Managing Risk, Maximizing Results Part 2: Video Rocks Traditional PR


Last week, "Managing Risk, Maximizing Results Part 1" discussed the do's and don'ts of incorporating video into such social media as YouTube and MySpace. But the fact that video is a good match for the Wild West of online platforms doesn't mean more traditional digital functions - media relations, internal communications, human resources, etc. - don't stand to benefit as well. Video can and should be used to connect with employees, recruit new talent, communicate stories to the media and interact with consumers in a more controlled environment. Once again, it's just a question of how to do it without hitting the sand traps. Here are some best practices to help you navigate the online video laby-rinth. (For other tips, see our How-To section on p. 2.) Media Relations "When it comes to media relations, there's very little question that video needs to be in online newsrooms," says Tim Roberts, president of Wieck Media. "Now corporations can actually become their own media. They have a direct pipeline to the consumer." But if there's no question that online newsrooms must contain video for journalists' use, there's a big question as to how to do it right. Communications professionals must keep a few things in mind: Make sure the corporate Web site's infrastructure can handle it. The one down side of high-quality video files is their tendency to suck up huge amounts of bandwidth. As it turns out, most IT executives don't really like that. To avoid an epic confrontation with your organization's technorati, contact them early and often to keep them abreast of all video uploads. They may recommend (read: require) that you set up an online newsroom that is separate from the main site to prevent crashes. "When you talk about adding these services, the IT department is going to be a hurdle at the very least," Roberts says. "That's a top consideration when communicators want to add video, and when they want to do so in-house." Keep it brief. All video clips intended for media consumption should be separated into 15- to 20-second snippets; otherwise, journalists won't be inclined to use video that requires extra editing on their part. "You don't want to overburden who you're trying to get that message to," Roberts says. "You need logical break-points." Besides, who wants to watch a six-minute video just to find the essential nugget of information? No one. Remember traditional media relations tenets. Posting video on an online newsroom doesn't automatically mean that journalists will go towards it like moths to a light source. PR executives must continue to maintain relationships with media professionals in more traditional ways, and they must "train" them to know that video is available for their viewing pleasure. When a new clip is added, call the target outlets, or send out a press release. Otherwise, the only one watching your work of digital genius will probably be your mom. Think outside the newsroom. Just because video requires a platform for streaming doesn't mean that other vehicles - press releases, for example - can't facilitate video's deliverance to audiences. For example, Shift Communications is just one agency that has developed a multimedia press release template to take communications beyond the written word into consideration. It suggests embedding links to podcasts and videos, as well as blogs and other forms of social media, into releases that go out to various constituents. Thus, the drone of the age-old written release is jazzed up with multimedia. Internal Relations PR executives should note that these general media relations rules apply to PR teams looking to post video for internal communications initiatives like streaming video to employees. General Motors is one example of a corporation that uses video as an opportunity to reach its employees throughout the country. According to Rob Minton, communications manager at GM, the communications team produces a daily five-minute newscast that is streamed to internal televisions and the company's intranet. Televisions are strategically placed throughout offices and dealerships, in common rooms, cafeterias and lobbies. That way, everyone from the senior executives to the dealers can see what's going on within the organization. The company also has a public site (http://www.onlygm.com) chock-full of videos that range from behind-the-scenes looks at current ad campaigns to taped conversations with the CEO. Also on the internal communications front, online video provides a cost-effective way to train employees who are scattered throughout the country. According to a recent BusinessWeek story, Deloitte Touche and American Express use video for their e-learning initiatives. This can entail anything from explaining a new procedure to offering a refresher course or demonstrating a new product. Human Resources And Recruiting The opportunities for online video do not stop with internal constituents. External audiences - in this case, potential employees - benefit from the use of video in recruiting efforts. PR professionals should collaborate with the HR department to create video clips that reflect the corporate culture and work environment. These videos can be posted on the corporate page that lists job openings, and they will attract candidates that identify well with the messages. Enterprise uses online videos for recruiting efforts with good results. In one clip, the CEO talks about how he started his career behind the counter at a local outpost. What better way to demonstrate the potential for upward mobility? Controlled Consumer Interaction YouTube-esque outlets aren't the only way for companies to interact with consumers via video. An added bonus: Using the corporate Web site as a platform enables the communications executives to retain control of the content that is posted. Southwest Airlines capitalized on this capability with its "Want To Get Away" promotion. VP of public relations Linda Rutherford and her team set up a microsite where both consumers and employees could send 20-second video clips of an idea that speaks to the "Want To Get Away" message. The ad campaign, which has been used since 1998, features people in embarrassing situations who "want to get away" and suggests that Southwest is the best vehicle for doing so. Involving consumers added to the promotion's appeal, and it reinforced Southwest's consumer-friendly brand identity. "The idea of 'Want to Get Away' was quoted in The New York Times to describe one of John Kerry's gaffes," Rutherford says. "Since the tagline was so popular, we decided to get ideas from customers who would make a video and post. It's taken on a life of its own. " But there are still important points to remember: Be transparent: The rules of any customer-involved contest must be clear from the very beginning. Are there specific standards in terms of video quality? Are there any specific content requirements? How will the winner be chosen and rewarded? It is essential to tell consumers what they are getting into; otherwise, PR managers will be fielding irate complaints rather than promotional submissions. Don't censor videos created by consumers just because they are negative. Depending on how the platform is structured, communications executives can screen video submissions before they are posted. However, when you ask for audience feedback, it is essential to be as unbiased as possible. Glowing praise will speak volumes; including negative comments that suggest places for improvement will win bonus points for honesty. Plus, it will make consumers feel empowered by their ability to make suggestions that are taken seriously. Summing up our two-part online video series, the question is not "Should we do it?" but rather "How do we do it?" The answers are at your fingertips. Contacts: Rob Minton, robert.minton@gm.com; Tim Roberts, tim@wieck.com; Linda Rutherford, linda.rutherford@wnco.com

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