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This week’s guest, Hugh Humphreys, founded video production and content agency Hustle Media in 2016. His career in journalism and communications places him at the epicentre of media strategy right through to production and distribution.
In this episode of The Spike Podcast, co-hosts Tim Johnson and Alex Whitlock discuss the evolution and growth of video in the last two years. Hugh reveals the key to success in any video campaign – defining specific outcomes and developing strategy and metrics around these outcomes. While touching on the growth of video in the industry, Hugh gives great insight into the importance of creating content specific to platforms and engagement of different audiences through different methods. What’s clear is that getting bang for your buck is no longer a pipe dream – it’s the reality of well-planned content that can achieve multiple goals.
Tim Johnson: G’day. My name’s Tim Johnson. You’re here with the Spike podcast. The Spike podcast is an Australian-based marketing and content-focused discussion. Each week we chat to interesting marketing professionals, journalists, and individuals about their stories and views on current affairs, with a view towards future-proofing in an evolving industry. I’m here today with my co-host Alex Whitlock. Good morning.
Alex Whitlock: Tim, how [are] you doing?
Tim Johnson: Very well, thanks. Good to have you here.
One of the main things that we address across the Spike Native network is new and upcoming, exciting developments for our customers and for our clients. Mainly in 2017, that focus has been on video. Today we have with us founder and director of Hustle Media, Hugh Humphreys. Good morning, Hugh.
Hugh Humphreys: Good to be here.
Tim Johnson: What we really wanted to dive in today was really some tips and tricks around video, a bit of a—more of a long-term perspective of video for the future, and also what’s been happening in 2017. I mean, we have seen a huge amount of video come across our platform in just this year. More so than any other form of content.
What I wanted to ask you was, really, how do you get to a point when you come in to talk to a new client about video strategy and execution, how do you come to a point where you say: “Right, we need to start producing video of x kind, of x type?” And how do we go from there to building that into our media plan for the foreseeable future?
Hugh Humphreys: You hit it on the head right there. I think that it’s really never about one thing in isolation and people who say: “Yeah, we really want to make some video. We really want do this.” It’s like, well, where does that fit in with the rest of what you do? What platform is it sitting on? Is it going natively on Facebook, say, for example? Or is it Instagram platform? Or Twitter? Or sitting exclusively on the website that you’re then directing traffic back to on whatever platform it is.
I think there’s no way that you can just suggest and say: “We need to make more video,” without a broader strategy behind it, and I think that’s something that people get a little bit confused about sometimes. They say: “Yeah, we want to make more video,” because they hear it thrown around as something that—if it’s not video, it doesn’t count as content. A lot of times people talk about that—the way that video is so important. But I would start that conversation by saying: “Well, what do you want to get out of it?” Because different platforms tell a different story, get different results, and have different purposes.
Alex Whitlock: How uninformed do you find that your clients are when it comes—so you make a decision. You see [the] video and you say: “Look, we want to get involved in that.” How much do you find that your clients really understand what the objectives are with video when they come along and engage you?
Hugh Humphreys: A real range. I think some people who have either worked with different video producers before or have dabbled in it in a way, or even have done some stuff themselves, [say]: “We’re shooting video on our iPhones,” or whatever. We want to increase the production values or the quality of the content that we can make from it. So they’ve got a bit of an understanding of what people are watching and what people are engaging with that they want to take it to the next level. They’re the ones, I think, [who] are the most involved in say, that, okay, they know what they want. They have a bit of an understanding of it that you don’t have to take them 10 steps back to, say, this is— before you want to make this video and spend money making video … because it is effectively not the cheapest of exercises.
It’s much cheaper to just take a photo or write something yourself or whatever, than it is to produce really good video content. But [with] some people, you’ve really gotta take a step back and say: “What do you want to get out of it? How can you repurpose it to get the most bites of the cherry?” Whether you want to make content just for social media engagement, and then talk about whether you want to repurpose it for advertising or … different kinds of things you can do with it.
Tim Johnson: You’ve touched on the strategy there and promotional side of—once you’ve actually produced any video content. How important is that in your process in order to make sure a video production is successful?
Hugh Humphreys: I think it’s really key. If you’re not asking yourself: “Why are we doing this?” And: “What is the purpose that we’re gonna get out of it?” Then I don’t know if there’s much point doing it at all, because there [are] many ways and bites you can get out of one content cherry. So you could say: “We want to make this really great brand piece that—a big corporate brand video that shows all the wonderful things that are happening in the brand,” but then you can use the great content you shoot from that to make smaller video pieces or little vignettes or Instagram videos or r-use it to make 15- or 30-second Facebook ads. However you want to use it, there [are] so many different options you can use in that regard that if you don’t start thinking about that at the start when you’re making it, you’ll often get stuck and go: “Oh, we haven’t enough stuff,” until we can then repurpose it, reuse it and think longer-term … more than just: “Oh, we want to put a video on social media.”
Tim Johnson: Yeah, look, I think you touched on a really good point there about repurposing, and I think this is a really interesting debate happening in video content at the moment as to being able to repurpose particular videos that are shot for a particular purpose for different channels. And so, obviously, social media videos are gonna be significantly shorter than any other kind of video.
Alex Whitlock: So is there a perfect time that you would shoot something for social media? How do you advise clients? Is there a rule of thumb?
Hugh Humphreys: I think I would recommend people to make video that’s shorter rather than longer for a social media purpose. But, I say that on one hand. But then on the other hand, if you’re gonna make, say, live video or do some really great Facebook Live broadcasts and put some good production into that, I would actually recommend longer rather than shorter, because it’s a whole entirely different game.
Alex Whitlock: That’s a different animal, though, isn’t it then?
Hugh Humphreys: Exactly.
Tim Johnson: Yeah, absolutely.
Hugh Humphreys: But you can make something short and have it still get no attention, and you can make a longer piece of video but if it’s really, really good, people will still watch it.
Alex Whitlock: It comes down to content, really, doesn’t it then?
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah. There is a real element to—you can’t just say: “We’re gonna make some video for the purpose of making video.” It needs to tell a story. It needs to have good visuals. It needs to have something to say and add to your brand and the purpose behind what the message is you’re trying to say. You can’t just say: “We’re gonna make some video.” Because if you go, okay, why? What the hell’s the point?
Alex Whitlock: So this brings me onto something, which I’m interested in. So from a client perspective, if I decide I’m going to engage in video, video can be an extremely expensive process if I don’t work to—if I don’t know what my outcomes are. So how should somebody engage in video, whether they bring in someone like you to produce and to create it or whether they do it themselves? How can you work out what your ROI is when you go into this, assuming it’s for a commercial purpose?
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, well, I think it depends on how much—for example, how much I’m putting behind this strategy? Because sometimes clients come to us and say: “We’ve got this video brief. Go and make it, produce it. Here you go.” And then they do the rest. They’re the ones managing the content, making their ads with all that future stuff. But if clients come to us from that earlier stage and say: “Okay, we want to get more revenue or generate more users or leads,” or whatever it is, with this particular kind of content or whether it’s educational content or brand value content. All that kind of stuff. If they say: “We want to make this for this purpose,” that’s when you say, “Okay. Well, you can”—guess a conversation around how to promote it then comes into that hand as well.
Alex Whitlock: Yeah, absolutely.
Hugh Humphreys: And there’s a lot of people—
Tim Johnson: And what kind of metrics you want to use behind that—
Hugh Humphreys: Exactly, because it’s very easy to say, use, or reach your engagement, and throw those terms around to people who aren’t familiar with what they mean. But people can be very easily confused by saying: “Yeah, we’ve had this many video views on Facebook,” but really that means just one second playing in your timeline as you scroll past. There’s more valuable metrics for watching content like 10-second views, as opposed to just a view in general, and a reach in engagement is obviously—they all come in together to have a play and what the value getting out of your content just from, say, Facebook alone, and then the other metrics are combined with that. Say if you’re looking at Instagram or your web traffic, or how long people are spending on your site, YouTube views, all those kind of things.
Tim Johnson: So it’s a real horses for courses kind of game.
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, absolutely. And I will tell my clients that different platforms have different purposes for benefits of types of video. You’d shoot things different ways. Say if it was on Instagram, I know they recommend people to do more vertical video in that sense rather than full 16×9 horizontal HD style video that you’d want to put on YouTube. Something like that. And it’s really complicated, and I totally understand why clients can get very confused and overwhelmed by that in a sense of someone saying to them: “Okay, here are these,” for example, “five or six potential different platforms that this video’s going to go on and it needs to look different here, have different editing requirements,” and all this stuff and all this work and time and money that has to go into that, sometimes people are like: “Okay, wow. I have no idea what any of that’s gonna lead me to.”
Alex Whitlock: So I think at this point, just give us a bit of background [about] yourself and to Hustle Media. I know that you are just having a poke around. I know you’re a journalist by trade. Just give us a bit of an insight into what took you into video and just a bit of background to Hustle.
Hugh Humphreys: Sure. So we are just over a year old. We had our first birthday a couple of weeks ago, which was—
Tim Johnson: Congratulations!
Hugh Humphreys: Thank you. Very exciting, and a little overwhelming to realise how much we’ve done and how quickly it’s happened in 12 months. So when we started, I think, I guess, our original idea of what we would end up doing would be more around actual social media content management and strategy, and that kind of consulting and management of various clients’ platforms. But it very quickly evolved into people wanting more video work just because we work [with] a lot of other contractors or videographers and—
Alex Whitlock: And you understand content, you understand broadcast because your background is—
Hugh Humphreys: Absolutely. Yep, my background from that before was I worked in radio for a number of years, and then I worked in both digital and social media content and media and PR role at the Parramatta Eels NRL team. So I was there for four years as well. So a real broad skill set. And my co-founder Sarah, Sarah Neill, has also come from a background like that. A real content development and strategy for sports teams, entertainment, and magazines, and media as well. So we just kind of fell into people saying: “Yeah, we want to make these videos,” and we had a good network of videographers that we’d worked with, and then it just went from—
Alex Whitlock: Snowballed.
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, it went from there.
Tim Johnson: That’s amazing. Hugh, I really wanted to touch on exciting things in 2017 for the world of video and for Hustle Media. I mean, a lot of the video content that we put across the network for our clients is obviously geared towards our network, which is very professionally minded. A lot of the video content that we get is market updates, interview-based stuff, and while very informative, some can be pretty stock-standard.
Alex Whitlock: I think if you do that kind of content, it can be dull. Look, you’re dealing with often dry content, and I think—
Tim Johnson: And so, obviously the Royal Easter Show is pretty fun and you’ve done—
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah. That was one of the great things we did, yeah.
Tim Johnson: Done some content there, and then obviously a lot of work with Rugby League. What’s exciting and what’s fun, and what are some new ideas that are coming up?
Alex Whitlock: Or maybe, sorry, maybe within the—so looking at that, within—we’ve all seen many or certainly … working in vertical as I do, lots of roundtables videoed of middle-aged folk sitting there drinking their water. So just in the context of where you’ve got, I think, good, fun stuff is easy. It’s not easy, but it’s easier to do some quite creative stuff and to really extrapolate.
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, I know what you mean.
Alex Whitlock: It could be the driest of—
Hugh Humphreys: When you have a really exciting event, it’s much easier to find easy things that look really great, and video, especially, is all about light, colour, movement, right? You want to be able to attract peoples’ attention and do something fun. And also audio creativity in that as well. But when you have a more dry, or industry trade content.
Alex Whitlock: Yep. So how can you bring that to life a little bit more?
Hugh Humphreys: I think it really comes down to purpose, and there are honestly some occasions and sometimes where I have recommended very much to clients that maybe video is not the way to go for this particular kind of content. I think people get really hung up on: “It has to be video. It has to be video because that’s what everyone’s talking about!”
Tim Johnson: Yeah, 2017.
Hugh Humphreys: Absolutely. Absolutely. But, truly, I’m like: “If this video is so boring that I’m only going to watch 10 seconds of it and then never watch it ever again,” whereas if it was in an article form or written in a really creative combination of photos and text in an article-style thing—
Alex Whitlock: Or even a podcast like—
Hugh Humphreys: Exactly. Exactly. The right kind of content has the right platform, and I’m very much inclined to actually not always watch the autoplay videos that pop up on media sites and things like that, and scroll through and actually read it on a text level.
Alex Whitlock: That’s really, really good advice.
Hugh Humphreys: Because of my context. If I’m on a bus or a train, or I want to read something quickly, I can read something much faster than I can watch the full five-minute video of, for example.
Alex Whitlock: So, again, Hugh, it comes back to content. So not being blinded by: “I want to have a video,” is really focus on the content itself and work out what the most effective way is for the audience to engage with that content. And like you say, in some instances it may be, “Put the cameras away. We don’t want to watch five people in grey suits sitting around a table.” But the content that they’re delivering may be better served up through another form.
Hugh Humphreys: In another form. Yeah, because people are not gonna interact with things if they’re not told the right way or framed the right way, and there are good ways of telling certain stories and sharing certain content, and there are not [so] great ways of sharing the exact same thing. So I think that’s a big one. But I guess, going back to your point about new things. It’s not really new now, I guess. It’s been around for 12 months or so now, I guess, in the sense of live video, which I am still… Actually, I’m very surprised at how few big brands, publishers, corporations, all those kinds of things are not. How few of them are actually using live video to its full advantage.
Tim Johnson: How little it’s been adopted.
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, in the sense of good production values or good quality audio and lighting, and potential for multi-camera setups and vision switching, like a TV style.
Alex Whitlock: So is this around events, conferences? Give us a bit of context.
Hugh Humphreys: All kinds of things. So, I guess, as a disclaimer, that’s one of the things that we do a lot of. I should say that to start with. But we actually fell into it with GQ. They were the first ones we did a really great live video with last year for their Men of the Year Awards. We did their whole red carpet interview setup with multiple cameras and audio and everything, and that worked amazingly for their social network.
Alex Whitlock: I think, looking from a radio background, you’re used to doing things live. I think some people—we do a lot of events, and people get scared by things that are live. People get scared about going on stage and doing an address.
Hugh Humphreys: Absolutely.
Alex Whitlock: And with the cameras there as well, I think there’s that extra dimension for the client of the fear fact. So how do you—
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, it’s terrifying but it’s also—
Alex Whitlock: How do you guys manage that?
Hugh Humphreys: But that’s what makes it so fun.
Alex Whitlock: It’s exciting. Of course it is.
Hugh Humphreys: But I think for different brands or businesses or events or whatever it is, there [are] different ways of using live and, I think, that’s what I’ve actually been surprised at seeing people even give it a go. Even if it ends up—it might be just shot on an iPhone or not the best quality audio or whatever, but just creative ways of trying it out and using it.
Alex Whitlock: Sometimes a roar is—
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, like I said Domain, for example. They often do auctions on the weekend on their Facebook page live, like really big auctions. And sometimes the video quality might be a bit rubbish because it’s shot on an iPhone and the—
Alex Whitlock: But the content’s exciting.
Hugh Humphreys: Audio might **** hopeless, but at least it’s something different and innovative that they’re trying to give it a go, and I think—
Alex Whitlock: How high will he go? Who’s gonna put another bid in?
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, and people watch and it’s something that people are actually interested in. And there [are] potential ways for them to do it better or to make it even better, but I like seeing brands or businesses or publishers having a crack at doing something new, because more often—or, actually, maybe not more often than not, but there’s a really good chance that if you’re doing something new that no one else is doing, telling a story in a creative way, especially with live video, you get a real benefit of people engaging with it. And people are really into it, and Facebook loves the live video. It bumps [up] the algorithm so much and people watch it multiple times.
Alex Whitlock: Yeah. And that comes down to content again, and once again, is the content, not—so if you’re saying somebody’s filming it on their iPhone, but they’ve got good content, I think there’s a bit of forgiveness for the audience if the quality of the filming isn’t quite as good, as crystal clear stuff with something that’s not of interest.
Hugh Humphreys: Totally. But I think there’s also the risk that people watch for less amount of time if the technical quality is not very good. Even if it’s an exciting and interesting event, if the audio is crackly or too loud, or the vision is blurry or not loading properly or not very well, [the] first thing I’m gonna do is switch off. And that’s not necessarily from a content perspective. That’s just from an interest perspective, like a human perspective. If it’s hard to watch, if it’s uncomfortable, if it’s not pleasant or hurting my ears or eyes or whatever it is, I have the luxury of being able to scroll past it. So I think that’s just a real practical step.
Alex Whitlock: So what’s the most exciting thing that you’ve done to date for a client where it’s really got the heart beating and—or what have you got that’s coming up that’s really got you excited in terms of cutting-edge stuff?
Hugh Humphreys: I love live video. It’s my favourite thing to do just because it’s—there’s always, I guess, the slight danger of something going wrong or something failing and having to make workarounds. But that being said, so many of the live videos that we’ve done, there are things that do go wrong or something happens, or a guest isn’t ready in time, or whatever it is. But you roll through it, you work through it, and the nature of it is it doesn’t have to be perfect. Because it is live like that, you can be a bit more raw and off the cuff.
Alex Whitlock: It’s a bit more forgiving. I think a bit more forgiving as an audience.
Hugh Humphreys: Oh, totally. But it’s much more fun to produce, especially when you’ve got, say, multiple camera setups. So we did an event for Vogue, their Vogue Codes event, which is their women in tech events that they started last year with just, I think, a breakfast or a conference-style event. One in Sydney and Melbourne last year, and this year they did, I think, eight different events around Australia with really huge audiences, because I think it’s just been really great for them to get in that space and explore the women in technology space and be a real leader in that area. But we managed with Facebook all of their Facebook live broadcasts from their big Vogue Codes live conference, which was great. We worked with a really great technical team there, and—
Alex Whitlock: Was this a first thing for them in terms of—was this new for them?
Hugh Humphreys: Absolutely. Very much new for them. So they were working, I think, with Facebook and then Facebook got us on board to help actually produce the live video for them, which was awesome. It was a really great experience, and—
Alex Whitlock: Did anything go wrong? Was there any heart-in-your-mouth moments?
Hugh Humphreys: No, I have to say—oh, my heart was always in mouth at these events, just because I worry about it. But I have to say it actually went completely off without a hitch.
Alex Whitlock: Fantastic.
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, just a really good event with really—tech people that know what they’re doing, and great camera crew that we had, and good talent from Vogue. That’s the thing. It wasn’t just it looked beautiful and the event was all nice, and the audio quality and production [were] great. There was this really good talent with really interesting stories that they were—we did a few of the livestreams, a few of the panel discussions, all different keynotes, and then just some other one-on-one conversations with a couple of people as well. I learnt heaps just from being there on the day and I had a really good time. And I know that they got a really good reaction to that content online as well.
Alex Whitlock: It’s a win.
Hugh Humphreys: Yeah, that was one of the most fun things we’ve done in recent months.
Tim Johnson: Yeah, that sounds great fun. Well, look, just to summarise, I think we’ve touched across a lot of points here today. But I think the main things we’ve come across is quality of content. I mean, that’s always been the case, but particularly so with video, because you’ve really got to grab someone in that first three seconds.
The second thing is simplicity and adaptation to a medium. Even with Facebook live, as you said, there [are] so many moving parts which you can only control to a certain extent. So having a really clear plan and keeping things simple, I think, is really important. And further to that, the strategy side of things is planning beyond just filming a YouTube film or a YouTube movie, or a particular piece of content. Planning beyond in terms of repurposing it to other mediums, but also planning beyond to be able to distribute it out to your target audience.
Hugh Humphreys: Totally. You really hit the nail on the head there. I think just mentioning about being able to repurpose your content, one thing that has surprised me, being out doing this for 12 months now, is the lack of content that some businesses have that is legacy content. Like if you say: “Have you got vision of this event from a couple of years ago? Or this thing?” Then people say: “No, I have no idea.” People are truly terrible at archiving and keeping record of their own corporate memory and corporate history. They can’t say: “Oh, we’ve got great photos of this,” or, “Great video of this.” Because either they’ve worked with different agencies or different production companies or different whatever along the way, and somewhere it got lost, hasn’t been installed properly. “Oh, yeah, it’s probably here somewhere, but I have no idea where to find it.” And that’s what I mean when I talk about repurposing stuff. It’s really great.
Businesses have great histories and great brand memory of things that happened, and that whole thing of what’s old is new again. And people are very nostalgic for old-style content, as well if you say: “Here’s an ad that we did for Coke,” or something like that, “that we posted up 20 years ago.” People love it and think it’s hilarious because it is, but there are so many brands that don’t have really good archiving or memory that you can then reuse and repurpose and say: “Hey, here’s some great overlay of this great thing that happened,” you can recombine with a new voice or new graphics, new whatever.
Tim Johnson: Reinvigorate.
Hugh Humphreys: And there you go, you’ve got an ad without having to shoot anything new.
Tim Johnson: How many Coke campaigns would just be repurposed from 25 years ago?
Hugh Humphreys: Oh, they’re just great. They’re good, aren’t they? Fantastic. The way the water drips down the bottle edge.
Tim Johnson: Yeah, it looks awesome. Hugh Humphreys from Hustle Media, it’s been fantastic having you on the show. Thanks very much for coming in.
Hugh Humphreys: No worries at all. Thanks for having me.
Tim Johnson: Thanks for listening to the Spike Podcast. If you’ve got any questions for our team or otherwise, our guest Hugh, you can reach us at email@example.com. Follow us on social through our website: www.spike.com.au. We’ll see you next time.