"Vetiquette" - making video a positive communications tool

They say the expression ‘may we live in interesting times’ is an English translation of a Chinese curse. Those on the receiving end of the leak of an HSBC staff member’s mock beheading video; the leak of sixth season script for Game of Thrones; and the Queen’s now infamous childhood salute would probably be inclined to agree.

Most striking perhaps is that these all happened in the last few months, showing the growing occurrence of breaches involving video. The longer term reputational damage – for the individuals, and importantly the brands, involved will last somewhat longer…

Going back a few decades to the birth of email, companies took time to develop processes and controls to make sure that email was a system that benefited the business and didn't leave it open to potential misuse. That’s why staff handbooks nowadays all refer to a company’s email policy, what’s acceptable and what isn't, most emails contain a long legal disclaimer, and companies spend a considerable amount of time and money making sure that emails are centrally saved, stored and easily searchable for future reference.

Now is the time for companies to really take control of video as it becomes an increasingly popular and powerful medium.  With Syndacast forecasting that video will become 74% of all internet traffic by 2017 – it represents both an exciting opportunity for businesses to engage directly with growing numbers of customers, whilst also providing them with a potential headache as they try to control and manage video usage in the office, and crucially potential subsequent distribution which, in the wrong hands, could negatively impact a brand.

It is easy to forget how often we use video in an office, to help with our jobs – such as video conferences/Skype; for staff security; for training; to communicate with colleagues; to demonstrate products or expertise – and increasingly for light hearted purposes, such as recording events and embarrassing moments.   The last of these is arguably the hardest for businesses to control and manage, particularly in this digital age where mobile phones are a major part of our daily lives, and these recordings can be uploaded onto websites, including social media, in seconds and be viral in minutes (as HSBC have recently discovered to their chagrin).

This gives businesses a dilemma of how to keep content taken in the office setting secure to protect their staff who may, at times unwittingly, feature in these videos; control distribution; and, most importantly preserve the brand and its values.

On the security point, there is much we can do to manage and secure our video content. User registration and identification will deter data leaks if activity and usage is clearly logged. Watermarking video also makes it clear where a video originated – stating ownership and copyright for anyone considering posting on third party websites.

Equally important in my mind is the lesser touched subject of video etiquette – or vetiquette as I like to call it – in other words educating staff on what is and isn't acceptable. Ironically the best way of instilling this vetiquette into employees may be through video. Visually giving staff training, when they join and through subsequent refreshers, on the appropriate use of a video in an office, including from a regulatory and compliance standpoint, as well as for ‘best practice’ to protect them and colleagues, would make them think twice about what is acceptable practice and where they should draw the line. This would also reinforce the point about what is proprietary material, when taken in the office, even if the context is arguably not related to the work environment. It would also provide valuable reminders about damage by association of inappropriate videos taken outside the workplace. Misdemeanours outside the office can also impact a person’s work reputation.

Clearly demonstrating the influence and potential outreach of a video once it is shared, from the potential irreparable effects of an inappropriate video on a corporation’s brand and reputation, to its positive influence as an engaging, more personal communication tool to explain a company to potential clients (or to hold a meeting) – not to mention as a security device – are often mistakenly overlooked.

As a parting soundbite: the expression a photo speaks a thousand words’ is well documented.  Arguably far more powerful, if less known – just one minute of video has the same value as 1.8 million words (source: MarketWired). Video can be a game changer for companies – allowing them to tap into extensive global audiences in an engaging and collaborative way on the positive side, or creating irreparable reputational damage (even if only by association) on the negative side. The choice is yours – but a bit of vetiquette might help steer a business to the former option.

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