In these incredibly strange and uncharted times, the content, tone, style and timbre of your communications have arguably never been so important.

Companies are walking a delicate path between informing, engaging and entertaining, balancing realism and optimism as they go.

It’s no easy job, not least because people are often looking for quite emotional things at times like these. Reassurance. Stability. Hope. Empathy. Trust. And that’s as true for employees as it is for customers or investors.

Film is probably the best tool in your arsenal on this score. Trouble is, so much of what makes great film, well… great, isn’t possible right now. Getting crews out on location isn’t possible.

But there’s an answer: user generated content (or UGC). It doesn’t require lots of investment or professional equipment and can lead to really compelling, authentic content. But leaving people to their own devices (literally) doesn’t come without problems. Here are some tips for getting great UGC content from your people – and using them to create compelling, engaging and useful communications. 

  • Plan, plan plan. Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve with your piece of film, creating an early steer for who you’ll recruit and what you’ll ask them to say. Brief your contributors early and clearly
  • Stay authentic. The essence of UGC is that home-made, genuine feel. Don’t try to turn contributors into amateur journalists or recreate broadcast-style set-ups. Embrace the personal instead – it will be far more credible. Ask your contributors to be prepared, but not entirely scripted
  • Keep it simple. Focus on just one story, message or ‘ask’. Alternatively, task your contributors’ with delivering personal reflections or first-hand experiences
  • Remember the basics. Ask your contributors to film horizontally, holding their camera above their nose line (if they’re using their laptop, raise it up a bit). If they’re using a phone, consider sending them a gimbal, stabiliser or tripod to keep the image still. Have them film with the main source of light behind the camera. Think about buying a simple plug-in external microphone to improve sound quality
  • Consider the small things. Think carefully with contributors about filming other small details that will make the film more meaningful. Usually we’d advise building the ‘story’ around a journey or activity, for example, but in the current situation it could be much more personal. Photos, a Zoom call, a dog – these things could bring extra richness to the film

It’s a wrap?

UGC can offer some of the most powerful, compelling and engaging content around, and there’s nothing to stop you doing it in a lockdown. But it isn’t a shortcut. Think it through carefully, keep it personal and authentic and, if you can, work with your agency to edit together a smart piece of content that moves your business forward.  

This article originally appeared in CorpComms Magazine. To read it, click here.

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