That Time of Year

Typically, this time of year can be a little slow for us here at Tweedee Productions.  I blame it on vacations.  You know, projects don’t get started, approvals take longer, and you get the dreaded “out of office” email response from the person you need a critical decision from.  I say no more August vacations!  (Except for mine of course, which I just returned from and had a lovely time, thank you.)  For me, my client-related workload has been a little light of late, which has given me some time to work on the business side of my duties.

I am constantly assessing and evaluating our business.  I ask myself tough questions like, are our prices in line with the market?  Are we working efficiently?  How can we improve our service?  Are our clients satisfied with our work?  That last one is the biggie, cuz without clients, we’d be nothing more than a video production drop-in shelter.  This week I observed our team handle a potentially sticky client related issue beautifully.

At the end of last week we received a call from a client we had delivered a project to several weeks ago.  Apparently, there were some “discrepancies” with some of the content.  (I read of this problem in an email on Friday afternoon while I was still on vacation.  Just before I looked at my email I thought, “looks like we had a good week at the office – no major problems”.)  A meeting was arranged with the client first thing Monday morning by Steve Donovan, our senior editor.  He arranged for our business development guy, Mac Chorlton to attend the meeting as well.

The project in question consisted of a series of hour-long Power Point presentations with a presenter on camera in front of a group of people.  We edited in the Power Point slides later in post production.  A DVD master was produced with about nine segments on it and delivered it to the client for approval.  Once approved, they shipped the master off to the duplicator.  But…a funny thing happened to some of the Power Point slides when they were imported into our editing system.  Apparently, since the slides were produced with an older version of Power Point, some of formating changed when they were imported, thus changing their meaning which was not good considering the highly technical nature of the presentations.  Since we have limited knowledge of this client’s industry, we didn’t recognize the discrepancies. This was something that definitely needed to be fixed.

So how did Steve and Mac handle it?  Well, like the pros they are!  They both listened to the client and figured out what went wrong and how to fix it.  Steve surmised that the cause of the problem was the importation of the old Power Point slides.  He requested that the client make PDF files of all the slides.  Mac realized that the client was not in the mood to pay any more for this project so he wisely did not go down that road.  Bottom line?  Nobody’s fault, a few hours to fix, let’s get this done and move on.  The client’s happy and we will do more work for them.  Nice job, guys.

Yes, running a business can be stressful even during slow months.  If I could only stay off the email during vacations!

Gregg reading his email on vacation.

Gregg Schieve

 

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“So, how much will that cost?”

We get that question a lot!  Usually it comes after a brief, five-minute phone conversation with a third level office assistant charged with “getting a number” for his or her boss.  The caller typically has very limited information as to what production elements are needed for their video.  Yet, they expect us to spit out a number that we will have to live with moving forward.  At times I’m tempted to say, “Good news!  We have a web video special running today only.  For the low, low-cost of only $1995 you get the web video, a thirty-second TV commercial, and…”  These jobs usually do not go well.

Our business development guy, Mac Chorlton, recently sent me a link to a LinkedIn discussion about production rates for web videos.  It was interesting to read about how other companies deal with the tricky issue of asking someone to pay a fee for what we do.  After reading the string of comments, I concluded that others in our field have similar problems dealing with this issue.  Obviously, there is no easy, one size fits all, answer to this question.  However, it is reassuring that Tweedee Production’s rates and the way we charge for our time are in the “video production ballpark” as compared to other video production companies around the country.

When it comes to giving a client a ballpark number for producing a video, some providers use the “per finished minute” concept in pricing.  This number typically ranges between $1,000 and $1,500.  I don’t like pricing projects this way because there are way too many variables in what we might have to do to produce a successful video.  Jack Trammell of Dallas/Fort Worth contributes this brilliant observation on the LinkedIn discussion, “Paying for a produced video by the minute is like paying for a car by the pound.  There are just too many variables that make that equation unrealistic for most productions…”  A post by Scott Frangos reads, “Rates in Portland, Oregon range from $1500 per finished minute to $4500, depending on size of team, scope of concept, and production values.”  Quite a range!

Our approach here at Tweedee Productions is to ask a lot of questions.  So, before you pop the question on cost, have a good understanding of what you are trying to accomplish with your video.  Be specific, usually the “one size fits all” approach results in a watered down, ineffective, generic video.  Once we know what the intent is for your video we will prepare a detailed budget based on fairly standard market rates and pricing concepts.  We structure our pricing the same way that Rich Dubek’s company does in Phoenix, “We bill based on set rates for full day or 1/2 day, and hourly rates for logging, script writing, and editing.”

Most of the story-based, interview-driven web videos we produce are in the $5,000-9,000 range on average.  Again, even within this narrowly defined video category, there can be a number variables that will determine the ultimate cost.  So, if someone tells you after a five-minute phone call that they can do your video for $1995, ask yourself if you will be getting a video specific to your needs.  Lauri Oliva of Miami confirms what we all know, “I always refer back to the old adage, you get what you pay for.”

Producing a web video.

Gregg Schieve

Screaming with Video

“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

– Mark Twain

Maybe “scream” is too strong of a word to use for my purposes, but are you using on-line video to “loudly proclaim” the story of your business, organization, or message?  Video combines sight, sound, motion, and emotion to create a message that helps you connect with your potential clients and customers.  Video allows you to tell a deeper story and has a more powerful impact.

Consider this:

–      75% of C-Level Executives say they watch work-related videos on business websites at least once a week (Forbes/Google Survey)

–      YouTube is now the #2 search engine trailing only Google (comScore Internet Survey)

–      Videos that are run through a simple search engine optimization program are 53 times more likely to end up on “Page One” of a search engine result than just a text-only webpage (Forrester Research Study)

A short video (up to three minutes is an accepted norm for website videos) can help you tell your story in a direct, concise, and powerful way.  In keeping with that theme, I’ll keep this blog post short because Twain also said:

“The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.”

Mac

Viral Videos, Thanksgiving, & Turkey Testicles

Anyone who tells you that you need to make a “viral video” is not giving you good advice.  We’ve produced hundreds of videos here at Tweedee Productions and the only one that has truly gone “viral” did so by sheer luck.  A few years ago, we produced a short video feature about the annual Turkey Testicle Festival in Huntley, Illinois.  We posted the video to YouTube and it got about 200 hits in the two years it was up.  Then last November, some national blogger looking for something to write about leading up to Thanksgiving stumbled across our video and posted a link on their blog.  From there, the video started getting passed on, forwarded on, re-posted, etc.  Suddenly, I was receiving e-mails from people in Florida, California, and Colorado with links to our video.  The video has now been viewed more than 1.2 million times (truly a viral video with those kind of #’s).

But aside from posting it to YouTube, we’d done very little to promote this particular video.  In fact, most videos that go viral do so under similar circumstances to ours.  So basically, there is no guaranteed method to create a video that will go viral, and anyone who tells you they can help you make your video go viral is probably not leading you down the right path.

A true “viral video” is a rare phenomenon, but a video doesn’t have to go viral to be effective.  A recent video we produced about a new medical device is being distributed to a targeted audience of physicians and health care administrators.  Going viral would not necessarily benefit this particular company but showing the video to specific people with the means, the authority, and the need to purchase the device does provide a huge benefit.  The company just received FDA approval to officially sell their product.  However, they’ve been out showing the video to potential clients for almost two years so they’ve already laid the groundwork for a successful product launch.

However, if you still have your heart set on trying to create a viral video, just follow our successful blueprint:

1)      Tie your video into a National Holiday

2)      Feature people eating some sort of fried avian testicles

3)      Find a four-leaf clover

Mac

OK! I talked me into it!

Well, I took the plunge.  I made the leap.  I threw all common sense to the wind and got a smart phone.  A SMART PHONE!  It makes me feel smart just to say the name – Droid Eris.  “Why yes, I have the Droid Eris.”  

But, will it make me smarter?  Will I work and live smarter?  It’s only A PHONE!  

I don’t need a smart phone.  In renewing our cell phone contract, I could have gotten a new, simple, easy to use cell phone.  But then, I don’t need an electric garage door opener either.  But it is sure nice to have when it’s pouring rain or the temperature is 20 below!  

So I talked myself into it.  Really, once I heard my arguments for getting one, I was convinced.  With more and more ways to watch video either on the internet or on mobile devices, I need to understand video delivery technology.  I need to understand what the buzz is all about.  After all, Tweedee Productions is in the video content production business.  I better know how all this stuff works.  

Mac Chorlton, our business development guy, has had a Blackberry for a couple of years now.  He understood the potential right away.  I remember the day he got it – he was all excited.  He explained how quickly and easily he could show someone one of our videos at a networking or sales event.  Image that you’re at a cocktail party and someone asks you what your company does.  You get that “why, I’m glad you asked me” smile on your face as you whip out your smart phone and play for them a short video that explains your product or service in three minutes or less.  Brilliant!  Instant emotional connection. 

Now, if I could only figure out what this button does…  

Gregg Schieve trying to figure out his new smart phone.

Using SEO Video to increase traffic to your website

For years, many companies have been using simple keywords as their main Search Engine Optimization (SEO) technique to increase website traffic and their rankings in search engine results.  But there’s been a lot of talk lately about how Google and other search engines are increasing their use of blended media types (articles, pictures, video, & other content) to provide more relevant search results.  The importance of video in those search engine algorithms is helping many websites that have video content increase their traffic and wind up on the first page of those search results.  In fact, according to a recent study by Forrester Research, the use of SEO Video makes you 53 times more likely to end up with a “Page One” ranking on Google.

Right now, it’s hard to separate yourself from the pack, because many competing businesses are all using the exact same keywords within traditional SEO.  But adding SEO Video to your website helps set you apart from your competitors and increases your likelihood of being ranked above them in search results.  Posting non-SEO video to your website, or to YouTube, or to a YouTube embedded player on your site is good start, but it won’t necessarily increase the search engine rank results for your website.  In fact, that strategy may actually just create search engine results for YouTube and ultimately send people directly to YouTube instead of your website.

But posting SEO Video to your website is the best scenario of all… Using keywords and key phrases in your video’s file name, the captions, etc. as well as incorporating other traditional SEO techniques along with your video is the best strategy to bring people directly to your website and generate additional traffic.

Also, USAToday.com small business columnist Steven Strauss recently wrote an article citing “research indicates that if you have video on your homepage, up to 80% of your visitors will click that first.”

That’s right:  If it’s an option, 80% of your visitors will be drawn directly to the video on your website as the first thing they want to click on.  So if you plan to add video to your website in 2010, you want to make sure that 80% of your visitors are seeing a high quality, professionally produced video that accurately portrays the message of your business, organization, etc.  Of course, that’s one of the most important things to remember as you develop your ideas for incorporating video into your website.

Mac Chorlton

The Blog Police

When you read a blog post with a glowing review about a certain product or service, do you ever wonder if the blogger who posted that was getting paid by someone to provide that glowing review?  Well, that problem has actually become an epidemic on the web and it’s gotten so bad that the federal government has stepped in to provide some oversight.  When you’re on-line, it’s often very difficult to determine if the content (blogs, customer reviews, etc.) you are seeing is a paid endorsement or an independent review.  So the FTC recently announced that bloggers who receive compensation must disclose any payments they have received from the subjects of their reviews or face penalties.  The changes are aimed at de-blurring the line between editorial and advertising on blogs, social media sites (like Facebook and Twitter), etc.

A study by Nielsen Online showed 78 percent of online users view recommendations from other consumers as trustworthy so the concept of policing pay-for-play bloggers sounds like a good idea.  But  the devil is in the details and this new regulation could create a myriad of problems.  For example, in previous blog posts, I’ve talked about videos we’ve produced for several different companies who have paid us to produce those videos.  But I’ve also referenced other videos that we have not produced.  So would future posts like that put me in jeopardy of being fined by the FTC if I don’t make that paid-or-not-paid distinction for every video I reference?  You can probably see how this problem would translate to any company, group, or organization that provides a blog or editorial content on social media sites.

As a production company, we are always creating videos that help a business or organization tell their story, connect with their customers or members, and market their services or sell their products.  In a previous Tweedee blog post, my colleague Steve Donovan provided links to six different videos to show further examples of what he was talking about that week.  Those videos were a collection of movie trailers and other videos that Steve produced himself.  So if Steve or I mention videos or provide links to videos in a blog posting to enhance our message, do we really need to distinguish for each and every one whether or not we were paid to produced that content?

It has been 30 years since the FTC revised its policy on endorsements so this new regulation is probably long overdue since these types of pay-for-play endorsements have become a rampant force in the internet world for shaping consumer decisions.  Of course, this new regulation will be very hard to enforce due to the overwhelming number of blogs, podcasts, social media outlets, etc. out there on the World Wide Web and we could have a Pandora’s Box on our hands.  It seems to make sense that a blogger should not be able to promote themselves as an independent reviewer providing their opinion as opposed to what they really are:  A paid spokesperson.  So this new ruling will hopefully provide some transparency among these pay-for-play folks.  But once again, monitoring and enforcing these new regulations seem like a real nightmare.

mac@tweedeeproductions.com