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Executive Decisions| Should Be Interesting
Posted Sep 5, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

We received an email inquiry recently from a business that was interested in producing three brief videos describing their company's products and services. As usual, I immediately set up a phone consultation with the owner of the business, and we had what I would describe as a very positive conversation about his company's communication needs. He sent me an outline he had prepared for the first of three scripts, and I recommended a face-to-face meeting to discuss the project and determine how we could help. He replied that he wanted to finish the outlines for the other two videos before we met in person and that he would need several more days to complete them. I told him I would check in with him again the following week. Based on our discussions to this point, I considered him to be a highly qualified prospect. 

One week later, I contacted the business owner via email to inquire about his schedule and set up an appointment to discuss his project. I received the following prompt and polite email reply: "Russ: Thanks for your email. We are attempting to shoot our corporate communication videos in-house in high-def digital video using Sony's HVR-Z1U and perform post-production using Adobe's Production Studio. Should be interesting."

Should be interesting. I'll say.

Granted, I'm somewhat biased on this topic, but I can't help thinking that this business owner's response has the same "ridiculousness quotient" as if I were to tell a surgeon, "No thanks, Doc. I've purchased a set of BD Rib-Pack® stainless steel scalpels and a Portex® Laryngeal Mask to apply my own anesthesia. We're going to perform this surgery in-house. Should be interesting."

Okay. My rational self accepts the fact that his company is unlikely to actually harm anyone using a Z1U and Premiere Pro, so perhaps my surgical comparison is blown a bit out of proportion. (Though I have witnessed first-hand the psychological scarring that a newbie can suffer when attempting to run After Effects for the first time without training.) 

I'm sure the owner of this business made what he considered to be a perfectly logical quantitative analysis and determined that he could stockpile a closet full of video gear for less money than he would pay to have someone else produce his three short videos. At the end of the project, as his calculations must presume, he would have multiple assets: the videos he needs to have produced, as well as really cool toys to create more projects in the future.

Nineteenth-century English historian James A. Froude said, "Experience teaches slowly and at the cost of mistakes." I take a small degree of comfort imagining that this do-it-yourself Spielberg is awash in "experience" by this point in time.

Eventually, every corporate media producer and event videographer will encounter a situation similar to this one. In my personal experience, these types of incidents are extremely isolated, and I actually find them to be more humorous than threatening. Perhaps I'll get an SOS call from the company in the near future, and they'll beg me to fix their project. Or maybe they'll be completely satisfied with their in-house HD extravaganza, and I'll never hear from them again. Either way, I won't spend much time worrying about it.

But I do view this experience as an opportunity to reflect once again on the message I communicate regarding the services I provide. Am I perhaps inadvertently sending the message through my verbal communications or marketing materials that I'm just a guy with a nice camera and some editing software? If the unintended message I convey is, "We show up, tape for awhile, go back to the studio, shuffle some clips on the timeline, and you get a video," then why wouldn't a company think they're just hiring us for our cameras and computers? 

Everything is a story. We are professional storytellers. But keep in mind that we don't simply tell stories for other people. We need to tell our own story every time we meet a prospective client. Take the time to review your verbal, print, and web communications to ensure you're telling the story you want to tell about your business.

The musical Cabaret was based on a 1950s John Van Druten play titled I Am a Camera. The story I want to relate to potential clients is "I Am Not a Camera." In our gadget-filled world, it's important that I stay sharp and focused on my message. I am not a camera. I am not a computer. I am a creative storyteller who can shape imagination into action and messages into results.

Do you clearly communicate the value of time, the value of your experience, imagination, vision, and storytelling ability? Do you differentiate yourself not only from other video professionals but from inanimate objects such as cameras and computers? What story do you tell to your potential clients concerning the services you provide?

Needless to say, our clients are not merely renting our equipment. We are not hired to simply push buttons and move clips around on a timeline. Our clients are hiring storytellers—experienced, imaginative, professional storytellers who use the collection of gear we've amassed to create a clear and impactful message.

Review your conversations with potential clients. Review your marketing materials. Ensure that every piece of communication conveys this message: "I am a storyteller who will help you get results."

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