Film Maker and Editor James Harrison’s Top 5 Tips for Making a Truly Effective Promotional Film
Here are my top tips for making a promotional film with impact and a sense of purpose.
Many corporate promotional films comprise not much more than a bunch of loosely edited sequences with no sense of logic. Add poor quality sound, misjudged music, and an anodyne voice over, these badly executed videos lack any sense of purpose.
There are some good reasons why engaging a professional filmmaker is preferable to doing it yourself or hiring someone with all the gear and none of the know-how.
Just with builders, chefs and solicitors, vets, farriers and brain surgeons, the true professions are framed around an honest mix of talent, ability, and experience. Just as few of us can be expected to understand the complexities of the law or how to fix brains, the same is true of film making.
Genuine experts have their place and we would be foolish to ignore them, even if it’s tempting to cut costs and do it ourselves.
However, whether you chose to produce your own video or engage a professional videographer, here are some film-making tips:
Start with the Audience
It’s tempting to come up with a great idea, turn it into a film, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your layouts… and then wonder why your YouTube audience isn’t really getting past the first thirty seconds. It’s crucial you know just who exactly the audience is for your film. A class of 14 year-olds is a very different audience to a specialist group of research scientists.
Keep it Simple
Work out the story you want to tell, and crucially, what it is you want to leave your audience with. Working backwards is no bad idea. Decide your message and then assess how best to convey it.
Give Yourself Time
It’s vital you build in a realistic delivery and sign off period, allowing for revisions; give yourself a sensible period for planning, production and post-production/editing. Sometimes creating a short film can be time consuming. Even 30 second TV commercials can take months to plan, film and edit. Professionals can work smart; if you’re going it alone, you may find the process takes longer than you think.
Right Tool for the Job
While for the basic talking head stuff, a smartphone just might do the job (but please get the sound right!), anything more really needs the touch of a professional videographer, someone who has the right equipment and knows how to use it. The same goes for editing software. Windows Movie Maker has its place, but not if you’re looking for a professionally finished production.
Remember that your videographer (even if it’s you!) should understand how the finished film fits in with the overall comms or marketing strategy.
The professional videographer will create something that builds on your brand and image. The film should endorse the product and enhance how your customers engage in what you do. Above all they (or you) shouldn’t be churning out useless window dressing. A good film should be a well-thought out piece that creates impact for both you and your target audience.
I understand all too well that maximising profits and keeping down costs is an important focus for businesses. However, as we’re seeing with so much online video nowadays, in the long term less doesn’t always result in more.
We all know that cheap marketing, when badly designed and poorly executed can be more damaging than something carefully considered. While the “stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap” mentality might work for the discount supermarket, most stores would think twice about spending a few quid on advertising and promotion.
In essence: you get what you pay for. Just like other forms of digital communication, online video production is no exception.
James Harrison is a Wiltshire-based independent film-maker, director and editor. He has over 35 years’ experience – much of it spent working for the BBC – across radio, TV news and online.
His passion for filmmaking is built around the essence of fireside storytelling, putting people centre-stage, and allowing their personal narrative to determine the shape and feel of the films he makes.