Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What is it Worth to You? The Value of Online Video to Your Organization

Value: /ˈval-(ˌ)yü/ the relative worth, utility, or importance 

When assessments are made of projects requiring community participation, such as those associated with Urban Planning, the word cost is an all to often used as a replacement for, or falsely equated with value.

Cost, in this context, is a reduction not only of the number of syllables necessary for pronunciation, but more critically a significant reduction of focus. The resultant impact on the project being assessed is often immeasurable and compounded many times over as opportunities to education citizens, and build upon previous Planning efforts are passed over. By designing and executing projects based more on assessments of cost over value, short-sightedness and simplicity are often favoured over the longer term and more complex criteria and benchmarks. Decisions relating to producing online videos for projects often have these hallmarks.

Videos with high production quality generally require contracting expertise that is outside of the scope of municipal budgets. Producing these “in-house” to save on contracting expenditures usually results in products of lesser cinematic and audio quality and can require large amounts of staff time. Therefore, in terms of developing videos for Planning projects, the product is not always as good as hoped for, while the value can be quite high and potentially coming at a significant cost.

For recent municipal planning projects I have developed a series of short videos to describe the characteristics of the initiatives to interested stakeholders in a more captivating way than typical Planning reports. These videos have been made available through the project specific blog sites (
here and here and here). It is important to note that the time and effort it took to develop these was by no measure incidental. 

However, in less than an average of 8 months of access each, the videos associated with a subdivision code project, have proven of extremely high value. They have provided a consistent message and afforded access to project information outside of standard office hours. Also, looking at the following statistics one can see that in this short time staff have already been saved the tedium of 352 repeated conversations (equivalent to at least entire week's worth of working hours).

Online Videos:
- Subdivision Intro, length 0:34, 105 views
- Subdivision Public Engagement, length 2:40, 90 views
- Subdivision Park Board Meeting March 10, length 2:29, 95 views;
- Robert Voigt's Delayering Presentation to the Planning Commission, length 22:15, 46 views; and,
- Subdivision Project Update: Length 17:41, 16 views.

Total video views 352; with a potential total viewing time of 1941 min. or just over 32 hours.

Even this simple examination should make it clear that if videos are developed for Planning projects, and designed with value considerations for a systemic approach to stakeholder/citizen engagement, a municipality can build a resource library of compounding value that informs, educates, and empowers its citizens, while multiplying the efforts of staff. The benefits for the organization and community in the short, mid and long-terms are many, and while creating these videos can be high in cost, their potential as an asset is of higher value and worth the expenditure.

NOTE: In addition to my presentation on Web 2.0 tools at the upcoming National Main Street Conference in Chicago, I have been invited to provide a tutorial on video production for Main Street organizations. Please stop by and say hello if you can attend either. rjv


Barb Chamberlain said...

Nice piece with specific results noted, which I appreciate. I'm developing the communications plan for a campus master plan update and want to utilize online/interactive tools to engage people who can't make it to live meetings.

Did you undertake any communications aimed at driving eyeballs? We worked to drive views of something on YouTube (tracked all results possible). What worked best in our case, with some interested stakeholders in the target audience mix:

1) Direct email appeal to people w/a connection to the comment, and email to our own personal contact lists.

2) Passive/indirect email: Links in signature line.

3) Web page featured links: On the home page, in news release posted online, in internal newsletter posted online/distributed via email

Director of Communications & Public Affairs
Washington State University Spokane

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