Content Strategy, as a defined discipline and true necessity, is all about assessing (analyzing), planning (designing), constructing (building & placing), and curating (maintaining) content on a web property or properties. Wherever you have influence over your company’s / client’s content, you have to be acting in all 4 of these ways.

That’s kind of the baseline of a Content Strategist’s job description. But, let’s take a drill-down look at the “planning” and “construction” portions of this Content Strategist’s role (and yet another element of why it’s so critical to have this position in your organization, or partnering agency!), where video content is involved. You’ve already gone through your website and determined what content assets are available and their quality, as well as what’s needed and how it should be constructed (designed, branded, written, intoned, sized, etc.). You did the same process for all of your video content, right? And maybe now you realize you need new video content!

Words Go Here preaches about how Content is the currency of the web, and not as much the “King” that it’s been touted as for so many years. In terms of content as a currency, it’s all about a video’s relevance to users so they will not just appreciate it and find value in it, but so they will also recommend it to others via word of mouth, posts, links, “likes,” and embedding. In the old school (and unfortunately, still somewhat the current) SEO practices, “content is king” often translated into content for content’s sake. The idea being “If we have more pages, more microsites, more links, more posts, more tags, more mentions, more links! more! more! MORE! MORE!!!” then we’ll grow and succeed. But, if the quality of your content is bloated, written for crawlers – not people, and is difficult to wade through, it will have no value to the recipient. So, someone please help me understand how quantity matters when quality is ignored? No one’s going to care. You’re just taking up space and wasting their attention. #ContentFail.

Videos:

So, on to quality of video. Just because you, or your client, or your friend, or your friend’s friend all have a video camera (phone) on hand, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically produce some sort of P.T. Anderson masterpiece about how completely mind-blowing your current hot product is. Video is a powerful medium for translating value relative to your brand, but, should be carefully planned and constructed.

If there was one thing I learned after 4 years in television production, it’s that video production quality matters. It serves to legitimize your value proposition, separate you from your competitors, reinforce your brand, highlighting the product or service in it’s absolute best light. Pun intended.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the critical production components that are required for successful video content strategy and creation. Feel free to treat this as a “Directional Quality Checklist” resource ::

  • Resolution ::
    • Hi Def? HD is great in that it provides the highest quality on the front end so when it’s compressed and formatted it will still look it’s best.
    • However, it may be cost prohibitive depending on the size of your production (ex: a quick 1-camera interview vs. a 5-camera, 90-second TV style commercial “spot”)
    • HD might also be “overkill” in terms of the end use of your video project. If you just need a little introduction clip for the sidebar of your homepage, you may just want something lightweight
  • Framing ::
    • How intimate, personal, or grandiose do you need this to be? Think about your interview shot styles:
      • Tighter (just shoulders and head or just a “talking head”)
      • Wider (full body)
      • Mid shot (ribs to head)
      • Left, Right, or Center?
      • A mix of all of the above?
  • Set Lighting (and Shadowing) ::
    • Soft, comfortable, inviting
    • Harsh, stark, contrasting
    • And remember the set backgrounds… they get their own consideration
    • Wait, are you even shooting this inside?  Outdoors is another animal (like a giraffe versus a lion)
  • Video editing ::
    • Smooth transitions
    • Hard cuts from shot to shot
    • Fast paced edits, or longer shots
    • Transition styles (please, no more star fades, a la the 80′s!)
  • Audio / Sound ::
    • Soothing, unnoticed, spa-like and forgetful music?
    • Brash, pulsing music that helps drive a point?
    • Orchestral and regal, swelling to pull an emotional response?
    • No music, just speaking voices?
  • Graphic Overlays ::
    • Titles – product names, guest/host names and titles
    • Corner “bugs” – sale notices, calls-to-action
    • Branding registrations or trademarks
    • Animations – product demos (“B-roll”) or motion diagrams
  • Background Setting (not just lighting), but the “stuff” ::
    • Plants, chairs, candles, pictures (living room, office)
    • Products, people, storefronts (retail environment)
    • Blank or textured wall (a spokesperson backdrop?)
  • Product / Talent – Who’s the “star” here? Who’s the “hero?” Make them / it look the part ::
    • For people:
      • Clothing choices (style, age, quality…)
      • Makeup and hair styling
      • Model / acting agency or someone from the company (careful there!)
    • For Products:
      • Set dressing (plastic stands, clothe throws…)
      • “Before” and “After” examples, ready made
  • Closed Captioning – Consider your audience! ::
    • Hearing impaired?
    • Translations?
    • If you’re not sure about this one, I recommend our earlier post on the usefulness of CC in SEO efforts.

I realize most, if not all, of you are not super familiar with these components. Sure, you may notice them from time to time while you’re watching the latest iteration of CSI, or American Idolatry, but they’re not the sorts of things you regularly lend your rapt attention. But when you need quality content, and especially when you’re paying high $$$ for it, this is a critical set of considerations to have in mind. They’re a good list for thinking though the video content construction process. And, as a word of experience, do your best to define everything on the front side. It will help remove subjectivity from the process, as well as avoid increasing expense from production “scope creep,” just the same as it can occur in web design.

Please hear me when I say you do not have to be a video producer to make your online video content work. If you have a Content Strategist, they’ll be helping you with this, and perhaps you won’t be thinking about it (wouldn’t that be nice)! But if you’re your own Content Strategy department, then be sure to vet the potential video vendors the same as you would any other provider. Do the samples they provide strike you as too frenetic, too sleepy, too corporate, etc, for what you’re looking to accomplish? What is their expected turn around time on a project like yours? What is their approval process to ensure your satisfaction? Think, “Is this the sort of style that I want to use to represent my brand and product?” If you do this, you’ll start to notice more of the little things that DO make a difference.

And all of the above goes for regular ol’ still-shot cameras too, folks.

And when it comes to the video end of things, don’t forget about the usability and high SEO value of your Close Captioned options. I think its fair to say that its very rare that you ever want to alienate anyone from your brand. So give consideration to the 508 Legislation.

For another viewpoint on this topic, I recommend Mitch Joel’s recent post on video creditability. And as always, provide us with your thoughts about content strategy. Especially along video or rich media lines. Let’s discuss it, for the greater good of the web (and our clients).