For many small business owners, getting on television is a far-out dream that is just that: a dream. It might happen if your team wins the Lotto, or if your colleague creates the world’s largest hamburger, but what are the odds of anything like that happening?
Increasingly, small business owners are actively going after their share of TV time. Elizabeth Re, Director of Nella Productions and freelance TV Producer for shows such as Channel Ten’s The Project, was only too happy to share some tips with our readers about getting the attention of a TV producer, making a good social media video, identifying good stories and ultimately, getting your face out there!
What is Nella Productions and what is your role in the business?
Nella Productions is a production company I founded in January 2012. I am the Director and Producer.
And what is it exactly that you do?
I see myself as a storyteller but now that I own my own business, my job entails much more than just the creative stuff! As a TV and video producer any given day could involve interviewing the CEO of a company for a corporate video, providing a design brief to a graphic artist, writing a script, sitting in an edit suite, or getting out on location freelance producing for a TV show.
Can you tell me a bit about one of your current projects?
I’m currently working with a small business called The Barefoot Investor to produce videos to complement the company’s social media strategy. An example of a video I produced for Barefoot recently was a ‘Federal Budget Breakdown’ with founder and financial guru Scott Pape.
The video featured Scott talking to the camera and giving his Facebook fans and newsletter subscribers a ‘no B.S’ take on the Budget. This was no feature film, just a good example of quick and dirty digital content. The video was uploaded just hours after the Federal Budget was announced and has collected close to 8000 views.
That’s a fantastic result!
You now work as a freelance Producer at Channel Ten’s The Project and you used to work there full-time. What was an average day like for you?
There is no such thing as an average day at The Project! Like most media organisations, it’s fast paced and very busy. My role there involves every aspect of production – pitching, researching, writing, interviewing, overseeing edits, briefing the hosts. And producers are often juggling up to 5 stories at once.
How many submissions or story pitches did you receive on a daily basis?
I would receive around 10 pitches a day.
And how many of these were seriously considered?
I would usually only have enough time to scan the subject title and the first few lines of the email, but that’s generally enough to know whether to delete, keep reading or print and place in my ‘story ideas’ tray. On average, I would say 1 in 20 would be seriously considered and perhaps 1 in 100 would actually get up.
Which ones were you most likely to ‘send to trash’ and why?
Media releases I’d been BCC’d into. In other words you are one of dozens of journalists and producers receiving the exact same information and you know it’s not an exclusive proposal or unique content.
Also anything where the pitch is just a blatant ad for a product or company with no consideration of a potential story or angle. When pitching, always think: ‘What’s in it for the viewer? Is this interesting? Is this something I would like to watch on TV?’
Absolutely. People need to remember that PR is not free advertising! So in your opinion, what makes a good story?
People. The best stories make people feel something, not just think, so the human element is really important. Always offer case studies – and make sure you actually have permission before you pitch! I once received a great pitch from a not-for-profit, which made me pick up the phone straight away, but after I had spent 45 minutes on the phone talking through all the story elements and shoot requirements, I received an apologetic call back from them saying the case study didn’t want to be filmed.
What sort of qualities does a good video have?
A good video uses narrative to communicate information or a message. If you can entertain people at the same time as getting your message across, you’re ahead of most companies.
What should people look for in a video production company?
With technology changing at such a fast rate, quality video production is becoming more affordable for small business owners. There are so many different producers and directors out there with varied areas of expertise. My advice is to first decide what sort of video you want and for what purpose. Is it a slick TVC or a video of the CEO to post on your website. Look at the producer’s portfolio of work and decide if they’re a good fit for you and the direction you want to take.
Next, decide on a rough budget (because it could blow out very quickly if you’re not clear about how much you can afford to spend) and start making some calls to see if your vision is realistic within those bounds. Expect to pay at least $2000 for a very basic video and $50,000 and beyond for bells and whistles.
And don’t be intimidated by the process of engaging a production company – many of them are small business owners, just like you.
Do you have any hints for small businesses with good stories who want to get the attention of a TV producer?
Get to the point quickly. Even before introductions, you could start the email with: ‘I have a great story idea for you…’
Think of the most interesting thing about the story. Write it down in one short sentence and then you can provide a little more detail. Remember, the producer may only have time to scan the first line – if it piques their interest, they will read on.
Also, if you can find angles around topical issues that are currently in the news it is more likely to get their attention.
There is no doubt viral videos have made an impact – anything that collects millions of viewers does. But it has a different impact to TV programming. I don’t see viral videos as a direct threat to TV. Viral videos only hold the attention of the viewer for a few seconds or minutes, so I think there will always be a market for longer, professionally produced content that has a structure and a narrative.
Also, sometimes viewers don’t want to jump online and trawl YouTube looking to be entertained. That takes effort. Truth be told, sometimes we just want to click on the Box and let TV executives decide for us what we should watch!
That being said, I think The Internet is definitely a threat to the traditional idea of TV as a fixed screen in our living rooms. Look at Hulu.com in the US. You can jump online and watch the latest episodes of your favorite shows, anytime, for free! I think it’s only a matter of time before we get that sort of access here in Australia and it will further hurt TV ratings.
Do you have any examples of businesses that have used videos well in their marketing?
The US Army has created a website (armystrongstories.com) that is a dedicated site for soldiers, their families and friends. They use the site to share stories through video and blog posts. There are dozens and dozens of videos on the site and it’s definitely an example of content over craft. Many of the videos are badly lit and don’t look professionally shot but the content is strong – it’s just people telling their stories – and they have created a community.
Liz Re is a TV producer, most recently working on Network Ten’s The Project as a Long-form Producer. In January 2012, Liz started her own business, Nella Productions, which produces web videos for corporate clients and allows her to freelance within the TV industry.
For more information visit the website: http://nellaproductions.com.au/