How to Battle the Cringe in your Communications
One common mistake communicators make is in their overuse of the ‘earnest’ in content. This often comes across as that ‘this is cheesy’ feeling we all know so well when watching a piece of video or reading a story.
My 15-year-old son has a better term for it. He calls them ‘Cringe’ videos. Consisting largely of people being overly earnest and generally just trying too hard, a Cringe video is recognizable by its ability to make the viewer feel uncomfortable.
While in some cases making your viewers squirm can be a good thing, most clients we’ve worked with are aiming to inform and educate rather than shock and awe. If you’re looking to get your message across in 3 minutes or less it’s probably best not to make your audience wish they’d never looked.
What exactly is it about a piece of media that causes this feeling? And how does it cross the line from being authentic to overly earnest?
We spend a lot of time thinking about this type of thing at Double Barrel, because ultimately we want to produce the most effective video we can for your organization. In that spirit we’ve put together a list to take into your next video production process. Voila!
HOW TO CUT the CHEESE in your communications
- Hire the best talent you can afford. Nothing makes your viewers cringe more (and ultimately does more damage to your brand) than rough camera work, bad audio, editing, graphics and lighting. When choosing your team for video production make sure they have top-notch talent filling all of these roles – it’s critical to producing a professional end product.
- Pre-screen your talking heads. Spend some valuable pre-production time to choose representatives from within your organization that come across relaxed and professional on camera. While any production company worth their salt will be able to get the absolute best out of whomever you provide to speak your company’s message, if you start with the best – you’re guaranteed the best. It’s that simple.
- Avoid the urge to over-script. The role of a communications professional is to ensure that company messaging is coming through loud and clear. However, if people are being scripted within an inch of their lives and are not allowed to speak in their own voice, unless your talent are master communicators and VERY comfortable on camera, scripted lines will not come across as natural. This will cause exactly what we’re trying to avoid with your audience – CHEESE. While it’s fine to provide talking points, you’re always better off to do the work in pre-production when it comes to selecting talent, and then trust them to do the rest.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. While a picture is worth a thousand words – video is definitely not a medium where a thousand words is necessary. We constantly strive to have our clients let the visuals tell the story – but the knee jerk reaction to video communication is to have as many people on camera talking as possible. This leads to bloated run times in your final piece which allows more opportunity for the cringe-factor to encroach. Be ruthless in the edit suite. Don’t let anyone say one word more than they need to.
- Use humour only under supervision. Some of the most cringe-inducing videos are the ones where people head in with the best of intentions – to make their audience laugh. Unfortunately badly written and filmed comedy is akin to a frat house movie – and nothing will alienate your audience faster. At Double Barrel we’ve traipsed into the genre of comedy for a few projects, but only when they’re written and performed by people with the chops. If you feel humour is the best vehicle for your next communications project, get in touch and we’ll help you build a killer comedy team.
~ Roz Allen is a Producer & Director at Double Barrel Studios