I spend a fair amount of my time as a video storytelling evangelist. Whether you’re a corporation, museum, university or non-profit, I truly believe that any entity who wants to be the thought leader in their market needs to become a media publisher. And in today’s video-first atmosphere, media publishers need a video storytelling plan that produces both quality and quantity. I’ll be talking about how we do this at the 2018 IEG Conference on April 9th alongside our National Baseball Hall of Fame partner, Jeff Idelson.
But before we get into the details at the conference, I’ll illustrate here how our team produces videos at scale using examples from La Vida Baseball, our one-year-old digital media company we created for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Since its launch in March 2017, the La Vida team has produced more than 200 original videos and will nearly double that output in 2018. To top it off, the Digiday Publishing Awards recently recognized La Vida Baseball for this work by naming it as a finalist for “Best New Brand.”
Even though social media algorithms are in constant flux, the following strategies and tactics from our video publishing playbook have stood the test of time. I hope this framework can help your team assess where you are, what you may need and provide a path to help you get from here to there.
1. Your channel strategy always comes first
Step one in scaling up your video content is to step back and look at your owned communication channels. Create a video plan for how you will leverage each channel, knowing audiences and their wants/needs are different on each platform, i.e. not all videos belong on all platforms. For La Vida Baseball, the over-simplified strategy looks like this:
- Facebook – where our audience likes to see human-interest/fan-based stories
- Instagram – where they want to see what their favorite players are up to
- Twitter – where we talk to baseball influencers and reporters in real-time
- YouTube – where we’ll build our presence with an eye on monetization down the road
- Website – where we can best talk about our in-depth baseball expertise
Create a video plan for how you will leverage each channel, knowing audiences and their wants/needs are different on each platform.
2. Mix your video types (and costs)
All video isn’t created equal in terms of the time, resources and money they take to create. Think of it like the Yelp! restaurant guide in terms of cost: most of us can’t eat at a $$$$-restaurant on a daily basis, so in order to keep your budget in check you have to mix it up with lower-priced options. When it comes to video though, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality, it just means you have to be smart about what kind of videos and how many of each kind you’re producing.
At La Vida, we create multiple types of content franchises: some are cost-effective and can be created in-house, some require travel and video crews but create opportunities for our team to bank content that lasts us for months, and some typically require their own shoot to produce.
Here’s how we mix our content:
$-videos: These in-house videos are often put together from existing footage and photos with the story told via text.
An example of this is our “10 things you should know” series:
$$-videos: We film these videos in bulk to create an economy of scale.
For example, we shoot most of our “Stories from Inside the Hall” videos on one day at Cooperstown by filming 30-40 artifacts. Then we turn that content into videos like this:
$$$$-videos: Our high-end features tend to involve a producer, camera crew, travel and a very limited number of videos as output. These feature stories are critical to the quality of the overall La Vida Baseball brand and usually reach beyond our typical audience, growing our following. These videos have to hit our criteria for rationalizing the expense for one shoot.
Five-million Facebook views later, it’s safe to say we’re happy with our ROI.
We knew that filming the Miami Marlins’ barber, Juice Tandron, would be worth it in the long-term considering the audience his story could bring to La Vida. Five-million Facebook views later, it’s safe to say we’re happy with our ROI.
3. Smart pre-production creates efficiencies
It’s all about smart preparation when you’re creating video storytelling at scale. When our producers are working on the $$-videos, they spend the bulk of their hours researching stories and figuring out how to acquire content that can be utilized in the short, intermediate and long-term.
Take, for example, a visit to spring training. When our team targets a team to visit for a day, after securing on-camera interview time with multiple players, they may spend up to a week researching the players they’re going to interview and mapping out how many different content franchises the interview could live in. In many cases, content from a 20-to-30 minute interview with a single player could live in 15 – 20 video stories over the course of a season.
If you have your content franchises in place before you start your pre-production, you’ll maximize the content you’re able to capture on your shoots.
4. Fail fast
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon says, “embrace the suck.” It applies to your organization as well. If a video content franchise doesn’t engage your audience – “embrace the suck” and kill it. Don’t let your plans become so cemented that it begins to erode your community’s trust in you. It’s easy to fall into the trap of replicating video features at scale, but you have to be willing to accept what’s not working. Don’t be afraid to ask your community what they like and what they don’t. After all, they are THE arbiter.
5. Metrics matter
As you know, each of your communication touchpoints has its own scoreboard and pecking order. With any video, our top-ranked metric is “watch time.” The second-ranked metric is platform-dependent. On Facebook, we primarily value shares, then comments then likes. On Twitter, it’s retweets, followed by comments and likes. We pay close attention to each platform specific to the type of video content. (Note: Though our strategy is what it is, certain types of video content can surprise you by working on platforms you wouldn’t expect and vice versa.)
Don’t be afraid to ask your community what they like and what they don’t. After all, they are THE arbiter.
When you’re producing hundreds of pieces of video content per year, patterns begin to emerge that give you clues on where to double down and where to pull back. Balancing how you stay true to your community while constantly monitoring how you can use video to better serve them is critical to future success.
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Let’s face it, video storytelling at scale is hard. It’s a constantly changing environment and it’s expensive. Integrating strategy, structure, planning and evaluation is a process, but it isn’t rocket science when broken down into its component pieces. I hope the framework I shared here can help you spark a conversation with your team on how to supercharge your video storytelling at scale.