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Employer Branding

The Power of Film: 10 Tips for Employer Branding Films

Based on presentations I did last year at the Video and Mobile in Recruitment Conference and for the CIPD, here are my 10 tips for using film as part of your employer brand.

1. Employer Branding through film – Old Concepts, New Technology

Employer Branding was first presented as a concept at the CIPD conference in Harrogate in 1990. The principles then are still relevant today , but it was a world before the internet, social media and the technology we now have at our disposal. To produce a film as part of any employer brand communication and then distribute it to the right audience was a challenge then let alone expensive, but we can be and should be cleverer about how we communicate to potential candidates and employees. Film is an incredibly rich media that allows us to reflect an organisation’s values with more purpose than ever before.

2. The Employer Value Proposition: Show the value

We all want to be valued and film provides the opportunity to show where this value sits within an organisation. Its about the value to the individual, its value to the organisation and ultimately how the organisation demonstrates its value and recognition towards its employees. An organisation first needs to identify and understand its Employer Value Proposition. When it comes to communicating this through film it runs deep into the fundamental principle of why someone should do the job they do and ultimately who they choose to work for.

3. Demonstrate a shared sense of vision and purpose

When we did some work with Weston NHS Area Health Trust they wanted to improve staff retention in the first 3 to 6 months of employment – a critical time for most organisations. The induction process was very good on the practical side, but what it lacked was helping a broad range of new recruits (including both medical staff and support staff) to feel engaged with the broader picture of what the hospital is there to do and the role that everyone has to play. We know why a hospital exists, but if you’ve just come from working in a shop to working in a support role in a hospital it is important to know how you fit in. We created a film that featured the Chief Executive talking about the broader values as well as  senior management and operational staff describing their work and to help provide new starters with a sense of familiarity and to help them feel part of the new organisation from day one.

In this clip, Amy Hanson, Assistant HR Director at the Trust, describes the positive impact the film has had as well as the broader value they have gained by utilising the footage in a number of different ways.

4. Film is not just what we see and hear, it’s how it makes us feel

If we think of our favourite films we often talk about how they make us feel. They can make us feel happy, sad, frightened and maybe even cry (Toy Story 3, apparently). This is important to think about as both a recruiter and employer. A recent report by The Training Foundation showed that employees are significantly driven by emotion when they measured engagement levels at work. We can engage with candidates and employees on another level if we can affect positively how they feel. This is why film should play an integral role in employer branding.

5. It’s all about the story

Film has little impact if it doesn’t have a story. No matter how short the story there has to be a thread and a theme that engages with its audience. In this case it is the story of the people in the organisation and the impact that work has on them and the world around them. This begins with the people in the organisation and the work the organisation does. It’s about looking beyond the job ad and seeing the story of individuals so people can relate to the job they are going to do and the people they are going to work with.

6. Show  the value of people’s work not just what they do

One of the people we interviewed for the Weston project was a hospital porter called Danny. When we think about the role of a hospital porter we generally associate it with the functional aspect of moving patients around the hospital, but in this clip taken from this unscripted interview we used for the film, Danny brings personality to the role whilst talking about how his job is as much about putting patients at ease, making people smile and providing support to the nursing staff.

7.  Production: It’s not always what you notice, it’s often what you don’t

Technology has made production of video and its distribution much more accessible to organisations that previously would not have had the budget for a full production piece.

Last year saw a movement towards the other extreme – the resurgence in advocating the use of flipcams and consumer cameras to record employees talking about their jobs – or worse – selling their job. I have nothing against this technology being used, but more about the way it is used.   The technique for produced engaging and genuine videos from interviews is not about sticking a camera in someone’s face and expecting them to relax.  The way in which the organisation and job is researched before hand contribute to a more natural interview that elicits a stronger and relevant response. And when the interview takes place we spend up to an hour beforehand with the lighting camera operator and the sound technician ensuring that the quality is the best we can achieve. The interviews often take around 30 minutes for what may end up as a 2 minute clip. You’ll be very lucky to walk up to someone with a flipcam and get that all important quote straight off the bat.

Few people will comment on good sound, but most will notice bad. Most people won’t notice a cut in an edit as if they do it’s generally a bad cut. And someone that comes across as relaxed and natural may have been completely the opposite for the first 15 minutes of the interview, but it’s unearthing those nuggets from the heart that give the film impact and engage with the audience. All of these elements require skill and knowledge of the subject and result in a stronger end product.

Danny Boyle is quoted as saying that 70% of film is sound. You can address something that visually isn’t perfect, but you can’t disguise bad sound. In post production we spend a lot of time in sourcing the right music which can make a dramatic difference to the tone and presentation of the final film.

8. If you’re filming wildlife, use someone who understands wildlife

Not that I’m comparing employees with wildlife, but there is a basic principle here that if the BBC were going to produce a wildlife documentary the first person they will call will be David Attenborough. The technical stuff can all be sorted later by recruiting in the right crew with the right gear in the right places. However, key to the success of the production is the understanding of the subject. Knowing how to approach it, how it will be used and the key points of interest to identify and show the audience.

It pays to work with people who understand the subject and have specific experience in employee communications. They will know what an organisation is trying to achieve quickly and will be as driven by the content and interest in the people and their work as the art of producing a film.

9. Don’t just make one-off videos: Produce Film about your organisation and its work

Due to production costs and the production process, it used to be the case that a video would be commissioned for one particular purpose and then distributed. Particularly, if you go back to the days of physical distribution on a video tape or even DVD. Now organisations are taking a look at how they use film from the very outset and edit a variety of content that can be utilised with different audiences. We have worked with clients where we might spend a week filming, but have edited various versions for teaser campaigns, recruitment through to induction, onboarding and employee engagement work. It is a cleverer and more efficient way of producing film and also ensures that the branding and values that the employee experiences are consistent and inline with the EVP.

10. Filming isn’t just the moment in front of the camera

There is a basic rule of thumb that we follow when someone comes to us and asks how long it will take or how much it will cost to produce a film. This ratio is 2:1:4 with the 2 being pre-production, 1 being a days filming and 4 the time to edit and post-production. Pre-production is vitally important. Everything from understanding the business, identifying the people who we need to talk to and understanding their roles, looking at how the film is going to be used as well as the logistics of scheduling and organising the shoot days. Because we rarely storyboard our films we end up working in a style closer to documentary filming which has a higher ratio of ‘unseen’ footage to that which makes the final film.  This means that the two stage editing process involves going through all the footage identify the relevant content to help tell the story and once this is finalised do we move onto the ‘online editing’ which is when the polishing takes place and the sound and music is added.

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About Nick Price

Employer branding and communications, insight and engagement, talent attraction and HR analytics

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