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Selling Storytelling: Producing Corporate Identity Videos, Part 1

In as few as 30 seconds, a singular corporate identity video can convince a website visitor of a company's expertise, poise, and uniqueness. But it's easier said than done, of course, so we talked to four leading producers about how they approach these types of projects. In this 3-part series they'll share their secrets on telling and selling corporate stories.

Telling the Stories

There are surely as many ways to tell a company's story in a compelling, memorable way as there are capable producers. So when a client invites you to tell their story, where do you start? With experience, you'll likely have a comfortable idea of the flavor of identity video that might work depending on what rough category the business falls into, whether a boutique cupcakery or a manufacturer of medical equipment.

These first conversations you have with a client can be delicate interactions, in which they describe how they envision their video turning out, and you gracefully lead them toward a piece that will accomplish their goals while captivating viewers. Your challenge is to vet their ideas, however solidly they may be presented, and help companies think a little more outside the box, if needed--say, if their vision involves discourse that starts out something like, "Hi. I'm John Doe, president of XYZ company..."

"Sometimes all they want is someone to come in with a camcorder and shoot a talking head for 5 minutes," says Kelly. The trickiest part is getting past initial questions like, "Do you guys do video? OK, we'd like a 10-minute video--how much?" and mining more information to get a more fine-tuned sense of what they really need, not necessarily what they think they need. "They usually know they have stuff they want to show off that's new and they've heard video is a good thing. I try to to get them to be more customer-focused, less company-centric" in their videos.

When the Frain Group, a company that sells used factory production equipment, approached Kelly with the idea of doing a single video, he began asking questions. One of their goals was to combat the perception their industry suffers from--that of a junkyard full of angry dogs. After digging deeper, he realized that what they really needed was multiple videos to convey the full scope of their story. "In talking to them, I found out there were several different facets, differentiators. There were really four videos." Kelly created four 3-minute identity videos for them to display on their home page: one overall introduction, one describing their philosophy and approach, one featuring their showroom, and one featuring their engineering services.

The Frain System from Keith Kelly on Vimeo.

Asking the Right Questions

Approaching each new client with questions like "What are you hoping the end result of the video will be?" and "What are you really trying to accomplish with it?" helps to flush out each project. In the end, says Koral, "our hope is that people trust us that we're doing that for them." In his own mind, while he's first speaking with a client, he's figuring out what type of video might work for them.

For example, does the piece need to include narration to tell the story, or should it be purely visual, or even text-based? To determine the best way to tell someone's story, he also asks clients for desired outcomes, their key message, and their call to action. "From there we determine what it makes the most sense to do." Take, for example, the extremely different approaches to two of his identity videos below.

Burnstein Community Health Clinic from Tell on Vimeo.

In the identity piece Tell produced for the Gary Burnstein Community Health Clinic for underinsured patients, for example, it was evident that interviews would be an appropriate way to drive the story because patients could communicate the impact the clinic has had on their lives. But in a video for an exciting cyclocross event called "Stomach of Anger," it wasn't enough to interview participants about how energizing and fun the event has been in previous years. They had to show it, and to more effectively do this, they left out any narration. Visuals and music and a bit of text get the job done.

Stomach of Anger from Tell on Vimeo.

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In this final chapter of our 3-part series on Corporate Identity Videos, we'll go on set and into the editing bay with producers Rochelle Morris of Preface Films, Keith Kelly of Innovative Communications, Ryan Koral of Tell, and Dave Williams of Media Wave. Some of the clips they share here are of their own corporate identity videos.
To storyboard or not to storyboard? Should the story drive the interviews or vice versa? At what point in a corporate project do you set video length and budget? These questions and more are discussed in Part 2 of our Producing Corporate Identity Videos series.