Sam Oddo, Creative Director, offers practical advice for creating video content in a time of social distancing.

By now, you’ve heard this a thousand times: COVID-19 has caused chaos around the globe, re-defining the concept of “normalcy” for everyone – brands included. With social distancing measures in place, film productions have been cancelled, projects have been put on hold, and brands have re-focused their communications towards crisis management. How long will this last and what will be the long-term impact on businesses large and small? Nobody knows for sure.

This is a defining moment for us all: clear communication and strong leadership will be essential to surviving in this current climate.

Just because normal life has been put on pause, it doesn’t mean that your marketing has to be as well. There are plenty of ways to create engaging content for your business, all while staying 6 feet apart.

Use High-Quality Stock Video

Yes, stock video. Once considered the “economy” alternative to filming, stock video has shown itself to be a viable replacement — hell, even the “go-to” option — during this crisis. Just look at Shutterstock or Adobe Stock and how they are performing in the marketplace.

Although both companies saw a dip in March and April, both are doing pretty well by most standards. That’s because the advantages to leveraging stock are numerous: easily-licensed, high-quality content can expedite post-production timelines, reduce budgets, provide visual diversity, and offer the versatility you need to be agile with your marketing.

The key when using stock is to select content that stays true to your brand story in terms of aesthetics, tone, and energy.

We created this video for BlackSky. It combines visuals from standard stock vendors, footage licensed from the Associated Press, and killer animation to create a compelling brand video:

Repurpose Old Content

Depending on the size of your business and the scale of your previous marketing endeavors, you may be sitting on a mountain of older content.

I know what you’re thinking: why would I want to use old stuff that was created months, or even years ago? In turn, my question to you is: why let these assets get lost in the ether when you can use them to make a badass video?

Stock footage, while a great option, is generalized: you won’t find visuals that directly reflect your people, products, or locations. Your existing assets, including video, photography and graphic elements, can be repurposed to create engaging, branded content on a budget that is personalized to your business. You’d be surprised how scripting, fresh editing styles and changes in tone can revamp old content. It’s time to dust off that old hard drive and get to work!

For this video, Hilton provided a trove of footage sourced from other projects that we used as the backbone for a compelling 100 Year video:

Opt for Animation

As film productions around the globe have ground to a halt, the animation industry has pushed full steam ahead. With many animated series still in production, creative teams have been embracing a work-from-home workflow. Amid COVID-19 layoffs, animation studios are even hiring! Clearly, the animation industry is navigating this crisis effectively, and that is in large part due to the flexibility that the medium has to offer.

Unlike most live action productions, animation affords your business the creative opportunity to literally visualize any idea that you might have, no matter how abstract or intangible, within a reasonable budget. When it comes to distilling complex concepts into simplified ideas, animation excels at telling brand stories effectively. Animated content can also be truly customizable, not only for your brand, but also for different viewing audiences. Changing characters, environments, color palettes, and on-screen messaging is easy, ensuring your content has a longer shelf-life that can scale with your business and for your audience.

For this video, we created an animation that navigates the tricky waters of the client-agency creative process in a simple and fun way, while expressing our brand ethos:

Video Conferencing

Sometimes a voiceover won’t cut it, and only some much needed facetime will do. During the COVID-crisis, we’ve seen a ton of content that leverages video recorded through Zoom, Google Hangouts or other video conferencing software, not only for B2B corporate communications, but for B2C commercial content as well. Why? What’s the appeal?

Nothing can be more powerful than face-to-face communication, and during these times, video conferencing software is the best alternative. Virtually recording an interview or direct address is a great way to showcase leadership, associates or customers to your staff, industry or consumer base. This no-frills approach establishes sympathy, empathy and a sense of “togetherness” with your audience. According to various industry websites, blogs and articles, one of the biggest trends we can expect for 2020 will be the increase of UGC-centric video in marketing. Audiences will quickly overlook any perceived shortcomings in production quality for content that is authentic, relevant, and engaging. Virtually recording talent has a whole host of other benefits as well: In addition to being cost-effective (you don’t have to source a location, crew, or craft services for this shoot), you can capture and showcase a broad array of people with different perspectives, anywhere around the globe.

This ad created for JP Morgan does a fantastic job of showcasing relevant, topically sensitive content using virtual conferencing software:

Try a Hybrid Approach

Why not mix it up a bit? You can use any combination of the approaches listed above to create dynamic content with a multimedia feel:

  • Repurposed content with newly recorded video via virtual conferencing can create a personalized and intimate experience.
  • Stock visuals can enhance or contextualize repurposed content provided by a client and offer greater visual diversity.
  • Animation can visualize any concepts that can’t be directly reflected by live action footage and provide a consistent branded feel throughout the video.

Let’s not forget Podcasts

No matter what topic you’re interested in, I’m sure there is a podcast out there that has captured your attention. Podcasts have seen a resurgence within the past several years as an effective, convenient and portable format uniquely suited to fit within our busy lives. With more people at home due to the COVID-19 crisis, podcasts can be a great tool to communicate directly to the people that care about your brand.

Flexible, low cost and easy to produce, podcasts can be a great way to build brand exposure within a format that makes sense for your business and target audience.

  • Maybe you want to explore a more narrative-based storytelling technique?
  • Perhaps you want to have a casual conversation with established subject matter experts?
  • Or, you might want to communicate your brand values through journalism, content genres, or other formats…

Any way you decide to go, podcasts offer flexibility in format often outside of restrictions typically imposed on other mediums. Because they are relatively low in cost and quick to produce, you can achieve greater frequency in your brand communication, enabling you to address topically relevant issues as they arise, increasing the prospect of connecting in a salient way to your audience.

The Design of Experience is a podcast that we produce on a weekly basis that leverages conversations between our associates to explore how great design can make us feel a tribal devotion to the things we love. In addition to the actual podcast, we choose to promote it on Instagram TV using a 9:16 aspect ratio:

Keep Communicating!

No matter what moment your brand or business is in, it is important to continue to provide leadership and clear communication to your audience. These are tough times, and often, some of the best and most creative ideas are born out of necessity. This is a defining moment for your business: Make sure your brand voice is heard loud and clear.

Sam Oddo

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