Enhance, Don’t Replace, the Written Word with Video
A recent article in AdAge featured the provocative title, “Fire Writers, Make Videos Is Latest Web Recipe for Publishers.” It goes on to describe how a number of online publishers are “pivoting to video” away from written pieces (and, in the process, shedding writers from their ranks). Case in point is Mic, a website aimed at Millennials, which said it made such a move because that’s what its viewers want. The company’s CEO noted its viewers spend 75 percent of their time with “visual” content like videos, not text. And video consumption is tipped to grow even more. Research firm eMarketer said it expects Americans to spend 81 minutes a day watching digital video in 2019. That’s a jump from 61 minutes in 2015.
We’ve seen a similar rise in video use in the consulting industry, as video has begun playing a greater role in consulting firms’ thought leadership marketing. Our clients routinely now ask us to craft scripts for videos featuring subject-matter experts’ takes on various topics. If you take a spin through any of the major firms’ websites, you’ll find it impossible to not come across videos.
So should we expect firms to start jettisoning writers (whether in-house or contractors) in favor of video creators—just as publishers have? We would argue that would be a questionable move—especially when it concerns a firm’s thought leadership marketing.
Short-form videos are very effective at communicating simple thoughts or ideas—i.e., the merits of a particular laundry detergent, how to repair a leaky faucet, or where to look on your laptop for a hidden file. They are decidedly not appropriate for exploring an inherently complex issue—the likes with which business executives are concerned—such as developing a new growth strategy, adopting cloud computing, or boosting R&D effectiveness. The fact is, short-form video’s format simply doesn’t provide enough time or “real estate” for a firm to be able to look deeply at issues its clients care about. And that’s the biggest reason why it’s a bad choice as a firm’s primary thought leadership marketing tool. (There’s also the notion that many people, particularly business executives, still like to read, but that’s a topic for another discussion.)
Instead, video is best used when it enhances or augments a more substantive piece of thought leadership—say, a white paper, research study, or business book. These pieces are critical to a firm’s ability to comprehensively dissect an important business or management challenge its clients and prospects are facing. They enable a firm to explore, in depth, the roots of the challenge; why past attempts to address the challenge have fallen short; and how the firm’s approach to the challenge is superior—all of which is necessary to convey true thought leadership, and impossible to do in a two-minute video. In other words, video is only the appetizer that sets the stage for the main course of rich, informative, and highly educational content. Here, here, and here are good examples.
How should a firm incorporate video into their thought leadership marketing?
- Start with the core content. Make sure you first have a top-notch white paper, research report, or book. Scan it to pinpoint the most compelling thoughts to highlight in the video—what will do the best job of capturing viewers’ attention and, more important, make them want to learn more. Ideally, the source content is substantive enough to provide fodder for multiple videos.
- Craft a great script. While a video script should have its roots in a substantive written piece, it shouldn’t emulate the prose in that piece. Rather, it needs to sound like people actually talk—conversational and easy to digest. It also should be short and sweet, ideally between two and three minutes. Anything shorter makes it tough to say enough to interest viewers, while anything longer will try people’s patience.
- Drive people to the real content. It’s critical to make sure viewers understand that the video is just a taste of the firm’s thoughts on the issue—and that they can easily find the content on which the video is based if they want to get deeper insights. Providing clear references, and a prominent link, to the source content helps viewers take that next step—and ultimately become intrigued enough with what the firm’s saying to request a meeting or conversation with a consultant.
Video absolutely has a role in thought leadership marketing. It’s a great way to promote a firm’s insights and expertise to stimulate clients’ and prospects’ interest—just like tweets, LinkedIn posts, and SlideShare decks. But also just like these social media tools, a video should be seen as packaging, not the “product” itself. On its own, video will do little to help build or strengthen a firm’s image as a thought leader in its chosen fields. That’s something consulting firms need to keep in mind as they consider their own “pivot to video.”