Adding Hollywood Sizzle To Your Business Videos

Best Practice Series

Produce Better Business Videos

Joining The Online Video Revolution

A video revolution is underway, and smart franchise businesses are leading the charge. Franchise companies need new, more effective and affordable means of communicating with end customers, potential new franchisees, each other and the media. Traditional print and broadcast media still work, but savvy businesspeople are also leveraging more active and direct forms of communication. For many, video is the answer. The good news is that an exciting and affordable new generation of video production and distribution technologies have now emerged. With the proliferation of broadband networks in homes, businesses and now even on the road video is becoming an increasingly common and effective form of communication.

Business managers in just about every industry including forward-looking franchise systems are now using video to communicate a wide range of company, product and service information. In the franchising sector, video is being used to build sales and increase profits, to attract and inform new franchisees, and to train and support existing franchise operators.

Video can be a powerful marketing tool. By putting a little Hollywood-style action in their communications, franchise organizations can add real sizzle to their businesses bottom line.

So how can a franchise business join the video revolution?

How To Produce a Hollywood Quality Video For Your Business

First, it helps to understand a bit about modern video production. There are three key elements to video production: cameras, editing platforms and production skills, and all are available to meet various production quality and budget requirements.

Let's start with the video camera. Television stations and high-end production houses use high-definition video cameras costing $100,000 and more. At the same time, college kids are using consumer-grade cameras that cost less than $1,000 to create music or entertainment videos to post to social networks such as YouTube and MySpace. Between those extremes, the newer generation of mid-market "high def" cameras costing from $5,000 to $10,000 now deliver video quality and feature sets that rival their high-end cousins.

Editing platforms also offer a wide range of costs and capabilities. Franchises seldom need the capabilities of a high-end, Hollywood-level film editing platform. But most want production values above those you can get from a PC-based software program. Fortunately, solid mid-level editing solutions are now available for about $3,000. A good editing package will include an entry-level iMac with 1 gigabyte of memory and a 512 mhz processor. Add Apple's Final Cut Express HD software and a 300 gig hard drive to the equation and a company has a stable system that can handle the workload.

Add about $2,000 for lights and microphones, and a franchise system is equipped to shoot and edit videos at a quality level that is appropriate for most marketing or training programs.

But to produce an effective video, a company will need more than equipment and more skill and talent. A high-end camera in inexperienced hands will result in a final product that looks amateurish at best. Yet even a low-end camera, in the hands of a professional, can produce a polished and effective video. The same is true for editing equipment and skills.

So, should a franchise company purchase equipment and hire permanent employees to create their videos? Or should the system contract with a video production service? That depends on the company's needs and budget.

If the franchise company plans to produce videos on a weekly or monthly basis, it might make sense to hire a "one man band" staffer who can write, shoot and edit training materials, video newsletters and press releases on its own equipment. Or, if the franchise company needs a very high-end video production, most specialized production houses charge up to $1,500 a day to shoot the raw video, and more to write a script or edit the footage.

For many franchise businesses, which need a corporate training video or an occasional video press release, it makes more sense to hire a full-service public relations firm that also offers proven and professional video production capabilities. By working with a good public relations firm, a company receives video that is closely integrated with its larger communications efforts and that can be distributed directly to editors, employees or customer prospects.

In any case, select a video production supplier with care. Review its demos and check its references. Make sure it can meet deadline and quality requirements, and that it can deliver video in the format needed, whether that is DVD, MPEG, QuickTime movie or another technology.

There are also choices to be made about where to send the video and how to deliver it.

Where To Promote Your Business Videos

For most franchise businesses, a marketing video should be seen as an important element in their larger communications effort, which may include strategic market planning, traditional print advertising, public relations, media relations and in-store materials. Once basic messaging has been developed for those efforts, that same "story line" can be refined and condensed to create dynamic and powerful videos.

Franchise businesses can then leverage an exciting and growing selection of distribution opportunities to tell their video story to the world.

How to Promote Your Business Videos

Some people prefer to read their news, while others would rather get their information in a more active and visual format. To capture both audiences, smart companies are now converting their traditional print press releases into dynamic one- and two-minute video press releases. The video press release can then be converted into an .mpg or .mov video format suitable for across-the-Web streaming.

When companies send out e-mail pitches or press releases they can include a link that will lead editors or readers to their video. It helps to have a working relationship with a journalist, and to let him know the link is on its way. Spam-filtering software sometimes spots a hyperlink and prevents an e-mail from reaching a target audience, so it may be better to have a reporter or editor copy and paste the URL into his Web browser. It's also smart to make any streamed video available in both major formats (Windows Media Player for PCs and QuickTime for Macs).

Promoting Your Business on The Web

Many franchise businesses may choose to put their video on their public Internet or their corporate intranet sites in a streaming-capable format. When doing this, make sure the video opens in a new window, so if the viewer wants to exit the video, they can do so without leaving the Web site. Some businesses prefer to use Flash presentation technology, because this embedded format launches the video automatically when the viewer clicks on the page, although some Web viewers are annoyed by this presentation format.

Using Your Videos at a Trade Show

Videos are a great addition to any trade show presentation. A good video can help draw a crowd, hold viewers attention while representatives are handling other visitors--or to play-on-demand as visitors stop by. To deal with conference floor noise, and to give each visitor a private and hygienic experience, it's a good idea to offer a bank of four or more over-the-ear, noise-canceling headphones in the booth.

In Training Programs

Videos can be a great way to bring an employee or franchisee-training program to life. Viewers listen to and retain information that is presented in a concise and entertaining format. By illustrating the right and wrong ways to do things, and by using humor and music, a franchise company can make training videos fun and productive. Use the video format to be inventive and creative. Viewers will enjoy it and learn more.

On Social Networks

Companies can also use such social networks as YouTube and Facebook to distribute their video messages. Advertising can be expensive on those sites, but nothing prevents a corporation from creating an account and posting corporate messages and videos. Some companies post a video on YouTube, then link to that presentation from their Facebook account, and refer to both in press releases and e-mails. Of course, anything posted on these social networks is available to "the world." These sites may take an overly commercial spot down and commenters can respond to your content in positive, and sometimes very negative, ways. So use social networks advisedly.

How to Send Your Video

There are a number of ways to distribute franchise video messages. A franchise company can copy the video to a DVD and deliver a copy to each franchise location. DVDs can be cost prohibitive if there are a large number of franchise owners and DVDs are impractical as a delivery channel for the media or general public. Here are a few alternatives:

  • FTP. Create a corporate File Transfer Protocol site, then send links to franchise owners, editors or others via e-mail or other messages. Franchise systems can set up security permissions so that franchisees can download the video to their own company Local Area Networks.
  • LAN. Companies may want to store the video on their own corporate local area networks. Passwords and permissions can be used to allow some or all employees, franchisees or partners to find and view the video.
  • Podcast. Franchise organizations can create a video podcast and upload it to iTunes or their corporate intranet. This requires the creation of a Real Simple Syndication feed from the corporate intranet. The system can then provide key employees with iPhones, iPads and  Android Smartphones and have them subscribe to the podcast to receive the latest and greatest video messages.

A full-service public or media relations firm should have a solid understanding of the many ways in which a video can be distributed to news outlets, trade publications, employees, franchise partners and other target audiences.

Video can be a great way for any franchise business to tell their story to the world. Video technologies are more powerful and affordable than ever, and franchise companies can create their own videos or hire professionals to write, produce and distribute those video communications. Growth-oriented franchise companies are using video presentations for sales, marketing, training or public relations, and to find and educate prospective new franchisees.

Video is the wave of the future. By adding a bit of Hollywood to company communications, franchise systems can add sizzle to their franchising bottom line.

About The Author

Bage Anderson is vice president of E.H. Anderson Public Relations. The company uses a rare combination to form their "digital" communications. Employing a delicate blend of PR with interactive web capabilities and social media they utilize all channels to help businesses get the word out about their brand.

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