Visual media are powerful message carriers. Like most things in life, this can be both a blessing and a curse.

The most recent example of this in consumer relations came at the height of the holiday season when an understandably disappointed customer of FedEx posted security video showing a courier dropping a computer monitor over a gate at the customer’s home. The monitor broke and the video went global.

FedEx could have responded in any number of bad ways. They could have gone insular and issued a terse statement that they would handle the incident as a private, personnel matter. Instead the company used the same medium that reported their PR problem to deal with it directly. While the nearly two–minute response video (see: FedEx PR Response) still comes off as corporate-speak, it was posted just two days after the delivery incident and four days before Christmas.

While the original delivery video totals 8 million views and the response from FedEx has earned a half million, and the damage was already done through shock headlines, FedEx proved that video communications can quickly stifle a PR crisis.

Though it seems that the poor economy has slowed the embrace of online video as a communications platform for many sectors, there are simple steps to leverage the medium for visibility and richer communications with both internal and external audiences. The following are just a few initial steps that organizations can take to catch up:

1 – Invest in Technology

A small investment in a video camera and a proper logo screen is all you need to get started. For larger organizations, investing in a “micro-studio”, which includes an HD camera, studio lighting, a green screen, iPad teleprompter and microphone has never been more affordable.

2 – Assign Ownership

Staff responsibility for visual and social media requires only modest training to produce professional video messaging and post online with a quick turn-around. More advanced productions require state-of-the-art video editing software such as Final Cut Pro or after-effects software such as After Effects. This is best trusted to professionals, but you can still keep the cost reasonable by producing the raw video in your own micro-studio and then providing it to a video firm for post-production.

3 – Tell Your Story

Script development may be the most important part of producing your video to deliver the right impact, particularly where the stakes are high. At the same time, and especially if you are trying to appeal to the X or Y generations, sometimes it is best to be candid and unscripted. This might be accomplished with capturing video footage of a public event or conducting an interview with your organization’s messenger – in which case you want the message to be delivered as conversationally as possible. Tell it like it is. The more retrained you may be from concerns about legal liability, or the more you focus on what matters to you versus the concerns of your customers or stakeholders, the less candid it may appear.

4 – Use Visuals

The Senior Vice President at FedEx did well delivering a scripted message, but he could have done better by showing us the faces of some of the thousands of FedEx couriers who follow the rules and deliver value to their customers every day instead of telling us about them. Viewers might have accepted the message more if they were reminded of the image most of us see every day – couriers who hustle and bustle with a positive demeanor and do not toss fragile items over fences to check-off a line on their list.

5 – Connect and Follow-Through

Whether you are dealing with an internal or external audience, establishing a dialogue with them can lead to greater understanding and better business plans. While all organizations should establish a YouTube page as an element of their social media portfolio, large organizations should not settle for the embeddable video platform (EVP) from YouTube which watermarks all of your content with the YouTube watermark. Instead you should consider a subscription-based EVP account like those provided by our tech affiliate, VOPED – video platform solutions, which puts control of your content in your hands. When you post video messages, make sure you place complementary posts on all of your social media platforms and encourage all of your staff to do the same with their accounts. Blog postings can reinforce your message in text to complement the video as well and provides a very important method of allowing stakeholders to voice their concerns and for you to follow-up with more reinforcing messaging.

As recent studies have shown, consumer web content is increasingly video-based. Despite the struggling economy, there are great and affordable ways to embrace online video as a communications platform, and it is better to get your organization to catch up and embrace the medium now before a crisis hits.

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