Videos and AEC marketing: It doesn’t take too much effort to keep up with the trends

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AEC Videos youtube
AEC videos on YouTube

You don’t need to look far to find documentation saying: “You should use video in your marketing” but the questions remain: How should you do it, and what should you cover in your videos?

The concept: Videos engage the viewers, increase identification with your practice, and can help your search engine optimization. However, Aislinn (Ashyln) O’Leary found little more published on the topic for AEC marketers other than pep-talk for this SMPS Marketer article.

Her conclusions, after reviewing 2,228 videos from 50 of America’s largest firms:

  • Videos are important — 84 per cent of the firms have some video content
  • Professionalism is important, but doesn’t need to be overdone — you don’t need slick production values. Some 70 percent were either candid (home video-style) or semiprofessional quality videos, she writes
  • Short is sweet — 77 per cent are 30 seconds to five minutes long.
  • YouTube is great — about 70 per cent of the companies use a third party service such as YouTube to host their videos; though 30 per cent do it on their own sites.

The most important remaining question relates to content, and she broke the videos into four categories:

  • Project spotlights (40 percent)
  • Company culture (34 percent)
  • Firm expertise (26 percent)
  • Firm-related news stories (1 percent).

She suggests that there may be some misplaced priorities here, advocating for a greater emphasis on “firm expertise”

These videos, called “thought leadership” in the general marketing sphere , typically involved a member of the firm explaining the complexities of an area of practice or presenting at an industry gathering. In both cases, members of the firm demonstrated their expertise without tying it exclusively to any one project.

Since potential clients are typically more interested in the firm’s knowledge over “having their thoughts lead” on a given subject, “firm expertise” strikes me as a more accurate name for what is possibly the most important A/E/C video category. Of course, project spotlights are real-life examples of the firm’s expertise, but divorcing the knowledge from a single, specific project makes it easier for potential clients/ partners to apply it to their own cases.

These videos elevate the firm’s perceived value by framing it as an expert among experts. They show that the firm is willing and able to share its expertise in a way that audiences can understand and respect, a critical element in overall marketing. After all, from selection committees to individuals to fellow firms, everyone wants to work with people who not only know what they’re doing, but also know how to communicate effectively.

Why aren’t AEC firms producing these higher-value thought leadership videos in greater numbers? I think it comes down to resources and ease-of-arranging. If you have a project under-way or a community service/event, it is relatively easy to pull out a camera and catch the story. Thought leadership takes a lot more work and I expect will often be less graphically interesting without more professional resources. (How much do you want to watch a jerky amateur video of some guy giving a presentation in a poorly lighted meeting room?)

As an example, consider this blog. I have the resources to easily post videos and when they are available, they become highly effective content (meaning the original source gets a “win” especially since Google/YouTube traces things back to source for SEO). But I rarely produce my own videos. This is in part because I’m a really fast writer and it isn’t hard for me to grind out a written post/message — setting up a camera, scripting it at least semi-professionally, and redoing it if it isn’t quite right takes a whole lot more work.

That said, there are good arguments to finding the time and resources to get your videos right. Certainly, if you have a marketing budget for brochures and trade shows, you can spend some time and money on effective yet simple thought leadership messages.

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