Behind the Scenes: How to Create Engaging Employee Videos

“Let’s do this!”

With that, the camera started recording. Robyn Hannah fired off five quick questions to Danielle Rivieccio, a Dynamic Signal colleague. Rivieccio deftly answered them in less than 15 seconds.

Then, the pair spent a couple of minutes casually chatting about Rivieccio. Her family. Her role as the executive assistant for the company leadership team. The superpower she wishes she possessed. They explored the kinds of things that even people who work with Rivieccio every day might not know.

And that’s precisely the point of Rapid Fire Friday. It’s also why the video blog series is the most popular and most shared content on Dispatch – our own internal version of the Dynamic Signal platform.

Behind the Scenes of Rapid Fire Friday“We had all of these people with great stories, but they weren’t really being told,” explained Hannah, Senior Director for Global Communication. “There wasn’t a place for that. We were looking for a way to knit our employees together and show how we really are a team. Rapid Fire Friday does that.”

There’s no better vehicle to build engagement on an internal communication platform than through employee stories. Yet every communicator will also tell you that it’s always a challenge to find compelling ways to tell the cool tales of people who make the company a special place.

For Dynamic Signal – and many of our customers – one answer has been short videos that highlight the human element of the company.

Now, video can be a little intimidating. But you don’t have to be Jordan Peele to create engaging vignettes that will become the talk of your company. All you have to do is try. That’s the advice of Kirt Zimmer at the global staffing firm Robert Half, a Dynamic Signal customer that has become comfortable using video.

“The challenge for most people is having the courage to stick the camera in front of themselves,” Zimmer said. “There’s some anxiety about doing it wrong. Our team started doing videos, and in a short amount of time, our skills have gotten better. It’s going to be a little messy at first, and that’s OK. It doesn’t need to be a Hollywood-level production.”

They can become immensely popular, too. Another Dynamic Signal customer, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, has created a phenomenal video series on its award-winning platform that helps the workforce see executives as regular people.

Hannah only had an iPhone when she recorded the first Rapid Fire Friday in mid-2017. It didn’t exactly look like a hostage video, but it was close. Since then, the production values have greatly improved.

The format is simple.

An employee answers the five questions in quick succession. (Hannah borrowed the idea of an on-screen timer from American Idol.) Then there’s a brief interview. Hannah does her homework to make sure she’s asking things that will bring the person’s story to life. Oh, and the subject doesn’t get to see the questions until right before they start recording. That ensures spontaneity and often humor in the answers.

Senior Visual Designer Debbie Ortiz, who uses equipment purchased for less than $1,000, usually just sets up the video shoot in an open space in the office. Afterward, Ortiz loads the video into a design program for minor editing. Typically, they end up being between two and four minutes in length. Meanwhile, Hannah crafts a short blog about the employee, and the video is embedded in the post.

All’s that left is writing the acceptance speech to thank the Academy.

Two years and more than 40 videos later, #RFF has become a well-oiled machine. From “We’re rolling” to the final edit, it generally only takes about an hour to produce one. (When Hannah was in the London office recently, she went back to her iPhone to record a couple.)

This time, it was Rivieccio’s turn in the “hot seat.” Hannah did her usual introduction of Rapid Fire Friday as a chance to get “a peek at the people behind the DySi brand,” and then, they were off. It went like clockwork. Well, sort of. We forgot to turn on the microphone, so an additional take was needed. That was fine because the conversation was even better the second time.

And that was a wrap for another installment of Rapid Fire Friday.

“Why wouldn’t you want to do something like this?” Hannah said. “It’s not a high cost of resources or time. People don’t trust branded content. They trust other people they know. So, it really carries weight when you hear employees talk about why they love coming to work and how they’re proud of the product. It’s just a great way to showcase your culture through your people. It also makes employees feel seen, valued, and connected.”

So, are you ready for your close-up?


10 Tips to Help Your Employee Videos Shine

    1. Good lighting. “I like to shoot next to a window to take advantage of natural lighting,” Ortiz said. “Just make sure the glass isn’t creating any reflections.”
    2. Consider using a reflector. This will help distribute light evenly on a subject’s face. “You don’t want to have light from above that’s creating shadows on their face beneath their eyes, the nose, and the chin,” Ortiz said. “That makes a person look tired. You also need to be careful that the light is not too bright because that will make the person squint or washes out their face.” (Here is some guidance on using a reflector. If you’re really in DIY mode, Ortiz has even used a turkey pan as a reflector.)
    3. Can you hear me now? Ortiz always does a sound check to make sure the voices of the people on camera aren’t too soft or too loud. “Look for a quiet place without a lot of ambient noise like talking or typing, too,” she added.
    4. Think about your background. This comes down to personal preference. But assuming you don’t have a studio, Ortiz advises shooting in front of a window or a company logo. Also, she likes activity in the background. For instance, people walking outdoors or through the office.
    5. Find the balance between charming and wincing. Few things are more painful than dragging someone in front of a camera who doesn’t want to be there. “That’s not showcasing them,” Hannah said. “That’s torturing them. A lot of people will want to do it, but they might need a little nudge because they’re shy. Encourage those people. But in the beginning, just pick people who are up for anything. That will create some momentum.”
    6. Limit the number of takes. Don’t channel your inner director and keep reshooting over and over. Hannah has a personal rule of doing no more than two takes. “You can’t shoot it too many times because it will feel contrived,” she said. “It won’t be authentic. The jokes will sound rehearsed and not off-the-cuff.”
    7. Be ready to talk some people off the ledge. Some people might absolutely hate the way they look or sound after they see the finished product. “I’m always like, ‘Dude, me too! I hate watching myself. But you know what? Your mom is going to love it,’” Hannah said. “I’ve had multiple employees call their moms to say that they were featured on our blog. They can’t wait to share the video with their families.”
    8. Accept that it won’t be perfect. “Imperfections can give it a fun characteristic and give the video a more lighthearted appearance,” Ortiz said. “But if they make it feel and look like it is low quality, then think about trying again.”
    9. Just Start. “Our first ones still make us cringe a bit, but we’ve gotten so much better,” Hannah said. “It was easier to make corrections once we had something out there. Just start somewhere. You can always iterate and improve.”
    10. Have fun! Do we really need to explain this one?

Dynamic Signal Video Toolkit


Post Author

G.I. Sanders

G.I. Sanders is Senior Director, Creative Services at Dynamic Signal. He specializes in entrepreneurship, digital and social media, design, and marketing. G.I. is based in Dallas, TX with his wife and two sons. Passions include technology, startups, music, fitness and sports.