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How to get your boss onboard with a video

Coming up with a great idea for a video can be daunting. How can you make sure it’s good? How do you know it’s going to work? The development of a strong strategy and creative concept can help allay some of those fears and make you more confident in your video marketing game plan. But what about after you’ve gotten over the hump of those initial challenges and fears yourself, and it’s time to sell your boss? What’s the best approach to ensure stakeholder alignment?

You may have the most openminded, creative, and trusting boss out there. This video pitch is going to be smooth sailing for you. Fantastic. Go get ‘em!

But what if you don’t? What if your boss needs to be convinced that this video is worth the dollars? That the video doesn't need to explain every product or service? That it’s going to help achieve the marketing, sales, and organizational goals for the company? That’s ok, too.

In working with C-suite, marketing, and sales leaders across many industries, we’ve gathered a few tips and tricks to help make this conversation with your boss a good one. A conversation that is productive and results in an approval to move forward with the smart, effective video idea you’ve come up with.

Below are a few ideas to include as you pull together your pitch approach and game plan:

  • Work with your key stakeholders and agency when developing a strategy and creative. Ask lots of questions. Jump in when you need to. This is your video.
  • Be prepared with the answers to the questions you think your boss might ask throughout the process. And make sure you understand what you're presenting before you present it. Give yourself time to prepare.
  • When pitching to your boss, develop a game plan that takes into account the type of person and leader they are. Are they looking for risky and bold? Are they more risk averse? How do they best absorb information? When can they provide you with their undivided attention? Use the answers to these questions to help deliver a successful presentation and discussion.
  • Use case studies and examples to help defend bold ideas and new creative. Psychologically, we all want to hear about a time where taking a similar risk paid off. Have at least one of these in your back pocket.
  • Don't be afraid of "no." If you've thought through your idea and are prepared to answer questions, all your boss can say is "I'd like to see some other options." Bringing new ideas that can move the needle will pay off in the long-run versus bringing the same old thing to the table. It's all about results. Safe isn't truly safe if it doesn't perform.

Key quotes

"It is a big decision. What I find is a little nice trick or way to present is to come up with a metaphor, or an anecdote of someone who has done this in the past, and the risk they took, and [how] it paid off." - Guy Bauer
"[When] reporting to a person who is hyper aware of risk, you need to be aware of how to frame your argument to prove that this is going to work." - Hope Morley
"Are there ways that we can take this idea and tweak it to make it work? You don't have to give up. You may lose the chance to make something groundbreaking because you were too scared." - Tory Merritt

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

Episode transcript

Hope Morley: Hi and welcome to “So You Need A Video.” The only podcast...

Guy Bauer: ...that we're aware of...

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

Guy Bauer: And I'm Guy Bauer.

Hope Morley: And today we are also joined by Tory Merritt, who is our Account Director and Head of Client Service.

Tory Merritt: Hello.

Guy Bauer: Welcome back.

Tory Merritt: Thank you.

Guy Bauer: You're welcome.

Guy Bauer: So today's topic, we have a topic du jour, is, so we just presented you with an amazing idea. You love it. It's gonna work. It's brilliant. You almost cried during the presentation and now you have to sell it to your boss who may or may not be the most creative tack in the tack closet.

Tory Merritt: The closet of tacks?

Guy Bauer: Or the drawer of tacks.

Hope Morley: We use a lot of tacks.

Guy Bauer: May not be the sharpest creative mind. Right. Um, so today's topic is how to get your boss to buy a bold idea, right? Yup. Okay. So Tory, you're a master of, I was going to say manipulation, but...

Tory Merritt: I try. That's our new selling point. Would you like to be manipulated?

Guy Bauer: No, I think you're a master of like communicating with people, right? And like empathizing with how they're feeling, you know, to distill the message in the right format that gets someone to understand something. Right?

Tory Merritt: I try.

Guy Bauer: So how does one do that? How does one convince their boss or maybe not convince or sell whatever it is, right? How does someone get buy in from their boss on a really bold idea?

Tory Merritt: I think understanding the idea yourself first is the biggest step to take. I think a lot of times, depending on your experience in creative, you get an idea presented to you and you understand the logic behind it. You've seen the research, you see the strategy, you see the concept, you mostly get it. But the next step to getting it is thinking through the questions. You probably know your boss better than anyone in a professional setting. So thinking through the questions that they're going to ask and then taking the time, either preferably during the presentation, after we've gone through the concepts or to reach back out to us and say, Hey, I thought this through. I think these are some of the questions that my boss is going to have. Can we talk through them, so I make sure I understand the answers or the best way to present that information? And I think that is an important step to being successful in presenting an idea to your boss and having them get it and be on the same page and be able to then get approval and move forward.

Hope Morley: So what you're saying there too is rely on your agency's experience to help you with this process too. Like you're not alone when you get that presentation. It's not like your agency's backing off and being like, all right, now you've got this great idea. Go present it off, run it up the flag pole and see how it does. You're saying take the time. Once you understand it, if you have questions, you think about those kinds of follow ups you're to get and have your agency help with this process.

Tory Merritt: Definitely. I think that's something you'd probably do internally on all the other projects and all the other initiatives you have that have nothing to do with an agency is thinking ahead or thinking two steps ahead, which I think is something that I try to do, is to understand what's probably going through this person's mind.

Tory Merritt: What's important to them. Are they going to ask me how do I prove ROI? Are they gonna ask me [about] this idea I'm concerned about with relation to compliance or a certain stance that our company has on an issue? Thinking through that kind of stuff and yeah, in our case, you've paid for our support. That's why you've brought an expert in. You don't need to go this alone, let's sit down and talk about it. Concerns that you have. Help us understand as much as possible the internal forces that you're working with and trying to find your way through so that we can make sure that not only does the concept and the idea fit in with what you're trying to accomplish in a larger scale, but that if there are some nuances that may need to be worked through that we've talked about it and found a good way to present that information so that it shows you've thought through that stuff. You're not presenting something that was created in a vacuum that you've thought through the bigger picture and you're looking to do something that helps move the company forward as a whole as opposed to being opposed to things that are already in motion.

Guy Bauer: I just thought of a new business. We should make videos that sell internal stakeholders on video ideas.

Tory Merritt: Like the how to's?

Guy Bauer: No, like we should make like a commercial for the commercial. Almost like...

Tory Merritt: Point One. This idea is brilliant. The only kind we present.

Guy Bauer: No, but I mean to your point it's like we can reframe our creative presentation based on what's important to your internal stakeholders. So for one client we have, Compliance and Risk and all that stuff is super important to us. So much so that sometimes I don't even know if they necessarily care about the concept, but more about the risk that the concept presents rather than the concept itself. Right? So for them it's us making lists of kind of like all the Risk things we've thought of and how we'll mitigate stuff like that. So to your point, it's like it's not just the idea that your boss has to sign off on, it's all the risk and the compliance and the internal red tape, all that stuff that the politics, right, that's surrounding the idea, maybe not the idea itself.

Tory Merritt: Yeah, and I think those are completely fair challenges and fears, right? It's your job in some cases that's on the line. Your performance is on the line and being able to demonstrate that you've thought through things. Every company has their skeletons in the closet and things they need to be careful with and be careful around. It's totally normal to want to be able to speak to those. But I think it's key to think about those things as we're developing the concepts and think about [them] together. And that way when we've got a concept write up, you don't want to overly caveat it, but I am a big fan of being able to caveat because it demonstrates that you've thought about it.

Tory Merritt: And it's not always perhaps we are asking you to push the envelope. Nothing, obviously, that's going to damage your brand, but we may be asking you to push the envelope, but we're never going to do that without talking to you about kind of the path to be able to do that efficiently and properly as opposed to just ramming through the door with like, here's this awesome idea that us awesome people have come up with. Just find a way. It's, trust me, trust me. I think there is an element of trust me, but that trust is built by being able to demonstrate an understanding of someone's situation and all the factors that are at play in a company, small or large.

Guy Bauer: I find a handy trick. Okay, so say we've reframed the deck, right? And the presentation and it accounts for all the risk, but still there's a very strong psychological element to getting your boss to sign off on something because essentially they assume the risk of this thing going right off the rails, right?

Guy Bauer: It is a big decision. What I find is a little nice trick or, you know, kind of way to present stuff is try to come up with like a metaphor, or an anecdote of someone who has done this in the past, right? And the risk they took and it paid off, right? So one of my favorite stories is when Herb Kelleher had to sell one of his...

Hope Morley: Of Southwest Airlines.

Guy Bauer: Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, right. When he had to sell one of his 737s to make payroll, you know, and they're an airline, right? But that kind of bold decision then, you know, if you then relate it to a current business issue, you're having, right, of maybe selling something to make payroll or making a hard decision of, you know, uh, what is it called when a company sells something...

Tory Merritt: Divest.

Guy Bauer: Divest, right, something to get through a hard business time, right?

Guy Bauer: Hearing the Herb Kelleher story will give you courage to move forward because it has been done before. So a handy little thing is to come up with times this has been done before and use those kinds of anecdotes and stories. A lot of times this is more psychological than it is factual, right, so we have all the risks and all that stuff covered. But then there's just the psychology of doing something different. And this is where we bring in Taylor Swift.

Tory Merritt: Love me some Taylor.

Guy Bauer: Well, if you think about it, when was the last time you heard, you know, I'm a big Muse fan and every new Muse album that comes out, I have this immediate like, I hate this album, this is terrible. And then I listen to it again, then I listen to it again and then I start to love it. Right? So a lot of times there's just this instant knee jerk reaction we have to new and different, and your boss is going to have that same reaction guaranteed, um, if this creative is bold and, and all that stuff. So the idea is now you have to reassure the person with facts and stories and you could even bring up the Taylor Swift story, or you know, relate to them. The idea is to psychologically calm the person down using those like proof points of, you know, human psychology.

Hope Morley: And I think at the end of the day, doing anything different is scary for all of us. Everyone has different levels of being risk averse. And a lot of people, if they do get higher up in their careers and become a boss, if they're leading your sales department, they're leading your marketing department, they often got there by being super hyper aware of risk. And it's not saying that they're risk averse necessarily or that they've always played it safe, it's that they have an awareness of how all their actions are going to affect the company. And that's how you move up in the corporate world. Right? So then when you're presented with something that's different, it's scary. It's the new Taylor Swift song that you just heard and you're like, this is different than everything else she's ever done.

Hope Morley: So as someone who's reporting to this person who is hyper aware of risk, you then need to be aware of how to frame your argument to prove that this is going to work.

Guy Bauer: And it may or may not work. And a lot of times too, I find just your acknowledgement that this may not work, but here's the reasons why this is our best shot. And that's when you bring in the strategy deck, right? That's when you bring in stuff that is almost like inarguable, right? Because then that will base everything on some kind of bedrock, right? Because if we just present an idea to your boss in a vacuum, your boss's presumptions or context or frame of mind at that particular moment will influence the decision in that vacuum, right? But what we've got to do is add context and all the facts and all the stuff that like really grounds that idea.

Guy Bauer: The way we want to go into those meetings with our bosses is like where this is almost like the only idea, right? Based on the current situation and the goals and all that stuff. This is our best solution.

Tory Merritt: I think it also depends on the person though. I think there are benefits to being able to show someone, I've thought through these three ideas and this is why this recommendation is the recommendation and sometimes you need to be able to see what isn't the recommendation to be able to understand why your best choice is your best choice. And I think that's where we benefit in showing a couple of different ideas that everything ladders back up to the strategy and the key insights. But they're just different pathways to take that are aligned to fact but give you a different visualization of how to approach it.

Tory Merritt: So there are some people that, especially if they're short on time are like just give me the idea, I'll vet it, if it's fine, it's fine, let's do it. And there are some bosses, I think there is a benefit to demonstrating what we are doing and here are the other two and here's why we think these are not as good of options as the one that I'm recommending. Another step, depending on how much time, we know everybody's short on time, but being able, depending where you are in the structure, being able to have your boss in those meetings with the team as we're presenting is also helpful. It allows you to skip the step of having to like show it to them blind or have to do the whole process, [it] allows us to do the setup and then gives you the opportunity to just talk through it and come to alignment without having had to do the whole hour and 15 or whatever it is, of trying to explain it yourself.

Tory Merritt: Again, our job is to educate you so that you can do that, but being able to have your boss or whoever needs to give final sign off in the meeting is also helpful.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, and also if your boss is in those meetings with us, they start to have a sense of ownership as well. So they start becoming the creator. There's a few times where the creative has been really worked out right and it's in a great spot. And then you know, we loop in a stakeholder who hasn't seen anything and they may like the idea but it doesn't have their like DNA in it.

Tory Merritt: Yeah.

Guy Bauer: And they're going to start adding their DNA into it, whether it's good or not. Right. So it's really having those stakeholders in early so that they start to get their fingerprints on the project and then have a sense of ownership over it.

Tory Merritt: Yeah. And I think that also plays into making sure that when it comes time to give feedback that you are looking at that creative and you are giving yourself the time to sit down with it and really think about it as opposed to, again, we're all very busy, giving yourself five minutes to look through it saying, okay, it's fine. And then you get to a first or a second draft and there's things that you wish you had said and you wish you had spoken up about at the beginning. And then I don't want to say you're stuck because there's always things we can try to do, but you feel like you're stuck with a video that could have been better or you could have addressed something. So I think something we find to be very important is making sure that all key stakeholders feel like this is your video.

Tory Merritt: Like this isn't Umault's video or the agency's video. This is your video. We're guiding you, we're helping develop the creative, but we want your input. You understand your company and your stakeholders and your audience. We do our best, but you understand them better than we do. So speak up when you are feeling things or seeing things and let's talk about it. We don't want to just say, here's the idea. There's nothing that can be changed. Either say yes or no and we're making it. This is a process that you're a part of and I think that's something even internally, Guy, that we find is when we're talking through feedback, we want it to be a conversation. We want it to be something that we've discussed and tweaked and nobody feels good about something that they haven't had a chance to really provide an opinion on, especially when you know something the best of anyone.

Guy Bauer: It's that time to sleep on stuff. And that's for a different podcast. But talking about timelines, right? And really giving yourself plenty of time in that creative strategy phase to just sleep on stuff honestly, and just have time with it and take a three day break from it and then come back to it with a fresh brain. Right? There's so much value in just like having time to do that. But anyway, the other thing I was thinking of is like, you know, and it's not the end of the world if your boss does shoot the idea down, say we have the best idea in the world. Oh, it's so perfect. And in the end your boss shoots it down. That's not the end of the world.

Tory Merritt: As long as it's an idea that you've demonstrated, you really thought about. Right? And that's where making sure you understand and you've asked the questions ahead of time is an important part of success. And Guy, you can speak for yourself as a boss, you would rather someone come to you with ideas that are well thought out, but they push the envelope versus just continuing to give you the safe, same old thing that doesn't demonstrate not only progression in your career journey but also in the growth of the company.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, I'd rather too many ideas than not enough or the same ideas. So yeah, I think you, yeah, you still win if the ideas not what they want and they say no. Uh, I, I think you still win. As long as the idea wasn't like...

Tory Merritt: Not well thought out or...

Guy Bauer: Not well thought out. Right. As if the idea seems rushed or whatever, then yeah, then I see you having negative repercussions. But yeah, there's really no risk in the idea. The real risk is making a safe video that does nothing. Right. In the name of not wanting to have a conversation with your boss that may or may not, you know? Right. So don't play it safe because yeah, you may get an approval very quickly, but then your boss, when the video doesn't work, right, will not remember the fact that they approved it even. The blame will fall on your shoulders of, you know, not being bold enough or whatever. So I think, you know, it's like they say, you know, you only lose if you don't try if you don't play the game. But, uh, yeah, it's not the end of the world. If your boss shoots down an idea because now we know why they're shooting it down. Their reasoning may or may not be what we want to hear or logical. Right? But it's the reality we're in.

Guy Bauer: We just did a project recently where our client was in love with the idea. Everyone loved it. Everything was on track, got presented to a stakeholders, stakeholder said no, and we had to start over. But I really do think the alt idea we came up with is better than the original. And it was, you know, deemed safer by internal stakeholders. So it's not the end if they say no. It really isn't.

Tory Merritt: And I think something all three of us have said, as you know, no risk, no reward. Obviously you need to put boundaries around that. But if there's no risk, again, if the video does nothing, now you've wasted x amount of dollars on something that is status quo.

Tory Merritt: And I, I think there are some organizations where we do see a bit of box checking, but I think for someone to pour all this time into a video and heart and soul, for it to say nothing I that is actually worse for your career in the long run. Whether that's at the company you're currently at or in the future, it's worth less to you than being able to have put forward a strong idea. And something I think Hope has experienced as well when talking through feedback with clients is you need to understand the why. It's not just about the feedback.

Tory Merritt: I think there's times where we've gotten feedback and in my prior experiences with other shops is depending on the client situation we're in, we just had to say, okay, we'll just scrap it. Versus are there ways that we can take this idea and still tweak it to make it work? You don't have to give up. And I think that's something I've learned over the past few years is with you don't probe and you don't find out the why you may give up before you need to and unfortunately lose the chance to make something groundbreaking or risky in the right way because you were too scared to just say, Hey, can I understand what you're concerned? Or a question that we ask is, you know what isn't working? Instead of just, it doesn't work or I don't love it. Digging in with your boss and saying, okay, I hear you. What is it that you don't love about it? What is, for example, music, what does not right about it? Is it too upbeat? Is it not upbeat enough? Taking the time to think and, it's okay if you say, let me think about it and get back to you.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. And the other thing too is this is really practical. Don't just email the deck over.

Tory Merritt: Yeah.

Guy Bauer: The worst thing you could do that is literally the worst thing you can do. It would be best if your meeting is in person, a phone call or Skype or whatever is fine. Ideally you would be in person and then again moving back to what we said earlier is you can put your agency on the phone. We're more than happy to go to bat to get this thing across the plate. What's funny is in a creative engagement, the selling of the concept and the direction to the stakeholders is probably the hardest part of the entire engagement.

Guy Bauer: The creative, the strategy, all that stuff is, you know, that's obviously like a big undertaking, but I would say it's that pivotal sales moment of getting buy in from that internal stake holder.

Tory Merritt: And getting buy in right the first time, if you can. Everybody's busy but setting up time with your boss and let us know, hey, I need three weeks to be able to get the time that I need, but I want to do this right. Let your agency know that so they can adjust timelines. We would rather have you have the time to talk to your boss or whoever you need to talk to, to sit down with them and take them through things and you end up getting a yes, it's less work that way in the end, then to just email the deck over and then you've got questions in email and going back and forth.

Tory Merritt: People don't actually understand at the end, we all know you ask a question and somehow four emails later, no one remembers what the question was. So taking the time, I need three weeks, and sitting down with your boss and being able to go through and understand their concerns is worth it versus just emailing it over to save time and then you end up, everybody's confused and no one's really sure of what we were talking about to start with.

Guy Bauer: Something I just thought about while you were talking is so this must be why safe is so easy. Because with safe you don't have to do the hard meetings...

Tory Merritt: Not a lot of explanation needed.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. So the idea really is to try to position the idea in the most safe context possible, right? Is that really the key is just make this thing look safe?

Hope Morley: No, I disagree. Because if you're making it look safe, then you're not defending a different idea and you're not showing that you're pushing the envelope and if you're trying to impress your boss, then trying to position something that's not safe as safe is actually the opposite of what you're trying to do there.

Hope Morley: So it goes back to what we talked about at the top of the episode, which is you know your boss better than we do and better than anything. So what speaks to that person? Is the person incredibly risk averse and do they want the safe idea so that you need to take this idea, tweak it, show them how it's actually not that different from what we've done in the past or is this someone who really wants you to push the envelope and really wants to see that you're trying something different that you're willing to put yourself on the line.

Tory Merritt: And I do think there is an element of choosing the right agency for the type of video. I think if you are looking at something that you don't have an option on whether you can push the envelope, it's going to just kind of be what it is. I do think we can safely say perhaps agencies like ours are not the right choice and spending your hard- earned money, your company's hard earned money, with a different company is the better choice, and then perhaps you can have budget allocation for when you are able to make a riskier move. You have that to go ahead and push the envelope with an agency that is the right fit for that moment.

Guy Bauer: I concur.

Guy Bauer: Great. Well that was fantastic.

Hope Morley: Thanks for listening to this episode of "So You Need A Video". For more information and for links to any resources we talked about in this episode, please visit our website, at umault.com that's U-M-A-U-L-T dot com and if you liked what you heard today, please subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast app. Thanks for listening.





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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