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SMART MARKETING: IDEAS YOU CAN USE TO GET YOUR FIRM BACK IN THE GAME

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FEATURE

USING VIDEO AS A MARKETING STRATEGY: DOS AND DON’TS FOR DIY LAWYERS

If you’re a solo or small firm lawyer under tight budget constraints, or you simply have the technical and artistic flair for it, then the do-it-yourself route to creating videos could be for you. But first you have to know how to achieve the optimal quality.

Creating videos is definitely one of the best ways to market your law practice today. The only real decision you have to make is whether to do it all yourself or hire a company to do it for you. There are clearly advantages to having a professional team do the entire job, but there are also advantages—read in the costs—to tackling at least parts of the process yourself.

For those who are game, following are a total of 10 tips, split into what you should do and what you should not do when creating videos to market your law practice.

The Don’ts When Creating Videos

1. Use a Web cam to create your video. If you’re planning to use a $30 Web camera attached to your computer monitor, stop. The quality will be awful, so under no circumstances should you use it for a video about your law practice. Beware, too, of using one of the “quick and dirty” video cameras on the market today, like the Flip Mino, the Sony Webbie and Kodak’s Web camera. These are small advanced high-definition video cameras that offer much in convenience and ease of use, but they suffer greatly when it comes to trying to project a certain level of professionalism.

Plus, there are other drawbacks to these low-budget cameras. They are notoriously bad in low-light situations, and the color quality is compromised with indoor lighting. In addition, unless you use a tripod, your video will have a tremendous amount of shaking, which can easily induce nausea for your viewers. Even the steadiest of hands is unable to hold a camera for any length of time without moving it around at least gently—and if you use the minimal telephoto lens that these cameras come with, any hand movement becomes magnified two- or three-fold.

2. Videotape in a dark room. Remember, your goal in your video is to present information to an online audience. You are not videotaping your kid’s birthday party. You are not videotaping your best friend’s anniversary dinner in a restaurant. You are setting a professional scene, so you need to make sure that the room you are taping in is well lit.

Do not use the fluorescent lights that are in your office ceiling as your only light source, and do not videotape in front of a window. Doing so will result in very dark video, since your camera doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be looking at and will automatically adjust its exposure, giving the appearance of a poorly lit video.

3. Use the built-in microphone on your camera. Most built-in microphones not only pick up the hum of the video camera’s internal machinery, but they also pick up the sound of finger movements on the camera itself. In addition, an internal microphone picks up all ambient noise. If you don’t believe me, try this little experiment.

In the middle of your workday, while sitting in your chair in your office, simply close your eyes and concentrate on what you hear. You’ll almost certainly hear some things like the following: a telephone ringing, a secretary talking, the wind blowing outside your window, an attorney conversing in the hallway, the air-conditioning vent humming, an electronic device beeping, a truck engine on the street or the like. Even in the quietest of offices, you’ll be unable to eliminate most of the ambient noise around you. So, ideally, you should videotape during the quietest part of your day (or at night)—and not using a built-in camera microphone, since it’s simply unable to filter out all the ambient noise surrounding you.

4. Upload an unedited video to YouTube. The inexpensive Web cams mentioned earlier provide you with software that allows you to upload video directly to YouTube. Talk about convenient. However, when talking about your services, never submit an unfinished or unedited video to the online world—where it can remain forever. If the technical quality is poor, viewers will be unforgiving. No one will want to watch it regardless of what question you answer.

Here’s an illustrative tale: I recently critiqued a video by an attorney who created the video using his Flip Mino while sitting in his car—an unusual venue for a marketing video. Thirty seconds into his explanation of the statute of limitations, you hear a tinny sounding voice saying “Hello, welcome to [some fast-food restaurant], how may I help you?” The attorney looks at the camera, puts up his finger and says “Hold on one second,” then turns toward the tinny voice to order a soda, completes the transaction and then turns back to his camera to continue discussing the statute of limitations—all as if nothing had happened.

I appreciate that the attorney was trying to be creative in selecting an out-of-the-box location, and was using some downtime in which to create an educational message. However, it’s unclear whether he recognized how bad it looked when he failed to edit out the entire fast-food sequence. The lesson: Spend the additional time to carefully edit your message lest your video speak volumes that you don’t need your audience to hear.

5. Make your video all about you. If you talk solely about yourself, I guarantee that the only people who will sit through your video will be your spouse, your parents and a few of your office colleagues who are reluctantly forced to view it. So this tip will save you many thousands of dollars in production costs: Do not talk about yourself. Viewers who are searching for information about a lawyer online don’t care about you and your life’s story. Instead, they want to hear how you can help them. If you understand this one single point, you will become a better marketer of yourself and your firm. (For additional tips on what to convey in your message, see “Ways to Use Video on Your Firm’s Web Site” in this issue.)

The Dos for Your Videos

1. Choose a camera that will do the job you need it to do. What camera should you use? If you don’t already have a good-quality video camera, you can buy a mini-DV tape-based camera for $250 to $400. The quality is excellent and won’t be lost when you upload the video from the camera to the computer. If you want a more advanced camera, look to the hard drive or flash drive high-definition cameras that can cost $600 to $1,300. But beware: Some flash drive cameras aren’t compatible with all computers—so ask before you buy. Important: Make sure your camera is compatible with your computer! Also make sure you have the correct connection wire such as a Firewire or USB cable to connect the camera to your computer.

2. Illuminate with proper lighting and calibrate your white balance manually. Use soft lighting. Do not use a spotlight. You need to have a soft diffuse light that is at a 45-degree angle to your right and also another soft light that is at a 45-degree angle to your left.

This eliminates shadows on your face. Some people also like to use a light to illuminate the background, as this creates contrast between you and your background.

Here’s another essential point about visibility, too. White balance tells your video camera what color in your office or other setting is, in fact, white. If this balance isn’t properly set, your entire video will be dark and you won’t realize it until you’ve uploaded it to your computer—and then you’ll realize you’ve just wasted an entire afternoon taping something that is now totally unusable.

How do you get the white balance right? Take a white piece of oak tag, zoom in on it and press the manual white balance button on your camera. It takes all of 10 seconds to do. Once the camera recognizes that the white oak tag is white, it will automatically adjust all of the other colors in your video.

3. Make sure your audience can hear you. When you first set up your equipment, check your sound quality as well as your lights to confirm that “all systems are go.” If your audience can’t decipher what you’re saying, they’ll simply turn your video off in frustration in a second or less.

To capture your voice, get a lapel microphone, which can be either wired or wireless. I strongly recommend using a wireless microphone so that you don’t have the obstacle of tripping over wires every time you get up from your seat. A lapel microphone picks up only your voice and is discreetly clipped onto your shirt or dress.

4. Learn to use your editing software. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut when it comes to properly editing videos. If you’re going to be doing it yourself, there is a steep learning curve. You should prepare to spend months learning how to effectively edit your videos so that you achieve a quality level you can be proud of. Editing will be the most time-consuming element of creating your own videos. To obtain a two- to three-minute final video, you’ll likely require 15 to 20 minutes of raw footage. It will then take you approximately one to two hours to edit that single video.

This involves much more than selecting the scenes that you intend to use. You must create transitions between scenes, color-correct any deficiencies, add graphics (including an intro and exit graphic) and include whatever background music you want. Then you have to compress the video into a format compatible for viewing on the Web. Once you’ve finished doing that, it’s time to deliver your message to your audience!

5. Upload your finished product to major video-sharing sites. To get maximum exposure for your message, you want to upload your videos to the major video-sharing sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, Yahoo and others. Although if you think that’s all there is to it, you are sorely mistaken. Once your videos are online, you need to broadcast the news that you’ve put them out there for the entire world to see. You need to blog about it, tweet about it, and generate enough viral buzz so that your videos get watched and talked about. Ideally, you want other people to post your videos on their Web sites and blogs, too, with links back to your site.

ARE YOU READY?

So will you do it all yourself or hire a company to do all or part of it for you? Personally, I’ve done it all myself by creating, producing, editing and uploading more than 300 videos to educate online viewers about my practice. But, of course, there was a learning curve; it took me one and a half years to get to the point where I can now say I’m a professional at it. If you don’t have the time, inclination or desire for the DIY route, then you need to hire an experienced team to get you on video. The problem with going the latter route is the cost: Creating four to six video clips lasting one to two minutes each can cost you in the range of $5,000 to $35,000. Whichever way you go, the bottom line is still clear—creating videos is a great way to market your practice.

Gerry Oginski is the founder of the Lawyers’ Video Studio and a seasoned New York medical malpractice trial attorney helping other lawyers get onto video. One way he uses video can be seen at http://nymedicalmalpracticevideoblog.com .

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