When it comes to launching an internal initiative, it can be hard to know where to start. The standard intranet article, email blast, or templated PDF attachment are begging to be transformed into something more engaging. And more effective.

Often, internal communications teams don’t seriously consider using video or don’t think they can justify spending “that kind of money” for something that is “just going internal”. External campaigns and initiatives focused on engagement and selling prospects and clients seem to take priority. Perhaps this is because internal videos have a reputation for being long, boring, and…boring.

But internal videos don’t have to be dull and ineffective. In fact, they may have the highest potential for success because the target audience is one you know so well — your colleagues. Retaining engaged and happy employees is a major challenge across corporate America. So how can you use video to bring excitement and attention to internal initiatives and audiences?

In this podcast, the Umault team talks internal communications video strategy and the best ways to approach the “internal video” without resorting to executive talking heads reading off of teleprompters. We’ll also get into…

  • How to identify if video is the right medium for your message
  • How to effectively communicate tough messages in times of change and chaos
  • The importance of authenticity, transparency, and inclusion in video messaging

Key quotes

“The medium is the message. So if you film your CEO going, “Hello everyone, you are all very important to me. That’s why I recorded this video message to you.” And then you play that at the live event…what are people going to be saying in the audience? Well, if we’re so important to them, where’s the CEO?”

Guy Bauer

“And [thinking about] what’s best said in a video versus what’s best said in person. Sometimes saying it in a video is actually less authentic. [Based on] the timing and what the message is….is video the place?”

Tory Merritt

“Do not overly whitewash…people will love if you are vulnerable and honest because, you know what, they know the truth anyway.”

Guy Bauer

“If you’re just presenting one person talking, where’s the ‘we’? There is no ‘us’. So bringing in other voices subtly reinforces that point and shows that there actually is a team effort behind this and it’s not just something that one person in their “nicer office than yours” is doing.”

Hope Morley

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode transcript

Hope Morley: Welcome to “So you need a video.” The only podcast…

Guy Bauer: …That we’re aware of…

Hope Morley: About simplifying your brand’s sales message with video. I’m Hope Morley.

Guy Bauer: I’m Guy Bauer.

Tory Merritt: And I’m Tory Merritt.

Hope Morley: Today what we want to talk about is using video for internal communications. So we talk a lot on this podcast, and in general, about external videos. So we mostly make sales videos. Those are things that you’re showing to your prospects or your current clients…videos that you’re putting on social media, stuff that you’re putting on your website. But video is also a really valuable tool for your internal comms team. And one place that we find that it can be really useful is for launching internal strategic initiatives. So if you’re thinking as a business owner or a leader, you’re trying to kick off a new initiative with your company, you’re trying to launch a new strategy, you’re trying to explain even just your yearly goals for the company. You can use video as a way to kick that off. So today we want to talk about a little bit about the ways that you can do that and some best practices and strategies for using video to kick off an internal strategic initiative.

Guy Bauer: Cool.

Tory Merritt: Don’t make it boring, number one.

Guy Bauer: And I will say it is sales. It is selling. If you think about it, you’re selling a strategy, you’re selling a behavior, you know, all sales and marketing is really just shifting behavior of a target audience really. So…

Hope Morley: It’s still persuading someone to do something.

Tory Merritt: Yeah. Only I think it’s harder.

Hope Morley: Yeah. It’s trying to get buy-in from your team on this new strategy that you’re doing instead of trying to get a prospect to purchase your product.

Guy Bauer: And so I think the assumption is if you’re making a video for an internal strategic initiative, why would you even do this? Like, so if I have a company of 10 people and everyone works in the same office, I don’t think you need a video, right? The criteria I would put on it is you have employees scattered across different locations. So not everyone is centrally located. Uh, you have volume of employees where getting 2,000 people in a room is somewhat logistically hard. And then the other thing is a lot of companies we work with who do this, they have 24/7 operations. They may be a manufacturer or they may be a health care system or something like that where you can’t get everyone to stop and listen to the CEO talk or whatever. So a video that’s beamed out via the intranet, intranet, your intranet or some kind of town hall is super valuable.

Hope Morley: Yeah. So let’s start with what your first step should be. If you’re thinking about using video to launch a new initiative, right. And I think the first step has to still be, like with any creative project, is identifying this video’s goal. Why is video a good choice? And so in what kinds of scenarios would video be the right choice other than the ones you laid out? But in terms of the goal of launching this initiative the first place?

Tory Merritt: I think one instance where it’s a good use is when you’re trying to convince people to do something that is for the greater good and it may be a little bit more difficult to explain or get the message across of why it’s important for them to buy-in and how they’re important to the overall cog or why they’re a cog in the big machine of the strategic initiative and the overall goal for the organization.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, I’ve definitely seen a bunch of applications for that issue. A lot of times employees need to know that there is a strategy, so they may not need to shift behavior or whatever, but we want to let them know that we are thinking of the future and we do have a strategy. So sometimes it may not be a direct behavior change we want out of them, but to just inform them of, hey, here’s our destination and this is where we’re going to.

Hope Morley: And hopefully generate excitement around it too, right? So people want to know that their company is going somewhere, right? Like we all want to see what the future holds for us and it gives us confidence and it gives us excitement in our day to day roles. So using video can be a way to do that and to help people understand.

Tory Merritt: And I think it’s super important in times of change to help people not feel like it’s just sheer chaos, especially in terms of like a merger or an acquisition. Helping people feel like, yes, there’s change, but we’re on top of it. Like you said, Hope, we have a plan. You don’t need to feel like there’s no support or like the floor is falling out from underneath you and here’s why we’ve approached this change or this new way of doing things. And here’s, like you said, what you can get excited about.

Guy Bauer: And real talk. Sometimes those mergers and acquisitions scenarios are chaotic.

Tory Merritt: Correct.

Guy Bauer: And a video almost like the medium is the message. A video signifies that there is some order because how were we supposed to make a video if there’s chaos, right? So a lot of times just the video itself is a message of no, look, everything’s under control. And it may not be. Honestly, that has happened many times. I’ve seen it.

Tory Merritt: But maybe it is the piece that allows it to be, I think that’s a good case, too. When there’s a leadership change, even within the same company, we have some clients that that happens every, a set of every few years, especially with boards and CEOs, that kind of thing, and being able to give a platform to those changes and be, it gives you a good medium besides someone just talking at you about like, here’s my plan, here’s why you can get excited. I think one trap sometimes is just, hey, let’s just put a talking head out there. I’d be interested to hear what you guys think in your roles when that might be a good idea and when maybe it isn’t.

Hope Morley: Yeah, I think that that’s a default option that a lot of brands go to when we’re talking about launching because we’re thinking about internal communications and people. Their first instinct is, well, let’s just film the CEO talking about it, especially if there’s a leadership change like you mentioned. It’s like, we’ve got this new CEO, why don’t we just have him or her sit in front of the camera and talk about what they’re going to be doing differently? And that can work sometimes. But Guy, I would love to hear your thoughts on this as the creative of what, what kind of options that brands have for those videos.

Guy Bauer: Oh, virtually unlimited. I would say the big thing though is don’t be North Korea about your internal comms for real. I mean, think about it. Uh, you know, why is there this kind of uh, oh without getting too political, but like, um…

Hope Morley: I agree that we don’t want to be North Korea or internal comms. So we haven’t gone too political.

Guy Bauer: You know what’s funny is when you see the North Korean propaganda, you know, it comes across your Apple newsfeed. We laugh at it. How silly, because how silly are, and why are we laughing? Because it shows you how out of touch leadership is when they make that kind of crazy propaganda. That’s what you look like to your people when you make this highly white-washed, everything is great, everything is perfect, upbeat music montage of people smiling. You look like North Korea. So my biggest creative insight is do not do that. Do not overly white-wash, people will just love if you are vulnerable and honest because you know what, they know the truth anyway. You look silly if you’re lying to your own people because word spreads. You say your financial performance is better than it is. Guess who’s in the audience? All your AP people and what are they going to say when they see that, oh this is bullshit and then they talk and then they talk immediately. You cannot lie. You cannot exaggerate really. You know what’s interesting is I would say the difference between external and internal, and this is totally, I’m thinking now in the moment, is external communications you can kind of embellish or equivocate. If you have weaknesses internal[ly], you cannot at all zero, zero. All you can do is present the truth in an authentic manner and that’s it really. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m oversimplifying it.

Tory Merritt: [Having a] sense of timing. That’s really important to the message that you’re telling as well. From an internal perspective. Like you said, Guy, people are all already talking. If you’ve waited too long to address the unease, if you’ve waited too long to address what’s going on internally, the story is already beyond you and it’s much more difficult to then tell an engaging story with a video because people have already made their minds up. So I think that actually requires leadership, like you said, being very engaged and understanding what’s really going on and what’s really being talked about early enough to be able to get a video together. So I think there are cases where perhaps if it’s gone a little bit too far, video may not be your best bet because it’s not fast enough. So that’s something I think needs to be taken into consideration when people are thinking about making an internal strategic video is the timing right? If we’re too late, maybe something else is better. If we’re out in front of it and we’re being truthful and honest and we can help put some of those fears at ease. Video might be the method.

Hope Morley: It’s being proactive about it. Right? So before you make a video for anything internal comms or external, you need to be planning what your entire communication strategy is, right? So you need to plan what kinds of collateral you’re presenting around this video. You can’t plan on the video doing everything for you and then you can determine what the video has to say and what it doesn’t have to say.

Tory Merritt: And what’s best said in a video versus perhaps what’s best said in person depending on who it is that you’re talking to. I do think sometimes saying it in a video is actually less authentic. Again, it’s, it’s the timing and what the message is. Is video the place? Uh, I think that we’ve, there’s certain things, especially in the past year where organizations and public institutions have had things come up where a video actually could do more harm than good depending on what it is you’re talking about.

Guy Bauer: So two things that, that’s brilliant. Two things come to mind. Number one, assume your internal video will be leaked. It will be external at some point.

Tory Merritt: Which we’ve seen. Agencies, especially, we like to talk and yap and that can be detrimental when what you’re saying actually doesn’t represent everybody and it gets out there.

Guy Bauer: And number two is exactly to your point. The medium is the message. So if your CEO, if you film your CEO going, “Hello everyone, you are all very important to me. That’s why I recorded this video message to you.” Right? And then you play that at the live event. Well what are people going to be saying in the audience? Well, if we’re so important to them, where’s the CEO? And then word gets out. Oh, the CEO’s on a golf trip.

Tory Merritt: Or they never come to this office or I’ve never seen them or they walk past me in the hallway. The inauthenticity is huge.

Guy Bauer: I won’t name names and uh, this is years ago, so I think we’re okay. But this company was going through some kind of change. I think they were buying a bunch of plants and they had two plants and then now they had five. So they wanted to make a video welcoming those new plants. And I was like, well, where are the plants? They’re all scattered across the East Coast. I’m like, take the money you were to spend on a video and just fly the CEO to five different plants and have him say, “Hi.” You don’t need a video. The video would do damage. You would look like North Korea. I think they just don’t

Tory Merritt: Or you just don’t care enough…

Guy Bauer: Correct, you don’t care.

Tory Merritt: …to add the personal touch. It’s not important enough to have made time to deal with it in person.

Hope Morley: And that’s why the planning stage is important too, because you need to think about where this video will be shown. Is it a live event? Do you have a quarterly town hall that you’re looking to share a video for and is the CEO going to be there? If so, why would you also have them record a message that makes no sense, right? Like then you can use a different type of video to kick off the meeting. Maybe instead of just here’s their big face on the screen and then here’s the CEO.

Tory Merritt: Much smaller version. Standing by it.

Hope Morley: But if you are a company that doesn’t do quarterly meetings and you have something you’re going to be emailing out, blasting out to people, then maybe you do want to record a message like that.

Guy Bauer: My thinking recently is the video has to have diversity of role, meaning it can’t be just a, and I don’t want to just put broad generalizations here, but usually I find that if the video is too top-heavy feeling, meaning too many “chiefs” in the video, it just feels like you’re being, if I’m an employee in the watching this, I feel like I’m being talked down to or I’m being ordered.

Hope Morley: It comes off as like elitist, too.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. So I like to sprinkle in “rank and file” or you know, whatever the term is, but make it feel more like us rather than a, you have to do this, kind of vibe. And you know, I can point back to a couple of examples of internal videos we’ve made and one is on our website, the Edward Elmhurst case study, and that really doesn’t have any executives talking. We just made a short film about a strategy or it wasn’t even about the strategy, it was about what it looks like when the strategy is properly implemented.

Guy Bauer: So to your point, Hope, is how is the video being used? Is it being thrown to live? Like all right, and you know, now I’m going to show you this video. Is it going to kick off the presentation? Is it going to end the presentation or is it all blind? Meaning it’s just going to be emailed out in which it would have to be self-contained. But I think that’s a really, uh, important question to ask is like, what is the context around this video? And that’s really where the creative and the strategy starts.

Hope Morley: And I think to your point about rank and file employees being in the video or being involved in the process somehow, even if they’re not in the video, but being in the, the rest of the meeting or involved, I think a lot of executives like to use “we” and they talk about the “we” of these new strategies and this is about us and how we’re moving forward.

Hope Morley: But if you’re just presenting one person talking, where’s the ‘we’? There is no ‘us’. So bringing in other voices subtly reinforces that point and shows that there actually is a team effort behind this and it’s not just something that one person in their nicer office than yours is doing.

Tory Merritt: And thinking about the why, if there’s a new strategy, obviously there’s something that you’re looking to improve upon or something that isn’t working and understanding how are your employees or associates, how are they feeling about their current situation? How can you make sure that this video actually speaks to their concerns and empathizes with what they’re dealing with every day? I think what we’re seeing in culture right now is there’s people feeling like their experience isn’t being recognized and isn’t being addressed. Just showing a video of a bunch of leadership folks talking about what people need to be doing as opposed to speaking to, “We understand that your experience…” You know there’s no, there’s no talking about what other people’s experiences are and not including those different viewpoints. That’s the whole point of launching a new strategy is being able to address things that are missing or things that could be better. So my message is always you need to understand the people that you’re talking to before you craft a message. So I think there is an opportunity also, depending on what you’re sensing in your company, make sure that people are asking those questions. Surveys aren’t always accurate. I think we’ve all experienced, “Let’s do this internal survey” and you never really know what you’re going to get out of it, but there are opportunities I think, depending on the size of your company, to talk to people and make sure you understand what’s going on before you make a video that falls on deaf ears or actually says something that’s detrimental to what you’re trying to accomplish as opposed to being something that gets people excited.

Tory Merritt: We have a client that does a lot of internal work with us and I think what they’re seeing are people who are actually doing something that’s super important to the world and super important in the realm of the changes we’re seeing in healthcare right now. They’re helping save lives, whereas other companies are not able to step in when this company is. But people’s day to day experience gets forgotten. People don’t remember what this person is doing in their day to day and just reminding those people that we see you and we understand that not everything is peachy and perfect and there’s turbulence, but what you do and who you are is very important. And I think making sure that that’s an authentic part of your message and your video by including those folks and making sure that you’ve talked to them before you just put something out there is the difference between a video that falls on deaf ears and a video that may be able to help people feel more included, remind them that what they do is important and ultimately benefit your bottom line.

Hope Morley: So how do brands make sure that they don’t make a video to launch something new, that comes off as too top-down ordering or inauthentic?

Guy Bauer: Yeah, I’ll say it again. Just don’t be North Korea. Honestly. Ask Yourself, what North Korea do this?

Hope Morley: But how do you make sure that you don’t come off that way? Like what kind of process should they be following?

Guy Bauer: Um, I think it’s the same as external marketing. It’s really coming up with what is the goal? Who is the audience and pay special attention to who is the audience? Because your audience, these people are living this. They are going to be the toughest critics and they’re going to be the biggest cynics, too, as well. Like you have to overcome a ton of cynicism. So it’s what does this thing need to say? What is the behavioral shift? We want to move from x to y and then who is the audience and what are the assumptions they’re coming in with? Right? What are they thinking before this? Let’s acknowledge their feelings. Let’s empathize, Tory, to your point is just drop a huge dose of empathy. So what can we do to prevent bad internal videos is strategy, knowing our audience, and being honest and authentic. To me, those are the ways to avoid.

Hope Morley: And the one thing I want to add to that is don’t rush this project. We get this a lot that people realize three weeks before or their quarterly town hall that they want to have a video. And so they skip these early steps. They skip the planning stages because they’re rushing because they need to get something out. So give yourself time to do it right and allow the planning phase to actually happen.

Guy Bauer: And to that point though, we understand that the speed of business is super fast.

Hope Morley: Of course.

Guy Bauer: So there’s a lot of times when stuff is happening where we can’t plan ahead. There’s a lot of times when where an internal engagement about some kind of M&A activity and the deal isn’t even public and the deal hasn’t even been like worked out yet. And yet we’re on it. So as long as you tell your agency those circumstances going in and they have experience with that, I think that’s okay, in internal comms, that you know, we’re kind of making the parachute as we skydive. One other point I wanted to bring up about internal comms too is that don’t assume that your video needs to even explain anything. Don’t assume that the video has to say exactly what the strategy is. I’ve done this a couple times with a few clients where I call them like orientation videos or calibration, let’s call it calibration videos.

Guy Bauer: So think just metaphorically, right? There’s a town hall of a thousand employees. Now they’re all facing the front of the auditorium. Physically, they’re facing the auditorium, but now like visualize their mental state, their mental state is, they’re looking in all different directions. Mentally, they’re concerned about all different things. So physically they’re all heads pointed towards the stage. Mentally, just every direction on the compass they’re oriented towards. Um, a lot of times the best use of video is to kick off some kind of internal town hall or some kind of presentation to just orient the entire audience mentally in the same direction. So get their mental state to match their physical state where they’re just actually now paying attention. So what you do is you make a really engaging one to two minute film that again serves just to orient, it doesn’t say anything about the strategy, but it implants the idea of like why we’re doing this in the first place, why we like it here, and all that stuff, right.

Guy Bauer: Again, to only being authentic, all that stuff. But once you orient the audience, it’s almost like you open up their pores and they’re all looking at the same direction. Now you have your CEO march on stage and give all the particulars on the strategy that who, what, where, when, why once the audiences oriented. So don’t assume that your video needs to even explain a thing. A lot of times it just really needs to drop a huge empathy bomb and a reminder of why we do this. That’s it. And that company we work with that does the quarterly town halls. That’s really what our videos are doing. They remind everybody of why they come to work and um, so that they’re receptive to any other messages.

Hope Morley: So to wrap up what we talked about today, video can be a really powerful tool for internal comms, especially when you’re showing it live at a meeting. If it’s just your regular quarterly town hall, if it’s a big meeting that you’re launching a new initiative, announcing a new merger, announcing a big purchase, but you really need to go through a proper planning phase around it to make sure that you’re creating something that is going to be a valuable asset for your company. And that’s going to do what you want it to do.

Guy Bauer: And assume it’s going to be external. Honestly, you can go on Youtube type in internal Apple orientation video and it’s like, there it is. There’s, when you’re a new Apple employee, there’s their internal video and all goes external. Assume it will go.

Hope Morley: Absolutely.

Hope Morley: Thanks for listening today too. So you need a video for more information and for links to anything that we talked about in this episode, please visit our website at Umault.com. That’s U-M-A-U-L-T dot com. And if you liked what you heard today, please subscribe and leave us a review. Thanks, Guy and Tory.

Guy Bauer: Thanks.

Tory Merritt: Our pleasure.