Video Essentials

Don’t Kill Your Credibility with Online Video

When you post online videos to support your company, are you unwittingly killing your own credibility? You are if you make any number of small mistakes, says author Mitch Joel.

As the president of digital marketing agency Twist Image and the author of Six Pixels of Separation, Joel is used to working with brands to convey a message online. As Internet video has become more accessible, he’s noticed that more people are using that ease to turn in sloppy work. Or, as Joel puts it, they’re creating videos that are “unwatchable.”

To remedy that, you’ll need to step back and look at your work like your viewers will. Be aware of subtle mistakes that will make you look less professional and ruin your credibility in the eyes of the audience.

Details Matter
When you first begin creating online video, you need to think about the basic package you’re offering your viewers. It is watchable? Is it listenable? Joel says he recently watched a two-person conversation online where one person came through too loud and one too soft. He had to keep adjusting his volume to listen to the conversation.

Also, think about your setting. Joel tells of watching a video by an industry thought leader that was recorded in the man’s basement. The background was an overstuffed and broken bookcase, and the speaker’s shirt was stained. No matter how good the information, the video had the effect of lowering that speaker’s credibility. It might be subconscious, but that’s what comes across to the viewer.

Things off-screen can effect your credibility, as well. People moving around off camera can throw visible shadows if you’re not careful, and that will distract viewers from your message.

Body Language
Think about how you’re presenting yourself, as well. When you speak to the camera, you need to look forward as if you’re looking your viewer in the eyes, says Joel. Letting your gaze wander will make you look less knowledgeable. Even letting your eyes roll for a second can ruin the impression.

Be sure that you’re sitting comfortably and not shifting. Someone continually adjusting his or her seat will look evasive.

In person-to-person speech, ums and ahs are a natural part of how we talk. In video, it makes you look less confident and takes away from your credibility.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Don’t feel like you need to post everything you shoot, stresses Joel. If you hit your stride on your third posted video, that means there are still two poor videos out there to give viewers a bad first impression. It’s not worth it.

Instead, make practice videos for your eyes only. Study them as a viewer would and look for distracting details. Is the audio crisp and clear? Is the background neutral?

Use this time to experiment with different configurations. Try positioning the camera at different heights and see which one hides any hint of a double chin. Create different lighting arrangements and see which is more pleasant. Watch your footage and imagine what your first reaction would be, if you were seeing the video online.

For more on Mitch Joel’s ideas, see his recent blog post, “Online Video Can Kill Your Credibility.”


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  1. Good article. At the end of the day, if you have zilch budget and stick to some basics (use a tripod and a decent mic for example), it is of course possible to create something passable. But (for keeping your cred) nothing really works as well as professional production values. Unless perhaps you have endless raw talent and outstanding charisma!! 🙂

    I am truly amazed by the lack of basic presenting skills that I see on a regular basis out there in the so-called corporate world. And sadly even a lot of bad filming, and bad sound in the corporate video / AV world itself.

    The reality is that most of us still aren’t used to being on camera and don’t have the time to learn all there is to know about lighting, sound, scripting, etc. Or at least if you’re really going to do it DIY then read as much as you can from posts like this or get some advice from professionals for your first attempts.

    There is a massive need for companies to invest in media training for their staff. Even if they just expect them to present an internal video on pensions schemes, or to act as a presenter for a low-budget corporate video, it’s only fair to give people some training as these things don’t always come naturally. Even some CEOs and come across really badly because they haven’t been taught basic stuff. I’ve seen it happen so many times!!

    Anyway. I’m ranting. But one other thing is, just before I sign off, that people sometimes ask us for a quote for a webcast and then ask about free services like UStream etc. I love all the free gizmos, they have their place, but it comes down to quality levels, and of course reliability is a major factor (especially during a live global event.) Having professionals on the job who can advise you and make things work for you is the ideal scenario in my book. Yes. It all depends what you want, but at the end of the day there’s a reason we have professional filmmakers, photographers, marketers, painters, decorators, hairdressers etc. Trying to make your own video without planning it and learning some basics could be the media equivalent of giving yourself a really bad haircut! 🙂

    Posted by Sarah Platt | September 3, 2010, 11:47 am
  2. Couldn’t agree more Sarah. I’ve worked with clients who think it’s fine to shove one of their number in front of camera — where a normally warm, chatty person can be transformed instantly into a zombie who has trouble stringing a sentence together. Not exactly the best ambassador for their brand!

    The problem with online video – as with much of the digital revolution – is low barrier to entry; just as everybody who can put clip art in a Word doc thinks they’re a graphic designer.

    In summary — leave it to the professionals!

    Posted by Gary Aston | September 3, 2010, 12:10 pm
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