Not communicating something is a form of communicating. And the absence of doing or saying something can often do a heck of a lot more damage than any action at all.
I immediately think about this from a managerial perspective.
Because confession: I’ve always been an extreme people-pleaser.
Why? Well, because I like to be liked, of course, as do most human beings I’ve met in my 25 years. And maybe I’ve had the “approval bug” more than most in my adolescent years. Since high school, it’s always been something I’ve been aware of.
I’m quite adaptable in social situations to become what I believe others want me to be. I will subconsciously make decisions, big or small, not based on what I want, rather based on what I believe others assume that I want.
I also think I’ve become quite good at these habits.
At avoiding confrontation, taking the easy road from a social standpoint, letting things slide unaddressed rather than having a tough conversation at the moment.
It always leads to a worse situation in the long run, but a less cringe-y experience in the present.
And these habits were never so clear to me than when I was managing four videographers at Oneshot Media, my previous photo and video production company.
Mind you, it was a small 10-person company, and we were all quite young. So, it was easy for personal and professional lives to get tangled together, which allowed some of my people-pleaser habits to spill into professional relationships.
I would delegate to creatives with the best intentions, then realize that something or someone wasn’t performing tasks the way I had intended. Unfortunately, rather than addressing the situation early to avoid underperforming work, I would mentally ignore the problems.
Instead, these habits became the demise of a couple of professional relationships.
Have you ever not communicated about something work-related with a peer/subordinate and then passively avoided that person so you didn’t have to confront the situation?
I did. And we had waaaaaay too small of an office to “properly avoid.”
Resentment built and relationships deteriorated and people were fired. And looking back on it I blame myself much more than the ex-employees.
What I learned from that experience
I blame myself for not establishing enough role structure and expectations at the very beginning of the professional relationship. I blame myself for not realizing that these are process and project-oriented workers that want to be given a framework for their job responsibilities.
Without this definitive structure and expectations, it’s not easy managing creatives — especially those that come from freelancing.
If I would’ve created structure, given clear expectations, and confronted problems early, it would have not only solved my problems, but it would have given the videographers what they needed as well.
I also recognize that I was a video person trying to manage other video people, which is much easier to empathize with, understand, and audit the work shenanigans compared to what you have to do as a non-video professional managing a video professional.
You probably don’t know the questions to ask, the holes to poke, or the structures to create that give the videographer the direction, motivation, and “bowling alley bumpers” to keep expectations in line.
If these clear expectations aren’t set, you will slowly see cracks in the professional relationship.
You will feel the awkwardness of miscommunication and missed expectations that come from an underperforming creative like a videographer. You won’t know how to retroactively help the dynamic or the questions to ask to improve the relationship.
You also have no previous "in-sourced" video content — video produced in-house as opposed to outsourcing it to a video production agency — to compare the videographer’s work to, so there isn’t really a quantity or quality baseline to shoot for. You may start feeling like things could be done better but not have any idea how they could improve.
Bring on the managerial cracks
Trust me when I say that there’s a lot of ways for these cracks to start forming when common problems of managing a videographer arise.
Common problems you will encounter when managing a videographer
I’m not trying to use scare tactics, spook strategies, fear formalities, or even concern creep when I say that there are a million ways for “managerial cracks” to start showing when working with your first in-house videographer.
There is a wide range of pitfalls that can arise in the first year of having an in-house videographer, but here are a few of the most common problem areas:
There are no predetermined expectations or precedence of what weekly or monthly production volume should be.
There are very few production quantity or quality metrics to compare to within the industry.
The responsibilities of “who does what” within the organization are undefined or diluted.
No company- or industry-specific training or expertise has been made available to the videographer.
There is an incorrect expectation that the videographer should also be steering the content strategy for video.
The content marketing team isn’t working with the videographer on project-based terms.
The videographer has been positioned within the company with insufficient authority to get others to help with video creation, and also to show the company that in-house video production is a serious, long-term strategy.
Generally speaking, I see that the common problems of managing an in-house videographer derive from three broad categories of communication failure:
Failure to clearly define the videographer’s job expectations during the hiring and on-boarding processes.
Failure to appropriately separate and communicate roles throughout the video creation process.
Failure to properly position the videographer within the organization, so they (and their content) are successful.
Now, let's talk about what you should be doing as a manager to minimize the potential for issues to arise, based on the above three “communication failures.”
How to set expectations for what is required of an in-house videographer
This is true for pretty much all employees, but especially creatives:
Operational and cultural role expectations are malleable at the very beginning of the on-boarding process, but the norms they will create (intentionally or by accident) will set in like concrete before you know it.
What I’m saying is that if you want your videographer to do something regularly, you better tell them to do it before they become used to not doing it.
Setting clear role expectations for a videographer doesn’t start during on-boarding or even the interview. It starts at the job posting before the applicants apply.
The earlier that the expectations can be instilled, the easier that it will be to achieve them. And I believe that there’s no such thing as “too clear” or “too rigid” when it comes to defining expectations in a job posting.
On the contrary, it’s really refreshing and welcomed for creatives. It means that they don’t have to assume or determine what’s expected of them.
Role requirements that should be defined in the job description and reinforced throughout the hiring and on-boarding processes include:
Implement a method or process of maintaining videos to be used in the sales process, such as a Google Sheet or a Vidyard account.
Establish project-based performance metrics for the videographer’s role, including the number of videos published, number of training sessions completed, number of scripts written, etc.
This responsibility reinforcement gives the managed videographer clear expectations of what will be expected of them and how they will be evaluated. Generally speaking, many videographers have found ways to work for themselves in the past.
They are creatives that could have picked up freelancing jobs on the side. They are project-oriented, meaning they thing in “bins” of video projects that they want to handle in a structured, standardized way.
The next section of pitfalls to avoid in videographer management comes from the separation of role responsibilities.
How to define and separate responsibilities in the video creation process
Aside from role expectations being set, the failure to separate and communicate roles throughout the video creation process is the second biggest contributor to managerial problems with videographers.
This comes down to the importance of having a clearly defined video creation process, all the way from ideation to the maintenance of published videos. I created a good “starting place” video creation process template to make sure that you’re asking all the basic stuff.
However, each company will have a different final creation process, so consider this to be 80% of what yours should include.
No matter what your checklist looks like, the key is to have a defined and documented process that the entire organization understands, with only one person responsible for any given step in the process.
It’s important here to keep in mind that what the videographer should not be responsible for in this process. A poorly delegated process can be just as detrimental as an undefined one.
For example, video topic ideation and brainstorming shouldnot fall on the videographer. Rather, content format ideation should be their hand in the strategy.
Successful videographers are given a hopper of video ideas and expert resources to go create a content calendar and script outlines from. They should not be deciding the overarching strategy, as they are almost never industry experts.
Instead, the operations of the role is where the majority of their responsibilities should lie.
It is a full-time job producing and publishing two to three videos per week. The videographer should be writing video scripts based on someone else’s expertise. They should be planning shoots, building rapport with subject matter experts, editing, and optimizing existing content online.
There are some businesses that are successful when they have the videographer schedule and coordinate shoots with those involved.
However, I often try to push that responsibility off to a content manager or a digital marketing manager. There are many businesses that have a videographer who feels like they’re constantly asking favors of everyone they need something from, and this leads to an awkward work dynamic for the videographer and, sometimes, burnout.
The major takeaway here is that when you are defining your video creation process responsibilities, keep in mind that the videographer will inherently be the bottleneck of the process.
Recognize that fact, and do everything you can to relieve the videographer of the responsibilities in the process that either don’t require their expertise, or could be done better by someone else due to their industry experience.
And this leads well into the third managerial pitfall when managing a videographer, which is not giving their role the authority (or “teeth,” as I like to say) that it deserves to do the job successfully.
How to properly position a videographer in your organization’s structure (and culture)
The last contributor to common managerial issues with videographers stems from the failure to position the videographer within the organization.
This involves giving the videographer the “teeth” that they need to rock their job and have the rest of the organization take the videographer (and video, in general) seriously.
They each are difficult cultural shifts to get an entire business excited about adopting.
Generally speaking, it shouldn’t be the videographer’s job to get people to understand the inbound philosophy. They have enough responsibility on their plates of leading the cultural shift of getting people on-camera and using video in their everyday business processes.
The difficult part for in-house videographers is that, at a role-specific level, they are the only ones in the organization with “video production” at the top of their task list.
However, they need help from so many other people in the organization to successfully complete their job. Unfortunately, it typically becomes the last thing to do on everyone else's lists.
This is when the videographer can start to feel like they’re living on “video island” in your organization.
They’re the only ones who understand video production, they’re “asking favors” of everyone else when they need help with something, and they feel like they’re the only ones leading the inbound video charge.
Quite lonely, much burnout, talking to a volleyball named Wilson.🏐
To help your videographer escape from “video island,” a few prerequisites must be established in the organization:
The philosophy of inbound marketing must have buy-in from the top of the organization down to the bottom.
The organization must believe that video is the future of educating prospects and clients online (spoiler: it is).
The videographer must be seen as the “leader” of the organization’s video adoption and should be given the authority in the organization to “own” the cultural adoption.
Organizations that struggle with the third prerequisite typically all experience another similar problem:
Often the direct report is a company’s content manager or a director of marketing, they should still have regular meetings with other company leaders, such as the sales leadership and managers.
A content manager is typically positioned as the liaison between the marketing and sales department. The videographer should be doing the exact same thing.
Why? Because the vast majority of effective video ideas come from the sales team long before the marketing team.
Also, sales team members are often the subject matter experts on camera, and they need to respect and like the videographer that they are working with. They should be able to passively build rapport with one another.
The videographer also needs to have the subject matter experts close on-hand as new video topic ideas enter pre-production. Sales team members are often their best resource to create the most effective scripts for future videos.
Ultimately, none of this cultural adoption can happen if the videographer’s role is just seen as a niche rabbit hole of the marketing department that no one respects or even understands the purpose of.
That’s a recipe for video production feeling like a “summer program” and zero company-wide buy-in.
So, to properly manage a videographer, they must be seen as important, authoritative, and cross-departmental.
They must be a leader, an educator, and an idea-seller.
Admittedly, these requirements are partially on the videographer ability to be a charismatic leader with business acumen. They must have the ability to articulate ideas to leadership, as well as the sales and marketing teams.
However, it’s more on the company’s leadership to show the organization that they are serious about investing the needed time and money into video production. Properly managing a videographer means not casting them away on “video island,” folks.
“Wrap it up, Will” — What to do first to properly manage an in-house videographer
There are a million ways for managerial cracks to form when managing an in-house videographer.
Cracks can occur due to ambiguous role expectations or performance metrics. They could be because of a vaguely defined video creation process with diluted responsibilities.
Or, it could be because the videographer is not given the cultural authority in the organization to successfully do their job with zero burnout.
Finally, it could be a little bit of everything... 😅
If you’re about to be hiring and/or managing a videographer, I highly suggest:
Creating hyper-clear role deliverables and performance metrics, and then building them into the hiring and on-boarding process.
Devising a written video creation process based on the above template.
Discussing with leadership how the videographer will be positioned to the rest of the organization.
And, if you’re already managing a videographer and are starting to notice these cracks forming — or aren’t certain exactly how they’re liking the job — then I highly suggest having an initial informal conversation with them based on what you learned in this article to see how they’re feeling about everything.
Then, I recommend working with the videographer to define and create the above information for your own organization.
This is probably a first-time situation for both you and the videographer, and all I can say is that genuine candor goes a long way in starting or improving any professional relationship.
Both of you are probably craving a little more professional communication.
You just have to be the one to start it. 😇
Good luck, you shnazzy, open-minded video manager, you.