The rise of the 'Politician Auteur'

‘Selfie-style filming'. Cost effective and cool? Or cheap and brand damaging?

Political candidates now regularly post selfie-style video clips on their social media channels trying to persuade us why they should get our vote.

The style is usually simple: a direct address to camera in an everyday and unmanaged location. The idea is to make it look spontaneous, natural and honest. The desired effect is to make us feel they are trustworthy, relatable and working hard for our vote.

It is true that they are cost effective to produce - no camera equipment, no professional camera operator, no sound crew and no need for an edit suite and professional editor - it can be done on the ‘phone. With no crew to pay, money is saved and lots of content can be produced. 

For a politician choosing to post in this way, it is important to avoid looking amateurish. Every bit of content represents their brand. It is a form in itself and takes expertise to make a decent video in this style. It needs to be mastered before it can be used competently. This is where an experienced producer becomes beneficial to the politician’s Communications team. A producer’s job is to ensure that everything is in place to make sure the messaging is delivered in a clear and effective way. A producer will be responsible for:

  • Working with the contributor to identify the key messaging
  • Script editing
  • Directing the performance
  • Choosing the location
  • Ensuring it is shot safely
  • Choosing the best take and clipping it up for delivery to the digital platform it will be shown on.

When used in business, this style of shooting is sometimes referred to as ‘User Generated Content (UGC)’ and has a mixed track record. The best ones can capture enthusiasm, professionalism and commitment from the contributors. These reflect well on their organisation. Others can look cheap, poorly thought through, poorly executed and are an embarrassment to the organisation.

One important factor in determining whether UGC will work as a style is the subject of the video clip. There are some topics that lend themselves more to this type of treatment than others. One that sticks in my memory is when team members in a bank were on a charity bike ride from London to Paris on behalf of their employer. The cyclists shot their own footage during the trip; we could see their progress and witnessed at close quarters their joy at the end of the long journey. The UGC clips gave the film a very personal and immediate feel (though, admittedly, required a fair amount of work in the edit).

Less successful UGC films are when too much information is trying to be shared. I saw one where an IT expert was talking through the benefits of a new system that was being rolled out. The delivery was too technical, took too long and went in to too much detail for a film. This was no fault of the contributor; his commitment and knowledge were remarkable - but the task was misconceived. A UGC film was not the right form for those messages. 

Returning to the politicians, I would say that the quality of their ‘Selfie-style’ video clips have improved over the last couple of years. The messaging is generally being managed well: they keep it simple, everything in the clip is there to support the message and they are not overly ambitious from a visual point of view. When they work well, they are short, punchy and easy to watch.

It is important to remember that these clips are part of a mix of video styles used in a campaign. This is sensible. Other videos have higher production values. Party political broadcasts made for primetime terrestrial TV audiences usually have a lot of resources to help make them look slick and glossy. Other popular styles are animations or text heavy clips designed for viewing on social media platforms with the sound turned off. Political parties have become savvy as to which style of video suits which platform. Businesses and organisations need to be just as savvy if they are to ensure their brand’s reputation whilst cutting video production costs.

If you would like to discuss how to develop a video strategy for your organisation that gets the most from your budget, talk to us at shortstories; we can help you decide how best to allocate your resources. Contact us for a free consultation. Please send us an email at hello@shortstories.media if you would like us to get in touch to discuss your next video project.

To finish with, here is my favourite ‘Selfie-style’ clip from the 2019 UK General Election campaign. Irrespective of any political party preferences one may have, this is hugely enjoyable and gets the messaging across very well. It's a clip that plays with the form of the 'Selfie-style' video itself.  Be sure to watch to the end. 

https://twitter.com/DavidGauke/status/1198697894964060160?s=20

Philip Pickard - Head of Production