Video is everywhere. It’s dominating our social feeds, it’s taking over news websites, it’s even replacing the indomitable RFP as companies experiment with new and engaging ways to tender for business. It’s no wonder Cisco predicts that 80% of virtual content will be video inside of two years.
Why then, does video feature so rarely in internal communications? When engagement is the cornerstone of successful communication, why is video – arguably the most engaging form of mainstream content – not just a rarity, but comparatively much less common than across almost every other form of media?
The contradiction that has yet to be overcome is that despite video’s domination of all our media consumption, it’s still not easy to do, and it’s even harder to do well. While video is everywhere else, it still isn’t in the hands of amateurs. The average HR manager, corporate communications executive or even COO can’t pick up a camera and get the message out. But that needs to change, and quickly.
The mantra “know your audience” doesn’t just apply to those with a stage and a microphone, it should be at the heart of every one-to-many communication, in every context. It’s perhaps even more true for the corp comms audience because it’s naturally so hard to engage – what comedians might call a tough crowd.&
Because of that, internal communications often gets a bad rap. Rightly enough, it's not something that's easy to ace, but as companies like Virgin and Red Bull know, doing just that is pretty important. Doing it well starts not with what you say, but how you say it. When the audience isn’t there to listen to you purely by choice, it changes the dynamic, and means that picking up and holding their attention is that bit harder.
The evolution of technology based communication over the past half century can be broadly summed up as bringing people closer together by limiting the barriers that stand between them – i.e. mimicking as closely as possible the effect of sitting in front of someone in a room talking to them. As far as that goes, video ticks a lot of boxes, but with the added bonus of being able to add animations, edits and cuts which enhance its visual appeal.
The advantages of communicating via video are hard to dispute, and in fact there are few instances – the absence of audio, for example – where it isn’t the most effective option. Perhaps then Cisco’s 80% declaration shouldn’t be just a prediction, but for corporate communicators, a target.
There are times when video content undeniably comes into its own. For us, in the intranet building business, it’s invaluable as a communication tool. For example, nothing can parallel its ability to walk users through unfamiliar software, showing them how and where to access all the shiny new features.
A recent example of this was a business-wide intranet launch video that we created as the final phase of a client project. The advantage was that users who were new to the intranet could pull up the video on their computer screen and get an on demand guided tour of everything they needed to know in exactly the same space as the user interface would sit, not unlike a simulator.
Video isn’t just a great tool for internal communication, it can be the bedrock upon which communication systems are built. Similarly, we use videos across our own team to not only share monthly business and activity updates from the leadership, but to let the whole business share in some of its most decisive moments and events. It’s an especially great tool for playing up the lighter side of work, as one of our senior consultants recently showed via a Saturday Night Live style parody sketch of my own company-wide video update.
Realistically, the rightful proliferation of internal video content can’t happen when video production agencies hold sole dominion over our ability to make films. The cost, project management and administration of utilising external suppliers forces us to be sparing in our use of them. Instead, the directors of the corporate world need to learn the basics needed to moonlight as film directors, or and least have members of their in-house teams that can do a reasonable job of piecing together basic video content.
Video production agencies will still be needed to step in on the all-singing, all-dancing central content assets, but there’s an undercurrent of regular, small-scale video content which plays an important role, but that has hitherto been neglected by a vast majority of companies.
The final question is: what specifically does video content bring to your intranet engagement, and what are you missing out on by not embracing it?
The answer is lots. Beyond the myriad benefits of video as a visually engaging and infinitely shareable medium, it has some really powerful cultural advantages for companies that are almost impossible to replicate elsewhere. For example, video lets employees see and hear their leaders, not just read their words in black and white. If that’s not powerful enough a thought in itself, remember that 93% of communication is non-verbal.
Small things like “A Day in the Life” clips can shed light on the complexities and challenges of senior roles, fostering understanding and team spirit in a way that is very human.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then a video must stretch into the millions. What’s more, it tells those stories in a more engaging, more immersive, and helpfully, much more efficient way.
The switch from text-led content to video-led content is a bit like when you move from a mobile phone to a smartphone, the possibilities of what you can achieve blow your mind, and then eventually, become the norm. The opportunities unleashed by the on-going revolution in video content don’t just facilitate easier communication, they change the nature of the internal comms environment. And there’s no going back.