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Creating the World's Best Customer Video

Posted by Bill Lee on February 6, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Lisa Weber is an Emmy nominatd broadcast producer and writer with over 13 years experience in reality/documentary programming, broadcast news (former television reporter), writing, corporate video work, theater, blogging, and public relations  Her work has appeared on HGTV, the Food Network, DIY, Travel Channel, Dish, CMT, CNN, Britain's ITN, and soon - Destination America.  She strives to find the "story behind the story" in all her projects.  She has also written hundreds of scripts and has interviewed countless people ranging from the "average Joe" to the "high-maintenance politician."  Based in Denver - Lisa holds a master's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Colorado.   

I'm happy to say she's one of the judges in our World's Best Customer Video contest winners to be announced t the 2013 Summit next month. 

In the meantime, Lisa and I e-chatted about how to create great customer videos. The following is a rich soruce of information for anyone wanting to take their video production to the next level.

 Q. You’re an accomplished story teller through the medium of film and video: in addition to your experience creating corporate videos, you’re also a reality producer and in your previous career, a television news reporter. You know how to move people emotionally. What are the 4 or 5 biggest mistakes you see in corporate videos of their customers?

1 Customers struggling to say an uber-long, super-technical sentence in one breath.  In reality television, we call this phenomenon “verbal diarrhea.”  (Excuse the term but it’s true.)  It’s almost as if they have memorized an extremely long thought and they are trying to spit it out in one take.  

2 Customers sporting all-black or all-white shirts.  These colors look bad on everyone - making everyone appear pale and blah.  Wear bright colors like blue, red, or green.   These shirts look even worse if there’s a white wall behind them. 

3 Bad audio.  Sorry, but the microphone in a laptop is NOT going to do the job.   Neither is the one on the top of the camera.  And don’t hold a microphone in your hand either.  Buy a lavalier mic and clip it under your shirt. 

4 Customers who are NOT smiling.   The customer must be smiling!  This is not an interrogation session, it’s a customer testimony meant to inspire other potential clients.   

5 Customers “not knowing where to look.”  Their eyes are wandering…eyes moving from the person conducting the interview back to the camera lens.  Very shifty looking.  Very distracting.  A big no-no.  

Q.  If you want a compelling “sound bite” from a customer, how do you get one?

 Step 1 is picking a person who is articulate and comfortable.  Think about someone who is comfortable speaking in front of groups.  These individuals are usually comfortable on camera.  

If you are interviewing customers – do your homework.  Write out your interview questions and be prepared.  Also, “lead” the customers into the sound bite.  Have them repeat back the question in their answer.  Tell them ahead of time they need to speak in complete thoughts and sentences.  No “yes” or “no” answers.  Before you know it, they’ll be giving you what you need.  Ask them questions about the new technology or solution made them feel.  Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat their answer with a smile.  Also, joke around with them in person.  Your mood helps dictate their mood on camera.  Also, stick to one point at a time.  Assure them you will lead the way and bring up all the important points and topics. 

Q. How do you get customers to loosen up and be, well, interesting?  

 Conduct the interview at a convenient time.  Make sure the customers have time to eat breakfast or lunch, dress nice, apply make-up, and feel confident about their appearance.  If it’s a bigger shoot, hire a makeup artist for your customers.  Women love this and will always be in a good mood!  Periodically, ask everyone to stand up and stretch.  Listen to music ahead of time, crack jokes – have some snacks around.  Ahead of time, tell the customer what topics you’re going to be covering.  But do not allow them to hold any notes or cheat sheets!  They will sound like a robot trying to memorize lines if you do this.  Phrase your questions so the customers talk about how the technology or product affected them personally.  How did it make them feel?  Talk benefits instead of listing endless features.  If customers are having a hard time organizing their thoughts, tell them to answer as if they were talking to a 4th grader or a high-schooler.  (Sounds silly, but suddenly people become more animated and simplify their answers.)   

 Q. How hard is it to get a great video of a customer remotely (for example, by having a crew on site but conducing the interview through phone or perhaps skype)?

I would recommend hiring a local producer to conduct the interview.  Over the phone, you won’t be able to see the customer’s facial expressions or mannerisms.   Using Skype could be a possibility, but you don’t want the customer to feel obligated to look at the camera lense…then at the Skype screen.  I think listening in over the phone with the producer is a good way of knowing what’s going on…but ultimately relay on someone in the room to get the best sound bite.    

Q. What should a company expect to pay (ball park) to get 3 good, short videos of a customer, with minimal background shooting (that is, no complex graphics or animation—just a few shots of the corporate campus and perhaps the customer walking or talking to colleagues in the distance)

This is a tough question.  Basically every shoot is different.  Let’s assume though – this is a very basic one-day shoot with a producer and photographer.  They are interviewing three people separately in one location (no moving lights, etc), then shooting some b-roll at the same location in a different area.  (In other words – no driving.)  After this the producer will have a day to write, organize the footage and review sound bites.  Then the editor will have one day to package all three videos, add transitions, insert music, add basic graphics, etc…

 Photographer $1400 per day – 1 day of work (this includes all gear, lights, etc)

Producer $400 per day – 2 days of work 

Editor – 1 day of work (editing the piece)  $600

Total - $2800

If more than one person is being interviewed at a time – hire a soundman for $450.  If you need to producer to “research” and prepare ahead of time – consider that a pre-production day at $400.

Q. Are some customers simply hopeless when it comes to video? (Not articulate enough, not compelling enough) If so, is there any way to screen them before you invest in trying to make a video of them. 

Yes, some customers are hopeless.  Casting is key when it comes to picking the “perfect customer” for the video.  There’s a reason all reality shows (even the ones on HGTV, Food Network, etc) have casting departments.  These producers actually submit casting videos of potential people before they start shooting.  You must find someone who is well spoken, energetic, looks healthy, and knowledgeable.  If you think that’s hard – it’s really not.  For example, think about your family…who would be great on camera?  Everyone has a fun uncle or passionate cousin.  Think about customers the same way. If you’re not entertained in person…you won’t be entertained on camera…trust me.  If you need to “screen them”… talk to them in person, use skype, ask if they’ve ever spoken in front of groups, etc..  Video production companies now often use skype to weed out people…also don’t be afraid to whip out your iPhone and ask the customer a few questions to see how they express themselves.     


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