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Stop interviewing your CEO and trying to pass it off as a marketing video

Ah, the CEO interview video. As a B2B video agency, this is probably the number one request we’ve gotten over the years. Your sales or marketing team decides to call up a production company, ask them to interview an executive about your services, and film some shots around the office showing how collaborative your team is. It'll be great!

Or will it?

Companies make these videos because they’re easy. Every company has executives. Those executives are knowledgeable about your products or services. Most of them are well-spoken. Why not send in a video crew, have them interview the executive, and *BAM* instant video. Problem is, as with any default decisions, these videos often don’t work.

Why will CEO or executive interview videos often fail to achieve your marketing goals?

When you interview an executive, you are outsourcing the risk of the creative to the person who you’re interviewing.

You put all of the creative storytelling on their shoulders, instead of leaving the heavy lifting to a marketing team or agency. Executives are excellent at running companies or departments. They are often not great at creative storytelling.

CEO interview videos are often the result of skipping the video strategy step.

Before creating any marketing video, you must have a clear strategy. Who are you targeting? Where does this video fit in your sales funnel or buyer’s journey touchpoints?

Without taking the time to make sure that the video you are creating will be effective at the job you want it to do, you can end up with an asset that falls flat.

The idea for the type of video that gets created needs to come after the strategy is well-established. Be wary of any video project that starts with the video type.

Your target audience doesn’t know or care who your CEO is.

This reason can be hard to hear. Most sales and marketing teams are passionate about the product they make and passionate about the people at the company. They’ve seen the CEO inspire the team at morale-boosting events. Their CEO is great!

You care about your CEO because you work for them and like the company they lead. Your prospects… likely don’t. To them, it’s a person in a suit. 🤷♀️

For more on each point, listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.

So what can you do instead of the CEO interview video?

Start with a clear strategy, then try this four step process for coming up with an effective B2B video idea.

And if you do find that an interview video is the right way to go (which sometimes it is!), then use these tips for getting the best interviews out of your people.

Key quote

"I think the first question we need to ask ourselves when we get a request to come and interview a CEO is, 'Well, why?' And not just why do you want to interview them? But why are you making a video? What do you need it to do?" - Guy Bauer

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode transcript

Hope: Hello and welcome to "So you need a video", the only podcast

Guy:  ...that we're aware of...

Hope: ...About simplifying your brand sales message with video. I'm Hope Morley

Guy:  And I'm Guy Bauer.

Hope:  So Guy, I just got a really interesting email from a potential new client. Yeah, they want to do something really exciting and different and new.

Guy: Oh, sweet. Yeah. Tell me more about it.

Hope: They want us to come to their office with a camera and interview their CEO and capture some B roll around the office.

Guy: Oh No. Why did you taunt me? No,

Hope: So I'm kidding. But this is probably the most common requests that we've gotten over the years from potential clients, would you say?

Guy: Yeah. And why do you think that is?

Hope: It's easy. It's something that everybody's got a CEO, everyone's got someone in charge. And if you've got a message that you need to get out, why wouldn't it be the head of your company as the right person to give that message out to the public or to your internal team?

Guy: Yeah, and obviously we're generalizing now. Not every, you know, it's not always the CEO, but a common request. We get is to come with a camera and interview a bunch of people, you know, get some B roll around the office and make a video. How hard could it be? And the answer is, well, it's quite easy to do it. It's not hard. Yeah, it's not a hard shoot, but it's then on the backend is will this work? Is this the best solution to move the needle in your business of what you want to accomplish? And I guess that's where we could start off is hope. Talk about why you should not interview the CEO. Right?

Hope: And as your default, right? Sometimes you should interview your CEO just to make that clear at the get go. Sometimes that is the right answer, but as your default, we need a video. Let's just interview an executive on camera before you even consider making that video. What I really want to encourage any of our listeners to do is think about how that message is going to be perceived by the audience when you're talking to or showing the interview with an executive, no matter what, it's going to come off as kind of top down and like an order that's like coming down from above. Especially if you're talking to internal teams and you're trying to talk about say a new company strategy or something like that. It's not going to come off as anything that's collaborative or anything more original than having the CEO say something that they've probably already said before. Yeah,

Guy: So interviewing the CEO or you know, this is often called a mini doc, um, you know, or a corporate mini doc. This is all goes onto that category of what we define in previous episodes as default creative. So what it does is actually, you know, as a video agency and as potentially if you're listening in, you're in marketing or leadership or sales leadership, what you're doing is you're basically outsourcing the risk of the creative to the people that you're interviewing. And you're putting all of the kind of creative storytelling on their shoulders. And you know, they may not be the best storytellers. So I think the first question we need to ask ourselves, so when we get a request, hey, this is a pretty simple thing. When you come and interview our CEO or interview our head of product about this thing, we start with asking like, well why? Right? And not just why do you want to interview them? But like, why are you making a video? Why do you need a video? When do you need it to do? And this is where we start talking about again is video is a two step process. Step one is strategy and creative and step two is production.

Hope: So that all said, let's talk about what the proper creative process should be. So for our agency Umault when we get a call like this, when somebody comes in, Guy, talk a little bit about what you would say in response to a client that calls you up and says, Hey, we've got a new product we're launching. We want you to interview the head of our product team. We'll just get some shots around the office. It's going to be people collaborating, they're going to write on whiteboards. It's going to be great. What would you say to them?

Guy: Well, I'd say a hold your horses and let's start talking about, okay, well what does this video need to do? What are the goals and objectives? If this video had a job now it may end up being that after our creative process where you were right and we can, we should do an interview and b-roll, but rarely is the case where exactly what our client presented us as the creative solve ends up being the creative solve. So really what you have to do if you're a client in this situation, if you're one of our clients or if you want a video, is take a step back and start thinking about, well what does this video need to do? What does its job, if it was a missile, what is its target? So we need to start there. And in fact, when you start from that strategic point of view, the creative, actually I. E. The idea of what the video is going to be, we don't even start thinking about that until we have a strategy.

Guy: Well, if we need to increase brand awareness in the marketplace, what does it matter if our CEO is talking about how great our brand is, no one knew who knows who the brand is. So no one knows who that person is unless it's a celebrity. So, you know, we always want to work backwards from what do we need this thing to do? What's our strategy for getting it to do that? And then coming up with the creative solve that ladders back up to that strategy. And again, it may be an interview and B roll, but rarely is it ever exactly as easy as that

Hope: [inaudible]. And it's important to remember, no matter what kind of company and what kind of brand you are, there's a lot of different video styles that could work for your brand. And just because you've always done interview and B roll style as a company, it doesn't mean it's not time to try something new. In fact, it means that it is time to try something new if that's the only thing that your company has ever put out. And once you go through the full creative process and have a strategy, you're going to see yourself as a client, what the kind of faults in your original plan were. You'll see that. Um,

Guy: Yeah, I think what you'll see is that, you know, uh, it's not as easy as that.

Hope: And the, the value that hiring an outside agency to help you do this is that we bring an outside perspective. So for a lot of teams, especially marketing and sales teams that we work with, you know, you're deeply involved with your organization, which is great. You're passionate about the product that you make, you're passionate about the people that are at your company. All of that is great and we want to bring that through in the video, but it can also kind of put blinders on you that you might think that your CEO is particularly eloquent and well spoken and Oh no, she's great, she's the best. Well, maybe she's not, and her on video doesn't mean she's not great at her job. She's probably as great at her job. She's gotten to be the CEO. But having an agency help you come up with that creative and really think about what you want this video to do is a valuable way to determine what style of video is going to work for you.

Guy: Yeah, a lot of times the reason why companies want to have their executive leadership team star in the video is because they've seen these executives in sales situations or company, you know, morale boosting events and they've seen how they can inspire people. But that's because you work at the companies. The market doesn't know them. Again, I'm not saying that we never recommend, you know, that we've never recommended, well we should get your CEO on film, but the reason we're putting that CEO on film, if we ever do that or any executive at your company is because they have a story that's so powerful outside of their role as CEO. Meaning at some point they had to take the drug you manufacturer and it saved their life or something like that. The story has to be interesting outside of their role to be something that will move the needle.

Guy: We talk about like default creative, right? And interview and B role is really the basement of default. It's the bedrock of default creative. And the reason being is that it's very easy to do meaning we don't need to buy locations, we don't need to bring in actors. We have an office come by our office, interview them, and then take b roll. The issue is is that 99% of your competitors are doing the same thing and you all have nice offices. You all have, you know, murals on the wall that say collaborate and y'all have Keurigs. And we get it. But you know, you have to be able to stand out and look different than your competition.

Hope: And you can look different by still having a mini doc. Right? Like there are some great examples of companies that do mini docs. Well and I think there's a couple things that all of these mini docs that are successful have in common. Apple is an example of a company that they make gorgeous mini docs. If anyone's ever watched any of their a big product release presentation, sometimes they'll show that. And a big thing that makes those videos work is that they use voices from across the organization like they talk to not just the head of design, but they talk to people who are more product engineers, mid level people with interesting stories who really had their hands in the development of this product and they're really passionate. And that passion comes through in the video. And that's something that I think a lot of brands could take away from is that when you're doing these mini docs, look for the story in them.

Hope: The story is not necessarily coming from your executive leadership. The stories are going to probably come from the people who are more rank and file, who are actually doing the work of your company every day.

Guy: So Apple was a pioneer of, wait a second, we are Apple, we are made up of 100,000 people that are passionate, is all heck about our product and our mission and all that stuff. So heck, the creative solve here is let your people do the talking and then all that enthusiasm will then talk to the other apple tribe and everyone will feel like they're involved by telling the story of the engineers. Now people that are watching this will also feel like they're included, like they know the inside story, but you understand that this concept was clearly strategized by an agency somewhere and it wasn't just show up with a camera at apple headquarters and walk around and shoot the place with as much B roll as you can. Everything's very precisely planned and very strategically thought through like all the beats, but apple really is one of the pioneers of the quote Unquote Mini Doc.

Hope: At least the effective mini doc.

Guy: So I guess what do we do instead? You know, I think instead of mini docs and default creative and interviewing the CEO, again, what I would recommend is thinking strategically, what does this video need to do? Who Do you want to, you know, move meaning do a detailed, think about the personas you want to reach. And this is all stuff that we do at Umault, but we start thinking about charting out the personas you want to reach. What do you want to say to them, what's important to them? Um, and all of that is done before we think about what the actual idea of the video is.

Hope: Yeah. So we had a client come to us a couple of years ago, a big local hospital, medical group client and they came to us wanting to interview the CEO about this new strategy.

Guy: Many CEO's, they have three.

Hope: It was going to be a long video. And we convinced them that this was not the way to go. So guy, you lead the creative on this. Why don't you tell the story?

Guy: Yeah. And Kudos to them because they took a chance and I think it paid off, but, um, I won't mention names just in case. Um, but, uh, they had a big internal strategic objective of making their staff care about the patient experience with the affordable care act. You know, medical institutions don't necessarily get paid per procedure anymore. Now it has to do with outcomes. Patient experience, the way you recoup your fees is a lot different. So they're under this big hospital transformation initiative to get everybody from janitors up to surgeons to care about the patient experience, meaning Dr. House would not be allowed and now, um, you have to actually be nice and you have to like, you know, treat patients now. Like almost like they're on a vacation.

Guy: Yeah. And they came to us presenting, hey, we want to do pretty easy guy. We need, you know, interviews with three CEOs and, and yada yada. And we took them through the process of what does this need to do? Well, what it needed to do was change minds and get people like janitors or you know, PCTs which are like nurse technicians to open their mind. You know, and usually this is done by interviews, talking at them. We need to care about the patient experience because it will up our blah blah blah. And what we ended up doing was the furthest thing from a interview. We ended up making a short film. I got on the phone with the client and I was like, you know, the best way I'll borrow from 60 minutes, Don Hewitt, the founder of 60 minutes, um, he said 60 minutes doesn't do stories about issues.

Guy: It does stories about people swept up in the issues. So the issue is the patient experience. The worst thing you can do is just make a 10 minute video about the patient experience and why you should care. The 60 minutes approach would be tell a small story about a person or group of people swept up in the issue of the patient experience. So I pitched it to the client. They've Kinda didn't understand actually, I don't think even think they understood the idea even up until shoot day. But they just had trust with me. They trusted me. But uh, the idea was let's just tell a very small story about a patient who had a great outcome due to the hospital's patient experience. So they actually had a list of 10 stories

Hope: that they were just sitting on. Like every company, every brand, you have these stories that are filed away in the back of your mind that we could be telling with video one, you're defaulting to, let's just talk to the CEO.

Guy: And so to mine that story took literally six minutes and I, they told me the stars like Yep! It was about a veteran who he was going to receive a prestigious like, you know, silver flying cross or some kind of really nice award. And he got sick on the day of his medal ceremony and the people in the hospital found out about this and actually arranged for the ceremony to take place in there on like their first floor cafeteria. And they cared about the patient experience. So all we did is literally make a short film of that story. Super Powerful. The hospital still talks about it today. Way better than the default creative of a bunch of executives talking at you. You know, I don't know if you're this type of learner, but every time I try to teach my wife something and you know, I kind of take control of the computer mouse and I'm like, here look, this is how you do it. And she's like, no, no, no, I need to touch the mouse. I need to do it. Like you get Outta here and just, you know, guide me through it. I feel that's a lot like audiences. Um, they don't want to be talked at, they want to participate, they want to feel like they're a part of it.

Hope: And telling that story gets an emotional reaction out of the people. I'm going to post this video in the show notes, watch it without crying. If you don't cry, send me an email about it cause I want to hear. But like I was saying earlier, you know when you're interviewing the CEO and they're just lecturing, it comes down as just an order of someone's like, you need to care about this because I say so. Yup. But when you make people feel something and you tell them the story and you show them the people who watch that video, you then want to do something nice for your patients because you see the difference that it made in that guy's life that it shows you the power of improving the patient experience and nowhere in the video does it say, by the way, we have a patient experience initiative and you need to start caring. It's not there. It doesn't have to be there. It's going to come across from the story itself.

Guy: Yeah, the mini doc or interviewing the com, we're using that as like a shorthand, right? The interview, the CEO is more of our shorthand as default creative mini doc. That usually stems out of just having a very straight at them approach, meaning we need to say this, so just say that. Right. It's not as easy as that. And think back to any of the movies or spots or commercials or whatever videos that you love. They never go that straight at them. There's some obliqueness to it. It's not as obvious because the creators of that content knew enough to know that they can't just tell you everything. You have to explore. You have to come to the realization yourself through self reflection, whatever like that.  

Hope: People are going to no reject things that you tell them to do. Like we're all humans. We know human nature. If I go up to you and I say, hey, you should buy tide, you're going to say no. Why? I don't understand, but if you can show me a really effective commercial for tide, then I might think, oh yeah, that seems like an effective product and maybe I'll consider it next time I'm at target. You know there's a reason why commercials aren't all just buy our product, the end end of commercial cause it doesn't work.

Guy: No it doesn't. Boy, it's so hairy because it's like interviewing leadership and all that stuff. It comes out of a sense of we don't want to take a risk. Again, like I said before, when you interview an executive, you're outsourcing the risk of your creative onto that person. And if the video is a failure, it's because that person's interview wasn't good. But to me that's the riskiest thing you could do. You know what I mean? I understand that organizationally, it's easier to sell this concept through an interview in B roll because it is so default and in the public domain, but it's just insanely risky because there's no strategy, there's no creative heartbeat and there's no story going into it. And to me it's, you know, it's, it's really rolling the dice

Hope: and frankly your audience doesn't actually want to watch that. Whether it's a prospect or internal team, whoever, it's boring, they don't care. And if you need a video that's effective, that's going to achieve your goals, people need to watch it. That's what you're investing in.

Guy: Like I said, there were a few times where I do recommend like, okay, we should do interviews, but again, it always has to be because the story that, that we have a pharmaceutical client and we just did a whole, we actually did two videos out of one shoot, um, where we had their employees talk about the times when they came across their product in their own life. So this pharmaceutical company, you know, makes the certain medication and the employee that actually makes the medication needed the medication out of hospital one day and they talk about seeing the logo of the company come through and they have this sense of calm because they know the people that made it and all that stuff. Super effective. You know what I mean? But there was a thought behind that and it was, you know, there's a reason to interview those folks up against that creative. It makes total sense. So it can't just be default as we don't know what else to do. So let's make a mini doc. It's got to come from a place of, there's a reason for this mini doc. There's a reason we're interviewing the CEO. They have something inherently interesting to say. Other than that, stay away. So, um, all right. So we've learned that all CEOs suck.

Hope: No. What we've learned is that you need to think critically about what kind of video you want to make before you just take the easy route and hire someone to take a camera and stick it in your CEO's face.

Guy: Yeah. You know, again, CEOs that your CEO or any executive leader may be the right choice for a video. But really you have to think about why. And it's that why stuff that gets into the strategy and creative, which is our favorite stuff. Yeah.

Hope: All right, so thanks for listening to, so you need a video for more information and for links to the videos that we talked about in this episode. Visit our website at Umault dot com that's U-M-A-U-L-T.com. And if you liked what you heard today, please subscribe and leave us a review. Thanks. Thank you.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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