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Hatef Yamini 13 min read

Online Video: An Interview Revealing Best Practices and Trends

treanor.jpgRecently, I had the opportunity to interview Tim Treanor, Chairman and CEO at Online Video Service, a firm that specializes in video content management for nonprofits.

Tim managed his first political campaign at the age of 20; by 30, he had managed two Congressional victories. He has 20 years of management, public relations and media-development experience, including the production of TV and radio commercials and award-winning rich media websites. At Treanor & Associates, his public affairs and political consulting firm, clients included RealNetworks, The Casey Family Programs and the American Bar Association.

Read on to learn this expert's view on the current state of nonprofits and online video, tips and hints on how to maximize your video's impact, and how much all of this really costs.  

Frogloop:  How has nonprofit communications/marketing evolved into
using Internet video for outreach and branding?

In the '90s, some nonprofits would ask, "Why do I need a website?" Today,
they ask "Why do I need a video online?"  Or, better yet, "How can I use
online video most effectively?"

In this post-YouTube era, the world has changed.  And nonprofits are turning
to online video as a core element of their marketing and communications

Video can complement other communications vehicles.  Or it can be the
primary focus of a marketing campaign.

Online Video Service recently webcast a customer's event via satellite from
a submerged oil platform off the coast of California.  The customer used the
event to galvanize support for artificial reefs as a way to protect sea

Q:  Do you feel that nonprofits are currently maximizing online video's
potential for them?  Why or why not?

Some nonprofits are starting to do so.  Those that integrate online video
into their core marketing activities are seeing the most success.

For instance, the American Lung Association of California has set the bar for
consistently using online video as a key part of its communications. It has
featured celebrities like Carol Burnett to deliver messages about smoking
cessation and the need for clean air.

For other nonprofits, they're off to a good start.  Institutions like the
California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) are starting
to webcast live coverage of certain board proceedings.  That's a great way
to demonstrate transparency and accountability.

Q: Before starting to film/create their videos, what are some tips or
hints that nonprofits should know to maximize its impact and/or
visibility, while still keeping cost down?  How much should they be
willing to spend on a good video?

The old maxim is true - you get what you pay for.  If the stakes are high
for your video, do it right.

That said, you can still have decent production quality without spending an
arm and a leg.

Q: What advice do you have for nonprofits that are considering
developing their own video content?

  • Avoid motion, like panning, fades and zooms.  Instead, use talking
    heads, relatively still shots and clean cuts.
  • Make sure your subject is well lit and that your microphone picks them up well.  
  • Know your audience.  Utilize talent that will appeal to your target demographic. 
    For instance, a celebrity or young actor will appeal to the younger demographic.
  • Tap that funny bone.  Some videos have been instantly successful due to their
    viral marketing potential.  These usually involve humor or satire.  But be
    careful: hitting a "home run" with one of these requires timing, broad appeal and luck.
  • Harness the creative power of user-generated content.  For instance,
    MoveOn.org recently has hosted competitions whereby members create short
    videos with a political message, and the winners get featured online and/or
    are broadcast on TV as political ads.

Q: What kind of costs are associated with online video?

  • At the low end, user-generated videos often look low-budget and can
    be created w/ even a webcam.
  • Our rule of thumb on a professional video shoot, including editing, is
    approximately $1K for each minute of on demand finished content. 
    Yeah, I know, that can add up.  But live a/v production of a day-long
    event is usually more like $1,200 to $2,000.
  • Some nonprofits find creative ways to extend their budget.  They can
    get a donated or subsidized videographer and/or editor.  Sometimes,
    it's worth contacting a local university or technical college to see if
    your video would fit as a student project.

Q:  How can nonprofits define and measure success with an online video?
Has research been done to measure conversion rates, and, if so, what has it

Good metrics are often hard to come by, but measuring success is the
only way to know if your effort and investment has paid off!

There are two kinds of measures that we look at: performance and outcome.

  1. Performance measures include stats from a webcasting provider or
    content delivery network on how many unique users tuned in, for
    how long on average, etc.
  2. Outcome measures would include stats from your website hosting
    provider on click-through behavior by users.  Did anyone click through
    to donate or take action after a call to action at the end of the video?
    Funds received or tangible actions taken during or immediately
    following a campaign are other outcome measures.

Often, it's even just useful to know who was watching, if the video was intended
mainly to reach and inform a certain type of audience.  That's why we typically
provide a registration module and track this info for our clients.

Q: In what direction do you see nonprofits going with online video in
the future?

The future is live.

Everyone can upload a video to YouTube or have one made and hosted
professionally.  But there are few "hooks" for action or financial support
that resonate more than the time sensitivity of a live event.

Live webcasts tend to be much more costly than an on demand video, but the
results can also be much greater.  They can also can be interactive with the
online audience submitting questions via chat or email through a moderator.

Celebrities or experts can draw an audience.  If chosen carefully and
marketed correctly, your audience doesn't even have to be big, as long as
it's the right audience.

Q: For those nonprofit communicators that are reading this article, but have
yet to decide on a specific video platform, what do you think should be
their 3 main concerns?

(a) Build or buy.

The trend among leading nonprofits is to outsource all aspects of a webcast,
just like you would a video shoot, to ensure quality and retain focus on
what the organization does best.

(b) Ask around.

When selecting an online video partner, do your homework and check the
customer references.  There are so
many companies out there that cut corners
or fail to deliver, it makes a big difference when you're able to find a
partner you can count on.  The best way to know that is to ask their
customers.  If a company is reluctant to give you references, well, that
probably tells you everything you need to know about them!

(c) Trust your gut.

Take time to probe on how a webcasting company intends to carry out your
event.  If they seem organized and if they can articulate a careful game
plan to you in plain English, that's great.  If they try to keep the whole
process "mysterious" and assure you with an oh-it-will-be-fine-just-trust-us
attitude, then steer clear.

(d) Is anybody home?

Okay, this is more than 3 concerns, but...  Did someone actually answer the
phone when you called?  Did someone return your call promptly?  If not, that
probably says something about a company's commitment to communicate w/ you
from start to finish.  If they're hard to reach now, just wait till your
event is about to launch.  But if you can talk with a human being and they
show you how much they care, that's the sign of a company you may be able to
count on.


Online Video Service specializes in Internet broadcasting for .org, .gov, and .edu websites.  To learn more about Online Video Service and their real-time and on-demand Internet broadcasts, contact Cynara Lilly