collageGuest post by Sue O’Hora

Video is a wonderful tool for telling a compelling story. It can be valuable for SEO, useful as a straight-forward marketing tool, and increase the reach of your message via social media in countless ways.

That said, one of the challenges a number of my clients face is a desire to use video but a very limited budget with which to work.

Maybe video wasn’t initially a part of the plan, or perhaps it was but the budget for it was eaten up by other urgent needs. Thankfully, creating a video doesn’t always have to mean heading out with a camera or hiring a crew to shoot new material.

What options do you have to create compelling content while minimizing your out-of-pocket investment?

Use what you’ve got

My #1 piece of advice for clients who find themselves in this situation is to use what they’ve got.

Maybe you’d like to illustrate a couple key points from new research for an audience that won’t wade through a 30-page report. Does the report have graphs, charts and other graphic elements that could be re-used?

Working with existing assets and a graphic designer (as well as adding some low-cost music and recording a tight, focused narration track) can result in a compelling, graphic-driven piece for a fraction of the cost of shooting interviews about the research, or finding stock footage to try to illustrate your message.

Think about the emotional impact of your piece as well. Even lower-quality, non-professional video and photos can have great emotional impact if there is a wonderful story behind the images.

All you may need to do to bring a great piece to life is record an audio interview and spend time with an editor to put it all together.

Do some of the “heavy lifting” yourself

There is an unholy trinity that rules all video projects. That trinity is fast, cheap and good… and you only get to choose two.

Since most people have a vested interest in doing good work, that means time is your most expendable resource when your budget is limited. Spend time crafting your message and laying out your plans. Write a script by putting everything you want your audience to hear in one column, and in a separate column list the imagery you want on screen for each moment of run time. Enlist team members to dig through archives or reach out to stakeholders who may be able to lend good imagery to the cause.

The more time you spend on these tasks before bringing in a professional or sourcing materials you have to pay for, the less the project will likely cost you.

Keep your message short and sweet

Each page laid out in the two column format mentioned above will equal roughly one minute of video. If you find yourself with long stretches of narration and no imagery to go with it, it may be time to edit down your script or start thinking of ways to use text or other elements on screen to make your point… perhaps even some combination of the two.

Finding imagery

You may come to a point in the planning of your piece at which you realize graphics, text and the video and photos you have aren’t going to get you to the finish line.

What else can you use?

Stock footage is the obvious choice… but in my opinion it’s not always the best choice, particularly if you have a lot of time to fill. Great stock footage and stills are expensive, and finding good, inexpensive imagery can take hours and hours of time.

Someone (maybe you, maybe some unfortunate intern) will have to wade through page after page of cheesy stock shots to find ones that work for your piece, and even then the costs can add up fast.

If you find yourself in this position, it’s time to get creative.

Is there an excellent amateur photographer in your ranks? 

Perhaps you can find a way to free up a day or two of their time to take photos that will be useful to your project (in addition to helping you build an archive of imagery for future projects)?

Maybe the National Archives has some great public domain footage that would work well for your project. 

At this point, further brainstorming with your internal team or even bringing in a video production company or a producer to help you evaluate your options might be time well spent.

A strong idea executed well

This video is one of my favorite examples of well-executed concept using precious few materials. Video can be a daunting medium because of the time it can take and the potential cost, but it is also incredibly flexible and creativity can bridge a lot of gaps left by budget shortfalls.

Image: Mountainbread via Flickr, CC 2.0

Sue O'HoraSue O’Hora is an Account Executive and Production Manager with Henninger Media Services. In this role, she works with clients to budget for, plan and execute original productions. Henninger Media Services is an industry-leading video production and post-production house located in Arlington, Va. with a 30 year history of award-winning work for clients from the broadcast, political, non-profit and communications industries. Connect with Sue on Twitter or LinkedIn