We recently reviewed a client's employee-created videos. The videos were destined for social media distribution via YouTube and other sites. There were some very effective employee videos in the mix where associates delivered personal accounts of their interests related to the client's products. The successful employee videos were genuine and unscripted, and while the client's product was clearly a part of each video, the product was way in the background.

Challenges with Employee-Created Videos

Beyond the relatively small number of effective employee videos, the majority were poorly executed. Why were these other employee videos off the mark? In nearly every case, it was because what was portrayed as an employee-generated, personal video veered off into trying to be a commercial (with extensive product references and information) or worse, a character-oriented video (with the self-identified employee taking on the role of a character in a fictional setting).

As we pointed out to our client, it's bad form to foster social media audience confusion by making them think they'll be watching personal video accounts from employees when the videos are no such thing. What makes it even worse, however, is commercial and character videos prompt higher viewer expectations for better production and talent standards than our client's employee videos delivered. As a result, the videos not only seemed disingenuous, they also emphasized production shortfalls (bad lighting, uneven sound, etc.) even more than if they solely focused on an employee telling a personal story in a simple fashion.

An Employee-Created Video that Works

Contrast our client's situation with this video from the Kansas City Missouri Public Library shared on Facebook earlier this week. It's produced by Jason Harper, who handles social media for the library. Rather than screaming, "Employee video," this character-oriented video unfolds with subtle humor, scripting and costumes true to its Hemingway theme, and just enough production value to effectively convey its ultimate message: there's an easy-to-use app that allows you to extend the period for books patrons have checked out from the Kansas City Missouri Public Library.

Jason is never identified as an employee because his employment status has no bearing on the video. As a result, an insignificant point of information doesn't serve to confuse a cleverly-conceived and produced character video.

Because this video is true to viewer expectations of a character-oriented video's intent, tone, production value, and talent level, we think it it really works! We should all be using employee-created videos as effectively as this one! And if you are using employee-created videos effectively, care to share the links in the comments section? - Mike Brown

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