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
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
’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
’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,’
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
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
NINE STEPS TO THE BEST BTV
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.