For the past 5 years, I’ve been telling #documentary stories for companies that I really believe in and care about succeeding. It’s been wonderful, finding out how production works across many categories, how things get done. I’ve learned about the stumbling blocks in getting a company (or ballet troupe) (or non-profit) (or music festival) off the ground. I’ve learned about people’s individual passions and how they’ve turned them into profitable life’s work. I’ve learned about Fortune 50 companies that keep the work environment human, intimate and small wherever possible. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited deep into the human endeavor.
I’ve directed and produced stories that took us on epic journeys — sometimes in the matter of days, sometimes months — to produce a 3–5 minute video. We count the views and get excited when it surpasses one hundred thousand, two hundred thousand, four hundred thousand and so on. Sometimes one video is all that’s needed. Three minutes of beautiful light-filled spaces and intelligently told stories of does more than a couple of paragraphs in the ‘about us’ section could. A video shows you what you would not otherwise see. A founder’s journey. A process. A group dynamic. You can come to a company’s website and immediately be transported to their essence. You’ll know if this is something you want to be a part of.
On the other hand, for companies constantly putting out new products and new experiences, you want a story that will last and grow. You can spend the same budget on mini-stories that can be released in installments over time. You can build true social media #engagement with a consistent ever-evolving story using images, text, and mini videos so that what emerges is a beautiful puzzle rooted in values, expertise, and excellence.
We all have to be mini content companies and you need partners, someone who ‘gets’ you, to be your reporter and narrator through various channels proffering content that fits those channels. In addition to 3–5 minute stories, this is how I see the next chapter of content.
Starbucks (where I’m sitting now) is producing mini-documentaries in a series called Upstanders. Pepsi bet big on their in-house content studio, “Creator’s League.” General Mills has an in-house agency called “The Bell House”. Marriott has “M Live Studio”. A report from the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) found that companies that worked directly with producers instead of agencies doubled to 27 percent in 2015, according to Digiday UK. Medium size companies and more nimble departments of bigger companies can do it with small and nimble producers, writers, and strategists.
Stories naturally emerge from the work and if someone’s there to listen and focus on them, you can deliver a content flow that is strategic, authentic and infused with the real spirit of the company, taking your audience to a place both you, and they, want to go.