Know Your Audience, Get Audio Right and Tell a Story for Effective Video

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On the first day of the SIPA Annual 2018 Conference yesterday, Brian Malone of Malone Media preached what he practices. "People are drawn to mystery," he told us. "You have to tap into that in your video."

Thus Malone showed us a video in tension-filled snippets—made by someone else—of two people in lab suits putting rubber bands around a watermelon waiting for it to explode. So every time this informative, pre-conference workshop titled A Stream Come True lulled a tiny bit, in came the lab partners. And we perked up, ready for more wisdom from this former Ragan Communications video guru.

Finally, at the end, some 700+ rubber bands on, the watermelon exploded. And we took home a good lesson in building engagement over an extended video. Here are more lessons from this workshop:

Find your talent. "There's always someone at your organization who is very passionate, interesting and you listen to them no matter what they have to say," Malone said. "Try to pull them in and make them on-screen talent. If you make it about people, people will watch it—[it means] you're compelling and connecting with another person."

Know why you're making a video. What are you looking to achieve? Have a meaning behind it. Or else you might as well have your CFO read your financial report. You have to find out where your audience lives and go to that niche.

Know your audience. "Create a video for your audience, not yourself," Malone said. "If it's for everyone, it's too broad. [Better to] be specific. Make a video for that audience."

You need a beginning, middle and end. You have to give them a compelling reason to stick around and make it "digestible" to the audience. "Maybe mystery is more important than knowledge," said Lost and Star Trek director JJ Abrams in a Ted Talk that Malone showed us.

Write your script like you talk. Raise questions that people want answered.

Do a rehearsal or table read. "You get out the giggles," Malone said and tackle any tough words or phrases. "Don't just read the script, READ the script. [All] nuances should be ironed out before you start recording."

Videos can be all different lengths. Malone takes offense at the cattle-call for 8-second videos these days, saying that it absolutely fails in storytelling and cheats the analytics. How can I make a longer video that keeps people engaged longer? You can do a 10 minute video that has engagement all the way.

Smart phones are getting better and better can make great videos with the right extensions. "Picture quality is good and getting better," Malone said. Clip-on lenses are available on Amazon. "Stay away from fisheye, wide angle lenses. Shots close to it look goofy. You want a telephoto lens. A Ulanzi Tripod mount is $8 for an adapter to hold the iPhone.

***Always use an external microphone when you can. Your audience will forgive bad picture quality. They will never forgive bad audio. They will turn it off. He recommended a smartLav+ clip-on lavalier microphone. For an iPhone 7 or higher you'll need a small adapter. Wireless mics are good but more expensive.  

Get the lighting right. You can't fix bad lighting in editing. In fact, one of Malone's credos was not to take the philosophy of "we'll fix it in editing" for anything. "If you don't have access to good lighting, go outside. You also don't want a straight shot in someone's face."

Find a setting that makes sense. Is the background contextually relevant? He showed a boardroom and said that setting is where videos go to die. Can you go someplace different? He showed Ragan Communications head Mark Ragan in a beautiful event setting, which is their specialty.

Make sure people you are interviewing have a focal point. "Am I looking at the camera or am I looking at you?" Malone asked. "Better to look at you. Talking to a person is a lot more intimate. And you'll get more honest feedback. Also use a variety of shots—wide, medium and tight."

Video should be as long as it needs to be. Focus on what's good and telling the story with that remaining footage.

Be a matchmaker. Think about how you can connect your shots through creative editing.

Be fact-driven more than data driven. Hard data is absolutely vital, of course, but you need qualitative insight and well-formulated opinions.

Facebook Live is a great way to interact with your followers. But you must promote it—like NBC did with must-see TV in the '90s. Make it appointment viewing. Build anticipation. Say hello to your fans by name when responding to their comments. Prompt them for questions on a certain topic.

Become an influencer. Interview people with big followings. It's a viable strategy.

Malone signed off with a last warning for most cases: Don't be funny. It's very hard.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…