As any Contracting Officer or Program Manager knows, producing video for the government, especially the federal government, is not the same as commercial B2B or B2C production. Similar to other creative projects, it comes down to knowing the customer and who their target audience is.
The first step in any video production is gaining an understanding of the target audience for the video message and how it will be delivered, along with the needs and expectations of the audience. Here's a handy checklist we have developed to keep our creative focused on the target audience and the message:
1. DO: Keep it clear and concise
We need to communicate with the target audience in a manner that is relevant and engaging to that particular target audience. This is why every communication project begins with a needs analysis: What are we communicating? What is the objective of the communication? With whom are we communicating? Why should they listen to us? How can we best capture their attention and influence them to action? Obviously, messages directed to teens, retirees, and professional scientists will be very different, so we must pay close attention to the context and how we can best connect with the target audience.
Once we have the answers to those questions above, we can get down to the business of writing, producing and editing the script. Videos are usually educative in nature, and must be focused on a main point. Most videos we have produced for the federal government all started off with large, complex ideas - often highly technical - but eventually they were all stripped down to a core message presented in a clear, understandable manner with sharp focus on the target audience.
2. DO: Remember branding and creativity
A video project is a creative project. You most likely chose video as a medium for the message because you know it is more engaging for your audience to watch to a video rather than ask them to read an article or brochure.
Your video needs to reflect your agency's branding and mission, while also grabbing the attention of your target audience. Even the most serious of messages can be delivered well through video when all the elements from the needs analysis are carefully analyzed and matched with appropriate creative tools.
3. DO: Keep the information accurate
The purpose of many government videos is to convey information about a public service program or possibly information to internal staff about key aspects of the agency's operations. It is extremely important that everyone on the video production team has strong attention to detail to ensure the correct information is presented and received. From initial research through script drafting and review, it is imperative to check and double check the facts, and address common misconceptions clearly when appropriate.
For instance, when producing a video about vaccinations for the government, the video production team felt it was important to communicate the most up-to-date information based on scientific evidence, while also informing the audience about common misinformation about vaccinations.
4. DON’T: Exaggerate or use hyperbole
This one goes hand-in-hand with #3. In keeping your information accurate, clear, and concise, the creative team must remain focused on the objectives of the project. You may have heard that phrase often told by some Shakespearean poet, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” An experienced creative team let's the information and its intended audience have center stage and dictate the appropriate video tools and methods to create a compelling story.
5. DO: Partner with the client
This is true of any creative service. Not only must the creative team collaborate with the federal government program managers, but they must understand the agency's branding and mission. The creative team must communicate openly and frequently to ensure a smooth video project that meets its objectives. Usually, a project begins with a kickoff meeting to clarify objectives and expectations. From that meeting a detailed project plan is developed which serves as a tracking report for the entire project. The project manager must stay on top of all aspects of the project and coordinate communications between all stakeholders. A video project has several checkpoints for feedback and approvals, and it is imperative that all stakeholders understand the big picture as well as how individual tasks fit into the bigger project. A structured, disciplined project planning process keeps the project on schedule and within budget.
6. DON’T: Forget 508 Compliance
All government videos require that they fulfill 508 compliance. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a law that requires all media and technology produced for or by the government meet certain standards so that the information is accessible to people with disabilities.
Make sure your creative partner is familiar with the law and how the law dictates requirements for the video. A few must-haves for Section 508 compliance include:
- Video can be paused, played, and stopped at any time on command
- Audio mixed at a standard signal level
- Audio can be turned up or down by the client and can at least reach a level of 65dB;
- Color and shading appropriately used to convey information for the visually impaired
- Video can’t flicker at any point at a rate higher than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz;
- Audio information must be open or closed captioned
- Visual information must be audio described
There are many details to manage for a short educative video, or a series of such videos. We hope this article helps you assess creative service partners for any future projects.
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CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).