If you are blessed with articulate, charismatic executives then consider yourself lucky. If you are like most companies (large or small) however, you may want to consider hiring professional presenters to represent your company in your corporate videos.
This subject often triggers vigorous debate amongst the ‘authenticity’ purists. I tend to take a more pragmatic approach when considering whether or not to use a presenter. The answer to whether or not a professional presenter is necessary or appropriate depends on the context. Some examples:
Commercials. Most companies (large and small) use presenters/actors for commercials, for good reason. Stephen Jobs is arguably one of the best presenters on the planet but Apple doesn’t use him in their ads. Justin Long ( the “I’m a Mac” guy ) is a much better embodiment of the Apple attitude, style and demographic than Jobs. Sure, Dave Thomas was a great spokesman for Wendy’s, Sir Richard Branson is Virgin and Harland David Sanders was KFC – but these are the exceptions. Linking your brand to the CEO is not always a good strategy (especially if he/she leaves the company). Lee Iacocca and his outsized ego almost crushed Chrysler back in the day. Unless you have a compelling, articulate leader – one that your target audience identifies positively with, you are better off to use a surrogate.
Product Demonstrations. This category is much more complicated because there are many types of product demonstrations and many different audiences. As an example, if you are selling into a technical B2B market then a product demo is better delivered by the product manager – regardless of his/her on- screen abilities. Technical audiences trust technical people and rather enjoy ridiculing actors who “probably don’t have a clue about they are talking about”. If, on the other hand you are selling a non-technical product to a B2C market then a presenter that represents your target demographic would be more appropriate. If you are showing how something works – i.e. a real-world example (either in the field with a customer or in reinacting in a studio) then actors / presenters may be much better suited to the task. “Show me, don’t tell me” is one of the sweet spots of online corporate video and product and service demos in particular.
Corporate Overviews. This is one of the broadest and most common Online Corporate Video Categories – usually the first point of entry for companies using online video to market themselves. This category also overlaps product demonstrations for companies where one product is the company. Corporate Overviews are the best place to show off the executives or employees because the business purpose of the corporate overview is to highlight the company (not necessarily the benefits of the products or services that you produce). In this case authenticity is very important. The challenge however comes when your owner/CEO/ executive is just not that compelling. Some video production companies will claim they can make anyone look good on camera, but the truth is that not everyone does well on camera. Awkward, confused, inarticulate, nervous, distracted, uninspiring… none of these characteristics help your company’s image. You may want to consider reaching down into the ranks to find someone who might have a stronger emotional appeal with your target audience and who is more comfortable on camera.
The desired format and structure of the video should determine the need for a teleprompter. If you are looking for a personal, unscripted style then it might make sense to give the executive some talking points, roll film and cross your fingers. If however, you have a very specific, detailed or structured message you should consider using a teleprompter with either a company spokesperson or an external presenter.
One of the challenges is that you often don’t know how you will do until in front of a camera until you are in front of a camera. It is the job of the video production company to make professional recommendations as to the use of a presenter versus an in-house spokesperson. It can be very difficult for the business to be objective about its own internal capabilities and it also can be politically challenging for internal staff to tell executives that they are not doing well during a shoot.