How to produce great video content while skipping the drama

It’s an unfortunate fact of life: the more people involved in an operation, the greater the level of coordination necessary to reach your goal. This rule definitely applies to video production: much like building a website, crafting a compelling video requires a company to rely on third-party vendors to construct a visual representation of a business strategy—typically not their sweet spot.

Problems can arise because business and video production don’t always speak the same language. Executives often have trouble communicating their ideas in more creative terms, and the director and producer may struggle to home in on a visual tone and feel that match the key messages. In these situations, the end result is a video that doesn’t quite hit the mark, yet no one can quite articulate how to fix it. And the budget? As the team circles its target endlessly like a plane waiting for clearance to land, the meter continues to run.

How does it feel to pay too much for an end product that pleases no one? I think Johnny Rotten summed it up particularly well upon ending a Sex Pistols gig abruptly: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

So what’s the answer? Assuming that your company hasn’t decided to branch out from its core business into video production, the best path is to reduce the number of people involved in the process and ensure that the vendors have a thorough understanding of your company’s products and audience.

You could call it “the Louis CK rule.” The comedian’s FX show, Louie, has received critical acclaim since its premiere in 2010. Its success derives in part from the fact that the show is a perfect distillation, in tone and style, of its creator. He has accomplished this feat by removing all the extraneous people between his creative vision and the end product. Louis CK wears many hats: writer, director, producer, actor, and editor. It’s easier to get everyone on the same page when “everyone” consists of a handful of informed, competent people rather than a gaggle of hangers-on.

The subset of viewers who tune into Louie actively seek the show out, are more engaged, and feel an emotional connection to the program that goes far beyond casual entertainment. Even more impressive, each episode of Louie costs one-quarter to one-third the total of a major network sitcom. Companies that follow this lead can capture cost savings through greater efficiency, enabling them to cover more ground with finite resources.

If you’re considering producing a video to support sales, marketing, or business development, you absolutely need people who understand your vision and can translate it to the screen. And I’ll even share my secret: over the past several years, I’ve worked with Mike Russell of Highway M on a number of videos for a wide range of clients, from HP to Nike to the Alzheimer’s Association. We’ve found that having a business perspective integrated from concept to finished product allows us to understand clients and work in shorthand. View the videos here.

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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