There are two worlds in communication, two main sides of a coin when creating branded content. The first is the client’s world. A world of specific marketing objectives, budgets and deadlines. And then there’s the content creators world. A world of technical and creative challenges.
We all now that the perfect triad is objectives + content + distribution. But how do the ends meet? How to translate the destination marketing objectives in engaging pieces of content? How can we find the essence of a location and convey it without being explicit or boring?
How to translate the destination marketing objectives in engaging pieces of content? How can we find the essence of a location and convey it without being explicit or boring?
This article is an attempt to draft a series of guidelines to make the ends meet. The information here is a result of years of personal experience.
In my particular case, my professional career took me to combine rather different skills.
The visual storytelling approach is pretty much based in the combination of these skills. When creating content, one must articulate three things. A documentation of real experiences, with great imagery and an engaging narrative.
In most cases when dealing with DM, the main goal is to find and convey the unique value proposition of said place. What does my destination have that can other destinations don’t?
So how do we approach this challenge? Here’s a method inherited from combining the three skills quoted above.
Briefing and planning
The first part of the method is easy to guess. We need to know what are the locations and attractions that we need to narrate. Clients and content creators formalize this part with the name briefing. That brief is then rendered concrete in the form of a schedule of activities.
Creating the perfect brief and schedule is a hard process. But even so, here’s a few tips to improve it for video creation.
Think about the target and the content creator: different targets have different interests and expectations. That means that content creators might have a different focus or even pace in their process. For example, a blogger has a different pace than a videomaker. Video production is a time consuming process that involves extra tasks than a blogger doesn’t have. Those can range from battery charging to timelapsing, or setting up audio for interviewing. Have this in mind when creating schedules.
Resting is paramount: The creative process is like a muscle: contraction and relaxation. If you don’t contract, you don’t workout. But if you don’t relax, you lose power and risk injuries. When reaching burnout, a content creator cannot hold the same concentration. That can take to missing important situations, or shots. It is extremely important to dose the pauses in between activities.
Think astronomically: both clients and content creators must be very aware of climate and astronomic conditions in order to create the best possible imagery. There are very specific moments of the day and the year to create tthe most beautiful imagery When does the sun sets? When is the sunset? How many hours of light do we have to shoot?
Give room to improvisation: lots of times the best situations create around events and activities that weren’t planned or part of the schedule. Giving time to content creators to explore, or even take a coffee or visit a shop can lead to the very core of the content.
Work ahead permits: in some cases, permits and extra paperwork can be needed to create images in particular attractions.
Get into the stories
Both marketers and content creators must be really open minded when thinking about activities during a campaign. We tend to repeat ourselves when we know something really well. So we have to let ourselves be surprised by the different point of view of our collaborators. That goes for both sides of the spectrum.
Sometimes the simplest details can lead to the best stories and experiences. Giving room to this should be the core spirit around a content creation campaign.
The importance of people
Locations can be breathtaking. They can inspire awe or travellust. But the more you travel, the more you realize that what really make places unique is the people in them. The situations that arise from those interactions. The ones that we can’t have in our everyday life.
Interacting with people, listening to their stories can lead to wonderful pieces. The main concept for our last campaign with Mauritius with iAmbassador, Storytravelers and Traveldudes was based on a very random situation. We were on a transfer from one location to another, and we noticed the flag on the car’s mirror. And that’s how our driver explained us the origin of the flag. That conversation was the subtext, the very essence to bring all our experiences together.
Use subtext to create new meaning
Subtext is not only “information”. Is a rather complex set of quotations. Concepts that put together create new meanings.
Think about “Psycho”. The shower scene. The drapes opening, the violins. The whole combination of images and sounds created a meaning.
Today, the violin sound became a proxy of the whole meaning of the scene. It is rather easy now to convey that feeling, by playing that sound. That is an iconic, yet effective example of subtext.
There’s this saying: “an image is worth a thousand words”. Before the digital age, and on the early XX century, it was like that. And it was because images were a novelty. Today things are rather different. Everybody can and do create hundreds of images each day. So making meaning out of images seems easier, but with so many images around, it is actually harder.
Same happens with videos. Making videos is rather easy today. Everybody can make a video. Creating a storyline can also be accessible to a broad spectrum of people. But creating an engaging piece takes much more than filming and editing.
This sounds rather abstract, so I’ll give you an example.
Last year we created the second part of what will become a trilogy for the most crowded sailing race in Europe, the Barcolana. For the second part, we created a full short film, an ode to sailing narrated by four great champions of sail.
During our interviews one of the champions told us how a boat is like an instrument. How each sound resonates, how the sound waves and the sea waves had a special connection with the captain.
That idea triggered our main concept for the film. And to support that concept, we used subtext that consolidated that concept during the different sequences.
The climax of that film was created combining images of an orchestra playing a Mendehlsonn classic that “talks” about the sea. Extra layers that not everybody might perceive, but those who know enjoy it even more.
Embrace the unexpected
The hardest part of videomaking for clients is to embrace the unexpected. You plan ahead, you dedicate months of work to a schedule and then something goes west. That ALWAYS happens, and that is part of the trade.
But those moments are actually very important, and having the skills to reshape stories on the fly is what makes good content.
The perfect example of this is Antlos’s webseries “Celebration” episode, shot on a sailboat in Ibiza and Formentera. When we brief’d the participants of the trip, we discovered that Cara, one of the guests for the episode, didn’t know how to swim. This detail was perfect to show how the UVP of the company. Sailing holidays can be amazing for anybody, even for those who cannot swim. That’s how we decided to adjust the story around this fact. She had the time of her life on board, and it really shows on the video.
Weave all together
This part is mostly for videomakers, but also for clients. Living wonderful experiences when traveling is one part of the job, but not the most difficult one. The hard part is to be able not only to document those moment, but also to weave them together in a special way.
What does this concretely mean in the tourism world?
Last year I was part of the campaign for the Germany National Tourism board. “Germany 25 reunified”. For that campaign, I had to create a video showing the Rhein region , known for its wine. In only 18 days, we had to cover most of the highlights of the region. That included wineries, restaurants, museums, and fields. But I also had to portray places unrelated with wine, that were part of the experience.
For that piece I used references from Goethe and Borges, but also references from Disney. The Disney subtext came from the film Tomorrowland, and it’s immediately connected with Borges.
Borges, like Goethe, wrote a sonnet to wine. In that sonnet he talks about worlds within worlds. And that’s a good analogy of the wine region. The same region gave birth to the printing press, and to the German flag as we know it today.
During the video you see all this but without an literal explanation. Neither Borges, nor Goethe have a voice, but they are they. Some people will catch the reference, and some won’t. But the concept is already in their heads
The importance of time, and creative support
During my visit to Mauritius, we had a very pleasant dinner with one hotel manager. He told me his incredible life story, and his bind with Mauritius, a story from his childhood in London and how he used to watch the flagship airline from Mauritius leave. That resonated in his head for years and finally he found his life in the island. That is the kind of stories that can lead to beautiful videos. Sadly we didn’t have the time to shoot that story, but I still think about it. How it matched all the objectives of the client and its partners, and yet it was honest, from the heart, and plain beautiful.
I found at least three or four stories like that on the island. Powerful stories that can be suitable for the campaign, but were out of spec regarding the brief.
For me, that’s the hardest part of my work. Not having the time or economic resources to build and give value to those stories. Gigabytes of audio, video and photos that won’t make the final cut, but are good enough to be a piece on its own. Recently we created a video blog to have the proper editorial plan and framework to start sharing those stories. I believe in it, but there is a long way for a new blog to meet the world of comission work, even for someone with a track record of success.
Our best pieces were always born when our clients trusted us with their support and our method, giving us enough freedom to translate their objectives for them without losing our artistic craft. Film festival short documentaries and record campaigns were born like that.
That’s why I believe that creating a constructive dialog with clients regarding what can happen during a campaign can be not only productive, but even the secret for success in the next campaign. I hope this article can be the starting point for that.