A huge stumbling block to creating interesting, original social media content is the fear of the lens. Time to get comfortable.
By now, I’m sure you’ve read all about why using video is important in your dealership. Videos of vehicle presentations, employee introductions, customer testimonials, special events, kids, and general silliness (among other things) can help communicate the personality of your organization in ways no other medium can.
If the employees in your dealership aren’t used to having a camera around, it will take some work to get everyone accustomed to it. If your dealership does embrace video–fantastic, but there still might be some ongoing challenges to overcome. Perhaps this scenario sounds familiar…
It’s a weekday morning, and the showroom is empty except for a few service customers reading their iPads and drinking coffee. A creative urge strikes, and you grab your video camera to start on that idea you wrote down last week. As you walk from station to station, looking for willing subjects, you’re met with a string of rejections, like ”I’ve got a migraine,” “you know I don’t do well on camera,” “ask so and so–he’s the real star,” “I’ve got people coming in” and “not today.” Maybe someone actually grunts at you. Your creative momentum comes to a screeching halt, and the camera goes back in the bag with the dim hope that sometime soon, you’ll get another chance.
This scenario highlights what I believe is the biggest obstacle to making videos at a car dealership: Camera shyness. Not just on the part of the subject, but the camera operator as well.
Obtaining someone’s agreement to be on camera is very much a sales exercise, and, come to think of it, camera shyness has a lot in common with a car shopper’s anxiety. Both involve a lack of trust and the fear of making a mistake.
Take heart. Embrace the spectrum of personalities of the people you film — it’s what will make your videos come alive. As much as you might be tempted to, you just can’t keep taking pictures and video of the front of your building or of the cars on the lot. People want to see other people, so here are some suggestions I’ve compiled based on my experience as an in-house video guy…
Be prepared. Approaching people with a fully formed idea is more effective than asking “would you like to make a video?” Remember that good video is about telling stories, and turning on the camera and telling someone to “do something” will not result in a compelling story. Even if you’re asking someone to describe to the camera how their job fits in to the organization, have a quick conversation about what the goals of the video are, and how this person fits in to the achievement of those goals. Five or ten minutes alone with a pen and notepad before the lens cap comes off will work wonders. Remember to think in terms of shots, not just dialogue and action. The time of day has a huge impact on which shots will work in what locations, whether customer traffic or the position of the sun.
Give your subjects time to prepare. Sounds fair enough, right? It isn’t realistic to expect everyone to always be ready to shine on camera, and I’ve found that scheduling an appointment to film works wonders. Recently, I filmed some introduction videos for the ladies of our BDC, and we had a fantastic time because they knew what would be happening and came to the session relaxed and prepared. Granted, sometimes videos need to be made right now (filming a walkaround for a hot out-of-state lead, for example), but when that happens, use the situation as an opportunity to bond with the others involved in the project.
Be specific about what you want from people. People respond to direction, and the more you can explain to them what will work best for the photo or video, the more comfortable they will be losing themselves in the moment. Saying, “so, yeah, just be natural, you know what to do” isn’t enough. You MUST be the director. Even if they seem in a hurry, they’ll appreciate you taking the time to tell them how to look their best. Also, it may seem simple, but giving directions in reverse (okay, move to the left, no, my left, your right, etc) takes practice, so give that some thought, too.
Experiment with props. You can’t buy new props every time you want to make a video, but if you’d like to see a lot of people get involved, this could be a great way to start. Hiding behind a huge white beard or silly hat is great for the nerves.
Try setting up a decoy situation. I’ve found that just setting the camera up and recording nothing in particular will encourage people to goof off or try to undermine what they think is happening. This is a gamble, however. Sometimes, this goofiness makes for good video, and many times, it does not.
Identify and utilize your camera-friendly allies on the sales team. Having your go-to people will help you get projects done when you’re in a hurry and can encourage others to get involved. Invaluable.
Create a culture of safety and trust. Salespeople know that customer trust is a precious, fragile thing. A cameraman must treat the trust of his subjects the same way. Avoid hidden camera pranks and let your subjects see the finished video before its uploaded for public viewing. Blow it once, and you may not get another chance.
Start reluctant subjects off with small parts in a video–maybe two sentences or less. Don’t expect too much too soon. Often, if someone agrees to give you two sentences, they’ll usually give you more than that once you start rolling. You might even ask for a single word or a particular facial expression which, if edited in at the right time, can bring the house down. Perhaps Vine, the new video-sharing app for Twitter that limits creations to just six seconds, would be a great way to start.
Know your talent, and know your audience. If an idea seems way out of character, there’s a good chance that it won’t make for an interesting photo or video unless the absurdity is exaggerated for comic effect. Use discretion here, however. With that being said, don’t be afraid to push your subjects outside of their comfort zones if you feel they can handle it.
Sometimes, just leave people alone and let them have fun. If you’re always focused on capturing the next unexpected YouTube sensation, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities to connect with your coworkers, which is an essential element of your job. I can’t stress this enough. Yes, you want a working environment where people understand the importance of video, but more than that, you want a working environment where people feel comfortable having fun ALL the time. Spoil too many moments by uncapping the lens, and you’ll be regarded as a fun vulture.
Show your willingness to be on camera at any time. Taking the stance that “I’m the camera man, not the talent” does not set a good example. Demonstrate that you wouldn’t ask anyone to do what you wouldn’t do yourself.
Some people will never be willing, so once you’ve identified them, leave them alone or you’ll never get anything done. Don’t torture yourself.
But what about…
What about asking for a video testimonial from a customer? When a salesperson comes into my office and asks me to record a customer testimonial, I make sure to always go out to where the customer is sitting without the camera. A conversation with the customer will remind everyone that you’re a human being, too, and not just “the intimidating camera person.” Letting the customer know what’s going to be happening and asking for their input on the process will put them at ease.
What about when someone gets upset that you’ve edited out their favorite part? I don’t hear this complaint much, to be honest. If you do, you can use this as an opportunity to have a discussion about what they feel their on-camera strengths are. You could also return to the footage in question and use the moment in a blooper reel montage.
How do you respond when someone insists on commenting negatively about their own weight, hair, appearance, speaking ability, etc? Offer reassurance, but avoid dishonesty. Usually, such comments aren’t asking for a response, so do your best to stay on task.
Finally, enjoy what you’ve created. A beloved video can be a source of pride and laughter for years to come, so embrace this opportunity to help write your company’s history. Now, get out that camera and start shooting!