Is Video in Your Teaching Plans?

One of the more intriguing instructional questions we see on the horizon is how (or perhaps whether) to address video in the business communication curriculum.

Now that video is cheap to produce and often free to distribute, more and more companies are using video to supplement or replace written messages. Of course, video has been used for years, but it was usually concentrated in a few functional areas as marketing and training or reserved for special occasions. Significantly, video was often the domain of trained videographers who were comfortable making the many aesthetic and technical choices that quality video requires.

In much the same way that basic desktop publishing went mainstream, video is now a common media choice for many business professionals. The benefits for senders and receivers can be huge, whether it's an engineer posting a how-to video to the customer support blog or the CEO issuing an important public statement. The wild growth of YouTube and other video-sharing sites—even for clips that don't involve piano-playing kittens—is evidence of how readily professionals and consumers alike embrace content in video form.

Unfortunately, just as it was easy for the untrained to make hideous brochures and posters when they first got their hands on desktop publishing capabilities, making awkward or ineffective videos is easy, too.

Imagine a public, negative-news message from a CEO, such as the announcement of a facility closure or a product recall. A print form of this message would be challenging enough to write, given the multiple stakeholders in the audience and the level of emotional involvement. However, with a lean medium such as a news release or a blog posting, the number of nonverbal signals associated with the message is small, so the communicator can focus his or her energies on the words themselves and not have to worry too much about whether the packaging of the words will send unwanted messages.

In contrast, using video to send this message introduces a wide array of nonverbal variables. For instance, a CEO sporting a $200 haircut and $2,000 suit while sitting comfortably in a mahogany-paneled office won't be a very sympathetic character for delivering news of a major company layoff. At the other extreme, surviving employees who worry if they're next and community members who count on the company's economic activity might not be too comforted by a poorly lit CEO standing stiffly in front of a blank wall with a look of gloom and doom on her face. The same message delivered in two starkly different visual settings could trigger profoundly different reactions from the viewing audience.

Even for less dramatic messages, the communicator has to consider a significant number of variables: setting, lighting, props, camera angles, clothing, speech patterns, body language, vocal characteristics, whether to add musical cues on the fade in or fade out, and more.

With many instructors still trying to fit blogging and other new media into an already overloaded syllabus, we realize the thought of adding video might be enough to make one scream. However, as video continues to go mainstream as a business communication medium, how can today's and tomorrow's business professionals learn the nuances of good video production?

Video clearly falls outside the scope of a focused business writing classes, but what about broader business communication courses? Do you address video as a business medium now? If not, do you anticipate doing so in the future?

We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Photo credit: Andrew Rennie