FOCUS: CORPORATE VIDEO - Get your image rolling on film/Is your next corporate video likely to be a Titanic success or will it lack any sort of Deep Impact whatsoever? Ed Shelton explains how to keep audiences on the edge of their seats

You’ve been asked to commission a corporate video for a client, but you’re not sure why or how. PR Week answers some of your questions.

You’ve been asked to commission a corporate video for a client, but

you’re not sure why or how. PR Week answers some of your questions.

Q: Do I need a corporate video?

A: The benefits of a video over, say, a brochure or other textual

information is that it has more emotional impact.

Mark Slocombe, a director of CreationVideo, which has recently made a

corporate video for the NHS encouraging women to have breast screening,

says: ’It’s a brilliant medium to get a message like that across because

it humanises the message. People like watching people.’

Other producers say video is also very useful when a communications need

involves taking the viewers ’out of time and place’ - for example

informing head office workers about a new factory overseas.

Most corporate videos are directed broadly at a company’s stakeholders

and are designed to position the company in a particular way in their

minds. Typically, a video might be used as an introduction to give a

general picture about what a company does and how it goes about its


In a global context corporate videos can help define a corporate culture

within different offices in different countries.

Alternatively, a corporate video might be made to communicate a more

focused message, such as meeting a specific training need, or as part of

a damage limitation exercise when things have gone wrong.

Q: What format should it take?

A: When planning a corporate video it is worth thinking about using new

technology. Communications technology is moving fast and some production

companies now say that, rather than a straightforward film, clients

might be better to think about making something interactive that would

work on a web site. A modular film, which can be viewed bit by bit and

is easily and instantly updated, is sometimes more appropriate,

according to Nicky Havelaar, director of Crown Business


’These days the moment you make something it is out of date,’ she


’If you want information in terms of moving images you might think about

something that is flexible and that you can add to, maybe something

interactive.’ Havelaar says many companies are now deciding to make

visual materials for digital platforms like digital video disk (DVD)

that people access in a modular way just as they might use information

on a web site.

Q: What should I put on my corporate video?

A:The basic rule is that content should be dictated by what you are

trying to communicate. Start from a clearly defined need such as: ’We

want an introduction to our company’ or ’We want to explain why we are

closing our factory’.

Try to stick to It is best not to overload the video with financial

results, sales figures or long lists of new developments. Katy Eyre,

managing director of the production company Jacaranda, says: ’A classic

mistake companies make is that instead of getting a creative piece of

work that gives a feeling that you could never get with a brochure, you

simply get the brochure on screen.’

Most films are based on a cross between television documentary format

and television commercials. The approach should be like the former, but

the image communicated will be artificially attractive, as in the


This generally means a blend of actuality - film of real things going on

- with explanatory graphics, links by a presenter and a commentary.

’If someone from the client company is going to act as a presenter, make

sure the person who is most televisual is chosen. The obvious choice may

not always be the best,’ warns Charles Mills, head of corporate

television at Two Four Productions.

In a training role, drama can also be effective, and sometimes actors

are used to get across or illustrate the key points that a

documentary-type film wants to communicate. TV programmes such as

Crimewatch have shown how effective this technique can be, but you will

need to hire actors and have a director who is experienced in this


Q: How much will it cost?

A: Like everything else, you get what you pay for. You can spend

anywhere up to pounds 300,000. Most videos work out at between pounds

25,000 and pounds 75,000. Typically the ones at the more expensive end

of the scale are for global companies, such as publicising the launch of

a new car. Typically a 30-minute television documentary will be budgeted

at pounds 60,000 - corporate videos often cost a similar amount for ten

minutes. The final cost will depend on content, how many days filming

are involved, what locations are being used, and how much

post-production will be needed.

For shooting abroad there are also considerations, such as whether you

should take your own crew or hire locally. A good compromise might be to

take a four man crew of director, camera and their assistants, and hire

electricians, lighting people if required and equipment on location.

Post-production involves the footage you have shot, called ’rushes’,

being edited together. This involves an ’off-line’ edit to get the best

pieces of footage in the right order and then a final ’on-line’ edit

when everything is brought together. Post-production costs involve the

hiring of expensive equipment and specially-trained personnel.

If you are on a tight budget, one way of saving money is to use music

from a library music disk. If you use a disk the cost will be only a few

hundred, rather than a few thousand pounds, but most producers think it

is worth the extra expense of having music especially composed and


Q: How do I get started?

A: First find a production company by going through a pitch process.

The International Visual Communication Association can suggest producers

that have relevant expertise to your business area.

For a brief you need a two or three-page document which clearly

establishes who your audience is and what the key messages are.

Once a company has been chosen you need to decide what format to shoot

on. Most good corporate videos will be shot on film and then edited on

video tape, in the same way as commercials. Post-producing digitally on

tape allows for more flexibility and speed.

Q: Any other hot tips?

A: Charles Turley, managing director at 2Cs, says the success of a

project is most dependent on choosing a production company with whom you

have a good relationship and easy communications.

This relationship needs to be kept in check, however, as the balance of

power between a producer and client can often be a delicate one. On the

one hand, clients should avoid being seduced by the glamour of the

process, and should also not allow themselves to be bullied by the

production company which will obviously have its own agenda.

But clients have to have faith in their choice of production company and

allow it to make creative decisions. Eyre says a common mistake is

clients wanting to fill the screen with a series of talking heads. This

might be done to satisfy the ego of board directors, but will turn the

audience off, she says.

Try and get the script signed off by the client before any of the

shooting part of the process takes place. There is nothing worse for a

producer, and more costly for the client, than a script that changes

constantly as the project develops.


The New Millennium Experience Company, the company responsible for the

Millennium Dome, wanted to make a film to mark the ’300 days to go’

until the millennium.

The aim of the film was very clear. Much had been written about the Dome

and its corporate sponsors, but little was known about the work that the

sponsors were already doing on a national basis away from the site. This

comprises a wide range of charitable activities involving local

communities and business designed to make the UK a better place to live

not just this year, but into the millennium. The film was a high-profile

project involving a contribution from Tony Blair and the 14 big

corporate sponsors, so an experienced production company was needed. 2Cs

Communications was tasked with finding a way of including contributions

from all 14 sponsors in a five-minute film without making it look like a

chain of isolated pieces.

2Cs chose to use multiple frames - more than one in the picture at once

- and to build the film around the three themes nominated by the NMEC :

Involve, Inspire and Improve. The film was made in three chapters with

each corporate scheme illustrating one of these ideas.

In a bid to give the film the widest possible appeal the producers chose

to illustrate each project not with chairmen and CEOs talking about

high-level strategies, but with employees at more junior levels, for

example, a pharmacist at Boots explaining her company’s


Charles Turley, managing director of 2Cs, says the hard work for a

project like this is in the scripting and research. He put its success

down to the commitment of the New Millennium Experience Company to

making it work, and the good relationship between the two



Planning is everything in video production. A good piece of advice when

planning content, according to Jacaranda managing director Katy Eyre, is

not to try to cram too much into the film. ’It is true that less is

more. Stick to no more than five key messages’, she says.

It is also worth bearing in mind that, although corporate videos are

generally conceived with a specific task in mind, they are often re-used

by the client for other purposes such as staff induction.

Another way to help things run smoothly, says Eyre, is if one person

within the client organisation can be given ownership of the


’Death by committee-editing is horrendous’, she says.

Once the production process gets underway all filming locations, for

example, need to be meticulously checked out. Any noise, such as

rumbling plumbing, or traffic will interfere, as will a crowd of

unwanted onlookers.

So that everyone knows what the plans are the production manager will

generally produce a ’call sheet’. This is a detailed schedule of exactly

what happens throughout the day so that everyone knows where they should

be from the first taxi call in the morning to the end of the final


A concern unique to the film and television production fraternity, is

that of continuity. This is the idea that things should look the same

from one moment to the next on the screen, even if filming takes place

across days or even weeks. One company, which prefers to remain

anonymous, tells a story of an interview that had gone well but was not

quite finished when the subject had to shoot off for an important

meeting. He came back at the end of the day, as promised, hoping to add

the finishing touches but the shoot has to be started all over again -

after his meeting he had been to the barber.

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