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Documentary-style Corporate Video (how to tell your story with authenticity)

Marketing video has taken on a notably more authentic tone lately. In this social media era, consumers have a loud voice and a sensitive shall we say ‘credibility meter’ -a deadly combination for brands. You Tube & reality TV have gotten us very used to the raw flavor of unscripted video production and lowered the ‘corporate polish level’ threshold for what’s acceptable to show your audience. In many cases, when video feels scripted* at all,* it is a big turn off. In many ways, we seem to deeply crave honesty in the companies we engage with. Be REAL with us! Here’s a great example we produced:

Video is a fantastic tool to….

Engage your audience in an authentic way. With a documentary-style video that shows what your company is all about, you can help show your customers that you’re REAL. Your audience can hear your message and story, see who your employees are, get to know them, see your office, it can be a great way to make that important first impression, even before an email or phone call happens.

I wanted to walk you through our basic approach for producing a documentary-style video production for a company. Hopefully, this will help you decide if this approach may be right for you and maybe even stimulate some ideas or questions.

There are 3 phases to our productions: Pre-Production *(planning), Production* (video shoots)*, Post-Production *(editing and delivery).


We generally start pre-production with a kick-off meeting to establish project goals, messaging, timelines, and general logistics through delivery. There is then usually a flurry of phone calls, emails, meetings, asset gathering and such over whatever days/weeks we have available to make it all happen. Our main focus is to develop unique concepts to help make the video stand out and make the desired impact. We also try make sure we have several  interviewees and good locations to shoot to make the final edited the video more interesting.


Video shoots can get expensive so we try and pack as much as we can in one day. That said, in order to get what you need, it can take a little time, especially with multiple lighting set-ups or locations.  It’s a challenging balance and not everything is in your control: you just have to go in knowing that since it’s documentary-style NOT scripted and not a studio shoot,  you just won’t know exactly what you’ll end up with, that’s why talent and experience are such important qualities in crew, so they can maximize any situation.

On, or right before production days, there are some frequent concerns that come up:

  • Just because a video is unscripted *doesn’t mean you can’t make editorial decisions about what’s shown and said in the final video. There are ways to be authentic *but still plan the a shoot so that employees aren’t caught off guard, desks are clean and company secrets aren’t revealed.
  • It can be uncomfortable for some people to be on camera but by working with an experienced producer who knows how to help an interviewee feel at ease, most people loosen up and act natural on camera after a few minutes.
  • Many interviewees feel like they need to plan out what they would say verbatim in response to an interview questions – but that’s exactly what we try and avoid when at all possible. We generally just ask the interviewees pre-planned questions and help them try a few different responses that are concise, but in their own words, and more importantly: with their own true emotion.


Once we have our video assets from the shoots and any other required graphics, music or other building blocks unique to the project, we get started on editing. If the project has enough budget to support pre-production planning of story/structure we may have a good idea of what the final product will be like fairly early on. On some projects, it may take several versions of edits, approvals and back-and-forth with a company’s internal approval structure – if there is one- to get the video where it needs to be. This is why we really like to stress the importance of building some planning time into the budget to develop a smart concept – it’s not uncommon for clients to ask us to show up, shoot a couple interviews, add a little extra footage and some music and make the video pretty, but to truly create a stand-out video that makes an impact, everything flows from the quality of the concept, and good ideas can take time to develop.

It can be challenging for clients to find the value of investing in concept development until they have been through the process and see that they *could have *made better production choices earlier if they taken the time and put their budget dollars into concept development rather than ‘winging it’ and fixing rushed judgements with expensive extra editing.

Developing great concepts that showcase authenticity but with style is a skill and a talent that not every production company is capable of.  When shopping for production companies, I’d urge you to look at their portfolio and see if you find a diversity of capability, style and flavor. A clever concept makes all the difference in the world.

I hope these tips help you tell your story in an authentic and engaging way.

Want to learn more about Online Video? Download our free Online Video Marketing Guide: Learn How to Promote your Business with Video (Free Download)

For a free consultation contact me at Digital Accomplice.

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Dane Frederiksen
Digital Accomplice

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