Internal communications don’t always remain internal. This past summer, a Lowe’s executive found that out the hard way when an in-house company video — one in which he made an insensitive racial comment — surfaced on social media. The incident quickly became a PR headache for Joe McFarland, Lowe’s executive vice president of stores, who found himself apologizing to both his colleagues and the general public.
Branded videos, whether intended for use internally or externally, are a reflection of your company’s values, capabilities and commitment to quality. They should be thoughtfully produced every time. Otherwise, you’ll inevitably find yourself trying to explain why you weren’t more careful.
In 2020, more companies will turn to on-camera interviews for recruiting and marketing purposes, but also to create engaging internal content for employee training and sales enablement. Oftentimes, people see the word “interview” and get filled with anxiety, imagining a formal setting that feels more like an interrogation than a chat. In reality, an interview is just an opportunity to share a story in a Q&A format.
Video interviews add personality to any story your business seeks to share. Still, in order to see the opportunities, you may have to reframe the way you think about interviews. Consider all the questions you might ask at work in the course of a day or the questions new hires typically ask company veterans. These types of natural, authentic inquiries lend themselves to a video interview, which can provide answers in an engaging and relatable way.
Let’s look at some of the most common work scenarios that can be turned into valuable video content:
Employee interviews. Your employees are critical to company success; they’re a reflection of its culture, too. Highlighting them in videos puts a face on your brand, giving customers and prospective employees a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your everyday work environment. Employee interviews allow you to show the world what kind of people you want working for you, and they can also be used to subtly discourage poor-fit job seekers from applying. For example, if your company culture is hands-off and values proactive self-starters, an interview with a current employee can help reveal that information to job seekers who might be looking for more structure.
Customer interviews. A thoughtful customer interview can be far more compelling than a typical testimonial. Without an interviewer to guide the conversation, testimonials tend to feel bland or choppy, especially because most customers aren’t used to articulating the value they’ve experienced from a company’s product or service. You know your customers best. During an interview, you can point them in the right direction, getting to the heart of an experience or the benefits you want to convey.
Founder interviews. Every business has an origin story. If you think yours isn’t that special, it’s likely you’re too immersed in bringing it to life to fully see the intriguing narrative elements. Especially in today’s hustle culture, people love to hear stories about how entrepreneurs got started and the challenges they’ve overcome. These kinds of interviews can make you and your company more relatable and human. They’re a great opportunity to share the emotion behind a brand, as well as its mission, vision and values with both internal and external audiences.
One of the best examples of a great branded video interview strategy comes from Bumble, the mobile dating app. The company conducted a series of “morning routine” interviews with current employees, who candidly discussed their career paths and daily responsibilities. The employees also gave fun tidbits of information about their personal lives and experiences at Bumble. An interview with Bumble’s legal counsel, for example, puts a fun spin on the traditional interview by incorporating a hyper-casual setting and untraditional questions. While the questions themselves are left out of the video, viewers can understand what the likely prompts are.
Like Bumble’s videos, the best interview videos abide by four universal rules:
1. Shoot for authenticity.
Most people get a little anxious in front of a camera. It’s the interviewer’s job to make the entire production feel more natural by putting the interviewee at ease. Work to build a rapport with subjects before an interview, and keep the mood light once the cameras start rolling. In this interview with employees, Warby Parker asks a simple question that doesn’t put too much strain on interviewees. The producers make sure to bring the camera to them, in a setting they’re used to, perhaps setting the stage for longer-form content to feel more natural in the future.
2. Make the context clear.
St. John Properties, a Baltimore-based real estate firm, made headlines in December 2019 after surprising employees with $10 million in bonuses at a holiday party. The firm captured the event in a video that soon went viral. The questions interviewees were asked aren’t included in the final cut, but the producers included enough context to create a cohesive message, still allowing space for individual answers to be effective.
3. Ensure interview questions are purposeful.
Sean Evans, host of the popular program Hot Ones, is an expert when it comes to structuring an interview. In this exchange with comedian and actor Nick Offerman, Evans deliberately asks easy questions first, saving the heavy hitters for the end. This tactic allows him to build a rapport with his guests and make them feel comfortable (even while they’re uncomfortably eating ultra-spicy chicken wings). Clearly, the approach is working, as his YouTube channel has more than seven million subscribers.
4. Take your time.
It may take a while for an interviewee to relax enough to answer questions naturally. If you didn’t get the take you wanted when you asked the most important questions, wait until the initial interview is over, then shoot those responses again. That gives the interviewee time to settle into the process. A video should flow naturally from beginning to end — if the first few moments feel stilted, shoot them again once everyone is on the same page.
Not every branded video is intended for an external audience, but if you strive to shoot every video the right way, you won’t have to worry about who sees it. Video interviews, in particular, can be a versatile tool for in-house content or external collateral, and they’re relatively easy to produce — regardless of your internal capabilities.