Ian Servin is a passionate freelance video producer and director who's worked with brands such as Ford and Nike on everything from small projects to complex campaigns. He is a guest writer on the Wistia Blog.
There are a million little details that go into doing video marketing for your clients. To keep all of the pieces in place and your client informed along the way, it's important to set up a standardized workflow for interacting with your clients and producing your video content.
Having a formal process allows you to onboard new team members more easily, optimize how you do business, and give your clients a consistently positive experience. From planning to execution, here are 6 best practices to guide you as you build your system.
1. Establish the lines of communication
Pre-production often gets overlooked, but it's the first interaction between you and your client and one of the most crucial time periods in your relationship. A little care in this early stage of the process can lead to big payoffs down the road. Similarly, missteps here can lead to missed opportunities.
During the discovery phase, you should not only learn about your client, but you should brief the client on who you are and how your team works. Clearly establishing who will be doing what clues the client into your process and brings them in as a collaborator, rather than an outsider. First, hold an in-person meeting with all the relevant stakeholders before production begins. This allows everyone to set the goal of the video together, hammer out the details, and address any potential roadblocks.
Establish a clear goal and key metrics for measuring your video's success. Who is the video intended for? What marketing goal will it help hit? Where will it live, and how will it be promoted? Don't forget to review the budget and timeline to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page.
Next, establish a single point of contact between the client and you. Typically, this is a project manager, production coordinator, or some other manager who has a good high-level understanding of what's going on.
While it can seem restrictive to limit communication in this way, having one person on each side ensures that what is communicated is clear, concise, and consistent. Down the road, it can also streamline post-production. Your client point of contact should be responsible for organizing approvals, so that you're not wrangling feedback from all sides.
2. Check in regularly before production begins
At this stage in the process, it's important to have regular check-ins so everyone knows what's going on. Internally, this should happen in weekly or even daily status meetings. With clients, the frequency can be less long, as you're meeting any deadlines set up in advance.
Do set up quick calls or emails whenever you hit specific milestones, like completing a creative brief, drawing up storyboards, or setting a schedule. Use tools like Google Docs for script revisions and shared Trello boards for glanceable status updates. They reduce the urge to schedule excessive meetings.
3. Coordinate during production
When you're ready to schedule shoots and coordinate production, have a well thought-out process so that you can focus on the details.
Build a checklist to help you remember which elements need to get lined up at what time. This is especially crucial for more complex projects with many moving parts. This checklist should include things like finalizing your script, sourcing talent, scoping out equipment, and arranging locations.
Managing locations is also a key part of production logistics. Often times, you'll shoot at your client's office. Make sure that your point of contact understands any needs you have, so that you feel confident when you walk in that door.
When reserving space, ask about lighting (natural and artificial), any potential noise issues, and ready access to power. It always helps to do a proper location scout to confirm these things for yourself, but in a pinch, an email exchange and some cell phone photos can do the trick. Always be prepared with alternate locations. And be sure that the client factors in the time it takes to set-up and tear-down when reserving rooms.
When it comes time to do the shoot, a call sheet is an extremely handy tool to make sure that everyone's on the same page. A big budget shoot will often have a dense sheet with a ton of detail, but a call sheet doesn't have to be complicated to be useful.
In your doc, include some basic info about where and when the shoot will take place, who will be involved and their contact info, as well as a basic rundown of the schedule. Send this out ahead of time and have a few printed copies on set. This will keep both your production team and the client well informed and confident.
Internally, you can dive deeper into the schedule with a shot list to ensure you capture exactly what you need to. You can also do this in any editor or use a specialized app like Shot Lister.
4. Get approval while editing
Once the project is in the edit, it's easy to go dark and stop communicating regularly with the client. Instead of popping back up when you have a final product, share still frames and information about how post-production is progressing. This keeps the client engaged and informed, and leads to a better approvals process. Once you have a revision ready to go, the client is primed to react positively to your edit.
It's important to get approval before you get to finishing, so that a small change doesn't snowball into a big time suck. However, some clients react poorly to rough cuts without the visual polish of a final deliverable. In that case, send a transcript with some stills, so they can approve the content without being exposed to the rough edges of an initial draft. You'll still need to get the video approved before final delivery, but it'll save a lot of time.
When you do get to the point of showing off a draft, it's helpful to use a specialized tool like Wipster or Frame.io to share your edit and gather feedback. Both of these tools are designed for the revisions process and have helpful features like annotations and timecoded comments. This allows the client to give specific, actionable feedback that is easy to interpret. They're also built to be intuitive for editors, with common keyboard shortcuts and little details like frame-by-frame playback that don't exist with your typical video host.
5. Manage the video's promotion
Hopefully just delivering the video isn't the end of the project. Managing a video's promotion is key to ensuring that the video hits the goals that you set for it. After all, you want to make sure that the awesome content you produced is actually seen by people who will connect with it.
Sometimes the client's internal marketing team will manage this process, but it's often much more effective to take control of the distribution as the content creator. Regardless of your team's role, it's important to clearly communicate what you will do to promote the video and any steps you expect the client to take on their own.
If there are any credentials that need to be shared, make sure that happens before you plan to publish, not on the day of. Again, a shared Trello board can be used to coordinate content calendars, share status updates, and distribute important resources.
6. Share metrics and establish success
Developing a robust workflow for gathering and sharing metrics is hugely important to a video campaign's success. In pre-production, you established key metrics and goalposts for measuring your content's success. In the reporting phase, you want to not only send status updates on these key figures, but provide insightful analysis and context for the numbers.
When building reports, don't focus on flashy charts and an overwhelming list of figures. Hone in on key numbers, and tell the client why they're important and what they mean in the bigger picture. Be data-informed, not data-driven.
When you do reporting, gather metrics through the dashboards built into the platforms you use, like Wistia's analytics tools. Also investigate third party options, especially for aggregating data across platforms and putting the performance of specific content in context with broader campaigns.
Take the time to gather qualitative data, like feedback from viewers in comments, shares, tweets, and posts. Take screenshots of these throughout the campaign and include them in reports and follow-up meetings. These may not have the elegance of numerical data, but are great ways to probe how your audience engaged with your content.
As far as reporting frequency, it often depends on the speed of the platform you're delivering on. For social, daily internal updates are not overkill. Weekly client calls can be very helpful, in addition to larger monthly reports. For a larger evergreen web video, a monthly update might be all you need. Experiment and choose the frequency that lets you react quickly and nimbly, without being forced to act on noise and not signal.
Client relationships form the foundation for the work we do. Good communication makes those relationships stronger and more collaborative. But good communication is also hard.
Taking the time to establish a client communication workflow for every stage of the process will have huge long-term payoffs. This guide is a good start, but the best process is the one that works for you and your team. Set up something now, so you have a reference point, but experiment, modify, and optimize to your heart's content. Communication is always a work in progress, but the effort you put in is well worth it.