55% of people watch videos online every day[i], it is fast becoming the number one medium to share information if you’re not creating video you’re missing a trick. So what makes a good video and how can you get it to stand out?
We’ve teamed up with Jo Haywood, founder of Bristol-based video production company, Skylark Media, to give you some top tips on creating engaging video content that drives traffic to your website. Prior to running her business Jo, created environmental films for the BBC before going onto manage the BBC Lifestyle websites. We sat down with Jo in the Aardman Cinema where the Skylark team are based for a little chat, if you would prefer to watch a video of the interview, you can do that here!
Here’s What Jo Had to Say
Before we delve in, tell us a bit more about you and why you started Skylark Media?
I’ve always made films for a living, it is my passion. I started off wanting to make environmental films to save the planet and after many years of hard work and trying, I eventually started working with the BBC. I made films for the BBC for 12 years before I started running their lifestyle websites, it was during this time I started my family. When the BBC decided to move everything back to their London offices, I chose to stay in Bristol, which then led me to set up Skylark Media in 2005.
Skylark was a pretty small business to begin with until I expanded and started taking on creatives in 2011. The reason I started Skylark was that I could see a real need for quality storytelling in businesses and lots of creatives looking for focus and direction – not to mention money. I kind of see myself as a conduit between business people who have a need and creatives looking for a story to tell. Just because we are dealing with businesses it doesn’t stop us from being super creative with our videos.
We talk about story-telling quite a lot, how important do you think having a story is when creating a video?
When creating a video, the thing you need to work out is your audience and what they need to hear, it’s a bit like selling. You need to tell the story they want to hear and not just the one you want to tell them. At Skylark, we are a creative agency. We work with the brand to find out about them, we then work out the essence of the brand and crystallise it in a 60-second video. That video then needs to deliver the essence of who the brand is to the audience with pinpoint sharpness. We spend a lot of time thinking about a brand’s audience and the story they want to hear, for anyone thinking about creating a video it would be my top tip to do the same.
On my Easy Peasy Sales workshop I teach the W-Introduction method which teaches business owners how to stand out when introducing themselves at an event, but how can you get a 60-second video to stand out online when you’re competing against millions of other videos?
Video is a very visual medium, when people are on social media scrolling down their news feed they are not going to stop for a video of someone sitting in their office, people can be very superficial so if we can change things up we will.
The opening shot is what makes an impact. It needs to have something about it that intrigues the audience and draws them in, it also needs to lead back to the brand. For example, we have just done a video for a furniture store and have been working on a concept around a brass band because they have them at all store openings. The Skylark team found a brass band with the same branding colours as the furniture store. The opening shot of the advert is a super shiny bass tuba, which in its reflection shows the furniture store showroom. So for me, it’s great because the first shot has raised my curiosity and made me want to find out what the ad is about.
How can someone on a budget come up with something sharp?
I don’t see any problem with using a phone to film videos and there are loads of free and reasonably priced apps that you can download to help edit the video.
Like I said before we spend a lot of time thinking about the story and that’s what you need to do if you’re making your own video. For example, if you want to turn a testimonial into a video, find an interesting way of doing it. We’ve had clients come to us that are accountants, so their offices are quite boring and don’t make great settings for videos. But their clients might be bakers or florists, which are incredibly visual, so put yourself there. The location should say something about who you are. For example, this interview is being filmed in the Aardman cinema which says a lot about Skylark Media. Think about the subliminal message you’re giving out from the moment you turn the camera on.
What do you think about putting a call-to-action at the end of a video?
“A call-to-action (usually abbreviated as CTA) is an image or line of text that prompts your visitors, leads, and customers to take action. It is, quite literally, a “call” to take an “action.” – Hubspot, 2017[ii]
The audience should know why they are watching the video and what they are supposed to do next. If you don’t put a call-to-action at the end then what is the point. The video should lead them somewhere.
Video engagement is constantly growing and live streaming is becoming increasingly popular. As someone who regularly speaks, I’m confident and absolutely love the camera, but for some, it’s not that easy. How can working with a professional help?
It’s uncomfortable talking to camera so we work very hard to put people at ease, we often use props as it gives you something to talk about. The moment you turn a camera on everyone starts to behave, which is the opposite of what you want, you want the business to show how fun they are. It is hard speaking to camera, my team at Skylark know how to interview, just like in your Easy Peasy Sales course we have behaviours types that we look out for. Someone with Blue behaviour tends to learn a script, then as soon as you roll the camera, their eyes roll back and they recite their script, they’re so focused on remembering their lines that they are no longer friendly and engaging. If we are interviewing someone, we will always send them a few bullet point questions before. Video is about showing emotion, you need to be able to impress with your warmth, engagement and passion, you can’t do that with a script.
If you’re not working with a professional team and are filming yourself, then ask someone to interview you instead of talking straight to camera.
What are your views on subtitles?
If you’re planning on putting your video on social then I think it’s important. If it’s on social media you’re expecting someone to scroll down their posts and watch it, but they may not have headphones or be in an environment where they can turn the sound on, which is why I would recommend putting some subtitles in.
Video is under-utilised, there’s a huge market out there and there are businesses still not utilising this amazing resource. What do you think is the future of video, what’s the next step?
When we make a video we see it as a linear story, you start at the beginning and take your audience on a journey to the end. There are things like VR and interactive technology but they don’t follow a linear story so you don’t get absorbed in it, I see these avenues more for the gaming industry. For us, we are storytellers, we have to take you on a journey and I don’t think I’ve seen anything, even with all the emerging tech, that actually comes in the way of replacing that. The visual storytelling dynamic, like any ad should have an arc-like structure within it, which you know means you will take someone on this route from the beginning to wrapping it up at the end. I can’t see anything that’s better than that journey, as humans we love a good story.
Finally, how long would you say is the ideal video?
It depends on what you plan on doing with it. Most people go for two-minute videos, which is great if you’re going to put it on YouTube. If it’s a training video, then it can be longer. If you’re going to put it on social media, then it should be 15 seconds, Facebook Ads, only allow a maximum length of 15 seconds.
Here’s a quick roundup of Jo’s top tips for creating an engaging online video that stands out, even when you don’t have a massive budget:
- Know your audience and the story they want to hear
- Ensure the visuals represent your brand and who you are
- Make an Impact with your opening shot
- Always include a call-to-action
- Never read from a script
- Think about where you’re putting your video and format accordingly
A huge thank you to Jo, for taking the time to share her amazing top tips with us. I recently worked with the team at Skylark Media to create a new showreel to promote myself as a keynote speaker. They’ve done a fantastic job, you can check out my shiny new video here.
You can see more of Skylark’s work on their website. Working with them, I can tell you first hand they are extremely professional and very friendly. I would highly recommend getting in contact with Jo if you are looking to create some engaging video content to promote your brand online.
Thanks for reading and please feel like, comment and share with your network.
[i] Digital Information world –