VIDEO WORK IS SOUL WORK...really
Have you ever lain in bed at night thinking about the world you wished you lived in and wondering why the world we actually live in is so full of madness? Have you ever felt helpless as you sit reading the newspaper or listening to the morning news?
That’s why I create online videos. Because I know what it’s like to feel helpless, to desire change, and to feel stuck doing nothing.
When one day I was faced with the sheer untapped power of online video, I knew this was something I had to learn more about ASAP.
If you’re going to stop reading now, let me make one point: the only reason to create an online video is if you want to share your truth and inspire others to do the same.
Even if your main goal is to sell more of your artwork/services/awesomeness, to do so through the use of online video will only happen if you forge a connection with your audience. And connection will only happen if you reveal yourself.
ONLINE VIDEO IS NOT THE SECOND COMING
Oh, you’re still here? Great, because I have a lot more to say!
But first let me be clear, online video is not the second coming. It is not the one and the only way to make your mark. And online video is in fact a poor second cousin to real live human interactions.
I do not believe for a second that you will ever get as much value from a video (or any other media) as you will from experiencing a place or meeting a person live and in the flesh.
Moving pictures, as much as they try, can never transport you the way a live experience can.
You know when you’re walking down the street, and it’s raining lightly, and the air is crisp, and the leaves are turning yellow, and the sun comes out from behind a cloud, and for a moment you feel transported to what feels like a small piece of heaven?
A moving picture can never give you that. But it can certainly try.
And that’s where the true value and power of online video comes in.
THE DAWN OF MASS MEDIA
But first, let’s go back in time. Back to a time before video, radio, still photography, and the internet. Let’s go back to the era of the written word.
Renaissance humanist Giovanni Andrea Bussi wrote the following to Pope Paul II during the 1400s:
"In our time God gave Christendom a gift which enables even the pauper to acquire books. Prices of books have decreased by eighty percent.”
Yup, until the 1450s books were relatively rare, their high price reserving them for the rather wealthy or those residing in monasteries.
But thanks to Johannes Gutenberg, the German responsible for creating the first printing press capable of a mass assembly-line production of books, the written word took off. Whereas books used to be for the few, now they were for the many...or at least getting there.
By the the 1500s an estimated 20 million books had been printed. Mass communication was finally possible.
Before that, the closest things to mass communication would have been gossip, religion, theatre, live storytelling, and the passing of songs from one generation to the next. Not exactly optimum ways to make sure your ideas were understood word-for-word.
But with the democratization of books, ideas could spread quickly and with relative ease.
Why does this matter? What's the point of the history lesson?
Because the trajectory of the written word is the same trajectory online video is on. Video has been democratized through the creation of cheap cameras and the ability to stream online.
Thus the many cat/dog/panda/little white rabbit videos. But just like your five year old son's pencil scrawlings aren't going to change the world, neither will grainy, wobbly cat and dog videos.
IT'S ALL IN THE POWER OF IDEAS
Okay, we can agree that the written word is undeniably powerful. History has shown us that countries can rise and fall because of the written word. Wars can be waged, and peace can be made.
But it isn’t the words or the paper or the ink that is powerful, but rather the ideas behind the words. The ideas which written persuasively with logic and reason or cloaked in stories are what seduce and change people’s belief systems for good and for ill.
The same is true of online video. The medium of online video is only as powerful as the ideas you are sharing.
It's the ideas that matter - not the medium.
Many people get stuck when thinking about online media, comparing the written word to moving pictures and trying to figure out which is "better."
Sure, they are both mediums which can be used to communicate ideas. But they communicate ideas in such different ways that to compare them is like comparing apples and oranges. The result: zero insight.
THERE IS NO “BEST” FORM OF MEDIA
I can’t and won’t say that moving pictures are more powerful than the written word. That’s simply not true. Just as the notion that a photograph is more powerful than the written word is absurd.
That phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words is misleading at best. All forms of media are complementary. They are strong enough to stand alone, but can also form an alliance which strengthens their message.
Unfortunately, this isn’t widely discussed. We love our pat phrases even when they lead us astray. Which is why most people get it wrong when they think about online video.
People are usually thinking, how can I get a video that will help me sell more products ASAP?
Instead they should be thinking, “What am I trying to communicate and which medium is best suited to communicating this?”
WHAT do I want to communicate and which medium is best suited to communicating this message?
If the only thing you take away from this piece is that question, then you’ll already have a more sophisticated understanding of online video than most video makers.
This is because most videomakers ask themselves the wrong question as well. Videomakers often ask, “How can I make a video out of this?” But instead they should be asking, “Is this message best served by a video?”
Which brings us back to where we started. Because how do you know when video is the right medium?
REPLICATING(ish) THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE
I did say that a moving picture is not more powerful than the written word. Nor is it more powerful than a still image. And that’s true, but it’s also misleading.
When it comes to communicating certain messages, you will not find anything as strong as a moving picture. Let’s go even further and say that for some messages, it is vital that online video be your method of delivery.
One of my favourite examples of how the medium is vital to the appropriate distribution of the message is Brené Brown’s two Ted Talks. (If you haven’t watched them yet, please do!)
Brené Brown is storyteller and researcher. She’s also a born and bred Texan. She researches, writes, speaks, and teaches about shame and vulnerability.
Think about that for a moment...shame and vulnerability. Those are massive topics. Topics we shy away from.
Thus, while her books are undeniably powerful, they will never ever be as powerful as her live speaking. Why? Because when Brené Brown speaks, she embodies her work so completely that you can feel the truth of her ideas emanating from her every cell.
I’m not exaggerating. When she speaks, she makes a conscious effort to allow herself to be fully open and vulnerable. And you can see this in her face, in the way she stands, in the way her eyes sparkle, and the way she is both strong and yet utterly transparent.
You can’t put that into a book. While her books deliver valuable information through the use of captivating storytelling, and you can feel the honesty of her words, it’s just not the same thing as seeing her speak.
Likewise, you can’t put the experience of watching her speak into a photo. You can capture a moment of vulnerability, but you cannot encapsulate the full power of Brené Brown’s work in a still photo.
And that is where online video comes in. Most of us will not have the opportunity to see Brené Brown speak live. Just as we won’t get to sit down and chat with our favourite band, or visit the atelier of a our designer, or get to live on a vineyard for the entire grape growing season.
Do you see? There are certain magical experiences that people would love to have but that are simply not possible. But with online video, you can give people the next best thing.
OKAY, OKAY, LET’S TALK SCALABILITY
If you’ve been kicking around the world of online business for more than a week, you’ve probably heard people talking about scalability.
Well, that’s what online video gives you. You can take those magical experiences you know your customers would love to have and make them available through the power of moving pictures. You've made these magical experiences scalable.
A winemaker cannot sit down with every single person who purchases a bottle of their wine and walk them through their growing process and their philosophy. They cannot invite every patron to come down and enjoy the crackling excitement of a grape crush.
And while they could certainly write about that process or create a photo series for their website, a video is the only form of media that would come close to communicating the true magic of wine making.
Why is video the closest thing to the live experience? Well, you know the answer to that question, so I'm not going to belabor the point.
Experiencing anything live in person involves the senses. Which form of media uses the greatest number of senses to communicate a message?
Video. Online video. Major motion pictures. Television. Et al.
BUT HOW DO I KNOW WHEN TO USE ONLINE VIDEO?
I know that you probably want a rule of thumb, a way of knowing if video is the way to go. Am I right?
So here’s a quick(ish) tool to help you determine whether or not online video is the right medium for your message.
You can stop reading here if you like. By now, you’re officially way way ahead of the game.
But since I’m committing to writing such a long and comprehensive piece about the power and value of online video, I see no reason to stop quite yet. And I’d like to share some examples with you of powerful online videos and why they work.
I find I learn best either through doing something myself or through exposure to a wide variety of examples.
So now is a good time to take a breather, refill your coffee cup, do ten push ups, or water your plants. Then come back and go through these examples.
AND, WE'RE BACK!
1. When the message comes off as dry on paper (via the written word) but fascinating in person.
In the video (created by Story Envelope) below, June Hunter shares both the philosophy and meaning behind her work as well as showing us the details of how her tiles are made and what makes them so different from the many art tiles on the market and thus so valuable.
Even if the greatest of writers decided to tackle the art of June Hunter's tile making process, it would be impossible to capture the attention of readers in the same way this video does. Some physical activities are just not that interesting on paper, despite being fascinating to watch live.
2. When the message must be shown rather than told.
You can't just tell people that you're a fashion label that makes cool, quirky, nostalgic, understate, beautiful, and utterly unique clothing for women who are sexy, smart and kind of romantic. Well, you can tell them that, but people don't really respond to such lofty utterances. If that's what you want to communicate then you have to show it. And you can do so through fabulous photos and through video, or preferably both.
Wren is the fashion label responsible for "First Kiss" ( a video that went viral this year), but my favourite video from them is an earlier one directed by Gia Coppola You can see how the message is clearly brought to life through this slow-paced, strange, dreamy video.
3. When the message is embodied in the behaviour or being of the communicator.
I've already talked about Breneé Brown's Ted Talks and how she embodies the message she is communicating. Another interesting video wherein the message is embodied by the behaviour and being of the communicator features Amy Cuddy a social psychologist and researcher for Harvard University.
This video also is a great example of how using old-school television techniques like mixing photos with video can be an effective and economical way to communicate your message when need be.
4. When the message requires movement.
This next video is a shout out to my husband Jimmy who I'm sure wishes he were one of the drivers in this commercial, and it's also an example of a big-budget commercial that beautifully shows how movement can often drive home a message better than anything else.
The message for this video is DRIVING PLEASURE. Driving a BMW is an absolutely unparalleled pleasure. Why? Well, when you see the moves in the video below, you'll understand. For BMW's audience, this makes them salivate more than any photo or beautifully written text ever could.
5. When the only way to communicate the heart and soul of a business, product, or idea is through the person who has created it.
This video is one of my favourite story-based videos (not made by Story Envelope) where the owner of the company communicates the heart and soul of what the business is all about.
Silver Hills is a bakery that anybody who lives in B.C. will probably recognized. Before watching this video I just thought of this bakery as a big company that makes a lot of sprouted bread. That's it. After watching this video my opinion was completely changed. Hearing the "why" of a company directly from the founder's mouth is a powerful thing.
6. When the person who will be communicating the idea is a gifted speaker.
This interview of Tony Robbins by Marie Forleo is genius. It's also extremely long, so you might want to save it for another day. Suffice it to say, after watching this video I bought the book. Tony Robbins is a gifted speaker and one who has practiced the craft of communication for years.
For anyone who as worked hard on the craft of communicating verbally, a video is a no-brainer. This video is worth watching for the ending where both Marie Forleo and Tony Robbins have a teary-eyed moment as they talk about why Robbins wrote a massive book about money after not having written anything in about 20 years.
(Marie Forleo is also a great example of how when one of your strengths is your contagious attitude and fantastic personality, video is one of your best bets for promoting your business.)
7. BONUS REASON: When your idea for a video is just plain cool.
The video below is one of the coolest ways I've ever seen an artist express the beauty of nature and magic of the tiny moments. Enjoy!
Whew! You made it through to the end!
My final note: when you’re thinking about the messages you want to communicate as you continue to promote your business and your body of work, consider what will be the best for of media to do so. Going through the above guidelines can help, as can a good old fashioned visualization session.
One last test is this: if you can’t see your idea as a video, then it isn’t meant to be a video. Even if intellectually the video idea you have sounds like the smartest idea you’ve ever come up with, if you can’t see it in some way in your mind, it won’t work. You don't have to see the precise details, but there needs to be a rough picture.
With video, as with any visual art, you have to be able to see it first. And while you could just hire a videomaker or production company and say, “Hey, I want a video of this…go!”, that is not going to get you the best results. You might be satisfied with the video, but you won’t be pumped.
Clarity is the key to making anything of value, and this is especially true with online video. One of the best parts of working with a video maker or production team is that they help you gain clarity. Because let's be honest, sometimes you just need to talk it out with people who understand where you're coming from.
-Colette Nichol, Story Envelope Media, Vancouver, BC
Thanks for reading! The next blog in Story Envelope's series of mega-blogs about online video will be a discussion of the various types of online videos and how they might serve you and your business.
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