(4 minute read)
For those looking to stand out. Read on.
Our approach to producing videos rests on the concept that videos for schools should aim to stand out and to address the kids. They are the target audience. Most schools produce the same videos with the idea that it's the safe approach, however few consider that a tepid video will do little more than beautify the front page of the website. If that's the goal, it's a goal well achieved, but for those looking to go against the grain and produce videos that others see as 'risks', read on.
Producing videos that inherently present themselves as bold, simply by virtue of them representing the road less travelled, shows confidence and that the school is current and adapting to the 21st century. These subtextual messages will speak the loudest. Your video, just because it is ‘different’ could be a key point of differentiation between you and the next school. After all, we are dawning upon an era where individuality and uniqueness are the gold standard of prospective students’ desires, and an admissions video can be a perfect platform to showcase this. The vast majority of schools don’t take full advantage the opportunity.
Most schools use the admissions video as a visual brochure, an informational session packaged neatly into a few talking head interviews, some nice imagery and a pleasant jingle supporting the ensemble. This approach in general simply serves to reinforce a status quo. Students who have already applied or will already apply are being exposed to the video because they are already looking. The video is not meeting new audiences, which in turn will have little to no effect on improving admissions numbers.
The way we at The Film Guys see it, the core function of an admissions video is to attract new students and ultimately bolster admissions. To reemphasize the word ‘new’, the greatest accomplishment an admissions video can have is to attract a student who has no prior knowledge of a school, and was introduced to it through the videos they encountered. Thus, ‘new’ in this context refers to a prospective student who is new to the applicant pool, which up until that point was populated by those who were already intending on applying to the school.
In an age where information is gathered primarily through social networks, a priority for an admissions video must be to make it ‘shareable’, which in practice translates to being memorable. A video of this nature will be shared by proud students, alumni and parents alike, enormously expanding the organic reach of your content (alumni being among the most valuable as each has access to a mutually exclusive network). Conversely, the talking head archetype often risks being forgettable. If every school is producing the same type of video, nobody ends up standing out, providing a golden opportunity for whoever is willing to take that step into this realm of video production, to capture the attention of the prospective students. Attention is an extremely valuable commodity in today’s digital media environment and it is imperative that any video respects it by making videos that are interesting, entertaining and worthwhile.
With substance at the forefront, the way The Film Guys approach filmmaking is to ask the client two questions:
1. What are your talking points?
2. What are your objectives?
When answered, these questions provide us with all the information we need to begin developing a concept. The talking points simply refer to all points the school wants to address, all the things they want to get across. The objectives, if not obvious already, refer to what the school wants to accomplish with the video. It is with these limitations that the creativity begins to flourish. Naturally, the term limitation may seem counterintuitive to a creative flow but, to quote Orson Welles, “lack of limitation is the enemy of creativity” and to paraphrase, limitation feeds creativity. These boundaries, these talking points and these objectives become the bread and butter of our video productions.
With a finalised script, storyboard and production schedule, the client is completely in the loop about what the final video will look like. This means no surprises on delivery day, and anybody who has commissioned a film crew before can recognise the immense value of this.
All this is not to say that you necessarily need to outsource a film crew to adopt this approach. You can do it yourself if you have the capable manpower to make it happen. The fair warning is that your video must be top quality in all senses. Poor video or audio quality, camera errors, and any lapses in attention to detail will speak far louder about the institution than the words that are being spoken in the video.
The talking head has been there since videos became the common medium, and only the bold and exciting few will step out of it, leading the way to a new generation of admissions videos. Just as you ask your applicants, your applicants will be asking you: “What makes you different?”
This article was originally printed in The Enrollment Management Association's quarterly magazine 'The Yield'. It can be found here.