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Executive Decisions: Proactive vs. Reactive
By Russ Jolly - published January 2006

The phone rings. I glance over at the caller ID. The readout displays "XYZ Corp." I answer. The voice on the other end of the line says, "We'd like to get some information about creating a marketing video for our company." I nod and silently remind myself of the phrase I use to prepare for just this type of call: "Drive the bus!"

As a producer of both event videos and scripted corporate videos, I use many of the same tools for both types of jobs: camera, tripod, audio, lights. One tool, however, is very different as I switch between these two markets: my mindset. Awhile back I analyzed my approaches to event videography and corporate video production to determine what contributed to my greatest successes in each market and, conversely, to understand what led to my most difficult challenges in each market. What I found was that I get my best results as a corporate producer when I take an extremely proactive approach through all phases of production, while my best work as an event videographer has occurred when I was in a decidedly reactive mode.

Proactive vs. Reactive. Sounds simple enough. But for those of us switching often between corporate video production and event videography, adopting the right mindset at the appropriate time can require a conscious effort.

On most occasions when a client comes to me for event videography, many important decisions that affect my job have already been made. The date is set, the time is determined, the location has been chosen. Decisions regarding the content of the event and who will participate have been made by the client. Naturally, planning and preparation is an essential part of any job, but for the most part I find myself in a reactive mode when producing event videos. And with the many surprises that inevitably occur at any live event, this reactive approach works well for me. From capturing a candid moment during the shoot to assessing in postproduction how all the pieces fit together, I react to the event with spontaneity, creativity, and flexibility.

As a corporate video producer, on the other hand, I have learned to take a proactive approach through each phase of the production process. The majority of my corporate work involves producing and directing scripted marketing or training videos, and my clients need me to manage their projects. They need me to plan, coordinate, and direct. In short, they need me to "drive the bus"—whether they know it or not!

Now, there are some corporate video situations in which my reactive instincts work just fine. These jobs are typically live business events such as speeches, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, seminars, or company parties. The proactive producer in me comes to full force on script-based productions like commercials or orientation, training, promotional, and instructional videos—basically any production where it's okay to yell, "Cut!"

My proactive approach to corporate video actually begins long before I ever meet the client. In the marketing materials for our services, I make it clear to prospective clients that we strive to help businesses increase sales or improve productivity. This is proactively planting the idea in their minds that we don't just create videos; we help businesses achieve their goals through the use of video.

My friend and fellow EventDV columnist Steve Yankee keeps a message by his phone that reads, "Stop Selling, Start Solving." Throughout our marketing materials, I convey a consistent message that tells potential clients that part of the value we bring to every video project is our commitment to helping them solve the challenges their companies face. This proactive approach helps me establish the importance of a "partner" relationship before we even schedule a meeting. It lets potential clients know that I care about the challenges that they're trying to overcome through their marketing or training video, and that I'll work hard to understand their needs and help them reach their goals.

I also use our marketing materials to give prospective clients an overview of the process we implement throughout production. I want them to know that project management is a key component of our work, and that we'll use a proactive action plan to keep their job on track. This can be very appealing to businesses that are on a tight timeframe. It also serves as advance notice to those companies most susceptible to "deadline drift" that time equals money, and the way to keep a project on budget is to stick with the schedule.

Finally, I use our marketing materials proactively to frame budget considerations. By focusing attention on what the companies hope to achieve through the use of video, I try to get clients thinking about return on investment before they ever even contact me. When a prospective client considers video an investment rather than an expense, it makes subsequent conversations about the relationship between production values and budget easier to handle.

All this proactive planning, and I haven't even spoken with the client yet! In future columns, I'll detail proactive approaches to other phases of the corporate production process including the first contact, the discovery meeting, the action plan, budgeting, contracting, and the actual production itself.

Russ Jolly is owner of 214 Media: Dallas corporate video production company.

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“Russ is extremely intuitive and requires a minimum of background and input in order to produce maximum results. Extremely creative and very multifaceted I will use him again at my next available opportunity and as often as I have a need for the services he offers.”
~Ron Martin, Senior Vice President, Infinera