The value of purpose in recruitment and engagement video

Posted by Nick Francis
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In our blog on Building Trust in the Era of Fake News, we discussed the value of purpose in all of your communications. Here we take a moment to look at why purpose is important, particularly for recruitment and internal engagement.

Vodafone - Equal in Work

Vodafone: Equal in Work

Your business' purpose or 'why' is an extremely useful resource when looking for content to broadcast or campaigns to run. This doesn’t mean that all the content you create should suddenly be about charitable causes or that it should be about ‘do-gooding’. It also doesn’t mean that all your content needs to be about your corporate purpose. It means that all the content that you create should have a tangential relevance to your ‘Why?’ as a business. This will provide an underlying coherence to your content at the same time as reinforcing your brand identity. It is a step towards your purpose being about actions, rather than just words.

While purpose is extremely valuable to corporate communicators, it must be ingrained in your way of doing business. It is not enough to simply talk about it: it must become part of your DNA. Your customers and employees will thank you for it, as will your shareholders in due course, so everyone ends up happy.

Purpose and the Zuckerberg generation

Purpose has become particularly important, given the evolutions in employment patterns in the current century. Speak to most employers, and they will complain that today’s youthful workforce has become less loyal and more flighty, but the facts don’t entirely bear this out. According to LinkedIn, millennials – those born between 1982 and 2000 (and among the 500 million who use the platform) – change job four times on average in their first ten years in the workplace. There is disagreement over whether this represents a significant departure from previous generations. A US Bureau of Labor Statistics study of the baby-boomer generation found that they had held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. This is certainly more than the baby boomers’ grandparents would have had at the turn of the 20th century.

What has happened, without question, is a shift in what the workforce want from a job. Millennials have seen their contemporaries overturn convention and earn billions as the creators of global technology brands. From Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber to Malala Yousafzai, they have seen how a compelling story can pluck anyone from obscurity and plaster them across the global stage. They mainline videos that show them what is happening in the world – their world – and how they can and must play a role in shaping it. ‘Shape the world’ is what they plan to do.

Young people naturally find it easier to pick up new things (which is just as well). This has meant that they have been disproportionately empowered by the Technological Revolution. This is upending traditional power structures. They know they have this power, and want to know what the brands they interact with – as their suppliers, employers and broadcasters – will do for them. Young people no longer live to work, they work to live. Work is something that the modern employee does as a part of their life. They expect to live the life of their choosing, which means that all employment is viewed through a ‘What’s in it for me?’ prism. Each job has to be a stepping stone or stamp to their career passport, enhancing their skills and experience to enable the next leap onwards.

Millennials have never known a world not negatively affected by human impact. Climate change, the ‘plastification’ of the oceans, mass extinction and social inequality all play on their minds. They want the businesses that they have a relationship with to be part of the solution to these problems. This explains why business purpose is so specifically important to them, particularly when choosing an employer.

They believe that business can be a genuine force for good in the world. Of the 7,900 young people surveyed as part of the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2017, 76% view ‘business’ positively and believe that it has a positive influence on society. This rose to 89% among those considered ‘hyperconnected millennials’; i.e. those identified as being highly digitally connected compared to the average in their own countries.

"Nine out of ten of the most influential millennials believe that business has

a positive influence on society."

As the guardians of business, you should seize this opportunity and build on it.

Why should this matter to you?

This matters because the millennials are becoming the most powerful generation in history. They are the largest generation (92 million in the US), surpassing the baby boomers (77 million US), and are entering the workplace and their prime earning/spending years. By 2025 they will make up 75% of the global workforce. They already control US$2.7 trillion in annual expenditure. In the West, over time, they will inherit the wealth of their baby-boomer parents, much of which has been protected and built by final-salary pensions and significant real-estate-asset inflation. They are the future of business and our planet.

Young people want purpose, belonging and ownership of the brands they interact with – your brand. They want to take part. They have grown up surrounded by social media and technology in the post- 9/11 world. Having a purpose to work towards makes them more-engaged employees, more-loyal customers and more-active advocates for your brand. They want you to be part of the solution, and they want you to be the enabler.

For employees, the ability to take part in charitable causes at work leads to an increase in loyalty. Deloittes’ aforementioned survey found that of the 54% of millennials who were provided with the opportunity to contribute to good causes or charities, 35% stayed in their job for 5 years or more (vs 24% without the opportunity). They were also more positive about the role of business in the world and optimistic about the social situation generally.

It’s not just employee engagement that makes this a good area for your business to get involved in. There’s also the direct-profit motive. Around 89% of millennial consumers have said there is a strong likelihood they would buy from companies that support solutions to particular social issues, and 91% said that this fact would increase their trust in the business. This would explain why market-research firm Nielsen identified that, in the financial year 2015, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%.

 

Vodafone - Belonging

 

 Vodafone: Belonging

How can this work for you?

As we saw in the Building Trust blog, it is essential that you don't just talk the talk. It is essential that you walk the walk. Take the work that Vodafone have been doing on promoting themselves as the number one employer for women and LGBT+ people. First they have to take the steps in that direction and then tell the world about it - in that order. Of course there will always be a degree the marketing driving the reality, but tangible steps towards the new reality have to come first. The great thing about this type of film is that it makes for really powerful, engaging outputs. Ideal for recruitment and staff engagement.


Whatever you're making videos about it's essential to make them the right length to get your message across. We've pulled together everything you need to know, platform by platform, to help you with that.

Check it out here.

Topics: Attract and retain the best candidates, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Purpose driven video

The Better Video Power Hour with Vodafone's Catalina Schveninger

Posted by Nick Francis
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Make your next video the best yet webinar

This might sounds a little obvious (not to mention cheesy) but we are pretty passionate about making really really great films at Casual Films. Nothing makes us happier than watching a fine filmic filly leave the Casual stable ready to hit the social media or intranet racetrack at a gallop. It makes us sad too when we see projects that don't go quite as well as they should and the production vet needs to get involved. I'll give that analogy a rest now - put it out to pasture if you like - (sorry).

Anyway, over the years we're made around 10,000 videos of all different sizes for every type of purpose and for every type of client. That has lead us to develop our very own exacting methodology for making videos that work. We've wanted to share this process for some time and we felt that the best format for this was through our own version of live TV - a webinar!

Webinar video_6
 

MAKE A DATE: 11th JULY 2019 - 17:00CET / 16:00BST / 11:00EDT / 08:00PDT

I (Nick) am going to be joined by Casual UK's Managing Director and production powerhouse Oliver Atkinson. Over the space of 50 short minutes we're going to share our step-by-step process for making better quality videos in less time and for less money.

Our Extra Special Guest

Catalina

We're extremely excited to announce Catalina Schveninger, Global Head of Learning at Vodafone as our special guest. Catalina is now responsible for the development of the company's global team of over 110,000 people - quite a remit - so we're extremely happy that she is making the time in her schedule to share her thoughts with us. 

Catalina was previously Global Head of Employer Brand at Vodafone having joined following time as HR Director of T Mobile in The Netherlands. She began her international HR career in 2002 as a member of the Human Resources Leadership Program at GE and held different roles, including the HR Director of GE’s Security EMEA division. 

A mother of 2, Catalina is a passionate advocate for the attraction and development of women in organisations and an avid learner of all things AI and neuroscience. These interests are reflected in a number of the projects that we have produced together including this one promoting belonging at Vodafone:

Vodafone - Belonging

Vodafone - Belonging

One of the reasons we're really pleased that Catalina is going to be able to join us is the fact that she will be able to give the commissioner's angle to the conversation. We are going to use a global employer branding project that we did with her as the backdrop for the learnings that we want to share. You can see one of these films here:

Vodafone - Digital Ninja (1)

Vodafone - "The Future is Exciting, Ready?" - Digital Ninjas employer brand

We will be holding a live Q&A at the end of the session so please come armed with anything that you want to ask. We will do our best to get to them. Also - please share the link with anyone else you think might find the session useful.

This is the webinar for you if...

  • You've commissioned video but you feel it's been too expensive, time consuming and ultimately ineffective in the past.
  • You want to understand the simple techniques that the world’s best communicators use to land their message with video.
  • You want to know how global telecoms company Vodafone uses video to land a global brand launch with their 110,000+ staff.
  • You want to understand where most people go wrong and how to avoid expensive, time consuming pitfalls.

 

We look forward to seeing you there.

Topics: Being a better commissioner, How-to, News, Content Strategy, Culture & Values

Captive corporate audiences are a thing of the past. All is not lost though…

Posted by Nick Francis
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Once upon a time, corporate communicators could produce materials which were either read out at departmental meetings, shared in company magazines, or played from VHS tapes to teams in smoke filled magnolia washed rooms. They sat there once a week or month to hear what the overlords from head office had deigned to share. They had no choice. They were effectively captive. This was not a golden age for communication quality.

Now your audience are rather more… dynamic. They can choose what to watch and when to watch it. For good or ill, you have the power to reach them almost 24 hours a day and yet engaging them can be as hard as ever.

Attention is the new currency

Applications designed to capture and sell our attention have turned our time into a commodity. This means that everyone is now fighting for it. Their Instagram or Facebook feed, their families and friends, billon dollar box sets and your piece of comms. It’s noisy out there. You need to cut through that noise to be noticed. Why is this so challenging?

This has made the quality of content skyrocket 

The technological revolution which has put the power of television studios and distribution networks in our hands, has pushed the bar up drastically on what constitutes quality. From Netflix to HBO, and Amazon Prime to network on demand, broadband Internet has substantially increased the amount of excellent content available. From live sports coverage to stunning wildlife documentaries, new technology is enabling a level of access and production values that were pretty much unimaginable just a few years ago. We’re living through the golden age of glossy TV.

What does this mean?

This means that whomever your audience are – external or internal – they are judging the content you share against the most sophisticated systems to capture human attention that have ever existed. I know that seems pretty tough – and it really is – but there are ways that you can still reach them… 

Most important: deliver genuine value

The number one thing that you need to do to cut through to your audience is to deliver them value. For more information on what I mean by this check out this blog here. As Seth Godin says, you should create content which your audience would miss and seek out if it wasn’t there. A simple way to think about this is through the mnemonic TRUE – Timely, Relevant, Useful, Entertaining. Lead with the value with the material you share – make it easy for them to consume. 

Be consistent

Whether you are sharing material internally or externally, it’s important that you are consistent with the material that you share. Once you’re sharing work which is of value to the audience, they will begin to look forward to each iteration. Meet them half way by sharing to a schedule.

Think creatively

Are there other ways that you can cut though? Of course –  you just need to get a little creative. There are a number of ways that you can do this. One is by using new technology.  There is now 360° video/virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and interactive video. They represent new and ever-improving ways of providing immersive stories to the audience. They are a goldmine for corporate communicators who are willing to push them and use them with a little creative flair. They provide an opportunity for a different type of immersion in your brand narrative from what was possible before – enhancing and enriching the stories that you choose to tell around your brand. 

Don’t forget about emotion

Video’s ability to communicate emotion is the most powerful asset in the communicators bag of tricks. This means that whatever you are trying to communicate, you should look for to include a human angle to help it to land with the audience. That might mean using animated characters, finding the stories of individuals that illustrate the experience of the many, or just getting a member of your team on the screen to explain the point. This will help the audience to make sense of it and remember it.

We hope these help. Whatever you’re trying to achieve, for whatever audience you’re trying to reach, our highly experienced producers are ready to help you get there. Fill in the form on this page and one of our producers will give you a call back to discuss your project.

Topics: Train and develop staff, Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy, Brands as broadcasters

5 ways to get the most from existing assets / video content

Posted by Nick Francis
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Existing Assets

 

How do you make the most of video content assets that you already have? Most businesses will now have a large amount of past material that they want to reuse or repurpose. This could be footage from past brand or corporate videos, TV commercials, internal films, promotional stills or even music. It takes time, money and thought to create content that is worth sharing in the first place so it makes sense to want to get the most from it. If the content is for social, having more helps you to get noticed and to stay front of mind for your audience. A bit of extra mileage can make a big difference. So what are some of the ways to find it?

1. Tell the Producer

The earlier in the process the production team know that you want to create as much content as possible, the better. This allows them to look for ways to maximise the final outputs throughout. Share the all the content that you have so that they can see how to best incorporate them. Don't worry about whether you think it's right or not - they will know what they are looking for and will be able to help you.

2. Speak to the Editor

No-one knows the footage as well the the person who has just spent hours pawing over it. Sometimes the production team might have shot hours of footage to create a single 60 second output. This is a very rich hunting ground for additional content. If you want to know what's there, speak the editor. They will be able to let you know what you did or didn't get. Quite often what you think you got and actually got can be quite different things, so it's always a useful conversation to have. Don't worry if you don't get a chance though - this is the kind of thing that your producer does on your behalf.

3. Transcribe your Interviews

It can be a little blinding to look at four hours of interview recordings. One way of making this a lot easier is to get it transcribed. This allows you to do a search for words or phrases - significantly reducing the time needed to scoot through. It can also make it easier for you to understand the content that's there. There are some really excellent websites which do this automatically. The output is not perfect but it's certainly good enough to be getting on with. We use and recommend Trint.

4. Think Cross-Platform

Sometimes a piece of content may have run it's course on specific platform might by ripe for another. For example short reedits which wouldn't work for your company website can be really effective when used with some overlaid graphics on Instagram or Facebook. You may be able to grab still images from videos and share them as Instagram Stories with some supporting copy.

5. No Piece of Content is Ever 'Spent'

Finally, try not to think of content as being 'spent'.  There are always ways to get a little more mileage out of the material that you have. Try to look with fresh eyes. It can be as simple as going back over an old project with a different frame of reference and seeing clips or soundbites in there that make sense in a whole different way. 

Reused assets can lead to really powerful results, particularly when included from an early stage...

BMW - Careers (1)

BMW Careers

This film for BMW Careers is a perfect example of using pre-existing content from the business’ library. Naturally they had a large amount of really lovely footage from the promotional material produced for the main brand. This was combined with graphics, some library, some UGC – also from BMW – sound design and a specifically composed music track. The addition of the track really pulls the production together – making it more than just a collection of disparate material. This is a clear example of how making the producer aware of the stipulations at the outset of the project allowed the creatives and the production team to incorporate the different assets seamlessly.


Whatever you are trying to achieve with your video content, it helps to have people who know what they're talking about on your side. Our team of producers, strategists, creatives, editors, animators and filmmakers have made literally thousands of films for people just like you. They would be happy to discuss your ideas, requirements and the potential that video holds for you. Book a no strings call back from one of our filmmaking team, right here.

Topics: Production process, Repurposed content, How-to, Content Strategy

What's it like filming in a rainforest in London?

Posted by Nick Francis
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We’ve recently delivered a series of films for London Zoo on Behalf of Evening Standard Independent Group. It’s been a real labour of love for the crew, particularly Olly Atkinson, who has always had a bit of a soft spot for our furry friends. In his rich and varied careers before Casual he produced none other than the Secret Life of Hedgehogs. David Attenborough watch your back.

To find out a bit more about the process of shooting in the zoo we caught up with Olly to ask him about some of the challenges of shooting in a synthesised rainforest. Misty camera lenses and plastic cased GoPros watch out – the climbing anteater is about…

London Zoo Olly Interview

Casual's London MD, Olly Atkinson, who produced the films explains some of surprising challenges of shooting in a zoo! Keep watching to see the film at the end


Whatever you want to make a video about or expert global team are on hand to help. Fill in your details and thoughts on the form on this page and one of them will get back in touch very shortly. We've produced work from the Canadian Arctic to the Iraqi Desert (and a fair few conference rooms in between), so our staff understand your challenges and how to translate them into effective video content efficiently, whether your films subjects are going to try to break open and eat the camera, or not.

You can find the book a call back form here.

 

Topics: Increase brand awareness and appeal, Production process, How-to, About Casual

How to make your content last longer

Posted by Nick Francis
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How to make content last-2

 

It's a really common question - it takes time, headspace and money to create content that is worth sharing. So we thought we would share a couple of thoughts on how you can maximise your content's mileage...

1. Shoot Plenty

Whatever you are producing the more material you can shoot the more options you are giving yourself for the future. You may choose to use that extra material to create social cuts now or to hold them back to refresh the content with a reedit in the future.

2. Tell the Production Team

It helps if the people making the videos know that you want them to last as long as possible. This will allow them to work this into the creative/production.

3. Use Animation

It's great - reflecting brand and looking professional and is infinitely changeable - we have an animation from 2009 that we are still making reedits to for a client. Oh yeah - and the characters don't usually resign.

4. Does it Really Matter?

Usually, you get bored of your content before your audience do. They may be coming to it fresh.

5. Deliver Lasting Value

Just like Steve McQueen, really great ideas, information and entertainment don't go out of fashion.


What's the best length to guarantee engagement online? Well, one way to find out is by downloading our What's the Right Length for Video Online? Whitepaper.

Which is good because it's right here:

Download Casual's Right Length for Video Online Whitepaper

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

Atomised content: The rise of the chicken sized horse

Posted by Nick Francis
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As filmmakers we sometimes need to kill time - in airports, interview rooms, watching render bars. One-way of doing this is by playing the game would you rather? The options are only limited by the imaginations of the crew which can be fairly ‘expansive’. Most of them probably shouldn’t be shared here. A classic though is:

Would you rather fight one chicken the size of a horse, or 100 horses the size of chickens?

It’s a poser. Brand-film wise, the horse-sized chicken used to rule the roost: a single monolithic piece of content that promoted your brand with a knockout punch. It was shared everywhere – the AGM, at pitch meetings and conferences. Everyone would watch it and marvel as they were told how amazing the company was.

 

Breast Cancer Now - Chantelle

 

Breast Cancer Now - Chantelle 90 second cut

Now, things have changed. Online content is all about multitudes of chicken sized horses. You need volume because your audience are so fragmented, over stimulated and time poor the only way to be sure your message gets through is via a carefully directed stream of multiple pieces of content. Much of your content may not be seen but you’re playing the numbers game. As long as your brand and the narrative is consistent your message stands a far greater chance of getting through.

Breast Cancer Now ChantelleBreast Cancer Now: Chantelle - Instagram

Take our good friends over at Breast Cancer Now, they knew that in order to grab and maintain their audience’s attention you had to hit them, not once but again and again and again. Muhammed Ali didn’t win his fights with a single punch he danced around the ring and landed perfectly timed shots. Your video content strategy needs to do exactly the same thing. Atomised content isn’t about spending more to get more, it’s about getting more from what you already have.

Breast Cancer Now utilised their budget to ensure they had enough content to keep their audience engaged across multiple platforms for a longer period of time. Let the horse sized chicken slowly fall whilst you produce Instagram stories, Facebook posts, Twitter videos, subtitled content, banner ads, email marketing campaigns the list goes on and on. Loads of tiny horses streaming out towards their audience.

 

UK5060BCN_FactFilms_C_01_MB

 

Breast Cancer Now Chantelle Video Banner

On average we shoot between 15 and 40 minutes worth of content per interview. This content is then condensed to a 30, 60 or 90second film. That leaves loads of unused material which can now be used to create supporting content. Take those clips which were just a bit too long winded to include originally and see if it could work as a stand-alone film, pull stills from video content and create new social media posts, turn the audio into a podcast. Once you stop viewing your video budget as a single deliverable you start to get much more bang for your buck!

Producing content in this way gives you flexibility. You don’t have to blow all your budget on that one piece of content which needs to tick all the boxes, instead you can focus on the specific needs of your target audience. Make a film that speaks to each group individually, get personal and your brand and message will start to grow strong roots.

BCN_CHANTELE_970x250_02

So, next time you raking your brain trying to think of the next best all singing all dancing chicken sized horse surprise your audience with a hundred horse sized chickens, they won’t see that coming. Or maybe they will - and that's kind of the point.

...

Whatever the size of your future content project, set off on the right foot with our guide to writing better briefs. You can download it here:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

 

Topics: Being a better commissioner, Repurposed content, How-to, Atomised content, Content Strategy

How much does a film cost?

Posted by Nick Francis
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Creating content costs less than ever. New technology has put the power of production studios in our mobile phones. We are all savvier than ever about how a film goes together. You have everything you need to create and share content right now. Even for professionally produced content these advances have fed a drastic reduction in the time and cost of creating a like-for-like piece of work over the last decade or so.

That having been said, in order to ‘cut through’ to our audience online we should be sharing more content than we ever have before – so it’s just as well it’s cheaper. Because of this there has been a significant move towards getting as much mileage as possible out of all the content that we create. ‘Content atomisation’ – taking the central piece of content and then reediting and repurposing it to maximise the mileage. The cost of each output has fallen, even if the cost of the overall project is often the same.

DOWNLOAD COMMANDMENTS

How much does a film cost?

This is one of the most common questions people ask. There are a few different ways of answering it but to save beating around the bush, the simplest answer is that an average Casual Films project for the financial year to 2019 was $18k in the US and £15k in the UK/EU.

The key word there though is project, as often these can entail a number of different outputs and reedits. More usually we will create a series of films that cost more in the $/£60k -100k region. Some projects extend into the hundreds of thousands, but these tend to be many outputs in one.

What’s the reason for the average film value?

Because at around $18k/£15k we begin to be able to add significant value to the project with our proprietary production process. Our pricing is defined by the amount of time that it takes to create each project. Different roles in the process cost differing amounts depending on their experience, expertise and impact on the project. At this budgetary level there is enough budget for two or three days of creative - to get a great idea - some producer time to make it all happen, a day or two to shoot it and then editing, sound design and some animation if necessary. They will be able to create something fairly sparkly, as long as they don't need to work around too many fixed costs - travel, talent, specialist equipment.

What’s the cheapest film we can make?

The lowest that we tend to start a project is around $/£8k, although if we have an existing relationship then we can and do go a little lower. We tend to not compete for projects at the really low end because there are lots of smaller producers and freelancers out there who do a decent job at this level. We’re not able to add the same value we are when the projects have a little room for a bit more creative thought and sparkle.

As a rule, if this is your first question we’re probably not the right company for you. We compete on being able to create things happen for your business with video – optimising for return on investment rather than being as cheap as possible.

Can you work to my budget?

The process of filmmaking is creative, so the budget becomes an additional constraint that the creative thinking needs to work around – like the timeframe, branding or specific messaging. Because of this, it can be extremely flexible – it’s possible to fulfil the same objectives for significantly different investment levels. On the other hand, quality, in-depth thinking and delivery take time, and time costs money. If you need to shoot in a number of different locations or include significant amounts of complex animation these are hard costs which are challenging to work around.

Promoting your content

For years, there has been a disconnect between where marketing money gets spent and where the real potential lies. In studies, researchers have found that the quality of creative messaging is responsible for up to 75% of a campaign’s success. In spite of this, as much as 90% of the overall spend is often still focused on the media budget.

"75% of a campaign’s effectiveness is defined by the quality of the creative messaging"

- Google

Traditional television marketing became so successful largely because of how strong the metrics that were available to support it were. One of the major challenges that online content has faced over the years is the challenge of showing direct causation between money spent and the return on that investment.

But this isn’t necessarily about spending more money on marketing than you already are. Creating and executing a comprehensive and effective content strategy can be about redistributing the money you’re already investing. Why, for example, are you spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on the production of TV commercials when the vast majority of your audience watch them for the first time as a small image on their Facebook feed, momentarily pausing before scrolling onwards, and paying very little attention to them?


We'd love to talk to you about this or anything in the production process. Drop us a line or send us an email: projects@casualfilms.com to book a call back with one of our producers.

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Project management

What is a story and why do they matter to communicators?

Posted by Nick Francis
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“Story Story Story”

- Sir Ridley Scott, one of the greatest living filmmakers/storytellers, opening the New Directors’ Showcase at the Cannes Lions in 2018.

Stories are all around us. We use them to entertain, to amuse and to inform. They also form the underpinnings of nations, companies, families, teams and even money. Storytelling has become a buzzword in corporate communications. A search of LinkedIn finds that nearly 800,000 people describe themselves as storytellers, or list storytelling as a skill. But there is good reason for this.

Stories are central to how we define our reality. They define belonging, and the concept of ‘them’ and ‘us’. This is because every cultural arrangement relies (no matter how loosely) on a shared set of understandings. This makes an understanding of stories essential for those interested in creating and strengthening cultures of any kind.

What is a story?

Simply put, a story is an encapsulation of cause and effect. Our brains link facts – A leads to B, B leads to C, and so on. This gives rise to the three-act structure: the ingredients, the reaction and the outcome. The reason this is a more effective form of communication than just giving facts is that it mirrors how our brains have evolved to process information.

Story structure activates the brain in a way that simple facts do not:

“Don’t drink the water, it’s not safe” isn’t as memorable as... 

“Sarah drank from that smelly stream, and she has been in bed, writhing in agony, ever since.”

When we hear the facts linked as a story, we can’t help but visualise Sarah’s experience. This creates an emotional reaction over and above the simple facts and embeds it into our brains. Because of this, information relayed as a story is far more likely to be remembered than the same information shared as bare facts.

Conflict is essential to great stories…

Good stories are about conflict; they include a degree of jeopardy in the achievement of the effect or outcome (i.e. A plus B could lead to C, but it could also lead to D, E or F). The greater this unpredictability or jeopardy, the more powerful the emotional connection, and therefore the greater the impact of the story.

This gives nearly all great stories a recognisable structure. Look at any of the great myths – ancient or modern – and you’ll find the personable figure of the underdog, who sets out against great odds to achieve a significant (and almost unattainable) goal. In doing so, they enhance themselves and grow. In his excellent book Into the Woods, renowned screenwriter John Yorke examines the mechanics behind story structure. He argues that, while the subject of the story (the protagonist) might not get what they initially wanted, they achieve the thing that they actually needed, and that is far more valuable.

The reason for the success of this type of structure is that it mirrors an insecurity that lies at the heart of all human beings. Built within our psyches is the belief that we are the underdog facing the challenges of the world. Different types of stories resonate with different target audiences, but the underdog against the world resonates with us all.

John Yorke Into the Woods Casual Films

Story and Memory

The paradox of the online world is that, while it has never been easier to reach an audience, it’s still difficult to connect with them. There is so much noise in modern communications, but great stories give you the opportunity to reach past your audience’s overstimulated heads and reach their hearts. Emotive stories do this. Used effectively, they enable you to get people to take note and remember what you want them to.

The facts that stories lace with emotional connections become far more memorable. Bear with me here… In the early days of Casual, I used to go to breakfast networking groups, to meet and learn from other entrepreneurs. At one meeting, the topic of the conversation was, “What makes great customer service?” As we went around the table, the various business owners present gave their two-cents’ worth: “Well, I think it’s about sharing my mobile phone number and then not letting it ring more than twice when they call” and “I think it’s about sending a card for your clients’ birthdays”. Each business owner took their turn to give their ideas. When it came to me, I had a story about something that had happened recently and was fresh in my mind.

“A good client of ours rang our office at 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon. They had a very important pitch, and, for one reason or another, the film that they had been waiting for from their internal video department hadn’t come. She told me that the pitch started the next morning at 9am, and it would be severely compromised without the video. I told her not to worry and that if it was humanly possible, we would get it done. Four of us stayed and worked until 2.30am, finished the film and sent it over to her. She played it and they ended up winning the business. “This is what I think is good client service.”

About a year later, I was at a conference and I introduced myself to one of the other delegates. I was slightly taken aback when he said, “I know you; you’re the guys who are really good at client service.” He had been at that networking group, and had heard the story I shared. It had stuck in his mind long after the associated facts of the rest of the group had faded. I’m telling you this to illustrate the enduring nature of information that has been made to resonate with a broader narrative.

Making the intangible tangible – brand, values and the ‘foundation myth’

The previous example illustrates another key asset of stories in the business context: they allow the communicator to make relatively intangible ideas – such as customer service, brand or values – tangible. It can be challenging to communicate what is meant by an abstract brand slogan. If the communicator builds that definition out with a story, it gives it a form and context that is accessible and ‘sticky’ (or memorable). In this example, the relatively abstract concept of ‘customer service’ is given a clear form through a simple story.

Apple Big Brother 1984 Casual Films

Apple’s iconic Think Different’ slogan is perfectly encapsulated by Ridley Scott’s equally iconic 1984 commercial for the launch of the original Mac computer (even though the slogan itself didn’t feature for the company until 1997). The spot features hundreds of drone-like, monochrome men in boiler suits all captivated by a large, Big-Brother-esque face on a screen in front of them. From the back of the room, a young woman in running kit, including red shorts, runs in and hurls a large hammer at the screen, destroying it. It ends with a voiceover saying, “Find out why 1984 is not going to be like 1984” – a clear, if implicit, punch at the established order represented by IBM. Anyone who saw that ad could see the essence of what Apple stood for then and what it continues to stand for now. To explain what was meant by the slogan could have taken many hundreds, if not thousands, of words, but video allows it to be captured and understood simply, in a handful of seconds.

This attribute makes the format really useful for internal/employer communications. Every company now has a set of values, which it expects its staff to live their working lives by. These values are far more effectively communicated through a story than a slogan. A value with a story becomes a behaviour. A behaviour is easier for the employee to understand and act on. Saying, “This is what we mean by excellent customer service, integrity, give more, etc.” is a great way to get staff to exhibit those values. Video is an effective way of illustrating these stories to them.

The powerfully aligning nature of narrative is part of the reason that foundation myths hold such a powerful sway in the business world. Yes, the company may now be a global behemoth, but, once upon a time, it was just a small group of people with an idea and a desire to go against the system. These founders faced almost impossible odds (conflict/jeopardy) but overcame them with guile and a belief that what they were doing was right. No matter how large and successful the company becomes, there will always be the underlying narrative, which can be mythologised, and used to engage and motivate staff and other stakeholders.


If you find this interesting check out Nick's book: The New Fire - Harness the Power of Video for Your Business. You can preorder it hereNew Fire Book Image

 

Topics: Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

Using Data to Inform Your Content

Posted by Nick Francis
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“The biggest difference between Don Draper and now is data.”
– Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever


Not long ago, to get any kind of information on a target market, marketers needed to send out surveys or run focus groups. This made the process extremely heavy. For example, the census that the US government runs every 10 years takes several years to compile. This means that all the information it contains is out of date before anyone gets their hands on the latest copy. This has all changed now that the number of smart devices in circulation has exploded. We track how many steps we take, the places we visit and web searches effortlessly. There is also a huge amount of data accessible to video marketers. We can use this to create content that we know your target audience will want to engage with. This makes the understanding and use of data an extremely important tool for video marketers.

Netflix, House of Cards and Big Data

Netflix shows just how far companies can go when using data to inform the types of content it shares. Its flagship series, House of Cards, is a massive hit with its subscribers, with 86% saying that they were less likely to cancel their subscription because of the show, according to a survey by Cowan and Company. Back in 2011, the company took the massive step of commissioning two series of the show in one go, 26 episodes, for over US$100 million – US$3.8 million an episode, without seeing a single one!

  • Is that bravery or foolhardiness? It was actually a careful calculation based on big data. Before making the decision, it knew a number of key relevant facts about its users:
    A significant number of users had watched the whole of the David Fincher directed movie The Social Network.
  • The original British version of House of Cards had been well watched.
  • People who watched the British version of House of Cards also
    watched Kevin Spacey films and/or films directed by David Fincher.

This allowed it to make a judgement call that the new series was worth its investment. Having this information also allows it to target users with other content that they might like. It’s also able to see who is at risk of giving up their subscription by seeing how much they have been using it over the past month.

Why does this matter to you?

Obviously, Netflix is in a strong position as it’s able to directly track how its subscribers access its services on a person-by-person basis. There are ways that you can use data without having quite such an in-depth view, though. For example, A/B testing a number of different creative treatments/video names/thumbnail images before choosing the one that resonates most successfully with our audience is a form of data optimisation we should all be doing.

Beyond this, you can see in greater depth than you might at first glance. You have access to a surprising amount of data if you choose to. Many of the clients I’ve worked with in the past haven’t been able to make the most of the data they could be collecting. This is usually because of concerns around hosting and data security. There are some very powerful platforms that can host video securely, giving access to in-depth information, but it requires the clients making a choice to utilise them. This has been an argument that we’ve lost more often than not.

Given this fact and the natural limitations that you’ll have when you first start using data, it’s important that you don’t give up on the experience and intuition of your team/suppliers. Data can provide a grounding for decisions, but it’s important that you weigh the information up and make a rational choice based on what you have. Data can give you the insight that will help you to optimise your product and improve your value proposition. You just need to look at what you have access to and how this can help you.

Challenges to Data

The quality of the decisions you’re able to make as a result of a piece of data is only ever going to be as good or reliable as the underlying data itself. Because of this, you need make sure that you can trust all of the data that you include. As we’ll see, the seemingly unstoppable rise of data has, to an extent, been checked by a number of setbacks.

There are a few shortcomings of the data-led approach, which mean that those nice luvvies in the creative department shouldn’t be sweating too much just yet. Firstly, while all that data can undoubtedly be used to improve the background understanding that informs a creative idea, the information still needs human creative thought to establish the idea itself. Secondly, by becoming too data-centric, there is a danger that you end up travelling down a creative rabbit hole, only ever producing variations on the same work you’ve done in the past, because that’s where your best/safest dataset is. Finally, you need to be certain that the data is telling you what you think it is. For example, the most commonly tracked video data is views and engagements – shares, likes and comments. While it might be good for your self-esteem to know that your video has had over 1 million views since you shared it, it’s not going to help with your strategy if all of those people are either bots or from the wrong target group. The more trustworthy detail that you can get, the more useful data will be as a tool.

Oath Storytellers and Chevrolet - Case study

As the number of data points available to content commissioners increases, they are able to use the data points to make ever-more-insightful observations about the types of content you should be producing for a given audience. This is particularly true for businesses – such as publishers (The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, CNN, etc.) – that have built up a wealth of data from the past work that they have shared.

Take Oath – formerly Yahoo! – for example. It has over a billion monthly users. Each of those users’ actions is tracked, which builds up a picture of their online habits. Oath suggests that it receives and records 4 trillion data signals per month. This breadth of information allows it to judge what will and won’t be successful for certain demographics.

Going There Anna GasteyerOath for Chrysler - Going There with Anna Gasteyer

For example, Oath’s content studio was commissioned to produce a series to promote family cars for Chrysler. From its data, it was able to tell that, of its users who were in the market for a family car, 51% were female, 73% were married and 70% had children. It also knew that millennial parents/ expecting parents using Oath were 46% more likely to agree that they like the same products that celebrities use. It also knew that comedy was their favourite genre. Through all of this information, it was able to understand the type of content that would work best for the target audience, and create a series of comedy in-car interviews called Going There with Anna Gasteyer. Supporting this, it had a digital site with a variety of supporting content aimed at enticing mums, based on the search terms it knew they used. This led to increases in the click-through rate (+33%), purchase intent (+6%) and brand trust (+5%) among the target audience.


One really useful use of data is in understanding what the best lengths for video are online. We pulled together the best information into a white paper to help you maximise the impact of your work. You can download it right here.

 

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

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