Part 1 - Letting the World Know
Like any product, commercially-targeted videos - instructional tapes, educational films, documentaries or even feature-length movies - need to be marketed. A successful marketing campaign allows your video to find its audience and leads that audience to buy your videos.
The arsenal of tools available to market your video is vast. From custom Web sites and trade magazine advertising to press releases and postering the town, there are multiple ways to bombard potential viewers and customers with your "marketing message." But how do you start this whole process?
What Do You Have?
This sure sounds like a simple and stupid question, doesn't it? Well, if your response to this simple question goes something like, "My video, Crystal Clear, explores the science of crystals, then showcases the leading crystal researcher, but turns dramatic with a government investigation..." then you better sit down and give it more thought. The project begins as an educational film, turns to a biographical documentary, only to end up sounding like a true crime TV program! Your video or movie project cannot be all things to all people. You must be able to define your video in one concise sentence. Think "sound bite" when answering the following questions about your project:
- Is it a documentary, instructional or informational tape, feature film or short?
- Is it educational, reality-based, children's, anime, science fiction, horror, western, drama, action?
- Does it entertain, enlighten, educate, inform, sadden, madden, scare or elicit pity?
- Does it call to action, prompt a purchase or change the viewer's way of thinking?
- Are the characters fictional or actual beings; historical, present-day or future beings; human, animal or other-worldly creations?
- Does the project deal with a current event, fad or popular culture phenomenon?
- Does it depend on realistic special effects or stunts?
- Is it set in the past, present or future?
Let's consider Crystal Clear again. This time, you may want to say, "Crystal Clear is the intriguing story of Dr. Lars Harman, the world's authority on crystals and his high-profile struggle to use his science in saving eyesight."
The above sentence identifies the major storyline (leading-edge scientific research), describes the settings (present-day worldwide healthcare environment) and even includes an emotional plea (struggling to improve lives).
Who Wants It?
There's an old saying: "You gotta know 'em to show 'em." This means you have to identify an audience before you can present it with your product. This can be difficult, because you really have three separate audiences:
- Those who will watch the video (consumers via purchase, rental, download or broadcasts)
- Those who will buy or sell the video (retailers, library, catalog and other video buyers, distributors, acquisition agents, sub-distributors)
- Those who will be performing promotion work on the video (publicists, media, festival programmers)
- Habits and interests
- Purchase patterns
- Major motivations
For the clearest picture of who will be attracted to your project, you need to create an "audience profile." This allows you to discover the demographics, or common traits and characteristics of your potential viewers:
You are not trying to stereotype your audience; you are simply trying to get the best "read" on those most likely to view (and buy) your video.
OK. So you know what you have and who wants it. It's time to promote.
Use the Internet
There has been no bigger marketing boon to videographers than the Internet. It provides low-cost access to a worldwide audience, and the latest video-based technology makes it easier than ever to promote your project.
First order of business: host a Web site. Include project details, contact information and a trailer. Marketing a visual product like a video makes it vital that audiences can "see" what they're getting. Keep it professional and appealing to its target. For example, for a faith-based documentary, be sure the online content is all-ages-appropriate. A newsletter sign-up section lets you gather names, to whom you can continually market your video via electronic newsletter or individual emails.
With more than 114 million sites on the Net, marketing a video involves more than just hosting a Web site. Online video sharing and publishing services like YouTube, Revver and MetaCafe allow amazing amounts of video-based programming to be unleashed online.
Video producers, hobbyists and many small and large content and film production companies have never before had the means and budget to get their content out to such a large audience. You need only an encoded video clip to participate.
Using the Media
Using the media in as many forms as possible is not an option - it is a necessity when marketing a video. Your first task is identifying which media best suit your needs:
- Collect information on every possible source of media that may have interest in your video (magazines, radio, Podcasts, Web sites, etc.).
- Contact each and ask about their wants and needs.
- Sort according to type (print, broadcast and Web) and desirability.
- Record media lead times, preferred method of information submission (email, fax, snail mail) and type of information preferred (press release, Web link, video press kit, b-roll footage, photos, audio tape, etc.).
The Need for a Media Kit
A media kit entices the media to cover your project. A comprehensive package that provides detailed information on all aspects of your video, it is used by reporters, reviewers and anyone else who will help you get the word out about your project.
A traditional media kit usually consists of the following:
- Video synopsis
- Trailer or full-length copy of video on DVD
- Project fact sheet
- Cast and crew lists
- Production company backgrounder
- Production photographs
- Key art
- Business card
Depending on your budget and technological sophistication, you can create these items traditionally in print and place them in a folder, produce them electronically on a CD or launch them online, with all of the relevant information accessible via a Web site. The point is to make this information easily available to media and anyone else on your marketing list.
One warning: just as a good media package helps your efforts, a poorly-executed kit can severely hamper your project's potential.
Using Press Releases
The press release is the cheapest and easiest way to get your marketing campaign started. The most used (and overused) device in the industry, a press release is a one-page synopsis of the news you want to communicate to your audiences. Web sites, newspapers, magazines and broadcasters receive hundreds of these daily; if you want the media to take action on your release, keep it short and accurate, with no grammatical or factual mistakes. Clearly point out the 5 "W's" (Who, What, When, Where and Why) in the first sentence.
An objective, third-party endorsement of your project is always more convincing than saying the same things yourself. To get your project reviewed, submit your project to one of the thousands of media that exist solely for that purpose. Most review-specific media are more than happy to take a look at your project and give it some press.
The interview presents you as an expert or interesting figure. Due to the popularity of reality programming and the world's obsession with celebrities, finding interview opportunities in the media isn't too tough. Sometimes it is the result of a well-written press release: a reporter will call, wanting further information. Other times you'll "sell" yourself as an interview subject to the various media relevant to your video. Remember that, during an interview, you are the expert on the topic. It wouldn't be happening if you didn't have something educational, informative, interesting or amusing to say. Hint: Podcasts are loaded with interviews; record your own and make them available via any virtual locations that make sense.
Literally hundreds of film and video festivals occur around the globe all year, showcasing shorts, features, experimental, 8mm, digital video, animation, documentary, music and even made-for-cellular-phone movies. There really is a festival for everyone. Look for fests that offer a good match to your project. Events with added value, such as a film market component, free advertising for participants and other promotional opportunities, really help market your video.
Festivals are great for brushing shoulders with industry movers and shakers and attending workshops. They also provide an ideal forum for objective audience reaction.
And Don't Forget...
Up-close-and-personal marketing techniques are great for gaining attention. Attending a trade show or expo in the industry that your video covers is a great way to meet and greet your target audience. Have plenty of promotional postcards, posters, sample DVDs and other swag to distribute to attendees.
Staging a premiere literally puts your video "up in lights," always draws a huge crowd and is a sure-fire way to attract media coverage. By making it similar to a glitzy Hollywood premiere, and sending special invites to the Who's Whos of your town, you will seal the press coverage. Hold the premiere in a place that is fitting for the project: a college auditorium for an edgy independent movie, local library for a nature documentary, health club for an exercise instructional tape. For educational or child-themed projects, hold a "traveling" premiere with matinee screenings at area schools. The choices for a premiere venue are virtually limitless.
Mark Bosko is a freelance writer and an independent video and film producer.
Sidebar: Marketing on the Web
Check out these video-based Web sites for free marketing opportunities: