Lights, camera, traction...

If a picture is worth a 1,000-words, what about a 45-second YouTube video? More and more companies are nowadays placing short videos on the aforementioned-ubiquitous platform to deliver a message to the media, often in-place of traditional press releases. It’s not hard to see why. Video has much to recommend it. Within three minutes or less, it can be a highly effective way to get a message, or messages, over to a journalist in a hurry. And what journalist isn’t in a hurry given that nowadays they’re not only expected to provide content for hard copy and digital magazines but also websites and social media too.

As an occasional video presenter, I’ve always enjoyed working with the format. It’s a task-and-finish job where 99% of the work is in the preparation, just like any encounter with the media. The analogy is obvious―just as you have-to learn a script for a video, you need to learn your lines for a press interview. And as with a short video, in a press interview you need to be able to get your messages over quickly and succinctly. Of course, the real expertise comes in the post-production phase where the video editors sprinkle their pixie dust over it prior to uploading it. That to me is where the true magic of video is to be found.

Yet despite its obvious attractions, video tends to be a ‘one-way’ process. Once you’ve clicked on the link to watch one that’s it. You either accept the messages in them; and want to find out more. Or you find something better to do. There’s none of the interaction of, say, a traditional press event where a journalist can ask a question―and hopefully get an answer. It’s hard for journalists to follow-up on a video unless you embed suitable contact information within it for them, or if they already happen to know who to call. So, a video without a follow-up mechanism runs the risk of being a dead-end, rather than a means to an end.

Leaving aside that obvious caveat, a short video can be a great tool for highlighting new products, services, or initiatives. And the more imaginative, quirky, or eye-catching, the better the chances of it being watched and remembered. Only before you start shooting, or even creating a script, you really should ask yourself “What are we doing it for?” Is it a heads-up or teaser to a forthcoming press conference that will encourage journalists to put the date in their diary? Or is it a bit of stand-alone entertainment which reinforces your brand and requires no further action from the media beyond them watching it?

There’s nothing wrong with using video as a different way to attract a journalist’s attention, especially if it’s engaging and amusing. But if you want to use video to really communicate with the media, along with all the novelty, entertainment, excitement, and ballyhoo you’d better be delivering some key stories too. If you’re going to use YouTube for business, then treat it in a business-like way. Or to put it another way, the ‘medium’ shouldn’t be more important than your ‘message’….