CH4: VIDEO PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION GUIDE – Final Considerations Before You Choose a Video Service: Which Additional Services Do You Need?
CHAPTER 4: Final Considerations Before You Choose a Video Service: Which Additional Services Do You Need? How will You be Charged?
Never have PR and communications professionals had so many options for creating and distributing video for almost every kind of media. In fact, this new Buyer’s Guide covers all the major issues and pitfalls in creating powerful PR videos, plus compares the top 10 video production and distribution services. Leading the way and making the list was no surprise to the industry’s largest, leading and most experienced independent broadcast PR company, now nearing its 50th year — News Broadcast Network. Discovering companies like NBN through the use of this guide can help you save thousands of dollars and dozens of hours of time, as well as supercharge your next video campaign. The Video Production and Distribution Buyer’s Guide serves to clarify buying issues, showcase leading companies like NBN that go the extra mile and what sets them apart from the rest.
See how NBN stands out above the rest with over 40 years of service to clients
Head-to-head comparisons of 10 top services in the industry
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NBN — The Lowest Prices + The Highest Results = The Greatest Value … across the board!
Beyond the Basics: Assess Which Additional Video-Related Services You’ll Need
Once you’ve assessed your video messaging strategy, narrowed down the possible creative approaches, and identified your target audiences and likely media outlets, you’re almost ready to start visiting video production and distribution companies and entertaining proposals. But before you do, consider a few more possible needs that may dramatically affect the success of your video campaign. It pays to know about these additional services before you start talking to potential video service providers, so you can explore them further with your top candidates.
Paid and guaranteed placement. If you’re a product of old-school PR, you may blanch at the prospect of paid placements. But paid and guaranteed placements are de rigueur in the PR video industry (as they are increasingly in social media PR). Indeed, the space between marketing, PR and advertising are becoming blurred. “All those silos are breaking apart,” notes Doug Simon, President and CEO of D S Simon Productions. “Ideally, the more effective your content creation and messaging plan, the more you can rely on the most credible form — which is earned media across all platforms — and not have to supplement it with as much bought time or brand integration, but they all have a role.”
Syndicated placements are usually 25-minute TV programs on a theme — say “Health Starts at Home” or “Protecting Your Automobile Investment” — that bundle a series of short, branded video features offering practical tips on some aspect of the theme, each usually featuring a product. These syndicated programs are produced by video production firms, which then place them on TV via an advertising purchase. The client brands in essence share the cost of the ad buy and receive guaranteed placements.
Diana Jaffe, Director of Global Marketing at Synaptic Digital, adds that “while some people may believe that unless it’s earned media, it’s not really PR, they are also not addressing the fact that there are 200+ TV channels that have no way of implementing many of the PR video tools out there like b-roll and satellite media tours. Paid media is the only way to reach that audience. Communications professionals who only leverage earned media cannot control when, where, how often, or even whether target audiences are ever exposed to their messages.”
“We call earned media ‘strategic placements,’ ‘narrative marketing’ or ‘interstitial placements,’” says Todd Grossman, VP of Sales and Client Services at MultiVu. “They can complement a campaign or a message. So, for example, say you want to get your 30-, 60- or 90-second message on Gas Station TV (a network that broadcasts to gas stations nationally), or CNN Airport Network, or in doctor’s offices, or on plasma screens at Best Buy’s or Costco’s in-store network — wherever there’s a screen, there’s an opportunity for strategic placements,” says Grossman.
“We believe earned media is great when you can get it, but your placement goals should take into account today’s multiple media channels to ensure your message gets noticed by the most viewers possible. We believe it’s all about the balance of paid, owned and earned — and knowing the right mix for the right campaign,” says Diana Jaffe.
Video search engine optimization (VSEO). Like other forms of SEO, video search is used to drive online eyeballs to your video. However, the way to get on the first page of Google is much different for video than it is for text-based websites. A Forrester Research study showed that, “properly submitted online videos are 53 times more likely to get a first page ranking on Google than with conventionally optimized webpages,” according to Benjamin Wayne in Search Engine Watch.
“Video search is critical,” says Doug Simon, President and CEO of D S Simon. “It’s probably the single biggest argument for video.” Demand for online video is increasingly every day and, according to comScore’s Video Metrix, it’s expected to grow by 81 percent by 2015. That makes trying to find a particular video on the Internet an increasingly more difficult task. In fact, YouTube, reports that more than 13 million hours of video were uploaded to its site in 2010 — and 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute. Though YouTube remains the dominant player in the industry, VEVO, Vimeo, Metacafe, Blip.tv and other sites have really fragmented the market.
So how do you optimize your video to achieve a higher rank on Google? “Optimization can include anything from meta tagging, to creating compelling video content, to posting it on YouTube, to using a commercial newswire service, to putting it out there on Twitter,” says Todd Grossman, VP of Sales and Client Services at MultiVu, a PR Newswire company.
Additional “commandments” for optimizing video for search, according to Latergy President Larry Thomas, include using keywords where the video is posted, adding interactivity with YouTube annotations, and placing calls to action and key messages at the beginning and end of your video. Thomas also recommends that PR pros ensure that a video site map is created for each video, using XML coding to help search engines identify and find videos on your site.
Scripting/creative concept. Planning the text for a video — ranging from the concept to the tone, pacing, and words — has become a kind of copywriting or close to the short form of Twitter and mobile communications.“The script,” points out Linda Buckley, Co-president of KEF Media, “can’t sound ‘scripted.’” The medium is conversational. Yet, even seasoned speechwriters require special training for video work.
Ask yourself if you really have the capability to write a script. Don’t assume you can if you haven’t done so before. You may end up writing and rewriting the script several times, causing the video to be reshot several times and resulting in a tremendous uptick in expenses.
Location scouting. Although ambiance can be created through b-roll, there’s nothing like activity taking place in a specially selected location that sets the scene and supports your message. The challenge is to find the setting and make use of it in a way that’s cost efficient. Some locations require licenses, some require special lighting or other equipment, some require shooting at special times of day. A video production and distribution company that deals with these issues all the time can be just what you need to create a dramatic effect, yet still keep the project on budget. Conversely, inexperience in location scouting usually leads to going over budget.
Talent search. If the project is fundraising, using a top celebrity in your video is increasingly common. But the fit must be perfect. Betty White, 90 years old, would probably not be effective as spokesperson for a video that helps raise funding for a camp for inner-city teens. Does your video production firm have access to the kind of celebrities you need or does your video partner work with a talent agency that specializes in celebrity procurement? Yet even choosing non-celebrity talent requires, well, talent. If you’re using actors in your video, they obviously should be chosen with care. This is what experienced producers and directors to for a living. Make sure your video production partner has the depth and background to help you find the right voice and acting talent to match your message.
Media Placement. You and your in-house team may have extensive experience in placing stories in the media, particularly in brand-name print outlets. But video placement is a distinct area of media relations specialization in itself, right down to how to develop relationships with bloggers and tweeters. You might not know, for example, where to go beyond YouTube, toward other user- generated content sites such as Vimeo, Metacafe and DailyMotion. You probably don’t know about — let alone have relationships with — the thousands of smaller TV stations around the country, in both large markets and small.
Most video production and distribution firms have the capability to follow up with the media to arouse interest in your video subject. You’ll likely want to explore that capability and find out how media placement services are priced or bundled into your video production costs.
Video players. Now that you’ve created a video, you’ll want to have it stream seamlessly on your website. There are a variety of video players — from basic to ultra-sophisticated — that can be easily embedded on your site. Some video players are Flash-based. Others involve integrating a content management system on your site with additional technical advances that offer a more enhanced look, feel and delivery experience to your viewers. Some video service providers offer proprietary players, which can provide more sophisticated features and capabilities.
Still photography. Photographs in video can be the tipping point in engagement. The specifications for them include, observes Linda Buckley, Co-president of KEF Media, “no ambiguity and the ability to elicit an immediate response.” You might be skilled in video, but that skill does not necessarily translate to still photography that may be incorporated into your video.
Remote laptop editing. It sounds easy to just bring along your Mac to the auto show in Detroit and edit the video on the drive back to your office from the shoot. But talk to experts, and they’ll assure you it’s not. Editing not only demands training and experience, a bit of talent goes a long way as well. Suffice it to say, sophisticated, high-quality videos of the type anticipated in this buyer’s guide will require professional editing, though the time and energy put into that editing will vary depending on whether the video is being used by TV news or for presentation in a doctor’s office.
Closed-circuit programming. Video that appears in limited-distribution venues — a point-of- purchase display in a store, in an airport waiting lounge or in a taxi — is increasing, both in the amount done and in the kinds of audiences for it. You may want to create a video to be shown to an invitation-only group of fashion designers or to your sales people or all your employees. Later it can be made available more broadly. Marketing departments find that invitation-only events can position the content as special. Closed-circuit programming is becoming a specialization in itself, and some video production and distribution companies have lined up dozens of potential outlets for them.
How — and How Much — Do Video Production and Distribution Services Charge?
As with public relations agencies and other professional services firms, video production service providers can have a broad range of billing practices. That’s why it pays to do your homework. The best time to do that is before you actually need the service. Above all, as with any complex service, you’re best served by getting details and understanding everything you’re paying for.
Tips for Comparing Video Pricing
When comparison shopping, the most productive approach, recommends Linda Buckley, Co- president of KEF Media, is to require an estimate which has line items for each major expense. “You want to see apples compared to apples,” she advises.
For example, many photo shoots involve food for the cast and crew, which can turn out to be a significant expense. You may decide to go back to the drawing board and reduce the number of hours of the shoot so it won’t involve meal breaks. Or suppose the plan for a Satellite Media Tour (SMT) requires setting up a kitchen. You find the cost, in estimates provided by three vendors, much higher than anticipated. At that point, you can get creative — instead of paying for such an elaborate setting, you will trade off publicity with a kitchen manufacturer for use of a model for the shoot. You might run a contest for that. Likely the production firm has already handled such alternate ways of putting together a project. Just ask.
When it comes to contract time, those details should cover not only locked-in costs but also overages. For example, what do additional hours of video editing cost? Knowing the cost of unforeseen contingencies helps you keep control of the project and prevents “hidden fees” and surprises at the end.
Overall, it is less expensive to contract for end-to-end service for production than proceeding a la carte. A la carte is generally the pricing model if you and your team are responsible for some elements of the project and the production firm is doing some. Paying separately for, say, a camera crew and for editing, with no other services, can wind up costing you more than buying some standard package. Also, when you’re sharing responsibilities, the production process isn’t seamless, which increases the probability for mistakes. The most common mistake PR pros make in trying to shave dollars off the budget is to focus on saving pennies, but wind up going over budget because of reworks.
You may decide to outsource both the production and distribution. “An easy way to approach budgets,” finds Andrew Krause, CEO of AKA Media, “is to apply 50 percent to production and 50 percent to distribution.”
When interviewing firms, you should be upfront about the amount of the budget. That means saying “I have this much to spend — what options do you have for me?” Then you should expect the firm to invest the time explaining the options that amount of money could buy. With so many developments in both production and distribution, the number and kinds of solutions are also increasing. If the company doesn’t do a good job of explaining the cost-benefit options, warns Risë Birnbaum, CEO of zcomm, “you don’t want to do business with it.”
For PR firms, there is also the possibility that the production and distribution firm will partner with you to pitch a project to the client. If you land it, then you will be partners. This gives both of you more wiggle room on budget. Since both of you know your own businesses, you know exactly where costs can be cut without sacrificing quality or reach. In that way, you could underbid the competition and still make the account worth your while in profit.
In terms of deposits, it’s fairly standard to have to put 50 percent down when the contract is signed, then pay the other 50 percent when the project is completed. When the project involves distribution to paid media, some vendors require 100 percent up front, since this requires a guarantee on their part to the outlets.
Some firms operate primarily on retainer. They will guarantee a set amount of service for the amount of the retainer. If they provide more service, they will also add additional costs.
What you should know about billing Andrew Krause, CEO and Executive Producer at AKA Media, explains how his firm handles billing. “We provide clients with a custom estimate for each project. That includes production expenses and billable hours for producers, editors, designers and media relations people,” Krause continues. “This is cost effective, because we are not trying to hit a particular margin or markup — rather, we are servicing the unique needs of each project.”
“With this approach, clients can save money if they take on an active role. For example, they might have a reliable monitoring service or special media relations contacts. We will work with them to provide only the services they need or want,” explains Krause. “We use our unique project estimates as our work order/contracts and keep them updated throughout the project so clients are informed about where they stand.” Real money can be saved with long-term client relationships. “For example, when working with an agency from concept all the way to the final highlights reel, we are able to maximize shooting days (collecting footage for a variety of assignments in one day), streamlining monitoring expenses (such as TV air checks) and working quickly toward a final highlights reel. A relationship like that saves time and money,” concludes Krause.