Making a cost-effective video to promote your work

We live in the age of video. From streaming feature films, to watching Ted Talks on the PC, right down to family 'shorts' taken that instant on a smartphone, never has so much access to moving pictures been available.

It's not hard to see why video is such a popular way for individuals to get their message across. It is digestible, instant, personable and repeatable. The last ten years have seen an explosion of video learning, with TED, and Coursera just a few big websites that use video to relay professional information.

For authors promoting a print or online work, there's two other reasons why video is a must. It attracts interested people


…it ‘converts’ them.

It enables them to explore and then engage with, or purchase, your work.

Video and search

YouTube is the second most powerful search engine on the internet, so having content on there extends your reach. It is home to over five billion views per day. And many of those are looking for information or guidance.

Google favours sites that have current video content and especially likes it in searches where the browser is asking a question that appears like ‘self help’, such as ‘How can I fil in my tax return?’
So the first thing to do is to set yourself up a ‘channel’ on YouTube. This is incredibly easy and cost free. Guidance is here.

Most websites are enabled to allow you to place or 'embed’ videos you make and put on YouTube into them. So uploading a video to YouTube serves a double purpose, promoting your piece and enabling you to enliven your website.

Uses of promo video sites

There are plenty of other hosting sites, Vimeo being perhaps the most well-known one.  These are much more flexible, allowing you to gain the data of subscribers and limiting access to those who pay. And for businesses there is an array of video publishing software. But here we will stick to talking about free exposure, and YouTube is the place for that.

The golden rule – present your Video according to the audience’s tastes.

So before you make your film or ‘Vlog’ (video blog), start with the basic questions that lead any marketing venture. ‘Who are the audience?’  Or, ‘What is it I am trying to put across?’
The most common use of video in publishing and training and professional knowledge is the short 'promo' preview made by the author or speaker/ trainer. Let's focus on the ways these can be made.

A key question to ask is, will your viewers favour quality or convenience? And also how much time and resource do you have to invest to match that? That is the practical part.
Nearly all of us are concerned about how we look or come across on picture or film. It's a vital, natural human emotion to care about the impression we put across. Of course, virtually no one wants hundreds or thousands of strangers to see them in a grainy film looking pale or over exposed. But when making film, everyone has to work out where to draw the line of quality. Hollywood movies cost millions to make for a reason.

What is important to remember here is that there is such a proliferation of video out there that what some people may have classed as home-made and maybe less appealing five years ago has become the norm. And at the same time smart phone technology has made it simple to produce good quality video easily ourselves.

The iPhone 8, Google Pixel Phone and Samsung S8 all are installed with cameras with a resolution of around 10-12 megapixels or better. More than good enough to come across clearly with good motion tracking and no pixilation on a PC size screen.

Faced with the choice of not making a video or taking months to put the pieces together the advice here is, dive in! Viewers understand home based content and will engage.

I myself have viewed many paid for trainings known as CPD (continual professional development) that have been far less than perfect, just a talking ‘face recorded on a web networking tool like ‘GoToMeeting’ and rebroadcasted.

Producing simple smartphone videos

If you are keen to get a quick piece up, either recorded or live on Facebook or Twitter, it's simple. There are tips and tricks to social media video, worthy of a whole article, but here are a few general ones for making short pieces.

1. Do script your piece

Unless you want it to appear 'off the cuff' for some reason, many people find it extremely hard to give flowing speeches on screen and the results can be unflattering. Notably prevalent will be those 'ums' and 'ahs'.
It seems obvious but to reinforce this, having produced many hundreds of short 'talking head' pieces I have found that it pays to run through a script at least five or six times before going in front of camera.

2. Use a stand.

You don't want to give viewer motion sickness. Cheap stands for most phones can be bought on Amazon

This is fairly obvious too, but a friend holding the camera for you will never be perfect.

3. Find a sympathetic setting.

Beware of dark, lurid backgrounds. It also pays to wear lighter coloured clothing.

You may notice newscasters on TV are normally dressed in items with some bright colours. Even male TV presenters in business suits invariably wear a light tie. That's because, for example, an all black outfit will likely look quite poorly defined. In addition the contrast with white walls doesn't work well.

The video will look better if shot in a place with a decent amount of natural light.

4.Beware: sound affects!

The most critical thing is to record in a quiet place. This can't be stressed enough. Mobile phone sound isn’t the most well defined and background hiss, regular ambulance sirens etc will ruin the experience for the viewer.

5. Allow time.

It is hard to get it right first time. For a video of under ten minutes, well scripted and rehearsed,  it is still likely that you will need to shoot it two or three times, plus set up time. It is very likely to take around 90 minutes all told.

How long should my video be?

Common sense dictates that in order to promote something in a field of competitive pieces of film, all yearning for attention, that the answer should be, short.

There has been quite a lot of work on this. Most experts find that interest peels away after the five minute mark.

This study shows it dips from 70% of users viewing the first two minutes down to below 50% between four and five minutes.

If you are on a shoestring, that is welcome news.

However there is growing evidence, that may be especially relevant for writers and publishers of more complex material, that the really interested viewer will persist for longer and they are more likely to be someone who want to engage with, for as long as seven or eight minutes, especially in the B2B world.

Moving up the quality chain

If a straight forward talking to a smart phone camera from one angle is not for you, because you want to project a feeling of corporate professionalism, or make it more interesting and varied, that’s when the effort and cost starts to increase.

In the second part of this blog, we will explore making pieces with a higher quality threshold, and also look at the finishing touches to all recorded work.

In the meantime – an initial practice will teach you much about what else you need to learn!



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