So you want to include video in your content marketing strategy?

We spoke with our favorite video producer about how to mitigate sticker shock and get the most bang for your buck when creating any kind of corporate video, for internal or external audiences. Here’s what you should keep in mind.

A video by Leff Communications and Mike Russell.

A recent report on content marketing trends among B2B companies revealed that 76 percent of companies use video to support sales, marketing, and business development. That’s no surprise: as executives have become more used to consuming information online, video offers a great format for digesting and sharing content easily across a range of channels.

The challenge for companies considering video production is to strike the right balance between cost and production value. Although YouTube is filled with self-produced videos shot on tablets or smartphones, this stripped-down approach likely doesn’t align with your brand. On the other end of the spectrum are videos with budgets that rival high-concept commercials.

As you explore different options, it’s important to have realistic expectations while understanding the basic video production costs so that you can make informed trade-offs. I asked Mike Russell, my production partner from Highway M, for some tips that anyone developing a video project should keep in mind to ensure a good return on investment. His thoughts are summarized below.

First off, you need to know where your money is going. The costs of a video can be divided into three categories: pre-production, production, and post-production. Pre-production includes the initial concept, script development, and logistics and planning. Production encompasses all aspects of the shoot itself: paying the crew, equipment rental (cameras, lights, sound), talent, hair and makeup, transportation (if necessary), and food for the crew (craft service). Post-production consists of editing, music, sound mixing, color correction, and voiceover.

Some crucial, often overlooked points on video production, from start to finish:

  • The crew represents a sunk cost: members are paid a standard day rate based on their position, with overtime kicking in after ten hours.
  • Post-production is done on an hourly rate or project fee and typically represents a much smaller chunk of a video’s cost than production.
  • If professional actors are used, they receive not only a day rate but also an additional fee depending on how the video is used.
  • Any images or music used in videos that will be shared publicly need to be licensed. A number of websites offer stock photos and music at reasonable prices, but well-known images or music are typically cost prohibitive.

With these details in mind, how can companies get a high-quality video for a reasonable cost? Based on Mike’s experience, he suggests a few rules to keep in mind:

Capitalize on events.

A company-wide conference or sponsored forum means that several executives or senior managers will be in one place. When managed effectively, a company can line up its experts like a flight pattern and capture hours of raw video at one time that can be finished later.

Never spray and pray.

To ensure the final video delivers on your objectives, invest in pre-production. With careful planning and preparation, the director will be able to identify all of the necessary shots and manage the crew efficiently. For scripted videos, many production teams will storyboard the script in advance. Doing so can help avoid gaps in footage that can’t be addressed in post-production without significantly altering the narrative.

Know your audience and objectives.

The production quality will be determined in part by the audience you want to reach and the channels you envision using. A video for an internal audience—say, to explain new policies or programs—calls for a different approach than a film that anchors a high-profile public presentation. The former is informational, while the latter seeks to evoke certain emotions or reinforce key messages. Clearly defining the intended use can ensure that the production delivers a video that hits the mark.


Another example of Mike’s work—a motion graphics video for Leff Communications.

While a high-quality video can be a significant investment, having a clear understanding of the different stages of production can help you make informed decisions so that the end product delivers a solid return.

Scott Leff

Scott is the founder of Leff. He's spent his career helping executives and subject matter experts tell their story in a compelling way. In the process, he's had the opportunity to work with C-suite executives, politicians, academics, and Olympians, not to mention dozens of talented writers, editors, and designers in the business world. Scott developed the concept of "lean content creation" as a cost-effective way to support comprehensive, integrated communication strategies.

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