Meerschaert: That’s great, Eric. Thanks. I don’t think I would have thought about IT in the middle of it. IT has plenty to do these days, so I bet that requires some good planning.

Eric Pound: Yeah.

Eric Meerschaert: Listen, there were a couple other questions that bounced in. Let’s see, I like this one: What’s a good best practice length for an emotional video online?

Eric Pound: A good best practice length for emotional video. You only have so much time and attention to give anyway. And it’s important that you don’t, and as we said earlier, you don’t waste time and you’re not… you make sure you’re relevant. But there’s a lot of stats that are around… shows us, like, the 90 second mark, the two-minute mark, the two-thirty mark. After you get there, it kind of bails out, but I will say that the viewing trends have actually extended and grown longer. And I think it’s easy… I shouldn’t say easy, but it’s possible to connect even with longer form content. But you have to hit them harder up front and make sure that they understand that what they’re about to watch goes back to authenticity, goes back to relevancy, and shows that you are being attentive to that conversation. If you’re doing that, I honestly think that the running time of your video content is less important.

Eric Meerschaert: So two-minute explainer is not necessarily the only way to go [crosstalk 00:54:38] is what you’re saying? Yeah, here’s another one. By the way, I love the fact that you covered some tools at the end. This is kind of a question about tools: Is there a starter camera that you would recommend that is a step up from webcam for an at-home studio?

Eric Pound: A starter camera, I would probably find something that is like a DSLR camera. Honestly, you can find really inexpensive… and the reason I’m saying DSLR is because there’s functionality beyond that. You can put a DSLR on a small, little tripod and pick your brand, but what I would suggest is possibly getting something with like a mini HDMI port in it and then running an HDMI cable out to a video capture, an external video capture card. I actually happen to use one all the time. Probably collectively, it’s expensive, but you’re looking at maybe 7, $800 for a camera and a capture card. And, yeah, that’s more than a typical webcam would cost, but you get the ability to now unplug it from your computer and go out in the field and film and do whatever you need to do.

Eric Pound: So I feel like going the DSLR route is probably the right way to go, if you’re looking to get past just a typical webcam.

Eric Meerschaert: Okay. Thanks for that. Well, look, as good corporate citizens, if we finish five or four minutes early, we’ll let you all go to your next meeting. So I’m going to cut off the questions there. There’s a few more. And I’m just going to say to everyone that came, thanks so much for coming.

Eric Meerschaert: We’ll be doing more of these, and we’re intending to have them to continue to be free just so that we can help people push to the next level of results right now. And if this technology has cooperated, and it has recently, we’ll send each of you the deck. Please stay healthy, safe, and thank you very much.

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Eric Pound

Eric Pound

Executive Producer

As StudioNorth’s executive producer, Eric is responsible for most things that move or make noise (video, audio and live events). Outside of work, Eric spends as much time as he can fishing and hunting, where he tries not to move or make noise.

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