How To Create Amazing Video Content With Meryl Ayres From Wistia [AMP 052]
Are you using video content in your marketing strategy? With about 87 percent of marketers using video, you wouldn’t be alone. If you haven’t made the leap yet, you might be looking for tips on how to get started.
Today we’re going to be talking to Meryl Ayres. She is the associate creative director at Wistia, a software company that helps businesses and marketers get results from their videos. She is going to share her best tips on how to leverage the power of video content to improve your marketing strategy.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- A bit about Wistia and what Meryl does there.
- The types of stories and situations that lend themselves well to video content.
- How Wistia plans and executes their videos, including how they handle off-the-cuff material.
- Why it’s so important to have a sense of humor, as well as why sometimes humor isn’t the right approach.
- Meryl’s best tips on creating video content that will resonate with its intended viewers.
- Which comes first, the video or the post, depending on the circumstances.
- Why you might not like the sound of your own voice in a video.
- Hints and tips for someone who is just dipping their toes in the world of video marketing.
Nathan: 87% of online marketers use video content according to some research I grabbed from WordStream, that is a huge number. If you’re in the 13% who haven’t started yet or maybe you’re just looking for some new tips to improve your video marketing strategy, you are going to love this episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast.
Meryl Ayres is the associate creative director at Wistia, a software company that connects your video content and customers extremely easily. Meryl has tons of advice to help you show off the talent behind your brand, use humor to connect with your audience and she knows how to incorporate video content into your overarching marketing strategy.
You’re about to learn how to find great ideas for your video content, help your coworkers feel extremely comfortable on camera and a whole lot more. I’m Nathan from CoSchedule. Let’s chat with Meryl.
Alright, Meryl. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Meryl: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Nathan: Thanks for being here, it’s a pleasure to have you. I guess let’s just kick this off. Meryl, just tell me a little bit about Wistia.
Meryl: Wistia is a video platform that helps businesses get results from their videos. Most of our customers are small to medium sized businesses who are looking to host their video somewhere, share them strategically. That’s Wistia in a nutshell.
Nathan: We love Wistia, we fit into your target audience and we’re users. It’s exciting to be talking to you today. Specifically, you work with marketing and all sorts of really crazy fun things. What specifically do you do at Wistia?
Meryl: I am currently on the creative team at Wistia, we work hand in hand with the marketing team. I’m primarily a writer and editor, podcasts are definitely outside my wheelhouse but I’m glad to be here. Our creative team is made up of video producers and copywriters and we serve as an in house agency for the rest of the company, that’s where I sit.
Nathan: That leads really well into what I wanna talk about today, using video content as part of a marketing strategy. Starting at the beginning there, what sorts of stories or maybe those sorts of situations lend themselves particularly well for video content?
Meryl: That’s a great question. I guess it’s a little tricky because if you’re creative, the possibilities are endless. But a few that come to mind, some easy places to start, any kind of announcement whether it’s external or internal. Externally, product launches. You have events that you’re trying to promote. Internally, you might send out a party invite, a super casual off the cuff video from someone in the HR. It could be an announcement about someone changing roles, then you can look at educational content.
Video is such an amazing way to teach someone about a concept with a medium that’s dynamic and engaging. For support in sales, both our support team and our sales team use video consistently just to make an extra personal connection with customers. Culturally, using video for recruiting, there’s pretty much always a video camera out, we use our phones too, at any company event here and we’ll use it on social media, we’ll use it on our job’s page to give people the flavor of what it’s like to be at Wistia and what it’s like to work here.
Honestly, it’s just so baked into our culture that we’re always thinking of new ways to use it. Those are some places to start, I would say.
Nathan: Yeah, definitely. You mentioned that some of your videos at Wistia are off the cuff, I was wondering if you could share some of that with me. How do you plan your videos at Wistia? What does your process look like?
Meryl: That’s a great question. If I had to boil it all down I would say control the chaos but it depends on a lot of factor. First of all, what kind of resources do you have? How many people can be working on it? Who’s available? Who’s got the bandwidth? How important is the video? Is it gonna get sent to hundreds of thousands of people or it is just an internal video to celebrate someone’s anniversary or something?
You also have the question of are you coming up with a unique concept or is it more of a regular recurring video where you can more or less have a template that you’re already working off of. It depends on factors like that but let’s assume like we’re doing a big product launch that requires a unique concept and it’s fairly high steaks, our process typically starts with the brainstorms. The creative team will get in a room, we’ll throw a bunch of ideas out there, everything is welcome especially the risky ones that really push us.
We like to just use a whiteboard to just write everything down and keep track of where we’ve been. We purposefully let it get really messy, there’s usually a lot of laughter and passion that goes into those brainstorms and then we narrow it down to a few ideas as a group, we eliminate a bunch together just talking about what’s possible, what’s our timeline, that kind of thing. Our blimp’s too expensive, I don’t know, could we get a mailman costume in time? These are real things that we actually discuss.
From there, we widdle it down to about two or three ideas. If there are other stakeholders in the process, we’ll take it to the VP of marketing or the CEO to get their opinion. From there, we’ll start to order any equipment we might need, props, we’ll take a crack at the scriptwriting if that’s needed, write out a shot list and then get shooting. Again, it depends on the project both for high stakes. Post production can be done in either one to two days or I’ve seen it take up to two weeks if they’re really working on some cool after effect stuff. That’s a long winded answer but beginning to end, that’s what some of our biggest videos can look like.
Nathan: I think that’s awesome, Meryl. Honestly, you’ve mentioned a lot about humor so far, I just seen some of that videos on the Wistia blog. You guys definitely use that and I think it’s really effective for video. Can you tell me a little bit about that, why is humor so effective?
Meryl: That is a good question. I think one thing I will say to caveat is that humor happens to work really well for the Wistia brand because our culture and our brand is very creative and very silly, we really don’t take ourselves too seriously. As a result, humor is just a no brainer. Before you just shoot for making humorous videos, you definitely wanna consider your audience, consider your brand, your message, your goal for that video and your platform.
Humor does tend to work really well on social media or trying to entertain people to like them, keep them engaged. But if you’re looking to dip your toe into the land of funny videos, I do think humor works well because it does connect you with your audience. I think if you’re just starting out, it’s wise to start really small. Some roles that we live by are like never try to be funny at someone else’s expense which seems like very intuitive but you’d be surprised.
Never try to do too much in one video. Our creative director, he always talks about this concept called hat on a hat. I think it might be from SNL but in other words, if you already have a concept that’s pretty funny, don’t keep adding to it because it’ll actually take away from the purity of the humor. If you have someone dancing in a hot dog costume, don’t put a wig on them and have them riding a horse. Just stick with the hotdog and see it out.
Run it by some people that you trust, gauge their reactions and just keep experimenting. But again, I wouldn’t say it’s for every brand, for every video. Humor is subjective, it’s a place to tread lately but it’s very fun to experiment with humor for sure.
Nathan: I think that’s awesome advice. Let’s just say that I’m a marketer and I am sole on this idea of putting humor into videos. How could I do that as a marketer?
Meryl: A while back, we wrote a blog post about this, I think the title is Using Humor in Branded Content. We interviewed an improv teacher right here in Boston and then we also interviewed Dollar Shave Club’s creative director. If you haven’t checked out their stuff, they have some outrageously funny videos that are definitely worth checking out if you wanna get inspired. I guess the rules I mentioned earlier are the main ones, I would say.
Start small, find a pain point of your customers, work from there or find some common truth and stretch that a little bit, play around with it and see what you can do. At the end of the day it’s really all about making that connection. If you can make someone smile, if you can make someone laugh then you’ve really made a profound connection.
Nathan: Definitely. I like that word connection. Humor is one style, maybe, that doesn’t work for my brand for whatever reason. Do you have any other tips or what other tips could you provide to create videos that really connect with your audience?
Meryl: Right off the bat, definitely include humans in your videos. There are a lot of product videos out there, maybe they include a human’s hands. You wanna really include human faces. Be yourself, get your teammates into your videos when you can, you’d be surprised. A lot of people here, who have never been on video before, once they’ve done it a couple of times, they end up being some of our strongest subjects for our videos.
It does depend on resources and the goal of your video but for the most part, we would argue that there isn’t a lot of need to hire actors. Use the people you have, be authentic. Wistia definitely includes all of our teammates in our videos. When new people arrive, we try to get them into a video and find a place for them that makes sense. Some people aren’t keen on reading a scripted video or being in front of the camera right away but we’ll find a place for them to wave in the background of the shot or just ride a scooter by in the background. There are a lot of opportunities to get your team and your company on camera. I think it’s worth trying for those.
Nathan: Yeah, definitely. Getting those people on camera, especially when they’re new, you can always tell when you’re watching when someone is stressed out. I was wondering, how do you help your guest talent or your coworkers feel comfortable when they’re on camera?
Meryl: I will say we are all, for the most part, amateurs at Wistia, we don’t have people with theatre backgrounds but we’re all pretty new to be on camera. I’ve learned so much from our video producers about how to direct, we call it non actors here. We have a whole guide about this in our library if you wanna check it out but some of the top tips I would say are minimize your lighting setup so that it’s not super intimidating, it’s already scary to stand in front of the camera, and if you have huge lights pointing at you, it gets very scary very fast.
Get other people out of the room, it really just needs to be the director and the talent assuming you just have one person on screen. Encourage them to get their hands on their pockets, shake it out. Once people get physically stiff, it tends to manifest in their performance. Let them know that they’ll have multiple takes to get it right and don’t be afraid to have them repeat a line to get it right, we always provide people with a glass of water. It’s all about just making them feel comfortable.
When they’re done and you’ve got something edited, that positive reinforcement can go a really long way. Share it in your team’s Slack, email it out like, “Hey, it’s Becky’s first time on video. She crushed it.” Chances are Becky will wanna get to be in another video. I would say trying to make your talent as comfortable as possible is the way we like to run things at Wistia.
Nathan: That makes a lot of sense, actually. You know Meryl, one of the other questions that I was thinking about here is that, specifically related to your blog post, nearly all of them or a lot of them at least feature a video which makes complete sense for what Wistia does. What does your process look like for that? Do you treat it differently than the process you were talking about earlier? Does video come first and then the blog post or vice versa? How do you incorporate those two things together?
Meryl: That’s a really good question. Again, kind of a cop out answer but it does depend. For making just an auto playing looping video or a gif when we’re just trying to add a touch of personality and entertainment to a post, those are usually a last minute addition. The post is already written, we’ve been thinking about media and maybe we wanna add a little more spice to it, those are really quick. But if it’s more of a video centric piece of content, what do I mean by that, it’s like an educational video.
It’s like our library, it has a lot of pieces of content like this where it centers around the video where the video is the entre and the copy is a supplementary. In those instances, the video will come first and then we’ll work off of that script and that concept to write the copy. It’s kind of the reverse. For the product launches, I would say it works the same way. The video usually gets prioritized and then we work from there and figure out holistically how the two are gonna play together. Does that makes sense?
Nathan: That does makes sense. This is probably another question that might have an it depends answer but I’m wondering, how far and advance do you start working on that content to make sure everything is done on time? How far ahead do you plan that sort of thing?
Meryl: I guess I can give you two extremes. One extreme would be we knew we were gonna launch Soapbox or a new webcam and screen recording tool. For that launch, we wanted to take a risk and go bigger than we had before. We rented out a huge studio outside the office with a skypanel, we planned it weeks in advance. We had the studio for two full days because we knew we wanted to leave time for experimenting in that new space. That was one extreme for us.
I think we were shooting around concepts maybe even two months away and then whittled it down. I really started to plan probably like a couple weeks out and then experimented for days before we even started shooting for real.
On the other hand, we’ve also concepted shot and edited videos in one afternoon just because there’s enough excitement and momentum behind it and the concept is doable. We actually used Facebook as a very experimental platform because our goal is there, our main lead took the later audience, showcased our culture, grow our audience there.
We made one video where we put a pumpkin on someone’s head and pretended like they were a new employee, I toured them around the office, I think their name was [00:18:09]. We did it around Halloween because we knew it would be a delightful silly thing. I think that one, from conception to finish, to edited product was a day or two. We do have the flexibility to work really quickly when we have the bandwidth and there’s a lot of excitement behind it.
Nathan: That makes a lot of sense. Plan far ahead when you can but get those engagement almost videos done quickly.
Meryl: Yeah. I think go where the excitement takes you. If there’s a teammate who has a vision and has momentum and is ready to go and it’s aligning with the goals, then I think totally follow that, usually really create a fun things come out of that kind of energy.
Nathan: I love that. Speaking of creative, fun things, I read this blog post that you wrote about basically why does your voice sounds so weird when you’re on camera or on a podcast like this. You had a hilarious video in there, I don’t know how you did that. You sounded like you are a monster or something like that.
Meryl: Yeah, we slowed it way down. I sound insane and I’m sure I will listen to this podcast and think this sounds crazy too. I learned that for that blog post, it comes out of the back that what you sound like to you is not actually what you sound like to everyone else. As you speak, your vocal cords vibrate and they actually vibrate your whole skull. Different frequencies are transmitted better through bone, higher frequencies are weaker and the lower frequencies come through loud and clear.
But then when you hear your voice through the air instead of through your skull and coming through your bones, it sounds very different. I guess you could think about it as your skull is basically a subwoofer for your voice.
Nathan: I love that. I’m so excited that we picked your brain on that because I was wondering that too. I listen to this podcast all the time, I always hear my own voice and I always sound just really weird.
Meryl: Yeah because you’re used to that subwoofer treatment.
Nathan: Alright, Meryl, let’s wrap this up. I got one more question for you. Let’s say I’m ready to start incorporating more video into my content, into my marketing. What’s your best advice for someone as they’re getting started? Where should they begin? What should they do?
Meryl: I would say instead of setting out to develop a new video strategy, try instead looking at what you’re trying to accomplish from an overall content perspective and then figure out how you can use video to complement what you’re already trying to achieve. Whatever your goals are in social media, can you use video to promote those goals? Take a registration page for a webinar and spice it up with a video. If you’ve got older content that you’re planning on repurposing or updating because it gets a ton of traffic, maybe video would be a cool medium to use there.
Lead generation campaigns, I would say, always benefit from that extra human touch. Anything where you have consistent content that’s coming from someone on your team like product updates, get them on camera, show their face, make that connection with your audience. But definitely make sure that you’re considering the holistic content perspective rather than just looking at video in isolation.
Nathan: I really like that advice, Meryl. I think that’s a great place to end this. I just wanna say thank you so much for being on the podcast today and for sharing everything you know about video.
Meryl: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.