PR video: Become the movie star or be left behind on Sunset Boulevard

PR video: Become the movie star or be left behind on Sunset Boulevard

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

“I am ready for my close-up,” said Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. With the increasing influence of video in marketing content, this phrase is relevant to many these days. We all have our chance at our 15 minutes – or perhaps 15 seconds – of fame, if we want it.

That said, not all of us want it, and for many the thought of being filmed is daunting and let’s be honest – is anyone ever really ready for a close-up? Working in PR or marketing, you’ve probably had to help film a company spokesperson for interview, or have been the talent yourself at least once. Or maybe you’re dipping your toes into the water of Facebook Live, Periscope, or the newly launched YouTube Live (if you have enough subscribers), and are wondering how to structure it.

No matter who you are, you are a film star in the making, and you must be comfortable in front of the camera – be it on your phone, though your laptop, or in front of a professional film crew. Likewise, if you’re working in PR or communications, you need to think like a film director and imagine how any piece of content can be produced in video format. Video communications is, and will continue to be, a huge part of our communications future – we’ve been writing about it since 2010 after all!

So, how can you be great on camera? Whether you’re the talent or advising a spokesperson at your company, this is where to start:


The saying “practice makes perfect” is definitely true when it comes to filmed interviews. It’s a good idea to draft a rough script of what you want to say, particularly when it comes to conveying key messages, and don’t film until you’re comfortable with that wording. Equally though, it’s important not to be too scripted – no-one wants to listen to a robot rattle off corporate messaging, so keep it as conversational as is appropriate. Further to that, unless you’re live streaming, don’t be scared to mess it up a few times and re-film. More often than not, you’ll find you say your message more succinctly and confidently the second or third time around after stumbling on the first delivery.

Be a little over the top

If someone films you speaking naturally and you watch it back, you may find your tone and facial expressions seem a little flat. When being filmed, it’s good to be a little over the top and animated in your delivery. You’ll probably feel silly doing it and think you will look ridiculous when it’s played back, but it will look great. The art of this is delivering with passion and conviction, but not arrogance – this balance will keep people engaged with what you’re saying rather than feeling like they’re watching a dull lecture.

Move a little

Part of being a little animated is involving gestures when you speak. You don’t need to look like a symphony orchestra conductor, but a few hand gestures that help articulate what you’re saying can be a nice touch. For example, if you want to make three key points you may count these out on your fingers to make the points more defined. The only gesture to be careful of is swaying. The funny thing about putting someone in front of a camera is that it can bring out subconscious ‘tics’, and often one of these is that people start gently swaying side to side, or back and forth, while they speak. You might not notice yourself doing it as you speak, but you’ll definitely notice it when you watch the video. Keep those feet firm!

Hold that eye contact

Aside from swaying, another common ‘tic’ is that people will look around the room while being interviewed instead of maintaining eye contact with the interviewer (or the camera lens if you’re filming a piece to camera). This can be hugely distracting for the viewer, making them wonder what you’re looking at off screen. Always try to focus on the interviewer or camera (depending on which is relevant), even if it makes you feel awkward – it will produce a much more polished product.

What are you wearing?

Hollywood stars are always dressed to impress, but is that always great on camera? No. If you know you’re going to be on camera, make sure you’re dressed in something that won’t be too distracting. This means avoiding dramatic patterns (which also can show up distorted on film), stripes, or colours that will blend into your background. It’s also a good idea to remove any noisy necklaces or bracelets you may be wearing too, which may bump the microphone or jingle when you move your hands.

And finally… speak clearly!

If you take nothing else from these tips, take this one. Speaking with clear pronunciation and with good cadence is essential if you’re an interviewee. If your viewers can’t understand you or you speak too fast, they won’t keep watching. Try as much as possible to also avoid saying filler words, such as “um,” and “ah,” as these will interrupt your clear flow. If unsure what you’re meant to say next, try and take a brief pause instead – this can work in your favour too, regaining audience members who may have tuned out.

The steps above are relevant whether you’re filming someone with a camera crew or on your phone (and there’s more tips should you be interested). However, if you’re the director, another thing you need to consider is the context and background of your video. If you start streaming on Facebook Live without a caption on your video, will your audience know where you are? If you’re filming an interview with your spokesperson who works in a data centre or retail store, is that role immediately obvious from the background or is he or she out of place?

We recently put these steps to practice at Learning Technologies in London, filming Cornerstone OnDemand spokesperson Geoffroy de Lestrange. We hoped to place the video within the HR media, so focused on thought leadership content around HR’s evolving role in business, while still keeping the context of the Learning Technologies conference. We filmed and produced the video within 24 hours, and placed it that week with The HR Director. Take a look below.

The tips in this piece might these might seem like small details but they quickly become apparent to those watching. With people’s short attention spans you need them to immediately understand the context of your video and be listening to you or your spokesperson, not left wondering what that person does or why they are there. If you can’t show the context visually, be sure to have your talent explain it quickly and concisely. If you’ll be in charge of video direction a lot, you can read more on background and other important advice for camera set up in one of our previous blogs. Do you feel ready now? Lights, camera, action!


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