As marketers for accounting firms, I don’t have to tell you that we wear many hats. You live it every day. We’re strategists, writers, promoters, graphic designers, business developers, social media managers … the list goes on and on. And now we’re video producers, too? I say yes, absolutely! I’ve been working to grow my skills in this area, and I’m here to tell you, if I can figure out video marketing for accounting, so can you.
I believe video is a powerful tool to showcase the experts within our firms, demonstrate the value they bring to our clients, and increase overall brand awareness. There’s no denying that attention spans are shrinking, and many people prefer to watch a video instead of taking the extra time to read a written blog. When I speak with other accounting marketers about video blogging, they often ask how I manage to convince our partners and other professionals to go on camera. They also describe awkward interviews with responses that don’t provide good “sound bites” to include in a video blog.
As a former journalist, I have learned a thing or two through the years about the art of the video interview. And I do believe it is an art. I spent about 25 years in television news earlier in my professional career. I’ve done hundreds of interviews. Some were great, and some were duds. Along the way, I believe I have learned what it takes to do it well. In this article, I’ll share some tips and tricks that I hope will be enough to give you the confidence and determination to give video blogging a try at your firm.
Accounting Firm Video Best Practices
I have a video camera and umbrella stand lights (borrowed from a fellow marketer) that our firm had been using a few years ago as we experimented with video blogging. They’re now packed away in a desk drawer gathering dust. The only tools you need are sitting on your desk right now, or will cost you about $30: your cell phone and a ring light. That’s it. For those not familiar, ring lights are handy devices you can place over your webcam (so you look better on all those Zoom calls). There’s also a freestanding ring light with a cell phone holder. That’s what I use for video blog recording. I found ours online for about $30. Personally, I’m amazed at how professional the lighting looks and how great the resolution is with cell phone video. Another plus: I’ve found that a small cell phone and ring light is much less intimidating for the interviewee than a video camera and stand-up umbrella lights.
Getting your partners or professionals to agree to do a video blog is certainly another hurdle for many, but not impossible. Start by going through all your personnel and listing out the people you think would do a nice job on camera. Perhaps they have more outgoing personalities, or maybe their work involves a key area of strategic growth that you want to showcase. You can approach them one at a time and ask about their interest in going on camera. Something you may want to convey: the video interview will only take 5 or 10 minutes. It can be shot right in the office, or any other location you want.
What to wear
I tell people to dress like they’re going out for a nice lunch with a friend. For men: a collared shirt. Solids are better than bold prints or stripes (stripes can sometimes dance around on screen and look strange). An even better option is a polo with the firm’s logo (even more branding for you!). For women: business attire, or business casual. In general, I’ve noticed that solid jewel tones seem to look great on camera (for both men and women). Avoid a white shirt, as it could make the interviewee appear “washed out” on camera. That said, if you’re doing a video blog about a community service activity and everyone is in t-shirts and jeans, that’s great! The subject matter dictates the appropriate attire.
Where to look during the interview
When I was out reporting on news stories, I always told my interviewees to look at me during the interview and not the camera. I feel the same way for this purpose. To me it always looks awkward, and I feel a little uneasy as the viewer when someone is looking directly into the camera. Mainly, it just doesn’t feel natural, and that, in my opinion, will make your interviewee feel uncomfortable and awkward themselves. When they look at you, they’re communicating with someone … simply having a conversation with you. That’s how I always explain it: we’ll just have a conversation. Talk to me. The camera will just happen to be rolling as we talk.
List of questions
The last thing I would ever recommend doing is providing a definitive list of questions to your interviewee ahead of time. Here’s why: if they know exactly what you’re going to ask, they’ll craft in their head the “perfect” answer to that question ahead of time and try to memorize it. Invariably, they’ll stumble over their words a bit trying to get out that perfect answer. Instead, give your interviewee the general idea of what you want to talk about, or maybe an outline or bullet points. That way they know what subject matter you’ll cover, but not the specific questions.
Consider some video training for your staff. You could do it one-on-one. Just going through the process and doing some mock interviews will help them to get comfortable in front of the camera. Sometimes not knowing what to expect can throw people off their game. They’ll also experience for themselves how simple and quick is to knock out a video interview.
If you plan to produce the videos yourself, be sure to read up on the editing software out there. There are so many options. Depending upon your comfort level, they range from simple to sophisticated. Many of these programs offer free trials so you can experiment and find the one that fits your needs and comfort level. I have been working with Adobe video editing tools. While I am using more remedial versions right now, as my skills improve, I plan to move up to more “pro” versions.
4 More Tips
Interview your people about things they’re passionate about and their areas of expertise. When they know a great deal about the subject matter, it’s much easier to talk about.
Shoot several segments at once. If you ask your people about several different topics in one sitting, you’ll come away with a handful of video blogs versus one video blog.
Keep it natural. encourage your people to speak conversationally and consider it a chat rather than an official interview. If they use their hands when they talk, for example, encourage them to do that. It will feel more natural.
If you purchase a ring light, consider one that has different settings. The one we use has different light tones. I set it on the warm tone, as it tends to make people look like they have more color in their face and creates a generally “warm” feel to the interview.
DIY or Pro?
Should you hire someone or try to master this in-house? If you don’t want to tackle video production yourself and add another major component to your content creation efforts, you may want to find a video content creator to produce your videos for you. There are plenty of options out there.
Kim Foley is a video producer, speaker, and author who provides not only video production services for her clients, but also teaches smartphone video production techniques for those who want to DIY it and still get a professional result. For the last 15 years, she’s worked with businesses across the country, including major global brands like Exxon Mobil and Nestle. She’s also trained small business owners on how to figure out video. Several accounting firms are among her clients. She has some helpful perspectives for those struggling with whether to produce video in-house or hire a professional.
When talking with Kim, she said, “Some of the questions I ask people include how many videos do you want to do? One a week? One every day? How do you plan to use video? To onboard? Internally for training? Marketing? Figure that out,” Foley says. “And ask yourself what you want to get out of video. Do you truly value it? Because if you don’t understand the incredible value video gives you, you will not reap the benefits it has to offer.”
Kim is passionate about training businesses to do quality, professional videos themselves because then they can create video for many aspects of their communication. She says it’s critical that you protect the integrity of your firm and your professional experts. Her goal is to help people look and sound like the professionals that they are.
“If you create video that is dark, foreboding, poorly framed (all the things that are important for good video), you’ll sabotage yourself,” she says. “The reason video works so well when its credible is because it’s like sitting in the room with someone. Anyone can learn this. It’s important you get it right. Don’t wing it. That’s very risky for your business.”
What are you Waiting For?
Kim and I seem to be on the same wavelength when it comes to video as a marketing tool for accounting firms. It is incredibly powerful and effective when done right. I hope the insights from this former broadcaster and a professional producer and media trainer help you look at video in a new light. I say jump in and figure it out. What are you waiting for?
About Susan Ross Wells
Susan Ross Wells is the Marketing Manager for Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD, the largest locally owned public accounting firm in Northwest Ohio. With the firm since 2015, her areas of focus include marketing & branding strategy, web development, content creation, media relations and social media management. She is also an advocate for Flag City Honor Flight, the local hub of the Honor Flight Network, which flies veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor.