I recently met with a client team that I hadn’t seen in a while. They proudly showed me the company’s new demo kitchen including behind-the-scenes video gear that would make some broadcast networks jealous.
There was only one catch. Nobody on staff is a video production expert. Nor was there any plan to hire a production person.
I wish I could say this was the first time I’ve experienced this. But it’s actually a common occurrence among many larger food companies. The theory seems to be that spending another $100K for state-of- the-art cameras, switchers, lights and monitors is relatively minor after investing a bundle on the kitchen itself.
Besides, how hard can it be to shoot and edit a few little videos?
First, I applaud forward-thinking that envisions a time when creating content-rich media is among a company’s core capabilities. Heck, word processing and PowerPoint seemed magical when they first appeared after a 100-year dominance by manual typewriters! Now creating presentations and letter-perfect documents are just a daily routine for many of us.
So, it only makes sense that creating content that also can be seen and heard via the web and mobile devices should become mainstream. But here are a few hard (expensive) lessons I’ve learned over the years about developing internal video production capabilities:
- Keep it simple. Yes, thinking about the possibilities of how to present food products is truly limitless. But having expensive broadcast-quality gear is not necessary for these dreams. Remember, developing a core competency in video production is about presenting information in an informative way — not replicating a Food Network studio. Amazing things can happen with a decent DSLR camera and some relatively inexpensive editing software.
- Worry about people resources first. Some of us old folks remember the predictions that “desktop publishing” would eliminate the need for graphic artists. Funny thing. Great technology rarely replaces creativity, talent and skill. The client I recently visited admitted they had no idea how hard it was to write, shoot, edit and render a short video. There’s a reason many production pros pursue a four-year university degree before getting a job. Buying equipment is easy. Finding somebody who knows how to create content is hard.
- Internal versus external resource debates are a pendulum. Companies start “internal agencies” in hopes of saving money. Then move back to outsourcing when pressure to reduce fixed expenses mount. We’ve all seen this back-and-forth happen over and over. Both strategies are equally valid — and both frequently get upended once a new sheriff is in town. So, consider hiring a qualified contractor before jumping in with a full-time internal person to first see how things work out.