FREE Content Audit during February

Mediapack is offering its basic ‘Content Audit’ service package for free during February 2018.

The Mediapack Content Audit gives a complete external assessment of your existing social media and website content output and recommends ways in which you can adapt, improve and increase your content to promote your organisation more effectively.

We look at your existing activity across all channels, from your website to social media. Using your guidance, we look at your overall market and your potential audience. We create a brief report with our findings & give clear recommendations for how you can adapt & create distinctive content that can really engage an audience.

The basic audit package, which is being offered for free during February 2018 is worth £200 and can be upgraded to a comprehensive audit worth £450 during this period for just £200, a saving of £50.

For more information, send us a contact request, quoting ‘Free Content Audit’ in the ‘subject’ box and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible. Please allow up to 48 hours for initial contact, as we may be on location filming but as long as the request is sent within February, the basic audit will be free. Contact us here.

Want to learn more about our Content Audits? Take a look at our fact sheet:

Why every organisation needs a Video Strategy

One of the most important and valuable things you can do when starting to work with video is to create a video strategy. Now you might think this is unnecessary, given that your marketing strategy will have already set out your objectives for promotion and communication.  But this is not about duplicating strategies, this is about understanding the full scope of potential that video brings to the table and you can only do this by strategising your content production.

Creating even basic video content is quite an involved business. Seek to create something more creative and original and you can double the timescales, that’s just a fact of life. A video strategy brings all the different components into clear focus and allows you to better see opportunities, plan content timelines and ensure that your output truly achieves its potential.

It also allows you to develop your niche and to realise that this is way more than just creating a promo, a landing page video or getting a bunch of testimonials.  It is about understanding the medium, so that you can exploit it to gain promotional benefits and that means looking at content in a very different way.

The key to real success with video is to build a portfolio of content that works as a whole, with each video complementing the others. You can’t achieve this simply by knocking out random videos on an ad hoc basis, you need a coherent approach and to plan the content as a whole (at least in terms of your overall approach) from the outset.  Your strategy will also set out why you’re using video and it’s really important to have clarity on this point more than any other.

The ‘Why’
If you’re just making videos because you’ve read that video is now an essential promotional tool, then you’re already off on the wrong foot. People don’t watch videos because videos are an ‘essential promotional tool’. They watch videos because they are either pre-disposed to be interested the subject or because the video captures their attention and retains it. They don’t care if the video has been created from a passion about a subject or because the producer just felt they needed to create video to be relevant. All the audience cares about is whether the video is interesting.

So, just because video is now the most important format on social media, because more and more video is being consumed online, you still need a good reason to use it. Not to justify its use but to understand clearly why you should use it. If you can’t answer that question effectively, then hold fire with production until you’ve created a strategy that can!

Opportunities
Once you’ve sorted your ‘why’, then move on to looking at what opportunities there are if you use video creatively (which equals ‘effectively’ – because no one likes the same old same old). This means thinking about the kind of content you might produce and looking for interesting angles and ways to stand out. This is not about planning to make promotional videos or testimonials, it’s about identifying genres or formats that could be of interest to an audience. You might see an opportunity to create a series of ‘how to’ videos to explain your product range or to profile the out of work interests of your team – bringing a human face to your business. Whatever the angle, this process is all about creating material that will connect with an audience in a way that they will respond positively to.

Understanding your audience
As a part of this process, it’s obviously very important to have clarity on who your audience is for video but this can often be tricky to define.  It’s not an exact science and you can’t just assume that because you’ve targeted a particular demographic in your marketing plan, that you can simply deliver video to these people specifically through the readily available distribution channels. You can to a certain extent but you need to take a broader approach, to allow for peer to peer sharing and recommendation and to cover those people who don’t use your baseline distribution channels.

It’s important always to remember that you’re producing video content for the audience, not for your marketing plan. This might seem like a dumb statement but it’s amazing how many videos are made because it’s been decided that a video is needed to communicate this or that particular thing, not because the audience, any audience, is actively seeking this material. Don’t let your needs dominate the choice of content – seek to identify your audience’s interests and then create video in a way that serves both.

If you’re going to be able to produce content that will have real value to your organisation, it’s essential to approach it in this way. It’s about looking at all the opportunities for video in isolation to any guiding marketing brief. It’s about seeing the role of video as being far more than just a messenger service, of it being a means by which you can truly connect with people beyond a transaction. It’s also about understanding how all this can benefit your organisation.

Research your distribution channels
Then, do some research into the different video platforms, different social channels, learn how you can use each one for specific purposes and also how you can cross fertilise different channels (there will be a dedicated blog post about video channels coming soon). These channels will be your primary distribution outlets for the majority of your content but they shouldn’t be the only ones.

Don’t forget the press
Many organisations fail to recognise the opportunities that exist within the traditional media, focussing instead on social media because that’s a platform that gives them complete control. The mainstream or ‘external’ media should still be a key element in your plan and you need to understand what content you can create to fit their needs.  Don’t forget, all news organisations big and small have websites and video is as important to them as it is to everyone else. They need content daily and if you can give them some, you can access their audience. A word of caution though. They won’t want promotional content, so you need to think of ideas that can work for them while also showing your organisation in a strong light.

It’s all about the content
Next, think about the content itself, so set out all the different types of video you could possibly create.  This would be divided into ‘own channels’ and ‘external media’ and would feature each different format or genre of content you might want to make or think could be relevant or find an audience. At this stage, give good consideration to what might be thought of as entertainment because, believe it or not, people like being entertained!

When looking at content, it’s important not to get caught up with internal opinions about whether a particular piece or genre of content is ‘appropriate’ for your organisation. Appropriateness should only ever be a factor in relation to content which might be rude, risqué, offensive (even mildly) or which could be seen as being in bad taste. For everything else, if it attracts a viewer’s attention, they enjoy it and have a positive feeling about your brand or organisation at the end, then it’s appropriate!

Don’t start out by placing boundaries around the type of content you might create – consider everything on the grounds of its potential to connect with and engage an audience. Your video strategy should not be guided by what your organisation thinks it should be producing. It should be guided solely by what people will be likely to watch.

Look at what others are creating and draw inspiration from them. If you operate in the food sector for instance and you’re not creating simple recipe videos you are missing a trick. Yes, this genre of video is already saturated but you can always give your content an edge with the right presenting personalities, the right setting and quality visuals. It’s purely a question of making your content stand out, not about creating something unique that hasn’t been done before.

Working with ‘talent’
This last point references what we in the trade call ‘talent’ – the people featured in the video. Talent has been redefined through online and social video and now, potentially, everyone is talent. Choosing who goes in front of the camera though is a critical part of your strategy and you need to ensure you’re making the selection based around a person’s desire to present, how comfortable they are speaking to a camera directly, their ability to look natural and at ease and also their factual knowledge of the content they might talk about.

It always used to be the case with ‘corporate video’ that seniority played a key part in being selected to go ‘on camera’ but this definitely shouldn’t be a part of your plan.  Yes the MD may have great authority and possibly the greatest knowledge of your business but if they’re not naturally good on camera (and this is a whole different ball game to speaking to a live audience) they should be kept as far away from the shoot as possible!

If you’re the one driving the video plan but you’re not the best person to be in front of the camera, stand aside. The audience doesn’t care who the person speaking to them is, they simply care whether they look and sound competent. There’s far more to lose by having the wrong person in your video than there is to be gained by ‘rewarding’ someone with a role in it.  This side of things is a whole specialist area in its own right, so just trust me!

Content opportunity
The last key element is to create a content opportunity database, which is different to looking at the different types of content you could produce. It is about being responsive to what is going on in your organisation and tapping into events and developments that will happen anyway and turning them into content. Look at key dates in a product development timeline for instance (launching a new product is always a strong content opportunity), consider what you might want to do around calendar milestones like Christmas, Halloween or Easter and look out especially for any social events in your organisations calendar. When you spot a potential content opportunity, make a note of the possible angles – how you might use it creatively.

Being attuned to content opportunities means briefing department heads so they feed leads to you. It means staying in touch with your PR team so you can either piggy back on announcements or effectively be a part of the press pack to produce a newsreel piece for your organisation’s Facebook page. It means seeing the day to day processes of your organisation as potential content that you can either just use as it is or adapt to create an offshoot.

Every organisation is different and so every video strategy should be different but the fundamentals are the same. Take time to look at how you can create better content and you’ll have the best chance of getting great results with your video.

Roger Burlinson is Mediapack’s Creative Director with over 20 years production experience.  He’s a social video specialist and has been producing online video and running channels since 2008. You can connect with Roger on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram

Go Canoe! on YouTube

Mediapack client British Canoeing moved into the mainstream broadcast space this summer with their new show on Sky Sports Arena – ‘Go Canoe!’ Mediapack was tasked with creating 16 magazine packages to go into the programme, which featured all the key action from the Canoe Sprint and Canoe Slalom World Cups.

While the full programme was exclusive to Sky, Mediapack’s magazine packages have now taken up residence on British Canoeing TV, the channel we set up for British Canoeing in 2010, to provide engaging content for the London 2012 Olympics. The channel achieved over 200,000 views up until the end of the games, when Mediapack handed over management of the channel to British Canoeing communications staff.  Since then, we’ve focussed solely on producing content for the channel, including the forerunner to ‘Go Canoe!’, ‘The Canoe Show’.

All 16 ‘Go Canoe!’ packages are available to watch online and feature Mediapack’s own Helen Reeves as anchor presenter.  The series was produced to an extremely short lead time, with all the packages being delivered within 11 weeks of the commencement of pre-production. Although this placed constraints on the scope of production and meant that the packages had to be filmed very much in a newsreel style, the on water action combined with the personalities of the contributors provided a really engaging window on the sport, revealing canoeing disciplines that many people may not have experienced before.

In Helen’s role as a contributing commentator for the BBC’s Olympic coverage, she focusses purely on Canoe Sprint and the discipline in which she won her Olympic medal in Athens – Canoe Slalom. ‘Go Canoe!’ covered practically every competition discipline there is, from Canoe Polo to Marathon and Wild Water Racing, with Helen getting on the water to try out each one. This was often quite a challenging experience, especially in disciplines such as Canoe Freestyle, which demanded a whole new skillset to Helen’s previous Canoe Slalom experience.

Mediapack worked alongside the production company responsible for delivering the World Cup coverage – Hit The Roof – to produce ‘Go Canoe!’, with Hit The Roof handling the competition elements, compilation of the overall programme and the broadcast uploads. Helen also voiced the whole show, adding voice over commentary and anchor voice parts to the final edit, once Mediapack’s packages had been incorporated into the main show templates.

‘Go Canoe!’ is an excellent example of the opportunities available to sports organisations to achieve mainstream TV coverage.  By combining competition coverage with magazine packages to give the audience a far broader experience of the sport, it’s possible both to entertain existing fans and engage with new audiences, who may be discovering the sport for the first time.

The magazine packages offer an opportunity to entertain, present back stories and show the human side of competition. They enable the viewer to meet new athletes and to learn about the sport in a relaxed way that doesn’t require an understanding of the rules of the game. This more complete entertainment experience is also far more appealing to broadcasters than simply coverage of the competition itself, increasing the potential for the show to be picked up.

The same principle can also apply to any genre or organisation. Mediapack’s experience in the field of ‘factual entertainment’ means that even the most niche subject can become an engaging piece, using documentary techniques and a magazine show format. It’s all about identifying the subject matter and the people that can feature.

Helping organisations realise the opportunities to engage with mainstream TV and other media is a key part of the Mediapack service. We work with them to develop material that can provide broadcasters or media websites with valuable, entertaining content and this activity sits comfortably alongside their existing social output.  TV and social channels consume content at an incredible rate and there is a constant need for fresh, interesting material. At Mediapack we’re working to bridge that gap between organisations and the mainstream media, so that they can reach larger, broader audiences.

The rewards of giving awards

It’s that time of year again, when many organisations are planning an end of year celebration of some kind. Perhaps it’s a formal Awards Evening, perhaps its an annual gala dinner, perhaps it’s just a Christmas party. Whatever the format, often there’s a ‘reward’ component and it’s a unique opportunity to boost moral and stimulate a sense of pride in the organisation.

Obviously with an Awards Evening, rewarding success, commitment or long service is key to the whole event but with other types of celebration or gathering, the addition of a special moment to celebrate an individual or team is just as valuable and can be the single aspect guests remember or cherish the most.

Whenever you’re celebrating achievement in this way, creating rich content to support it and frame the presentation can make a huge impact. Whenever there’s an Awards Evening on television for instance, from Sports Personality to The Oscars, video previews of the nominees is a fundamental component and they really make the event.  Often, recapping on the activity that led to the award nomination is far more engaging and entertaining than any live interview with the nominee.

It is an opportunity to tell the story behind the achievement, to paint a picture in the minds of those watching, to cause an emotional response to the moment. It allows you to take a simple case of hard work and perseverance and turn it into something far more empowering. In this respect, it’s a unique opportunity to influence thinking and to make people feel proud of the organisation they’re a part of.

But, all too often, these moments pass with just a fleeting speech by someone in a senior position and the presentation of a plaque or gift. Awards Evenings for instance often feature more PowerPoint slides than a board meeting and supporting imagery can seem rather formal or corporate, which contrasts with the human response to the subject matter – that of celebration and emotion.

It doesn’t have to be like this and it also doesn’t take a huge investment in time or budget to turn any presentation into a moment that all present will remember for a very long time. The key is to consider this a moment of theatre and to structure the presentation accordingly.

If it is a single presentation being made at a gala dinner or Christmas party for instance, making a big impact is easier to achieve than for an Awards Evening because it’s just a single moment in the whole evening but it should be the stand out moment, otherwise why are you including it in the event?

For an Awards Evening, making each individual presentation distinctive may not be desirable – all winners deserve the same adulation – but by using rich content to reveal the story behind the person, each component will be unique and distinct because everyone’s story will be different.

Producing rich content to accompany a special moment at an event or for an awards evening is a really worthwhile investment. For an individual presentation, the person receiving the award will be made up that you went to the trouble of telling their story in this way and they will then share their experience and their pride at being associated with such a fantastic organisation.

For an Awards Evening, the addition of video profiles of nominees or award recipients wins for your organisation on two fronts. Firstly it makes the whole evening far more entertaining and engaging than it might otherwise have been and secondly, for the winners themselves, it makes the moment and their achievement all the more powerful. It also shows that your organisation is caring and values its people – that it would go to the trouble of turning them into stars for a moment.

Rich content can come in all sorts of different formats from video profiles or funny photo montages with captions to the spoken word supported by on screen text. The possibilities are endless.  There are ‘Title Sequence’ videos to open proceedings, ‘Year in Review’ videos, Nomimee or Winner Profiles, video messages from absent special guests or important people, video ‘stings’ to punctuate the schedule. The only guiding factor is that whatever you do, it should generate a reaction – emotion, pride, sadness, joy – whatever the scenario, the ‘package’ (as we call it in the business) should reflect the occasion and tap into the emotion of the moment.

The other key aspect that is often overlooked when organisations consider the affordability of moving to rich content from, perhaps, simple PowerPoint slides, is the role content can play after the event. Video profiles of winners for instance can be shared with local broadcasters (if they are professionally produced) and this could mean the opportunity of having a brief mention of your event on your local news programme, especially if you have footage of the event as well – a valuable piece of exposure.

The video packages themselves can also be placed on your own social media channels (here’s one we made earlier), drawing views from friends and family of those attending and winning, who can become new followers, supporters and advocates of your brand. These posts can be reused as well in prelude to the following year’s event and if a particular award is sponsored then the supporting brand or sponsor will also share the content with their followers, again bringing new support to your event or organisation.

With the impact of the content you produce going far beyond the event itself, your investment in it (it’s an investment not a cost) can really pay dividends.

Our live production packages can cover everything from a single video to multiple video packages, enhanced presentation slide design, music and production sound tracks and even live choreography of presenters and contributors. Whatever you want to achieve with your Awards Evening or presentation event, we can guide you and help you make it a reality. Contact us for a no commitment chat to see how we might be able to help.

Don’t promote, entertain!

It might sound strange but not that long ago we used to have to argue the case for business owners to embrace video and to start producing content themselves, during our Video Skills Workshops. Not so now, they’re all chomping at the bit!

We started our first online channel in 2008 using the Brightcove Network and right from day one, we knew the revolution was coming and we’ve been rather evangelical about it ever since. Back then, YouTube might just as well have been called ‘CatTube’ and it wasn’t a place for those creating ‘serious’ or ‘professional’ TV like content. How times have changed and in such a short period. We migrated over to YouTube later that same year, Vimeo pretty much as soon as that launched and created our first full service client channel in 2010. We started publishing pilot content on our own channels and, while it was still too early really for this operation to be considered ‘online TV’ on the YouTube platform, we still believed that, given time, the inevitable would happen and YouTube would become a massive catalyst for change. And so it has been.

The ‘video rush’ in recent years (the marketing equivalent of the prospecting boom) was inevitable once the tech benchmark reached a point where medium and long form content became viable and has meant that every social channel and platform is now awash with the moving image. From the business owner’s perspective, the benefit previously to be had from simply putting video on your website or social feed – that your content would stand out from the crowd – has vanished.  Video is now the default content online, so unless your’e thinking creatively about how you’re using it, your video will just be one more piece of moving wallpaper in an increasingly crowded space.

For us, this video revolution was always about bringing opportunity to everyone, to create televisual or film content where previously there were massive barriers to entry. Yes, short clips of cats, crashes, people doing ‘amazing’ things etc are what has really caught people’s attention because of the number of views they can create. For us though, the potential has always been about story telling and distribution – being able to create something original of value and get it directly to the viewer, without having to navigate the gate keepers of TV and cinema.

With the high levels of video saturation we have across all platforms, being distinctive is vital but more than that, the way you approach the whole genre of online and social video is becoming ever more critical. The lines between television and online video have always been blurred (at least they have for us) but the further on we all go with the video revolution, the less distinguishable the two platforms become. Is Netflix TV or online video? Is the iPlayer TV or online video? Is the YouTube app on your connected TV online video or TV? And this is where both the opportunity and threat lies going forward for promotional business video.

As TV, film, gaming and social video merge into just ‘content’, how are you supposed to find a role in this increasingly high value landscape for your promotional videos? If, next to your post on Facebook, the viewer sees a trailer for the latest Game of Thrones series or a screen record of their fifteen year old’s gaming exploits or newsreel of a disaster somewhere from a newspaper website, how likely is it they are going to notice your promo? Yes, you can pay to promote it but that only places it on their timeline, you still need to persuade them to watch it!

Leaving the whole question of production quality aside for this article, the fundamental mistake many businesses make is to focus more on their promotional messages, than on the general appeal of the whole piece. They create content that simply tells the audience what they want them to hear. The really important thing for any organisation to do in relation to video is to be seeking to create content that gives more to the viewer than it asks for in return.

Look at what all the videos you’re in competition with are doing. The broadcasters are giving the audience exclusive teasers of their latest TV shows. The film companies are giving the audience blockbuster action trailers. The fifteen year old’s giving you a whirlwind ‘first person view’ ride through a stimulating game and the newspaper’s giving you shocking footage of a natural disaster. What chance have you got….. unless you think like them and create content like them!

It’s all about having someone’s attention for a moment and being remembered. How you use that moment is up to you but it will determine whether you get a return on your investment in video. The important thing is not to get too greedy or needy. It is wholly possible to meet both the objectives of the audience and also the marketing objectives of your organisation but it takes vision and also a fundamental acceptance that all video content is entertainment.  If you don’t accept this fact, you’re starting from a very disadvantageous position.

Video = entertainment. People like entertainment. People therefore like watching videos but there are more videos out there than they have the time or patience to watch. How are you going to get them to watch yours? By telling them what a great organisation you are? Nope. By creating a video that has little substance or visual appeal? Nope. By putting in some drone clips and those lovely slow motion shots? Nope – they’re as ubiquitous as video itself. By focussing solely on a promotional message or advertising slogan? Probably not, unless they’re specifically looking for what you have. The solution is simply to buy into the concept that entertaining an audience is an investment.

Whoever would have thought that a company would spend millions establishing a couple of animated characters (Meerkats of all things) in order to promote a website? What possible logic could there be for doing that if the overriding priority from the outset was to generate transactions? The logical approach would have been to focus on telling people the how, why and where. To lay out what the website does, to incentivise them to visit the site, perhaps to reward them in some way for visiting the site.

Instead, the early adverts for Compare The Market focussed much more on entertaining us. Yes, of course, there was the site’s address and the hook line but most of the core time was spent establishing the characters and their back story. Now it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t know what brand they represent and it’s also hard to find any analyst or critic who doesn’t think the whole Meerkat campaign has been a work of pure genius.

Scale this down and apply the principle to your own situation and what is the baseline approach? It is all about seeing the first purpose of your video content as entertaining the viewer. Now, ‘entertaining’ could and should mean many things.  It doesn’t mean employing dancers or comedians or even necessarily animating animals, it simply means creating something that the people who will come across your content will first tolerate (it’s so easy to keep scrolling over promoted content) and then actively engage with.

The specifics of this are fully dependent on your line of business and the characteristics of your potential audience but the principle is always the same. Seek ways to give the audience something of value, something they don’t perceive to be a sales pitch. Work harder to entertain them than you do to get your message across because viewers can sniff a promotional push a mile off. Make them feel that you’ve given them this content without ulterior motive and they’ll begin to trust you and, as we all know, trust is the essential foundation for any relationship.

So, isn’t this just ‘content marketing’? Well, yes, it is but all too often so called content marketing videos are far more marketing than entertainment and are essentially just promotional videos. Just because you create a piece of ‘content’ doesn’t make it entertaining. The opportunity to create highly engaging TV or film like content which gives the viewer something engaging to watch but which also gently introduces them to your company, your products or your promotional message is huge but it takes skill and experience to really pull it off.

Columbia Sportswear is an excellent example of a company that has successfully pulled off ‘content marketing’ by focussing on entertainment.  Their YouTube series – ‘Directors of Toughness’ features first a competition to appoint two outdoors enthusiasts as the ‘Directors of Toughness’ and then a whole series of short adventure films where they are set expedition challenges in various countries, exclusively using Columbia’s clothing and equipment.  The entertainment is in watching these people (who have been well chosen for their engaging personalities) having the adventure. The promotional benefit to Columbia is that people see their kit being used in a real life situation and therefore have a stronger sense of its capability than if, perhaps, a salesman had simply made a video presentation extolling the virtues of the equipment.

The great thing about this campaign is that these videos remain active long after their initial run and continue providing entertainment and brand profile in equal measure for years to come. They won’t lose their relevance except perhaps in terms of product lines that are no longer in production but because it is all about creating a piece of entertainment, discontinued products aren’t important because the viewer still sees Columbia’s kit in action with real people doing real things and loving the brand.

This is not a campaign without promotional substance though. Each episode offers the viewer a follow up video where the presenters give a product demo of some of the key pieces of equipment used. There are also calls to action to follow on Facebook or Twitter, in order to get additional content relating to the series.  You see, taking the ‘entertainment first’ approach does not mean stripping out all promotional messages or denying yourself the chance to try and get people to connect with you. This is all about how you structure the piece and how you package and present your key messages. It is about enabling the viewer to connect with you not giving them reasons not to. Give the viewer a gift, include information which effectively promotes something you do or make but which doesn’t feel like a sales pitch. Let them feel like they are in control, that they have taken the decision to connect with you entirely of their own free will.  That’s all this approach is about. It’s not about indulging your secret Spielberg fantasy at great cost to your marketing department!

The other really important thing is that your overall aim should always be to build an audience, not to ‘get views’ or likes. Views are simply a receipt that shows that someone has seen your video and likes don’t really tell you anything of substance. Having an audience means that you have people out there who are useful to you, a community. If you have an audience, not only are they continually aware of you, if you’re producing content regularly (as you should be) but they are more likely to buy your thing over someone else’s thing because they’ll feel aligned to your brand or offering. It’s like someone who loves browsing in a particular shop. If the shop owner encourages this pastime, sooner or later they’ll buy something and then they’ll keep returning to buy more.  If the owner instead jumps on them and tries to get a sale on the first visit, they’ve probably lost a customer forever.

So, next time you need a video or are about to start a new project, start by looking at what opportunities you have to entertain and then how this might connect with people.  Invest in entertainment rather than ‘promotional video’. Tell stories that show how your product or organisation works and which provides the viewer with something engaging to watch, regardless of the brand’s involvement. Ask yourself: “if I didn’t work here, would I find this interesting”. It takes creative vision and experience to pull it off but it’s worth it!

At Mediapack, we’ve been creating TV style infomercial videos and magazine shows for YouTube for nearly ten years, so if you’d like more information about how we can help you devise an affordable and effective video entertainment strategy that you can run yourself, click on the contact section and drop us a line.

Catching up with 2017

It’s August already and we’re just starting to emerge from a really busy six month block of work. So busy in fact that this is the first blog post we’ve had time to write since February! Ordinarily, we’d be able to fit in the usual tasks of updating the website, putting together case studies and collating content, around our core client work but the project we’re just coming out of required all hands to the pumps.

We’ll be putting together some individual case studies on recent projects over the coming weeks but to give you an overview of our 2017 so far, we’ve been almost exclusively delivering projects for British Canoeing – the National Governing body of the sport and a long standing client.

2017 is a big year for the organisation and it all began with the launch of their new strategy for the sport, which will guide activity for the foreseeable future.  This was a huge project undertaken by the new senior management in British Canoeing and we were brought in to help shape the launch of the strategy at a major event held at the MacDonald Hotel in Manchester and the Manchester Museum. We produced a series of short videos explaining many of the different strategy components and we also produced showreels of performance achievements and a rousing intro sequence designed to get those in attendance fired up and focussed on what was to come.

Following straight on from the launch event in Manchester, we were straight into pre-production for a series all about canoeing showing on Sky Sports Arena, again for British Canoeing. We took part in talks with Sky just a day after the conclusion of the launch in Manchester so the motorway miles certainly ramped up that week. The show, which is called ‘Go Canoe!’ has just started airing (show 3 out of 8 is about to air in four days time) and we produced two 3-4 minute magazine style packages for each show, to sit alongside coverage of the ICF World Cups and Championships.  That’s 16 individual packages delivered in just over two months!

Both projects saw Mediapack’s Managing Director Helen Reeves presenting to camera and handling all the production management.  She also presented live at the launch event for the strategy presentation, alongside BBC East Midlands’ Mark Shardlow.  Creative Director Roger Burlinson directed, filmed and edited all the content.

Individual case studies for each project will follow in the coming weeks but for now, having each completed an endurance race straight after the Go Canoe! project largely wrapped (Roger took part in a 100km ultra marathon, Helen the ‘swim/run’ in the Lake District) both are taking a little time out, understandably!

The second half of the year is shaping up to be just as dynamic with a major push on Mediapack’s ‘remote support’ offering coming towards the end of summer, alongside new client projects and further episodes of business show ‘Silent Partner’ coming through.

 

Production Tips: Seeking Authenticity

In this era of ‘User Generated Content’, you might wonder why you need to worry about established video production techniques for social video, why not just switch on a camera and film what you want, how you want?  Isn’t that more authentic?

Well now… authenticity in this context is a word which needs to be handled with care.  First of all, it should be your No.1 priority to seek authenticity in every piece of content you produce – to reveal the true character of a person or situation, as this is the only way to ensure that you’ll engage an audience.

Of greater concern though to me and, I suspect, plenty of other professionals, is the growing tendency for the social video community to speak of authenticity when describing the way content has been produced. Perhaps the composition of the footage is poor, the camera work shaky, the edit utilitarian but the underlying content is strong.  It is these very ‘flaws’ that they say give the piece authenticity but authenticity in video only comes from the subject matter being portrayed, not from mistakes or misjudgements in the production process.

This might sound pretentious or snobbish and many people would argue that social video is breaking barriers because creators are not adhering to old or tired processes.  They would say that the new ‘worts and all’ style of much social video is refreshing, honest…. authentic.

But this is missing the point.  Established production techniques are not there to protect ‘old’ methods from the advancement of new more creative ones.  They are there because they work and have been developed and refined by highly creative and experienced people for over a hundred years.  So it’s fair to say, that the principles professional film and video makers employ to get great results are pretty safe to trust and really don’t need challenging.  They also are not a hindrance to creativity, they enable creativity.

The other reason it is missing the point is that the role of the video creator is to portray the subject matter in a way that illustrates the concept, without the audience noticing.  Every project needs a concept, even if it is simply a talking head describing a bar of soap.  It is the concept that governs the shooting style, the shooting style that governs the production techniques used and nothing in this process prevents you from creating refreshing, honest and authentic content.

In documentary film making for instance, the whole point is to let reality play out on camera.  It is the subject matter that is the focal point, nothing else.  This means that the shooting style needs to be simple and unobtrusive because otherwise there is a risk that it will overpower the subject matter and detract from the story. So, if the subject matter calls for an ‘amateur’ look to the footage, then this needs to be created by design, not simply by accident.

In any walk of life, in any business, we all generally seek to be good at what we do and it’s no different in video creation. What is challenging about video for many people is that the ‘being good’ bit crosses over a number of different skill sets – creative, camera operation, production planning, lighting, scripting, editing, colouring and mastering.   This is often why people just focus on the skills they have and don’t worry too much about those they don’t.  “If I do what I do well, the audience will overlook the other bits because my video will have real authenticity”.

My beef is not with people using video as a means of communicating something, that I celebrate and I want to see more people create great video – it is after all why we run video production workshops!  Neither is it about people hijacking my craft or some other protectionist nonsense.  It is about the passing off of video that has been made without craft, as something more than it is.  More importantly, it is about this trend impacting on the audience’s perception of real authenticity in a piece.

Roughly made video is not more ‘authentic’, it is what it is. That doesn’t make it bad in itself and I have no desire at all to see this kind of content disappear.  I just want to see honesty around video quality and urge that if you want to create video, seek to do it well, learn the processes that will ensure you get good results and don’t fall for the old ‘rough video is better because it’s more authentic’ nonsense.

There’s so much space for all types of video, from content that has been lovingly crafted by professionals to a webcam vlog by a tearful teenager.  Everything should be celebrated in my view and everything has value.  Let’s just stop misrepresenting authenticity because it is such an important element to video and if the term is misused or mis-applied, then real authenticity in content could be missed.

 

Helen talks Canoeing for the BBC in Rio

Mediapack’s Managing Director, Helen Reeves is out in Rio, working as part of the BBC’s commentary team at the Olympic Games. Helen is working alongside Patrick Winterton, commentating on both the Canoe Slalom and Canoe Sprint events.

Helen is herself an Olympian and to date is Britain’s only female Olympic canoeing medallist.  She won Bronze in the K1 category in Athens 2004.

This is her third consecutive games in the commentary box, having picked up the mic in Beijing, after retiring post Athens and she has also worked for the BBC on World Championship coverage, including the 2015 World Championships at the Olympic White Water Centre at Lee Valley in London.

While Olympic competitions are relatively short, days can be long with pre race preparation and post race analysis being essential to stay on top of your game during a broadcast. Facts and figures are as much a part of sports commentary as correctly calling the live action and while it might seem like commentators talk spontaneously throughout, there has always been a huge amount of background work which feeds the live commentary.

Helen is also on call to go down to Olympic Park from the venue in the event of Britain winning a Canoeing medal, which is exactly what she did following Joe Clarke’s historic win in the Men’s K1 event – Britain’s first ever individual Gold in Olympic Canoe Slalom competition. Helen appeared alongside Clare Balding and Mark Chapman to discuss the young paddler’s achievement on the evening broadcast the same day.

While Helen’s experience as an Olympic canoeist is the key reason why she’s part of the BBC commentary team, her media experience and background as a Media Manager really adds to the package. Understanding how major international sports broadcasting works is vital and being able to operate in what is a high pressure news environment is essential.

It means that she can not only deliver the technical explanation of what’s happening on the water but she also delivers the right kind of comment and information and is in tune with the media’s needs, so that the content she provides enhances their product and doesn’t just fill a gap in the main commentary.

It’s this experience that Helen also brings into play in her work within Mediapack – helping clients shape their own output and take advantage of the huge opportunities still available with the mainstream media.

Helen will be posting a ‘day in the life’ article when she returns from Rio, detailing an average day and she will also be revealing some of her behind the scenes experiences.