Your team worked hard on the latest video featuring a senior leader who talks about why a new initiative is so important. But when you post the video on your intranet site, you're disappointed by the low number of employees who view the video. (And if your web metrics are sophisticated, you're even more disappointed by the high number of people who start watching, then drop off.)

What went wrong?

Here's the problem I see most often when I look at internal communication videos: They're just not that compelling. Many videos are stuck in the past. Compared to the videos employees watch outside work--on platforms like YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook--your videos are . . . well, boring.

I was reminded by this when I saw the study by advertising agency BBDO on how to optimize the impact of video. BBDO's focus is on marketing videos, of course--the kind that might start as a television commercial, then find life on YouTube, then (hopefully) go viral on social platforms.

But the advice is just as useful for videos you create for your employees. So let's look at 6 common mistakes and how to fix them:

  1. The video takes FOREVER to get started. You have to endure a logo, a title, a preamble, and listen to lots of context--until finally the video gets to the point. BBDO found that 65% of viewers decide if they're going to watch a piece of video content in the first 3 seconds. So if you don't grab employees' attention fast, people have moved on to something else.
  2. Nothing really happens. So many internal communication videos are still (after all these years) in a "talking head" format, in which leaders go on and on about a particular topic. Unless your leaders are fascinating and the topic is of vital importance, this is pretty dull stuff. What your video needs is action. Movement. Something visual and interesting for employees to watch.
  3. There's no emotion. Watch any of the videos BBDO showcases and you'll see a myriad of feelings: Fear. Excitement. Pride. Passion. Then watch a typical internal corporate video. The worst examples are almost completely flat. It's as if all the feelings have been squeezed out. If you want employees to care, you need to tug on their heartstrings.
  4. The video is too long--or (sometimes) too short. As soon as I begin viewing many videos, I can't stop watching the clock. That's because the video is not drawing me in and making me forget about the other 15 things I should be doing right now. If a video isn't good, it's a time bomb--so you better make it really short. Strangely enough, many fabulous online videos are actually quite long. BBDO reports seeing an increasing interest in "engaging emotional long-form video. The Top 10 YouTube ads of 2015 were approximately two minutes long."
  5. The format's not convenient. Most people watching video are not sitting at a computer; in fact, of the 90 million in people in the U.S. who are now watching video on Facebook, 90% are on their mobile devices. If employees are checking email on their phones, then have to wait until they are at their desk to see a video, that's a missed opportunity. (By the way, BBDO's report goes in depth about how the mobile experience is different, with different technical and cinematic requirements.)
  6. It offers nothing of value for the employee. Of all the problems, this is the worst as far as I'm concerned. You may have budget and technical limitations, but you should be able to develop content that focuses on what's important to employees. Or better yet, provide advice that sets employees up for success. If your videos are designed solely for the leaders who appear in them, why should employees watch?

Videos can be powerful internal communication channels--but only if you make them worth employees' time and attention.