“If your business is not moving forward, it’s moving backwards.” That’s some great advice a profitable and successful competitor once told me. Unfortunately, many business people, videomakers or otherwise, don’t heed such words. They’ll find a comfortable spot and stay there, content with their present day “pot-‘o-gold.”
Not being able to see expanding, developing or future markets may be the single largest stumbling block to a small business. Video production firms have it all the worse because of the rapidly changing technological environment in which they ply their trade. You not only have to “keep up with the Jones’s” by offering the latest in audio and visual pleasures, you also must compete with the advances made in the consumer marketplace.
So what do you do? How can your independent video production company survive in such a
hostile atmosphere? Simple–just follow the businessman’s advice from the first sentence of this article. In
other words, move forward.
Tell the public about yourself and everything you do. Self-promotion, publicity and advertising are
the best ways to keep your business in front of the public eye. Make yourself look successful in the media,
and the public will believe it. Advertise that you provide the best service, and clients will listen–especially
when you combine these paid messages with the free editorial space afforded your
business in newspapers, magazines and on radio and television.
There are more than a handful of strategies to utilize when garnering notice in the press, and most,
thankfully, are quite affordable.
The press release is without a doubt the cheapest and most effective promotional tool at your disposal.
It’s low-cost, because it requires only paper, envelopes, postage and some thinking. Press releases work
well since editors at media agencies rely on this type of information to fill space. Releases sometimes serve
as story generators, too.
But there’s more to producing press releases than just sitting down at your word processor and
recounting your last week of business. Here are some rules for generating a press release that will achieve
- Cover something significant. Write about landing a big client, or explain your company’s
newest piece of superior video gear. Press releases should present meaningful, newsworthy information to
the public. Consider the outlet to which you’re sending the release. Do not send overly technical info to a
consumer oriented press outlet. Reserve that for the video industry trade journals and newsletters. Give the
more personable stories to local and regional newspapers and general readership magazines.
- Keep your press release to one page. If what you have to say requires more than a page, you
haven’t focused your subject enough. Let’s say you want to prepare a press release on a new instructional
video your company has for sale. It shouldn’t take more than a page to describe the video, release dates and
ordering directions. To go on in great detail about the background of the video, the planning and
production process, the actors, locations, budget and every other item that was involved in the shoot will
only get your story “filed.” Editors often pass by these multi-page wonders in favor of short, easy to read
(and re-type) releases. Refine and re-write your release until it contains only the most pertinent
If you feel you just can’t tell your whole story on one page, don’t worry. Write the one-page
synopsis, but include what are referred to as “supplementary materials” within your press kit. In addition to
the basic release, you might include interviews with the cast and crew, a detailed break-down of the video
(or whatever your release subject concerns), photos, and maybe even a sample copy of the video. All of
this supplementary data may prompt the editor to do a feature on your project instead of merely printing
- Stick to standard form. Place your company name, address, phone and contact person’s name
at the top of the release. Give the release a headline. The headline should tell the story of the release. Don’t
get flowery or overly cute here, either. Double space the body copy and print it on plain white paper. This
makes it easily readable. If you really want to increase your chances of “getting print,” find out what kind
of computer system the press outlet is using and include a copy of your release on disk.
If a press release comes into a newspaper or magazine in non-standard format, it usually ends up
in the garbage can. That wasn’t the purpose, was it? Editors like things made easy for them. If you prepare
your release in the accepted form, your chances of getting it printed are all the better.
- Include a color and black and white photo if you’re sending out a new product release. This
makes it easy for the media outlet to run a photo with your product data. A picture truly is worth a
thousand words, especially if it finds its way into print.
- Reach the right person. Before you mail your release, call all the appropriate press outlets and ask for the person in charge of the section in which you want to see your release. This is usually an associate editor. Be sure to get the address and all spellings correct. Most print outlets work on a lead time, meaning they need the information at least one month prior to when it will appear in print. If you like, you may also want to follow up the mailing with a phone call to verify receipt of the materials. Don’t bother the editor with numerous calls and questions; simply ask if the release arrived and what are the chances of seeing coverage.
Many companies make the mistake of halting their advertising when business gets good, thinking,
if I’m this busy, why waste money on advertising? In fact, advertising is exactly what you
should do if your video venture is experiencing a boost in profits. Advertising during a busy
season is one of the best ways to outlast your competition as well as gain new markets.
The most obvious reason is because at this point in your business life, you have the cash on hand
to advertise. When times are bad, and jobs are a week or more apart, there’s no money left to spend looking
for clients. And if you can’t do any bragging, nobody will be able to find you. Creating an ad plan during a
money-rich season helps “even things out” when the slow period starts. Future customers and clients will
have heard your name, and if you bought smart in the fruitful periods, you presence will stay throughout
the lean times.
By no means does your advertising plan have to be expensive. In fact, if present conditions make
it seem as though you’ll never make it to those “fruitful” periods, even the tiniest expenditure may seem
like a fortune. Thankfully, expensive newspaper display ads, the Yellow Pages and other traditional
advertising methods are not your only option. There are many low-budget promotional ideas that can help
get your business noticed.
Often, the simplest and most obvious manner of promoting yourself is overlooked. Use the physical
properties of your business to advertise your services to the public. Do you have a van in which you haul
your gear around from shoot to shoot. Is it emblazoned with your company’s name? It should be. Wherever
you go – for business or pleasure – you’re constantly advertising your services. In essence, you are
operating your own miniature, moving billboard.
If your business occupies a space other than the basement, be sure to place some signage on this
entity as well. Again, simple is best. It’s great to get creative, but often budgets don’t allow for quality,
creative work. A plain, readable and neat sign gives a better impression than a sloppily done “creative” one.
Don’t attempt the task yourself if artistic skills escape you.
Another inexpensive, yet often-overlooked way to advance your businesses presence is with flyers.
Design a flyer detailing a special you may be offering (i.e. wedding videos for $500), or one just for
awareness purposes (come to Rick’s Video for all your video production needs). Locate a low-cost print
shop that can duplicate your flyer. Usually this can be done for as little as three cents a copy.
All that’s left to do is pass the papers out to the appropriate crowd. If you’re specializing in
weddings, drop some of the flyers at bridal and tux shops, caterers and party centers. Whatever your
market, there is an associated area in which to distribute the flyers. For sports videos, go to schools and
colleges. Instructional tapes, hunt down clubs and associations involved in that specific activity. If you do
film-to-video transfers, target camera and film developing shops.
Club and group newsletters provide an opportunity to advertise your product and services to very
targeted markets. The desktop publishing revolution gave organizations the ability to produce their own
printed works, and ads in these small press publications are often welcome. You can reach a specific
audience at a low cost, and become fairly well-known to the readers because of the lean amount of
commercial material these newsletter carry.
Maybe you have some writing skills. Become an “expert” contributing writer. By getting your
stories featured in any of these publications, you gain instant credibility by offering your professional view
on the subject. Whether it’s a technical, instructional or opinion piece, readers place faith in writers. Your
business image is greatly enhanced as well, you being one of a few video “experts” actually operating in
Co-op advertising is the process of sharing promotional costs with another service provider. Most
commercials you see promoting national chains are co-op ads. The corporate office works with regional
and local outlets in splitting costs for ads in their specific regions. You can do something similar.
Let’s imagine that wedding videomaking is the largest part of your service business. What other
companies need to locate potential clients in this market? Caterers, bridal and tux shops, still
photographers, musicians and DJ’s–all of these groups are viable prospects for co-op advertising.
Approach the still photographer about offering a package “picture and video” deal to couples. Create an ad
that explains the deal and both of your services. Any advertising that is done with this deal just got 50%
cheaper because you and the photographer can split the costs.
If you are really organized, you may be able to develop a “group” ad that effectively promotes
three or more companies services. This may allow you to buy three or four times the coverage at the same
price. This method can be used with press releases and flyers as well. Often the “synergy” of two
companies gets people interested in the project, from a media and prospective client point-of-view.
One Last One
You’re in the video business, right? Why not use your skills to promote yourself? Cable television
offers endless opportunities for self-promotion. If your local cable system boasts a local access station, you
could approach the management with a “videomaking skills” program. You’d be the expert host, explaining
videomaking basics such as framing, lighting, editing and scripting to the viewer. Sure, the program is
actually a long-form, veiled television commercial promoting your business, but that’s the whole point.
The possibility of attracting sponsors, who actually pay you to advertise within your program,
exists as well. Again, approach those co-op candidates when planning a show. Maybe you’ll do a program
on wedding basics. This is the perfect opportunity for approaching any of those aforementioned co-op
candidates for advertising funds. The exposure from such a venture is priceless. You are perceived by the
public as “the” source of videomaking expertise. When these viewers need videomaking services, they’re
more likely to think of you. This promotion keeps you foremost in the community’s mind and also endears
you to hobbyists in the field as well.
The best way to move ahead is to promote yourself. Using these low-cost, effective methods will
put you at least one step ahead of all the other video producers out there. By making your business identity
a household name and keeping in touch with what’s going on, you’ll be able to successfully adapt to the
ever changing video production environment.