December 13, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Do We Need Video as a Communications Tool?

Do We Need Video as a Communications Tool?

First, “blog” was The Word*. Then, it was “Podcast.”* Logically, the next step was “Video,” and over the last few months, video has become easier to make, upload, find and enjoy. We have seen YouTube enjoy tremendous success, while everything from corporate press room videos (in-house productions and services such as Reel Biography) to live streaming (Qik.com, Ustream and others) to live chat (OoVoo, Skype and more). Video adds a much needed, well, visual element to many of our communications, whether it is for entertainment, information or business. However, is the rush to video a good thing, or are companies chasing a shiny object regardless of its effectiveness? I would like to
look at a few different ways we use video, and offer my opinions, in hopes of starting a discussion:

The Corporate Video: Oldie But Goodie

On the one hand, this is already old hat: create a video, perhaps the CEO introducing the company and products, customer testimonials, or product demonstrations. These videos live on corporate Web sites, and more creative companies are putting them into press releases and allowing people to download and share them.

It is hard to see the downside of this type of video; after all, they liven up the traditionally dull “About” sections of corporate web sites and electronic press rooms, and give instructive and creative views into how products work and what a company is doing. However, if a company does not have any visual element or is serving an audience
segment that is either older or still in dial-up land (yes, these people still exist) video could be unnecessary, or worse, an obstacle to viewing the site.

YouTube Doesn’t Matter

Do you have a “YouTube strategy?” No, you don’t. YouTube isn’t a strategy, it’s a distribution medium. “Viral” isn’t a strategy either, but creating opportunities that could go viral is. YouTube is a handy place to store a video where people can find it and share it, where bloggers and reporters can embed them in their own sites, where you can bring them to people you want to see them. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it doesn’t matter. At all. What matters is that you first decide what you want to say, if it can be said well in video and how you want to produce it. If you want something slick and highly produced, you may want to look at production services, and alternatives hosts such as Veoh, Vimeo or Viddler. After that, make it easy to find, easy to share, and easy to watch.

Live Video Chat

Live video chat is nothing new, but it is more commonplace as bandwidth has increased. Live chat has been a great add-on for messaging services as diverse as AOL Instant Messenger and Skype, and a boon for separated families and friends. For business? Think of the meeting where it is necessary to see what you are doing, where you are, and how you are presenting. If voice is better than text, and face to face is the best of all worlds, then video chat has its place.

Where live video chat needs to step up to become useful is in integrating multiple elements: presentations, like WebEx, GoToMeeting and the like, and multiple participants. OoVoo has given us a tantalizing look at the latter, but I think we may have further to go to see the ultimate video conferencing application.

Asynchronous Video Chat

I have to admit, I thought I was one cool dude when I got an invite to the Seesmic alpha. It did get me participating, and thinking about video a bit more. As I started to use it, though, I noticed one thing: while people enjoyed leaving video messages for each other and waiting for responses, I noticed that very few were taking advantage of the visual element. There are exceptions, and the addition of similar features to multimedia site Utterz has brought asynchronous video messaging into wider use, but the utility of a Seesmic-like application is in question.

I am intrigued by the idea of an executive- or a politician–leaving regular video chat-style messages and letting people respond in kind, but I firmly believe it’s not worth the effort, over text or audio, unless they take full advantage of the visual medium. Add some graphics, use field video, anything! Just give me a reason to watch.

So, Do We Need Video?

No, we don’t need video. However, if you are sure video is the best way to get your message across, if your audience can receive video easily and perhaps even respond in kind, and you are prepared to keep things visually interesting, then knock yourself out. The tools will only get better, but your strategy better be just as good.

*Words of the year in 2004 and 2005, according to Merriam Webster

Doug Haslam is a public relations professional with Topaz Partners, specializing in technology clients in the Web 2.0, mobile, online marketing and networking industries. Doug blogs at Tech PR Gems and Gischeleman’s blog, and is a regular on Topaz Partner’s weekly PRobecast.

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