Why your video team needs Retrospectives (and how to run them)

To start, a quick disclaimer. Retrospectives are an Agile thing and while I’ve worked at places that used bits and pieces of Agile, I am far from an expert. This write up is for noobs like me looking for a way to learn from their mistakes rather than repeat them.

So, you wrapped a big project. Deliverables delivered, clients happy, all the hell of actually making the thing behind you. At this point, you’re eager to move on to the next challenge. At this point the last thing you want to do is litigate that difficult conversation with the client about budget, or the unintended consequences of that last minute timeline shift, or how you really should have stuck to your guns on that script revision.

It’s natural to want to get on with things, but if I could impart one lesson as a moderately seasoned video marketer, it would be this: always do a retrospective.

What’s a retro?

A retrospective (or if you’re goth, a post-mortem) is a follow up meeting directly after the end of a project. At this point, your memories are fresh and it’s the optimal time to take stock of how the project went and most importantly write that assessment down for posterity.

Why do I like them?

Firstly, I believe that one of the keys to creative success is self-reflection. Looking inward and examining our process is the first step to improving it, and practicing this idea as a group can be revolutionary. Regardless if you’re freelance, in-house, agency or non of the above, we all have times where we feel stuck. The same (bad) outcomes keep happening and we don’t know how to improve them. Well, fixing those things can be hard but if you can’t identify them in the first place it’s nearly impossible.

Conversely if you don’t identify your successes, you can’t lean into what you do best and figure out how to do more of that.

Retrospective meetings combine this idea of self-reflection with the idea of being actionable. The goal is to come out of the meeting with a better understanding of what happened, and insight to help you and your team do an even better job on the next mission.

For video teams especially, we do a lot of different kinds of work. Throughout the course of a project your team is not only doing creative things like concepting, script writing, filming, animating, and editing… they’re also doing managerial things like scheduling, budgeting holding meetings.

Because the team has so many things to think of and production has so many moving pieces, when it’s all done it’s so easy for potential insights to get lost without a formal process for immediate review. Doing a retrospective as a team right after you finish a project ensures you gain as much insight as possible before memories fade, and you make changes collectively as a team rather than dictate changes from above.

How do you run the meeting?

Despite all this lofty talk about introspection, retros are easy. The way I run them is based around what I learned from the excellent team at my very first agency, Sculpt. We’d pick a project and answer the following questions as a team:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What things did we learn?
  4. What new questions do we have?
  5. What action items do we have moving forward?

That’s it. It’s really not hard.

What’s important is that people have time to think about these questions and discuss them as a group. In a larger team, it can be helpful to put these questions on a whiteboard or have folks come prepared with thoughts in advance.

The most important question in the retro is the last one: action items. Talking about what happened is great, but learning from it requires making changes and being able to articulate next steps is the key to make retrospectives empowering and actionable, not just a forum for commiseration.

When the meeting is done, make sure you’ve captured everything in your notes, share them with your video team, and put those insights to work. Continuous improvement is a powerful motivator and creativity multiplier, retros are an essential tool to achieve that.


Read more posts about the business of video here.

Have more questions about running video teams? Let’s chat.

Inbound Video and the Death of Impersonal Marketing – Digital Summit/Revolve Conference 2018

Every marketer knows doing things “the old fashioned way” is unsustainable yet most people still don’t think this same way about video. Agencies and brands alike keep getting stuck viewing video through the lens of the “deliverable,” meaning a snappy 15 or 30 second spot that you make once, then syndicate across platforms. 

That’s no longer good enough. We’ve seen email and social marketing thrive on the notion of personalized content that resonates with a hyper-specific audience, and we have to approach video in the exact way.

V

FAQ: How we built our own server for shared storage on the (relatively) cheap

An excerpt from a post on the Videostrategy.org blog:

Earlier this year I set up our own server as a shared storage testbed. Since we got it up and running, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about it so I put together this quick guide that covers just about everything about it from the parts list to performance testing.

Why did you build your own server?

We were evaluating shared storage solutions for the wider team and realized we weren’t quite ready to take the leap into a system that could support 10+ editors working with multiple streams of RED footage. It’d require a lot of hardware and major infrastructure upgrades.

We decided to pivot our focus to a smaller project where we could make a big impact with less work. Thus the graphics server project was born.

Why is shared storage important?

We have a two person internal graphics/VFX department and they collaborate a lot with each other and our team of editors. Using our current storage workflow (individual project drives) means there’s a lot of passing physical drives back and forth between computers and that can get really confusing.

The graphics team also needs to work in parallel with our editors, so giving them their own dedicated storage space is helpful so they’re not waiting on drives to be free or sending files that need to be organized later.

Because the server is networked, the whole team gets access to the server so folks can send assets and browse for content they need on their own time. Just because someone’s out of the office doesn’t mean you can’t get a render you need to get your edit done.

Read the full post at Videostrategy.org.

How to build a yearly video marketing budget

An excerpt from a post on the Videostrategy.org blog:

Putting together a comprehensive video budget is a daunting, but important, task. In this guide, I’m going to run through my own template to provide you a starting point for your own yearly budget.

This template is designed to cover typical marketing video productions including on-location shoots that are typically budgeted between $5,000 and $50,000.

Structure

A yearly budget is primarily a forecasting tool and it’s likely your individual project budgets will change as priorities shift and things come into focus. So don’t worry if you don’t have all the information before getting started.

structure

The total budget is comprised of two parts: a master spreadsheet that includes ongoing activities and your project budget templates.

You should build enough project templates to cover the different types of projects you’ll be taking on. Again, things will change and no two projects are exactly the same, but if you’re building a yearly video marketing plan it’s likely you’ll have project types like testimonials or case studies or other serialized content that’s build around a templated format. To start, let’s go over what these project budgets include.

Read the full post at Videostrategy.org.

Going from Video Marketing Vendor to Strategic Partner – Wistiafest 2017

This is my workshop from Wistiafest 2017. In this talk, I run through the my philosophy on modern video marketing from coming up with awesome ideas to selling them to clients, to actually bringing them to life. We cover a lot of ground.

Video Marketing 101: Tactics to go from vendor to marketing partner from Ian Servin


More from the Wistia website:

Ian Servin, creative director and strategist at Animus Studios, says there are three crucial phases to video marketing: before you have a client and you want to land them, actively working and showing value, and distributing all the value you’re creating. Here he talks pitching, pricing, and performing to create better partnerships as well as specific tactics for each topic.

Typically, agencies have no problem thinking strategically, but when it comes to video, they approach it like a videographer. Agencies will only think about deliverables. Only working project to project doesn’t establish a strong relationship. Instead, it’s best to think about entire campaigns and focus on building long-term relationships with your clients. By spending time understanding your client’s business challenges and focusing on impact, you can foster better relationships and add trust to obtain more creative freedom.

For partnerships, the pitch isn’t actually the beginning of a client relationship. The real beginning starts with discovery. Learn all about your client’s business problems, who they are, and their goals so you can help outline a path to success. Hold a meeting with client and creative stakeholders to identify story opportunities for content. Establish a collaborative relationship during this creative jam.

When pricing, offer value-based pricing, which is the price a client is willing to pay given the amount of value your solution provides. Value-based pricing is a combination of positioning and calculating your value. It requires an understanding of your client’s business as well as the cost to budget out a project based on time and materials. To build a budget, segment your budget by individual projects, define your activities, and track your time.

Performing is the final phase, and it’s all about executing. Understanding distribution is the most important thing you can do besides making content. Every channel has different benefits and use cases. Client goals determine which channels are important, and audience determines what channels are relevant. Think about distribution at the beginning of a project, but remember not to fake your knowledge of distribution. Take time to learn how to distribute effectively.

Partnership is all about asking the right questions and making collaborative decisions based on learnings.

Credit: Wistia

You Can’t Reach Your Audience without Understanding Them First

An excerpt from a post on the Wistia blog:

Making engaging video is all about communication, and if you can’t empathize with your audience, it’s really hard to communicate effectively with them. When it comes to producing videos for clients, understanding the audience is key.

Your client’s audience should determine the tone of the videos, what content goes into them, and even what channels you choose to share them on and how you target ad spend.

A little extra thoughtfulness in the audience discovery phase will change how you make videos and strengthen your client relationships.

So how do you begin?

Read the full article at Wistia’s blog.

10 Reasons Why Retainers Work Better for the Agency and the Client

An excerpt from a post on the Wistia blog:

Over the last year, my business changed dramatically – I shifted away from one-off projects and began focusing on longer-term contracts. With one-off engagements, I was always pitching clients and seeking out the next shoot. Building pitch decks and negotiating contracts ate up a lot of my time. It also meant that I ended up building shallow relationships with clients.

These shallow relationships didn’t give me a lot of creative freedom. And because they were centered around individual projects, there weren’t opportunities to grow the relationships and do better, more effective work over time. I wasn’t happy, and my clients weren’t getting the full value of my expertise.

So I changed how I worked. Instead of being a video producer, I positioned myself as a strategic partner. This is very different from the traditional production business model. By building long-term contracts, I had the opportunity to become a trusted advisor and not simply a contractor.

Read the full article at Wistia’s blog.