FOCUS: CORPORATE VIDEO AND BUSINESS TELEVISION - Companies on screen. Internal communications, particularly when deployed with desktop delivery, can get a real boost from BTV or corporate video - but only when it’s done properly. Mary Cowlett exam

The ’digital revolution’ may be a well-worn phrase, but right now it means there has never been a more exciting time to get involved in corporate video and business TV.

The ’digital revolution’ may be a well-worn phrase, but right now

it means there has never been a more exciting time to get involved in

corporate video and business TV.

New digital technology - from CD-ROM and DVD to satellite systems,

desktop delivery and beyond - is bringing down programme costs and

shaking up delivery mechanisms. The end result is a revolution in


But, add in the factor of programming - whether straight-talking sales

footage, internal communication, interactive distance learning, or

announcements to stakeholders - and business television (BTV) and

corporate video remains a potential minefield.

In this Under The Spotlight, PR Week asks the visual communication

professionals how PR folk can ensure their moving pictures really are

worth a thousand words.

How do I decide if BTV is right for my company or client?

For the purists, BTV means internal communication via a satellite

network, while corporate video can mean anything from a training

programme to a promotional tool for conferences and events. New

technologies mean that these distinctions are falling by the wayside.

But in general terms, most organisations initially turn to BTV - however

it is delivered - to drive culture change among an internal


Many multinationals, car dealerships, supermarkets and financial

institutions - with dispersed workforces - use BTV and corporate video

to deliver broad, key messages to their employees. This can be

especially useful for motivational purposes. In addition, it is a

powerful tool for senior management to reach out and touch people across

their organisation.

But it is not a substitute for other forms of communication such as

face-to-face meetings, live events or print. As Nicholas Wright, head of

internal communication consulting at Fishburn Hedges, says: ’It is best

used as a unifying force, a mechanism of one to all, not all to


How do I set objectives?

’It is very important to come to the party with your objectives in

place, not decide to go for BTV or corporate video and then look at your

objectives,’ says Josie Klafkowska, client services director of Line Up


However, in terms of BTV, she says clients are increasingly looking to

visual communication to embed their brand with internal audiences. ’It’s

all very well stating a new mission statement, but BTV allows companies

to show tangible changes and get across behavioural issues to staff,’

she says. This is something her organisation has worked on with House of

Fraser, using a series of three videos to portray key messages to staff

at 53 stores around the country.

However, the long-term objectives for BTV and corporate video need to

come from a thorough audit of all internal communication. Rather than

viewing BTV in isolation, it is a question of adding value to an

integrated strategy. ’It is very important that BTV fits inside an

on-going communications strategy, so that you achieve uniform and

consistent messages across all media,’ says James Marchant, head of

production at Mar.Com Presentations.

The other important factor to consider is ensuring that there is enough

to say. ’It’s all very well thinking of a one-off fab programme,’ says

Klafkowska. ’But too many people get to episode two and think ’Oh God,

What are we going to put in this one?’.’

How do I choose my supplier?

’As with all professional suppliers, try to go with somebody who has a

proven track record in your area of business,’ says Jasper Pearson,

video production manager of Brighton-based Mind’s Eye. Most corporate

visual communications suppliers should be able to provide a wealth of

case-studies and references. As Pearson says: ’A recommendation from

another company who has used those services is invaluable.’

Gus Colquhoun, director of corporate production company Jacaranda, says

quality of programme-making should be pretty consistent. ’Choose the

company you want to work with on the basis of how they sell themselves

and whether or not you like them.’ He thinks the guiding principle

should be: ’We each know what we’re doing, and it’s neither art nor


Are there any guidelines for deciding the content?

This is really a case of trusting the programme maker - after all, it’s

what they’re paid for. But Julian Fisher, director of operations at

Medialink International, says: ’There are many guidelines, but the

simple principals are: Who is my audience? What are my key messages?

What does the audience need, to understand the rationale behind the

messages? What content do we have, what content do we need, and what

time frame do we have to achieve this?’ The other obvious addition to

this list, is ’What is my budget?’

Julian Pearson, head of OnScreen production at Shelton Fleming

Associates, a specialist in corporate events, stresses the importance of

marrying the needs of the audience with the needs of the business and

senior management.

’Then comes the hard bit - finding common ground and a common

objective,’ he says.

At Fishburn Hedges, Wright emphasises the importance of having a central

corporate function acting both as programme controller and


’The best networks are demand-led rather than supply-driven’, he


’Otherwise there can be information overload with individual functions

and departments making their own programmes, which would be better

delivered as succinct items within a magazine format.’

The key is to decide exactly what messages need to be conveyed and what

the audience should take away from the experience, and then act


How do I ensure editorial integrity is maintained?

’Produce a very clear brief, as this will allow the production company

to develop creative ideas that will deliver your message,’ says Pearson

at Mind’s Eye. A good open dialogue needs to be maintained with the

supplier during every stage of production and viewing progress at

regular intervals.

’Get them to produce storyboards and scripts to ensure you’re both

thinking along the same lines,’ he says, and adds: ’Make sure you give

the time and resources to follow through the job from pre-planning to

the final edit.’

However, the biggest pitfall is turning the experience into an ego-trip

for management. ’Talk to the audience, as they are the people that will

have to watch it,’ says Shelton Fleming’s Pearson. ’You want them to

look forward to the communication rather than having a mandate to watch


Involve the audience, consult the audience and listen to their ideas,’

he adds.

For live broadcasts, this interactivity can be built in with phone-ins,

fax-ins and e-mail question and answer sessions. But even recorded

programmes need feedback from staff to ensure that content is engaging,

relevant and any comment is fed back into the process. ’Staff need to

see that programmes are for them and about them,’ says Klafkowska.

How important is the delivery method?

Delivery sometimes gets overlooked in the rush to concentrate on


’As well as asking ’Who is your audience?’ it is vital to find out

’Where is your audience?’,’ says Fisher.

Traditionally, a satellite network has been viewed as the best medium

for reaching audiences that can be gathered in large groups.

For widespread audiences gathered in small groups, the corporate video

on VHS, coupled with team discussions has usually been seen as a more

successful and cost-effective solution. Jacaranda for example produces

regular programmes for WH Smith, the Kingfisher Group, Comet and The

Body Shop which Colquhoun describes as ’Business television that works

without going anywhere near a satellite dish.’

However, many in the business reckon new technology means BTV and

corporate video are on the way out. ’The advent of the web and

technological advances mean you can address any number of participants

at any number of locations,’ says Fisher.

How can I make the BTV or corporate video as cost effective as


It is impossible to put hard and fast rules on how much visual

communications will cost, but it is worth remembering that investing in

the hardware for a BTV satellite system can cost up to pounds 2,000 per

site. Add anything from pounds 500,000 to pounds 1.5 million for

programming over a year, and money could start to become a problem.

The advice from all the experts is to face the cold financial facts at

the outset. ’You have to know how much you’re going to spend in a year

and be prepared to spend it,’ says Ian Blackman, business manager at

communications consultancy Imagination. Obviously, much of the cost

depends on programme content: whether a broadcast is live, contains

expensive location footage, or features a celebrity voice-over, for


Other influencing factors include the delivery mechanism. For example,

the production quality needed for CD-ROM is often less expensive than

the film or high-end broadcast video needed for TV and VHS.

Similarly, Fisher says that clients are increasingly asking his

organisation to provide back-to-back webcasts or satellite

videoconferences: one for internal staff audiences, and another for

external press and analyst audiences.

’Providing one production and distribution facility for both has major

budgetary savings for the client,’ he says.

How should the benefits of visual communications to my business be


From a management perceptive, visual communication - satellite

programming especially - is often viewed as an expensive option. And

when the chips are down, internal communication is often one of the

first budgets to be slashed.

As BTV and corporate video do not operate in isolation, their impact is

hard to evaluate. But the most common measurement is to conduct research

into BTV’s role in helping staff understand business objectives, their

role. Usually this is achieved through regular internal communication

audits or formal feedback from programmes, in the form of


This makes it possible to measure how many people have watched

programmes, whether key messages have been understood and what staff

have taken away from the experience.

However, Wright warns: ’The worst way to evaluate BTV is with lots of

questions about the specific nature of programmes.’ Instead, he

advocates carefully measuring changes in attitudes and understanding.

’It is important to focus on effects rather than outputs,’ he says.

What is the future of BTV and corporate video?

The opportunities provided by the internet make this an ideal format for

most BTV productions. ’To have participants watching video and audio in

remote corners of the earth, and then offer them the interactive

opportunities that webcasting allows, means it is streets ahead of old

technology,’ says Fisher.

Indeed, the whole box of new technology from DVD to webcasting opens up

a wealth of versatility, integration and interactivity for corporate

video. The core benefits include cutting costs, personalising

communications and more dynamic content. Users have the option to access

extra content, including programme-related information and dedicated

business channels.

But the greatest communications opportunity is the chance to create

programming other than the traditional linear format.

However, despite the likes of BT piloting new ADSL technology, for most

corporations band-width remains a problem. ’I find a lot of our clients

are in limbo,’ says Kate Bowen, senior partner of communications

consultancy The Eastbury Partnership. ’They are nervous of investing in

what they see as an old-fashioned TV network, but they are cautious

about what is now on offer.’

The problem is that while the technology to delivery good picture

quality to the desktop is already here, it often requires significant

capital investment in an organisation’s existing IT networks.

However, most are confident that advances will come. As Marchant says:

’We’re not there yet, but the desktop is the future. No doubt.’

- The next Under The Spotlight will be published on 15 September on the

topic of news services.

If you have a question to put to suppliers in this sector, please e-mail


The International Visual Communication Association (IVCA) offers the

following advice as guidelines to achieve the best relationship between

clients, in-house departments, agencies and video producers.

- A clear brief. Whether for a direct commission or a pitch, the brief

should define the aims and objectives of the corporate video or BTV: how

it will be used, the intended audience, set quality, budget guidelines,

a timeframe and any other relevant background information.

- A detailed proposal. The production company should provide the client

with a clear and well-defined proposal of their projected solution to

the perceived business requirement, including a step-by-step budget


- Discuss ideas. Production companies might have their own ideas based

on in-depth experience about how to improve the brief, both creatively

and in terms of maximising the business benefit.

- Build a good relationship. PR companies or departments - as

commissioners - and their clients should meet those who will be directly

involved in the project and to see relevant examples of their work.

- Identify decision makers. If the production company is likely to be

working with a committee of client representatives, identify the key

decision makers and what they do.

- Teamwork. Teamwork is essential to a good project. The pitching

process is a good opportunity to establish whether there is a good

working chemistry between everyone involved.

- Build up trust. Discuss anything which could cause anticipated

problems, but especially if it is likely to cause delays or extra


- Be available. Company politics can often be a considerable hazard, so

a good commissioner should be on hand to help steer the production

company through any potential problems.

- Evaluation. It may not always be possible to isolate the project from

the entire campaign, but commissioners should try to build an agreed

means of evaluating the effectiveness of the project. This will be

invaluable for all involved.

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