The Power of Film


Corporate Communications,

Richard Thomson

Managing Director


As part of a series on the most effective video strategies for business, Richard Thomson, Managing Director of Kaptcha has pulled together 10 tips to recruit staff with film – as well as engaging your colleagues. Part One deals with setting up your film for success; Part Two covers the business end of the process: shooting the film/s; And in Part 3 he looks at getting the most from your recruitment films in the post-production stage.

Knowing how to retain your staff is the biggest challenge for many of the comms professionals we speak to. With skills shortages, high employment and political uncertainty, good team members may well have more options than ever.

As part of our series on the most effective video strategies for business, we have pulled together 10 tips for engaging your colleagues – as well as the talent you want to attract.

People stories help retain staff

There’s a phrase in business: ‘People buy from people’. Your people are your brand, so putting those that best represent your brand on film can be massively powerful.

Putting your people on film motivates colleagues, customers and recruits by:

• demonstrating your company values
• making people feel proud of themselves, their colleagues and what their company does
• bringing your vision and strategy alive
• encouraging them to share best practice stories and raise standards
• showing customers stories of how much they rate your company
• showing your brand personality through your people.

Other than face to face, film is the best way of bringing your brand alive. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, and people can get it wrong.

How do you make people stories?


With good pre-production, your film project will be built on strong foundations. Successful brand films deliver high ROI because video is uniquely able to generate a positive emotional response. It’s that emotional response that helps your business retain staff, but engaging content is rarely created in a hurry. If it is, good fortune plays its part.

1. Find the story

The first step is to find powerful stories that reflect your brand – that show your company’s human character and culture. Unearthing those people and their amazing stories is the most important step in how to retain staff with film. It’s also the most important one to get right.

People stories might come from colleagues or customers. Customer testimonials are the most influential, so don’t be afraid to ask them to feature. A satisfied client will often be more than happy to endorse what your business does.

You will need to hunt down the best stories, so actively ask people to send them in. Don’t just look in the work environment, some of your people will reflect your brand values in their own time. HSBC TV is a great example of a brand covering everything from diversity to sporting achievements and weight loss. These narratives communicate powerful emotions that resonate with the brand’s values.

2. Research the story

If finding the story is the most important part of the film process, researching it is the most under-rated.

Filming is expensive so it is important to get the most from each shoot day. Brands can miss out on the best deal by filming without proper research, resulting in wasted budget. Good research costs less than a crew day, so it’s better value to prep the shoot carefully.

Smart research will include topic, locations and contributors. The result will be a crew who know how to make the most of the schedule and interviewees who are confident and well-briefed. It is possible to make an effective brand film on the hoof, but your budget will generate stronger and more predictable ROI with research.

3. Find the best angle

Every comms professional knows that a story has a beginning, middle and an end. But how can that work amid a torrent of content on social media?

In our world of decreasing attention spans, the beginning needs to grab attention quickly. It could be something visual, or a hook at the start that makes people want to watch. In broadcast we talk about what question are you posing at the start, a question that the audience will want to keep watching to find the answer to. The same applies to brand film.

That’s partly why the research stage matters. It allows the creative team to look at the components of the story and work out the most powerful way to tell that story with the available elements.


So you’re all set to start filming. What are the expert tips to delivering your finished film in time and on budget?

4. Make it authentic

One of the most common errors in corporate film-making is writing the script for interviews in advance. Avoid this unless you are lucky enough to have colleagues who are brilliant actors.
So instead of telling contributors the exact words to say, use an interview setup to ask them questions that lead them to speak naturally.

Research is the key to ensuring that when the cameras roll, the director knows what they want the contributors to say. The director asking questions off-camera is a tried and tested way to interview. This applies to an interview on Graham Norton, to a talking head on Panorama and to your film.

The subject’s performance on camera is key too. The contributor must come across as natural, authentic, genuine. An experienced director will get this, and a really good one will get unexpected nuggets from the interview that will make the film feel really special. They could be moments of warmth, pain or humour that enhance the narrative

If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. It’s hard to coax a great interview because most of us are not naturals on camera. Add corporate management structures into the mix, and you’ve got a risky situation where a senior manager might come across badly on camera, reflecting badly on you as the comms manager. You don’t want to go there.

This is why many experienced comms professionals prefer to use an experienced crew and director. The stakes can be too high to get it wrong.

5. Share feelings and emotions

Film is a great medium for connecting emotionally with audiences. It creates emotional bonds between your brand and the audience, and people are more likely to share emotional content.

But to do this you need to get compelling content from your people. Personal stories are a great way of doing this. People remember stories and the way they made them feel longer than they remember facts and figures.

In particular, ask people questions that about their feelings. How did that make you feel? Why is that important to you?

People relate to feelings. Also when people are talking about their feelings they tend to be more animated and expressive on camera – which makes the film not only more powerful, but also more watchable.

6. Location, location, location

We are often asked to film interviews, and are then given a small office room to film the interview, with the obligatory potted plant in the background. They almost always look dull and grey on camera and they won’t help you recruit staff.

Very few broadcast interviews are shot in small office rooms as TV crews know this will look dull. A better option is filming in unexpected office locations, like the office stairwell or the roof. It is less expected for the viewer, so it tends to keep the audience’s attention longer, even if what is being said is exactly the same as in the small dull office.

If must be a room in your building, then generally the bigger the better. Space allows the director to add more depth and perspective to the shot and potentially light and dress the room to be more visually interesting.

Another option is to film away from the office completely. If you can, make it somewhere relevant to the interviewee and the story, like their home or a place that’s relevant to a hobby featured in the film.

7. Use cutaways

Without cutaways you could be relying primarily on talking heads. Pure talking heads can be watchable (more so if you make the background interesting as in point 3), and it is possible to jump cut or use quick dissolves from one sound bite to another. But general interview sequences are helped massively by additional cutaways.

Cutaways add pace and visual interest for the viewer – subliminally keeping them more interested and engaged with the film. They work because in real-life conversations, we don’t stare non-stop at the person who’s speaking. Cutaways mimic that reflex to look away briefly while listening.

Cutaways also enhance the story by giving extra information that isn’t offered by just the talking head interviews. Our brains are hard-wired to blend different sensory inputs simultaneously. Associating images and sound, when done expertly, is hugely powerful.

And, as with the interview, a really good director will spot moments and cutaways that bring something extra and special to the film. The best cutaways might not be the obvious ones because viewers are engaged more by surprising associations than predictable ones.


Post-production includes editing, graphics, grading and sound mixing. This is where you can get maximum value from your recruitment film. At the filming stage, you should be thinking about the different ways your film will be used so you make sure to shoot all the material you need on your filming day/s.

8. Music to recruit staff

Choosing the right music to go with your story can make a HUGE difference to the feel of the film – and how watchable it is. It also says a lot about your brand. Recruitment films by the tech giant Apple are often a quirky and innovative, Red Bull choose dynamic, energetic music (music that gives you wings), whereas Aviva’s music is generally warm and inviting.

Music should be appropriate to the story you are telling, and to your brand and its values. Library music is a lot cheaper than commercial music, where you can spend thousands to clear one commercial track, and with a little searching there are some good library tracks out there. Does the music in your films represent the personality of your brand and suit the story?

9. Subtitles. Always.

Subtitles are now a must for all brand films online, and nowhere is this more true than with your recruitment film. Many videos are viewed on social media without audio – for example 85% of Facebook videos are watched on mute. Subtitles allow the viewer to still see what people are saying even if they can’t hear it. In fact, many people prefer watching videos with subtitles even if they don’t have to.

Subtitles can also give your film and brand a boost in search rankings. Subtitles improve SEO, because Google indexes captions that you’ve added to videos (they don’t index automatically generated captions, like those YouTube can add for you). If you are using the video on social networks, be conscious of the sizing and format, and that subtitles don’t get obscured by set features – such as LinkedIn’s time countdown feature on mobile.

But it’s not just the stats and SEO that make subtitles a must. The context of watching a recruitment film is likely to be personal and on mobile, and mobile viewing is more likely to be without sound. No-one who is thinking of changing jobs is going to watch a recruitment video on their desktop machine in the open office.

10. Sweat the assets

Users interact with different social platforms in different ways. In short the length and style of your video should be different for different platforms. For Instagram and Twitter where people are scrolling through, 15-30 seconds in duration works best. For LinkedIn around 60-90 seconds works well, whereas on YouTube and your own website viewers are more likely to watch for longer, although we’d still recommend keeping films to between 2-3 minutes maximum. Think about where your potential audience are most likely to be watching and make the most of your recruitment films by re-cutting and re-purposing for the different social channels where you’ll be posting.

Once you find and start to share those powerful people stories, you’ll find other people will come forward with stories they want to share. There’s no better way to recruit staff than sharing powerful films about people and your brand values.

Being featured in a film is an honour. Well-made people films make your colleagues, customers and candidates feel proud to be part of your brand story.

You can contact Richard Thomson via his LinkedIn account or call 07979 860 133.