It’s My Reputation: The Challenge of Selecting a Video Production Agency

Over the years I’ve held many titles in Corporate America: Director of Human Resources, Director of Marketing, Division Manager and Board Member. In each I had the experience of recruiting and working with video production companies to assist in supporting a communication objective. What I’ve learned is that few decisions have such broad exposure, often touching customers, other employees, your boss, the CEO and the Board. Making this selection will put your reputation on the line. Here are some things to keep in mind:

– Because of the power of film, if every other aspect of your communication plan is fantastic (print, digital, events, etc.) and your corporate video strategy is bad, everyone will only remember the videos. The responsibility for that failure will be seen as yours.
– Once your decision is made and corporate video production begins, there’s often little time to regroup should a problem arise (and problems often do), since many/most projects are very time sensitive.
– Beyond your personal contact, nearly every person working for and representing the video production agency interfaces from top to bottom in your organization. (Years ago, I remember getting a phone call from the CEO’s Executive Assistant about the behavior of a lighting crew member while setting up for a shoot in the CEO’s office. It was not fun.)

With the memory of some great experiences I’ve had, here’s a list of criteria and considerations you might want to follow when deciding who gets your next corporate video project.

Has the video production agency played in my league?

Because of the evolution of technology, there’s no shortage of production company options. Everyone has a friend or a relative in the business, even Board members. But there are clearly distinct levels. Regardless of size, some production companies have no experience interfacing and working with corporations of scale.

Let’s face facts: larger corporations enjoy bureaucratic discipline at every level, and many have unwritten protocols. Irrespective of their talent, the failure of a production company to recognize this and to be sensitive to compliance is a potential nightmare, not just for your project but for your reputation. I always seek someone who plays in the league of my entity.

Are they listening to my problem?

During initial interviews and reel reviews, I’m always less concerned with production values and the art of the video than having the production company share with me the communication challenges of their prior clients and how they solved them. If the production house doesn’t spend the majority of its meeting with you trying to understand you, your company, your current corporate video strategy, and your communication challenge, move on.

Do they have quality at every level?

Whether you are making a compliance training video or a company values video, business films often require nearly every level of the production staff to interface at every level of your corporation, from the facility team or the factory floor up to the CEO. Beyond the producer and director, this list includes crew members who handle lighting, sound, camera, make-up and more. How smooth and efficient the production goes can be a function of the interpersonal skills of all these team members.

For example, I once observed a sound engineer interacting with my boss during a shoot set up. The engineer was not only professional and efficient, he quickly noted sports memorabilia in my boss’s office and engaged her on the subject. The video they delivered was good and met my objective, but I was also seen as a hero for hiring a friendly and professional team.

While the production industry typically utilizes freelance talent, you should find out who the key people are who’ll be working on your specific business video production project to ensure they have the right mix of experience and polish.

Who’s in charge?

Although I’m a great believer in teams and collaboration, I’m equally passionate that there be one point of contact and a decision-maker for me as a client. This contact must be empowered to react to my needs and quickly and formally influence the full team of the production firm. I always ask who’s in charge and how they want me to communicate with them. If I’m left with the impression that my contact expects me to communicate with their other resources directly, then I move on to a different corporate video production company.

Is the deadline as important to them as it is to me?
Determining this often requires a gut-feel judgment, but it’s critically important. In interviews with production companies, I’m looking for obsessive thinking approaching paranoia about building schedules to ensure timelines are met. I never saw a production plan work exactly as expected. Unless the production company leaves me with the impression that heaven and earth will be moved to make my deadline and to insure I’m happy with the end product, I’d seek other options. Some of things I watch for include:

– Prior experience in extremely tight timeline production projects;
– Production plans with built in considerations for delays;
– A thorough video pre-production checklist that we can review together
– A combination of words and actions that leave me with a feeling of confidence.

The takeaway.

  • To recap, hiring a production company – and ensuring that your reputation won’t suffer in the process – really comes down to a simple list of criteria:
  • A video production agency that makes me look good.
  • A video firm that puts meeting my communication challenge(s) ahead of their interests.
  • A corporate video production company that wants me as a long term client and does so by taking the time to understand me, my brand and my strategic objectives.

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“It’s one thing to understand the role of video in business communication, it’s another to know how to use video to solve actual business problems. Vern Oakley gets that.”


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