Reality check: Video is not the answer to your internal communication problem

They say that communication is only 7% verbal.  That means that video communicates at least ten times more than a written message alone. Paralanguage (tone, rate, pitch) , gestures, eye contact, facial expression, posture, stress and intonation all come in to play.  The true personality and feelings of the person speaking are communicated and this can mean greater empathy and a much greater effect on trust.

That’s why, out in the real world, video is huge. YouTube is the world’s second most popular search engine as people are actively looking to watch videos online.

So why wouldn’t you use video for an internal communication from your senior execs?

If you are trying to communicate an important company message then all of this peripheral communication is going to distract, get in the way or potentially change the message. Rather than listening to how the company is performing most viewers – if they have got their headphones to work, the network hasn’t toppled over and they have sustained interest past the first three seconds – they are probably thinking “Wow – He looks much shorter than I thought, and hasn’t he got a squeaky voice?!”

In this situation, video is also going to be less practical for the audience – they need this information to be:

  • easily referenced
  • re-sharable
  • scanable and skimable – so people can take the key points without the full details

On the other hand, if the main objective isn’t the message but actually creating rapport with or engagement with the individual then you face a different problem; why would anyone take the time off work to watch a video about nothing particularly important?

For most, watching video in the office is either impractical (call center workers who need to be on the phone) or frowned upon (desk workers don’t want to be seen ‘watching videos’ and visibly not working).

Video will never kill the text star

The majority of corporate videos don’t suit consumption in a corporate environment.  Televising an hour long conference or meeting requires the viewer of the video to take an hour out of their day to view something which they can’t scan or skim through first.  Yes – creating short video chapters, interesting excerpts etc does make it better but still not as good as just writing it down and letting people read the information.

Text has other advantages over video too; it can be indexed by the search engine and printed, and people can link too or copy the interesting or useful sections they want and easily share them through email or add them to a presentation or document. Text is information people can work with whereas video is information you have to just sit back and consume.

Is video always the medium of the lazy communicator?

Of course there are situations where video works. Say you need to communicate details of your organisation’s latest TV advertising campaign – video is pretty essential! But it needs to accompany the message, not be the message.

Other good uses we’ve heard of include training videos for complex tasks where what’s visual is important – like how to use the staple function on the printer.  The Fire Service have also had success with videos to demo new equipment – but I suspect that, if you are a hunky fireman talking through how to keep you and other people alive, you are more likely to get views than any aging accountant with a comb over will talking about a corporate strategy.

Video or chips?

Given the costs involved in making your organisation video friendly and legal (sound cards, headphones, network upgrades, mobile streaming servers, transcription and closed captioning software to meet Equality regulations, the list goes on) and that video rarely offers anything over and above what a well written article ever will. We’d advise your valuable budgets would get a much higher return invested in other things – like an extra team member, some user research or some team training.

There are 15 comments

Add yours
  1. Rebecca Jackson

    I couldn’t agree more Luke. Yes, video has it’s time and place in organisations but like everything we should be asking ‘what is the objective’, ‘who is the audience’ and choosing the most appropriate and effective medium to convey the message. Great stuff.

    • blinddrew

      What Rebecca said! Aside from the examples given in the blog I can’t think of many occasions when video is going to be the “right” answer to the questions.
      But if it is, and you’ve decided that you’re going with a corporate video, then make sure the image matches people’s expectation. An announcement from the CEO about the new business merger should be in the office, wearing a suit – not in some cosy location with him / her trying to look like a patriarch in an argyll sweater.

  2. Lexi Rodrigo

    I agree with your points. However, I wouldn’t completely give up on using video. Used appropriately, it’s a nice change of pace from the usual written corporate materials. And believe it or not, many people actually prefer to consume video over text! In some situations, video can be a valuable way to enhance communication, fostering connection and building trust much more effectively than a written document. I will write a future post on how companies can best use video in their intranets — watch out for it!

  3. Sophie

    I agree with Lexi. Plus you have to be mindful of the generations in businesses – whilst the Baby Boomers may not engage with video as well, Gen Y may prefer this channel of communication as it resonates better with them and the ways that they consume information.

    • @lukemepham

      Agreed – as a channel for passive consumption it works better than text (for some). But – as we have said in the past – its about the outcomes not the outputs. A workforce of squared eyed passive zombies, sat back in their office chairs watching ‘workTV’ doesn’t ( to me) sound like an idil of productivity.

      Of course video has its place – but that place is quite specific. Video doesn’t just work – its not an easy fix that gets you off the hook of being a good communicator, you have to make some smart choices about when to use it.
      We, as a profession, are smarter and more imaginative than “oh they’re young. They’ll understand this if we make it like TV”

  4. Peter Richards

    I agree with everyone. We should exploit every tool in the box to help and engage users. Like every good tradesman knows, the trick is choosing the correct tool for the job.

    • @lukemepham

      yay to agreeing with everyone 😉 I think I agree with you too. Right tool for the right job – with the understanding that every tool with have its pro’s and cons, strengths and weaknesses.

  5. Sam

    On the idea that only 7% of Communication being verbal, you’re right to be skeptical.

    The original study was based on someone saying just one word and then asking subjects to interpret the feeling being expressed. It has been widely mis-applied ever since

    So if you’re planning for your CEO to communicate annual performance results to employees using just one word, then yes, a video is probably a great choice.

      • PabloRedux

        Long dial-in video presentions are all wrong, because they’re difficult to pace for the presenter and inflexible for the audience. However, short videos can be good for hands-on how-to’s, because you can rewind and replay without stress or boredom setting in. Short videos may even in theory give a better flavour of the exec than a smarmy photo on the company intranet, but with all your provisos, Luke, and it would have to be really really real, otherwise it would be just another artificial flavour. I think eventually there will be more relevant use of video at work, but no big rush.

Comments are closed.