MTV, CNN or PBS? Making Business Sense of Video

By Skolnick, David | Communication World, November 1992 | Go to article overview

MTV, CNN or PBS? Making Business Sense of Video


Skolnick, David, Communication World


Hold on to your remote control for just a moment. We want to discuss the communication benefits of using sight, sound and motion -- the benefits of using video. After more than 20 years employing television for all kinds of organizations, we've learned a few things -- things we'd like to share because, no doubt, you are either a producer or audience member of some sort of business-related video. So, here are four 'frames' for thinking about how to make business sense of video:

Audiences expect video to gain their attention -- immediately -- to move them along -- quickly. That's simply a fact of everyday viewer life.

Regardless of audience or topic, faster-paced formats and shorter segments of information are the "cultural conditioning" of our times. Keep in mind how captivating CNN and MTV are, the influence they've had, the trends they've set, the popularity they enjoy.

So what's the lesson?

If you can incorporate the look and "feel" of today's (and tomorrow's) successful programming styles into your business videos, you'll find yourself with a proven, audience-pleasing format. And, as a communicator, you know how critical format, or packaging, is to gaining and maintaining attention.

Examples? You may want to show the benefits of a new manufacturing or distribution process from the customer's perspective with a music video. Or present the business profile of an incoming manager through a concise CNN-type feature. If more detailed information must be conveyed -- for instance, the complexities of a major organizational change -- think about breaking the information into a "Masterpiece Theater" style mini-series. All these hold potential for the good use of video. And all complement rather than confront contemporary viewing habits.

* Video is great for:

- presenting highlights

- evoking emotion

- demonstrating products or services

- showing a process

Video is best used to introduce rather than implement. Consider video if you wish to highlight the most important aspects of your subject -- how it works, who is using it, what they feel about it. Involve people (preferably real people) wherever possible. The medium relates amazingly well to people. In fact, the TV screen is scaled perfectly to show faces in one-on-one or small group dialogue (no doubt why most television shots are people in close-up).

By contrast, the most common misuse of video in business is to over-detail with words and pictures. Company content experts (and those notorious management script reviewers) frequently pile on too much information for audiences to absorb.

It's the typical problem of thinking every communication must say (and, in video's case, show) everything -- all of the time. …

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