Authenticity – why it’s key to creating engaging video content

By Rebecca Munro

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, video is the superior online communication tool. I even wrote a blog about it.

It’s powerful, but unfortunately, it’s also a double-edged sword when you get it wrong.

Video can reach a large audience but if the content isn’t engaging or authentic it could have serious consequences for an organisation’s brand or reputation – or simply be a big waste of money.

Let me share what was dubbed by Australian media as ‘the worst government ad ever’.

This 2017 Federal Department of Finance ad stars real-life department staff who interact in awkwardly scripted scenes in an attempt to demonstrate the excitement of working in the public service.

Critics slammed the $37,000 ad campaign as a disaster that would never be successful in assisting the Department to attract new talent.

In my opinion, the creators lost authenticity when they put real people in a situation where they were required to act. Actors would have been more suitable in this situation.

The strategy didn’t come close to achieving the Department’s objective. Every part of this video, including the music, its length, the low production values, the graphics, the pace, and framing of the camera angles should all align with the objective. Each element is a communication tool and together those tools failed to engage the desired graduate audience.

I’ve worked in video creation and TV for the past 14 years and in my experience, there are a few key tips to follow to create authentic video.

Don’t be a Ron Burgundy

It is imperative to plan before creating a video. Know your objective, come up with a strategy and align every decision to that objective. It’s also important to script and storyboard.

But when it comes to filming on the day, don’t always stick to the script – authenticity comes from flexibility.

A classic example in film is when Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy refuses to stray from what is written on the autocue, which leads to him cursing at his audience and a spectacular fall from grace.

I once had a CEO who was adamant about using an autocue to feel comfortable. The objective of the company was to reassure staff about an issue, but unfortunately their wooden delivery wasn’t aligning with that objective. Once we had completed the script, I asked them to attempt a more casual chat about what the script was about in their own words – that was the take that made the cut.

It’s also the same when you are interviewing talent who has already been assigned their story, sometimes you can uncover a better one in the moment.

Understand your audience

The Department of Finance didn’t understand its audience. I can’t overemphasise how important this is. Make a list of what your audiences’ interests are. Find out who they are and what drives them, or how your organisation can help them achieve their goals.

Trust the human factor

People trust people. There are situations where you can’t avoid using a professional voiceover or actor but where appropriate, use real people from your organisation. You don’t need to put them in awkward acting scenarios, there are many ways around it, such as using an interview format or having them record their own voiceover. It allows for the audience to better connect with the organisation.

Perfect your story telling

Whether it’s through actors or real people, the key to authentic video is to ensure you are telling a story. Story telling engages an audience and allows people to relate. Being relatable is authentic. Story telling is a skill in itself, but it has basic principles such as a beginning, middle and end. It’s always a good idea to get to your story fast, the Department’s ad failed this and likely lost viewers in the first 20 seconds of its slow music and office visuals.

Being authentic is challenging particularly when you are dealing with people who aren’t comfortable on camera. Below is an example of a video I created with the Managing Director of Phosphate Resources Limited. Due to confidentiality I won’t share the organisation’s objective, but as a strategy we sought to show authenticity to a community-based audience.

CGM produces video content including animation, case study and testimonial videos, profile and event filming.


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