Don’t waste your time with video production

Don’t waste your time with video production

Coming from a video production company that specialises in producing video content for Higher Education, this may seem like quite an unusual headline to lead with, but of course, I’m not being totally transparent. You see, video is incredibly important and quite clearly has an essential role to play in pretty much all aspects of university life… but the emphasis here is on how to avoid waste…waste of your time, money, resources and most importantly, your energy.

I started producing content almost fifteen years ago, and in that time, I’ve produced literally hundreds (probably even thousands) of videos for Higher Education marketing strategies. I work closely with my clients to make sure that their objectives are successfully met, but getting to that objective can sometimes be far trickier than it needs to be. There’s a lot of unseen complexity in producing a successful video, and for it to work well it needs the same amount of consideration (if not more!) as any other content that you produce. So with that in mind, I’ve laid out a few tips below that I hope will be useful as a guide to help you in your creative video production, making sure your content is exactly what you want, and more importantly, what it needs it to be to reach its very particular audience.


Tip #1 – Define success

During initial contact with a client, more often than not they’ll begin the conversation with something like “We need a video”… to which I’ll be thinking to myself ‘Great, you’ve come to the right place’… but instead, my response will always be “Why?”

Now it’s not like I’m trying to talk myself out of new work, but I want your project to be successful, and for that to happen it’s important that you and the video production company work on identifying a clearly defined marketing or comms objective. If that’s not in place then you are in trouble from the off. Simply put, if you’re not sure what you want the audience to do at the end of the video, then it’s a redundant project from the start.

Firstly, ask yourself this… ‘What problem am I trying to solve for my viewer?’
Do you want them to come away with a feel-good factor? (maybe have them go away thinking ‘this is the institute for me’) or do you want them to simply look further for more information? (maybe have them delve deeper into a course prospectus?).

Either way, it’s vital that you define what a ‘successful’ film means to you, and what it should make your viewer do.


Tip #2 – Know your audience

Now that you’ve defined what success means to you, it’s time to think about your audience. As a millennial myself (only just, mind), even I find it pretty near impossible to truly understand what goes on in the mind of other millennials (aren’t we all obsessed about avocado on toast and 90’s nostalgia?) but what we can do though, is to think about ‘what are their interests?’ and ‘what are their goals?’

Your whole approach to messaging should be based around the following question:
‘Why create content unless it’s going to truly resonate with your viewer?’

Get into their headspace, not yours.


This means consideration around tone of voice, filming-location, filming techniques and even what the film is shot on (I’ve gotten great responses to content that we shot on our mobile phones due to the fact that it gives a sense of ‘honesty’ or ‘authenticity’ to an experience and doesn’t look like it was shot by a video production company).

And it’s not just what the message is, but how that message is communicated and by whom.

As a quick example, I find that peer-to-peer based video content is great for Higher Education marketing, because prospective students want to hear from people who are in the thick of it. They simply want honest responses.


Tip #3 – Creativity is key

So you’ve now got your messaging on-point and targeted perfectly for your audience… but now comes the tricky bit. The ‘Creative’.

Any good agency should know how to communicate your message in the best possible way; it is after all what they’re paid to do (and what they do each day) so why not let the experts come up with the creative? It shouldn’t be up to you to do everything, so let the agency pick up the slack!

Of course, feel free to share examples of content you like, as that’s always a huge help, but whatever you do, don’t pin all your hopes onto one style or format (just because your department did it that way last time, it doesn’t mean you need to do it that way again).

You need to think about and most importantly you need to value creativity. Video has more elements to it than just pointing and shooting and can be quite a complex beast. Yes, anybody can pick up a camera and press record, but that’s only the start of it. The creative video production process requires a lot of input from both sides. Turning up on the day and muddling through will get you something… but the greater the involvement during pre-production, then the better the outcome.

I’ve found that I get fantastic results by working alongside and supporting younger creatives on some of our campaign work. By bringing them in, not only do we tend to get a fresh perspective, but they intrinsically know the audience.


Tip #4 – Focus on experience

A video isn’t and never should be a list of features. With video, you engage, you emote, and ultimately you elicit a response from your viewer. What a video is terrible at doing is listing facilities and resources, yet all too often this is something that I’m asked to shoehorn into a film.

Tell a story. Cause a reaction. Don’t ask your video production company to create a film that outlines all of your new building’s great internet hubs, as let’s be honest… students really don’t care. They want to know what the university experience feels like. They want to know what the nightlife is going to be like. Will they… make real friends, have life changing experiences, make an impact…

Use your website and copy to delve into course details but your film should and needs to have a level of emotional engagement beyond that. It should show an experience that the viewer is desperate to share, one that ideally makes the hairs stand up on the back of their neck.


Tip #5 – Don’t shy away from UGC

I’ve always found that with many campaigns, an overarching video that is more about aspirational goals, or looking forward to the future, or asking challenging questions, works really well if it is then complimented with supplementary shorter videos which answer more specific questions, such as, ‘What’s involved in a research-based PHD’ or ‘What support is on offer’.

But if the budget is not there for a suite of films, just get the overarching one done and then get creative with your video marketing… maybe shoot the other videos yourself on your mobile phone by spending a day interviewing students (you can even try and get them done internally, but focus on simplicity here as we all know too well how stretched any internal university video department can be).

Just don’t forget that students respond very well to user-generated-content as they trust what’s been put out by their peers, so don’t underestimate the power of your smartphone. I’ve also found that working with student Vloggers creates some great content, particularly if you’re looking to highlight departmental excellence or promote open days or residential trips.

So, hopefully these brief tips have given you a few pointers in what to consider when producing your next piece of content. Obviously though, these are all from an agency’s perspective, but I’d really like to hear from your perspective too. Are there any tips that you can share with me that you wish you’d known when you started working with an external video production company?

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