Defining Genres — Internal Communications

Internal Communications

Larger companies need videos created for all kinds of internal communications, whether it’s a CEO delivering an annual “state of the union” speech, HR updating staff on best practices, a departmental presentation or a visual opener to a gathering. These often feature a lot of talking heads, stock video and whiz–bang graphics, and can face a surprising amount of resistance to having an actual script written.

As with training films, internal communications can be complicated because you are dealing with a specialised audience with extraordinary knowledge in a key area. Since you’re not a specialist, you’ll likely be fed jargon and acronyms that bring the dialogue to that special place where sound is happening but communication isn’t, so bring your decoder ring and do your best to sort it out. This is where clarity of audience is key. You can encourage rewording anything a general audience wouldn’t understand and skipping anything that a specialised audience should.

Facing Script Resistance

Some clients insist that a video is for two conflicting purposes, like internal and external use, and these can sometimes be reconciled by identifying a few key passages that have multiple versions, one for each audience, but you’ll have a hard time identifying that without a script.

Scripts can be complicated because non–industry clients often aren’t able to properly read them, and the internal approvals they have to go through can be a real blockage for time, yielding copious and conflicting notes. Hopefully, you can identify a point person with integrity that will take care of their end, provide the information that you need, and stick to approval commitments.

If they’ll be reading from a teleprompter or memorised passages, then you may be in good shape. In the event that the talking heads are “unscripted”, you can at least write out a mock version that is as close as you can manage to what they will say. For either case, you’ll now be able to identify what the different passages might be like and which ones may need alternate versions.

You may face significant resistance to putting a script together, but your clients don’t understand production — you do. Even the latter, vague version, provides clarity of where alternate lines would be helpful and where breaks in the action might take place, so that you can plan b-roll and graphics, and know where the subject can stop instead of needing to get one long, perfect take. Any opportunity to reduce the scope of what production is trying to accomplish is a massive help towards getting it done well and quickly.

The “have everyone say everything and sort it out later” approach is popular but very taxing — it’s often way more productive to focus on having a particular person say what they are best positioned to say, rather than aim for the whole thing to be just “passable”. As always, it’s best to sort out as much as possible as early as you can, as it is critical to spotting changes that should be made and focusing on doing each part to maximum effect.

Whenever you are working with corporate clients from another industry, whether it’s for internal comms or a brand film, be wary of eleventh hour additional text, and have some additional b-roll or graphic imagery in your back pocket if you can.

Internal Apple Retail Stores Video


Internal messaging and insights provided by the senior team are a common characteristic of internal communications. Specific messages, themes and philosophy that are important to the corporate culture sit alongside brand–reinforcing messages to communicate direction and reduce the distance between team members.

Building an Apple Retail Store


While labeled as an “internal video”, this video is an event film with an audience that happened to be internal staff. It also shares qualities with brand films, as there are clear messages of unity, collaboration, audience/customer engagement, caring about the brand and the product, and teamwork that come through. Ideally, a video like this would be prepped by some investigative discussions of tone, messaging and important scenes. The creative will then form this into a briefing document for the director/camera crew, guiding their decisions on where and how to film each moment (and which moments to film).

Unite Scotland Conference Opening Film


Again, on–brand elements work with group–identity building and specific messaging, in this case a round–up of recent successes and stances on specific issues.

HTB Leadership Conference 2014 – Opening Film


Much more visually polished and abstract than the Unite Scotland video, this video continues the inclusive, identity–focused characteristic but with minimal messaging.

Pitch Films

A subset of this style is the pitch film, where a client is using the video medium to make a sales pitch. This lets them get a perfect take, employ graphics or include elements that may otherwise be difficult to accomplish in person. If the process involves talking heads with animated elements, I recommend that you try and get ahead of the story, find out what they’re going to stay, and think through what the graphics could be in advance — this will let the director isolate which pieces need to be continuous and which can be cobbled together in editing from stilted or awkward takes.

Magpie Kickstarter Film


This pitch film is working in the same territory, trying to impart their argument while demonstrating their expertise and values. They define themselves and ask for support, so in a sense this style is a commercial, but you can see the communications–intensive role of conveying a huge amount of information that would not be successful in that genre. It’s a sort of cousin to training videos, but with a strong importance to staying on brand, inclusive and identity building, and offering an approach that could involve various people with various specialties chiming in.

K.

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