Never does an employee or stakeholder get closer to the Chief Executive Officer of a corporation than when he speaks to his target audience in a CEO video. But what does a video have to look like that makes an impact and feels like a pair of tailor-made shoes for both sender and target group?
A CEO video is a tricky endeavor for many companies and bosses. At the same time, from the CEO’s perspective, the effort associated with a video message is significantly greater than an old-school greeting in written form.
You need to know
- CEO videos, like (almost) everything in life, can be catalogued. Key differentiators are: How many people are in front of the camera? Is recording done with only one camera or with multiple cameras? In what setting and style?
- Each of these aspects has its advantages and disadvantages. So a manager may feel more at ease in his office than out in the open.
- An executive is not a weather girl! Merely reciting information is not allowed in a CEO video. This is about context, about fitting into the big picture. And often also about motivation – and thus about the human factor.
Please hand in the alpha dog at the Welcome Desk
To put it somewhat pointedly, it goes against the DNA of many leaders not to be able to determine for themselves processes that are relevant to professional success. But this is exactly what happens when the decision is made to communicate by means of videos: The CEO puts the audiovisual interpretation of his image into the hands of others. In the process, external image and self-image can collide. This problem also plays out in German-speaking countries.
In order for such collisions to end fruitfully – and not terribly – the format development of such videos must be done with a systematic approach. It’s not about having an idea. It is about drawing the right conclusions from an analysis of all factors relevant to success and casting them in a practicable, convincing form. It often helps to have a construction kit with a selection of the most important content elements in mind.
CEO Video: the species
Videos of this type can be catalogued according to four criteria. These are listed here in non-judgmental order:
- Number of people in front of the camera
- Number of cameras
The number of people in front of the camera determines whether a video is set up as a monologue, an interview situation or a group conversation (discussion). On the issue of length, see the Filmpuls article “How long does a video need to be”.
The number of cameras defines the visual code and the extent to which the content of a CEO video can be supported by the image editing. It determines the need for and the amount of B-roll footage.
At the same time, the number of cameras also transports its own visual code for video films. Professionally produced TV news from the studio is always recorded by more than one camera by international TV stations. Conversely, live reports are almost invariably captured on camera.
Emotions and information are not only communicated by the person in front of the cameras, but to a large extent also by the location (the filming location, also called set). Whether a CEO video is recorded in the office or out in the open makes a world of difference, and not just literally. The same applies to style: a video can be static or dynamic, a CEO can be portrayed in a formal and distant way through the visual language, or deliberately as an uncomplicated person who is not afraid of contact.
Advantages and disadvantages of the different forms of CEO videos
Number of people in front of the camera:
|number of persons||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|1 person||Focus on the people in front of the camera||CEO carries the video alone|
|2 persons (interview)||Chief Executive Officer gets the ball, he does not have to be moderator and leader, but can concentrate on leader role||Focus of professional interviewers not only on CEO, possibly dominance problem (interviewer moves to the foreground)|
|Groups (Discussion)||high authenticity, spontaneity and diversity are in the foreground||Coordination and definition of procedures challenging|
Number of cameras during recording:
|Number of cameras||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|1 Camera||Technically little complex, image editing (cut) simple due to fewer options||No re-cuts possible to conceal weak spots without them being clearly visible and noticeable (fade up/down or “flash”), camera looks at CEO without interruption. Recording of partial segments or individual sentences is not possible.|
|2< Cameras||sense of space is enhanced. The video benefits from the phenomenon of invisible cuts||higher costs for camera equipment, slightly higher effort in image processing due to higher data volumes.|
Location of the video:
|Office||familiar environment for CEO (feels “at home”)||not necessarily congruent with the message of the video, possibly space problems (distance of the cameras, possible viewing angles) and in practice often time problems because the cameras and lights cannot be set up in the CEO’s office in peace and quiet|
|More||Location can be adapted to the core message of the content and the requirements of a video production.||if external location additional costs, if outdoors dependent on weather (Attention: Planning uncertainty! is a challenge for Chief Executive Officer)|
|for serial character: fixed location||Location becomes a format-forming element, reduced logistical effort in case of repetition, since location and processes are well-rehearsed and known.||reduced attention (the viewer “knows” the location and the associated codes already from previous videos)|
|for serial character: changing locations||Increased attention of the viewer||increased effort, because the shooting location has to be determined anew for each video.|
Style of video:
|static (no camera movements)||Focus of the viewer goes to content||CEO can seem stiff and inflexible, especially when working with only 1 camera. Can seem boring and stale.|
|dynamic (camera moves)||Increased authenticity because camera movement enhances the sense of space and is closest to the natural listener experience (as long as camera movement is subtle).||places increased demands on the cameraman. Camera movements must never be unmotivated and require a clear coordination of perspectives and an editing concept for multi-camera shots.|
|Mixed form||optimal starting position for effective videos, provided that movement is coordinated with content (this coordination can also take place in editing when recording with 1< cameras)||makes high demands on the director and the maker. Limited availability of people who can implement this around German-speaking countries.|
The CEO as weather forecaster: a role conflict with consequences
A leader can basically only be positioned in two roles in a video:
Either the Chief Executive Officer presents selected information in the video and comments on it, or he talks about connections and creates new insights and outlooks in his function as a leader. Both forms can come with more or less emotion.
In the former case, the CEO (especially when it comes to figures or financial results) is usually only distinguished from the weather forecaster on TV by his tie and suit. Weathergirl and CEO present. The weather fairy the meteorological weather. The CEO the weather situation in the company. The weather forecaster is not responsible for what she presents – unlike the Chief Executive Officer.
If the person in front of the video camera is to be perceived as a responsible leader, his message in a CEO video must go beyond simply conveying information. This requires dramaturgical tricks. The video professional’s construction kit contains various helpful tools: graphic elements, off-commentary, setting up the video as a video interview and much more.
The use of graphics and animation in videos with the CEO
Many CEO videos are true information bombs in many cases. In high cadence, additional information for the viewer is faded in the picture by means of animated graphics. Either to support, detail, or summarize the statements. This often achieves the opposite.
The use of graphics only makes sense if the viewer can absorb the information they contain. The reception of image information linked to movement takes time. Especially when someone is talking at the same time. Less is almost always more here.
Videos with the Chief Executive Officer: Dramaturgy is a must
Situations are not stories and they are not comics. Nevertheless, CEO videos must also follow a clear dramaturgical structure and concept. While employees are likely to watch a management video out of some self-interest, the tolerance among the rest of the audience is much lower.
When a video goes online, it doesn’t just have to face the question of why people should click on it. Videos also need to give the viewer reasons to keep watching it after the first few seconds. The WILD principle can also be applied to the type of videos under discussion here.
As a check, the CSI principle is also recommended: is the CEO video credible? Does it stimulate the viewer to think beyond the video through resonance and involvement?
Best Practice: Continuation of the series about CEO videos
The last part of the Filmpuls series on communication with CEO videos analyses video messages from German-speaking countries and from the USA / Europe. Part 4 compares real videos from different senders in terms of how they are made and their impact.
- Part 1: Management videos from A to Z: costs, procedure and conception
- Part 2: Leadership Videos from A to Z, Part 2: Preparation and Shooting
- Part 3: CEO Videos from A to Z, Part 3: The most important forms and their strengths / weaknesses (this article)
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