CEO Videos Lose Perfection, Gain a Larger Audience

What You’ll Learn

  • During the pandemic, CEOs have become creative using video
  • Production values may be down, but engagement is up
  • Video can show empathy while also creating a greater level of trust

Once upon a time – like, oh, three months ago – video messages from CEOs to employees had a distinct look.

Everything was perfect. The sound. The lighting. The makeup. The script. Countless hours went into the film crew preparation, multiple takes, collecting B-roll footage, and editing. The end product often was worthy of a network television broadcast.


Do-It-Yourself has replaced professional.

You’re more likely to see a CEO appearing on a video taken with an iPhone. The camera angle might be slightly askew. Yes, a few “uhs” and “ahs” might slip through. Oh, and the “set” could be a leader’s backyard or a home office in front of bookshelves.

Videos no longer appear polished. But you know what? Amateur-looking videos are also better.

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed so much about business. That includes how leaders connect with their people. Executives really are like you and me. They’re trapped at home, too. Without access to studios and videography teams, they’re getting creative in how they communicate – out of necessity.

CEO VideoWe’re seeing that with our customers. Corporate leaders are using no-frills video more than ever to reach employees. Quick, straight-forward videos taken on their mobile devices and easily shared with the entire workforce have become the way for executives to get their message across.

They may lack in production values. But they gain in engagement. Consider two trends that we see among our Dynamic Signal customers over the past three months. There has been a more than 260 percent increase in the number of video posts shared on our platform with employees in the first quarter this year when compared to the same time frame in 2019. Also, post views are up more than 200 percent.

The “unbuttoning” of executives on video is driving both of those increases.

My colleague Robyn Hannah has another way of describing this development. She wants to write an article for the humor website The Onion that begins: “In the wake of COVID-19, CEO removes blazer.”

The idea that they really can do it themselves has been eye-opening for leaders – and liberating. They’re becoming more comfortable with the idea of low-tech videos because they see the feedback that they come across with more humility and genuine emotion.

They’re real.

This informal, unpretentious video style also matches our strange times. Evening newscasts are being done from living rooms. Saturday Night Live comes to us from cast members’ homes. Even Chris Cuomo is doing his CNN show from his basement!

That’s why employees don’t think twice when they see their CEO in his or her home with less than ideal lighting, curious background décor, and maybe standing a wee bit too close to the camera. Besides, for younger workers who have grown up with FaceTime, Instagram, and so on, perfection has never been the point of video communication.

We probably wouldn’t be seeing this unscripted moment if it were still a business-as-usual environment. But here we are. People understand that executives aren’t using teleprompters or have a small army of assistants helping off-camera. They’re more forgiving.

Besides, how a video appears isn’t what matters right now. It’s the delivery of the message. I’m not telling you what you don’t already know. It’s a scary time. Employees are craving direction, guidance, and reassurance from their leaders. Video does that better than any other medium.

All of us read cues.

We pay attention to tone of voice. We see facial expressions. We hear thoughtful pauses. Those are all part of how we all communicate as humans. When leaders have to share difficult and complicated messages, it’s hard to capture subtle nuances with the written word. It’s just different when you can see and hear that leader.

And when that video also can show up on the mobile device of every employee – and ensuring everyone sees it – that’s even better.

Now, I’m not saying the executive posts should look like hostage videos. There’s a difference between no production value and low production value. I suspect most CEOs are doing a few takes, then sending them to their comms teams for some minor editing.

But at a time when empathy and trust need to be in the toolkit for every executive, leaders are learning – sometimes by trial and error – that “video selfies” go a long way to showing employees what executives are thinking and how they’re navigating their companies through this crisis.

Maybe they won’t win any awards. But they’re helping executives earn the respect of their employees.

That’s why CEOs are ready for their closeups – even without the usual makeup.


Post Author

Becky Graebe

As Senior Director, Communication Expert at Dynamic Signal, I work with a great team of people to connect, align and engage employees in modern and meaningful ways, wherever they are and in the manner they choose.