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Do-It-Yourself Business Video
How to Avoid the Land Mines

Copyright 2010,2012 Jeffrey Geibel, All Rights Reserved

If you are producing B-to-B video and want to do so internally, you would do well to familiarize yourself with the appropriate uses and restrictions, legal considerations and production issues. At least make an attempt to produce it properly and have your video shooters have some level of training and minimum competence. Otherwise, it is perhaps best to outsource or let your video effort fade to black - before your online corporate reputation and brand does the same.

There is an increasing trend toward DIY business-to-business video fueled by YouTube and the availability of cheap video cameras. Both corporate management and inexperienced business video producers need to be aware of the various land mines of legal, branding and production quality issues that lurk under the surface.

These potential concerns fall into three general areas - legal and security issues, understanding the application of video for sales, marketing and corporate purposes and finally, common amateur technical (production) errors.

Legal and security considerations

Caveat: This is not legal advice. Need to talk to an attorney for that.

Legal issues in video are similar to those for any recording device (visual or audio) - they tend to center around the issues of privacy, obtaining permissions and releases and also misuse and copyright infringement.

Privacy Issues

Just because to you have a video camera doesn't mean you can record anyone you choose, even employees. They need to give their consent (get it in writing). So the first place to check is your corporate policies. Does those policies contain a catch-all release for the use of the employee's likeness or image? Have your employees signed consent forms? If not, you don't necessarily have their permission to use their image for corporate purposes. Could get messy if they leave and then decide to remind you of that if you have featured them in one of your YouTube videos.

Same goes for customers or clients and their employees. That wonderful testimonial at a trade show you got - did you get a release from both the customer's employee and the employer? How about a location release to film it on the trade show floor? Several years ago (before I knew these fine points) I was supervising an outdoor photo shoot of a client with some construction sites for a background. I needed some head-and-shoulder shots so we ducked into a nearby hotel - walked down a deserted hallway and I had the photographer take a few shots against a plain wall. Within minutes, one of the staff of the hotel wanted to know what we were doing and indicated that we need permission from the front desk for any photography (a well-trained employee!)

The oft-heard rationale concerning the filming of individuals (passer-bys) in public places without the need for releases is an issue that can cause problems. Also, some communities and many private facilities such as performance halls (the Staples Center in Los Angeles bans audio/video recording devices, tripods/monopods and camera lenses longer than 3.5"), museums and even horticultural gardens - either ban recording devices entirely or require filming permits. Professional-grade equipment or tripods (as noted by the Staples Center policy) are a giveaway as to your purpose.

Security Considerations

If you ask any security professional, they will caution you against filming of facilities and any kind of video "tour". Not for nothing do major companies such as Texas Instruments, HP, Intel, GM and even cell-phone manufacturer Samsung, not to mention Apple (with their penchant for secrecy) prohibit camera phones in their facilities (especially manufacturing and research). Also, if a security-unknowledgeable individual films a video tour of your offices, they can inadvertently show those white boards as background, which may just happen to have a list of the features for your next product release, or the org chart for your new marketing effort. You would be amazed at what employees leave on white boards. Also, office thieves like hit-and-run situations. Why not make their job easier? What better way to let them know the layout of your office and location of expensive equipment than a video tour. If you think these physical security issues are a exaggeration - try reading some of the books by security expert Gavin DeBecker - you'll change your mind.

Misuse of corporate assets is always a possibility if too many employees have company-supplied video cameras and little or no training in their proper use and legal restrictions. Even children can get in trouble with cell phone cameras, as the current rage of ‘sexting' has shown.

Another area of misuse is the improper use of copyrighted music. Unless you have a specific release for the music - that's a big no-no. Forget all the myths about the "ten second rule" (whatever that's supposed to be) or other quaint urban legends - if you don't have a specific release to use commercial recording with your business video - don't do it. (YouTube has an agreement with music publishers so the publishers can monetize the unauthorized use of their songs via an iTunes/mp3 link on the videos. This is at the option of the publisher, who can also require the music to be muted. This is not an option available to the video poster, only the publisher.) Use royalty-free music for your videos. Don't know what that is? Read further to where we discuss whether you really want to do your own business videos.

Understanding video strengths

Many people who use a video camera for business purposes don't really understand the major strength of video - which is that video captures emotion. Sure, you can capture dramatic circumstances (combat footage, fires, etc) but that's not what we are talking about here.

That's why videos of inanimate objects (products or buildings) fall somewhat flat. Ken Burns can get away with it for historical storytelling, but it really doesn't work for your three to five minute B-to-B marketing video. So you need on-camera narrators and storytellers (talent*) who have personality and emote. In some companies that's tough, but not impossible. Using professional actors to accomplish this is something of a contradiction for do-it-yourself business videos.

Another characteristic to remember is that video is a serial format - in other words - you have to watch it all the way through to get the message. So it needs structure, a storyline, a plot and the narrative that supports all of that. B-to-B video is primarily a structured sales tool, not a free-form art-house film.

Video isn't the appropriate medium for everything - it has its strengths and limitations, as does any medium. Just because you can make a video of something doesn't mean that you should. For example, topics that require a great deal of detail and specific terminology are really not appropriate for video - there is a high probability of miscommunication. Words that may be appropriate on a PowerPoint slide or in a script don't translate well to the spoken word. My favorite example of this was a technical seminar where one of the presenters kept saying "Kayjees" in his speech and no one had a clue as to what he was talking about. They eventually realized he was pronouncing "kgs" - the acronym for kilograms, the metric measure of weight.

Video is a visual format - although this is obvious, a lot of what you see does not reflect this understanding. Good video follows the rules of photographic composition, lighting, and framing (you also have to add audio.) If you don't know these rules - your video will appear somewhat odd - especially when compared to one that was created by someone who does know the rules. So you can't just hand a video camera to anyone and expect to get decent footage.

Common amateur production** errors

If video is going to be used for B-to-B marketing, it should be part of an overall marketing plan that leverages its strengths and works in conjunction with other aspects of sales and marketing - not just as a stand-alone social media or YouTube attraction.

That being said, here are some basic guidelines that will help your video to communicate your sales and marketing message, and serve to keep it interesting:

Should you produce your own videos?

As the saying goes: Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

A good metric as to whether you should produce you own videos is whether or not you design and maintain your own website. If web technology is not something you handle internally, there is a good chance that video isn't something you should be doing, either.

Just as your website makes an impression and supports (or diminishes) your brand, so does your video.

This is not to say that all of your video has to be thrown over the wall to outside producers. If you have talented employees and are willing to dedicate some training and oversight (either internally or by contract) - you can get the best of both worlds - decent quality video that is quickly produced for changing markets for a very reasonable budget.


If you are producing B-to-B video and want to do so internally, you would do well to familiarize yourself with the appropriate uses and restrictions, legal considerations and production issues. At least make an attempt to produce it properly and have your video shooters have some level of training and minimum competence. Otherwise, it is perhaps best to outsource or let your video effort fade to black - before your online corporate reputation and brand does the same.

For more detail on business video production, see the related article Business Video: How to Avoid Being a YouTubeTM Amateur


* talent is the industry term for anyone in front of the camera

** amateur productions are characterized by a large number of obvious technical and production errors - which indicate the videographer/producer (and management that reviewed it) either doesn't know any better, or doesn't care.

Jeffrey Geibel, APR LEED AP, has been a video producer, director and technical director since 2002, working primarily with on-camera talent that is non-professional, in productions that are intended for broadcast. He has worked on more than 100 productions ranging from 60-second public service announcements to crewed studio productions and multi-camera location productions. Along the way he has received an award as Producer of the Year. He is also the techical director for the award-winning program Surviving Everyday. He provides Executive Producer (management and oversight) video consulting services to clients for the production of business-to-business video.

© 2010,2012 Jeffrey Geibel - All Rights Reserved

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