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
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