I recently participated as a judge in a video contest for students at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. The rules for the contest, sponsored by the Admissions office, were straightforward: Create a 2-4 minute video that includes three or more reasons why you love St. Mike’s (at least one had to relate to academics), and post it on YouTube. You can imagine the array of reasons that resulted!
Participating in this panel was a great reminder for me of how powerful video is as a marketing medium. As an Internet marketer, I have two main areas of focus: how businesses present themselves on their website, and how said website can achieve a high level of visibility. Video is an excellent vehicle for addressing both. Well-optimized videos can be very attractive to Google, and they are a great way to invite customers (existing and potential) to engage in your site and learn about you in a more interactive way than text and images allow.
So, let’s circle back to St. Mike’s. The panel was asked to judge seven student-created videos, all extolling the virtues of their cherished college home. Interestingly, a few very different approaches to the same challenge emerged.
Boiling it down, we saw:
- Two montage-style videos showing campus scenes and students (one featuring still shots, the other a mini-tour with student interviews). To me, these represented a more traditional, brochure-like approach; just the kind of video an Admissions officer would love to sit a prospective student in front of.
- Two entries were student-written raps about St. Mike’s, in the style of “Lazy Sunday” (the 2005 SNL video featuring Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell). These were the viral entries, in my mind, meant to generate a buzz across the Internet, or at least provide pop culture appeal for the current generation of soon-to-be college students.
- One was done video diary style – a personal tour of one student’s life at St.Mike’s and her reasons for selecting the college. This approach, in which the entrant spoke directly to the camera, had a personal feel, drawing the viewer in and attempting to make a connection.
As different as they are, each of these approaches has a distinct value and can be used effectively to marketing-related ends. If St. Michael’s College were to select one to push as a marketing centerpiece, they’d need to think hard about their target audience (high school seniors? Parents? New Englanders? People across the country or the world?), and the type of image or message they want to present to that group.
Cunningly, the college came away with seven great videos promoting St. Mike’s that now live on YouTube and can be found and viewed by thousands of prospective students and parents all over the map. To take it a step farther, the contest itself provided benefits beyond the video output. St. Michael’s College did a great job publicizing the contest, creating a press release, and placing info on their website and their Facebook page. They invited media professionals including personalities from local newspapers and television stations to participate on the judging panel, which generated some press and some links. This was a smart marketing campaign.
If you’re just starting out with video marketing, take some time to plan ahead. Think about the type of message you want to deliver, who you want to appeal to, and what you will do to make sure the end result reaches the masses and pulls them in.
And don’t forget to check out the winning entry in the St. Michael’s College video contest.