Making video valuable again: wise words from Shel Holtz

Shortly after I arrived in New Orleans for this year’s IABC World Conference (#IABC16), one of the first things that greeted me was a Facebook post about the importance of captioning of internet videos.

The post came from none other than Shel Holtz, arguably the world’s biggest maven (a Yiddish term for a generous expert) on the relationship between business communication and technology.

Shel wrote of a video from Hillary Clinton’s campaign:

“While I agree with everything here, I’m not sharing this for political reasons. Someone in the Clinton campaign has paid attention to the data: Most people watch videos on Facebook with the audio off. More companies need to take this approach, with large captions to deliver information without the need for audio. I still see far too many videos that make no sense without the audio on, which means, for most people, they make no sense at all.”

From an internal communication perspective, Shel’s comments make sense for two reasons:

  • In many situations where people engage with internal communication, it is neither appropriate to have the speakers on, or to be seen as tuning out with the earphones in place. Workplaces aren’t audio friendly. Even outside the office, not everyone on their smartphones has earphones available or bystanders willing to endure messages not intended for their ears.
  • With the growing trend towards instant, and often, user-generated video becoming the most desired internal communications medium, one crucial risk is that policy and tone-setting messages can become unsearchable and, indeed, inaccessible. The introduction of a captioning discipline would enable that content to become more durable as well as being more accessible.

In busy communication departments, transcription and captioning can be seen as inconvenient or extravagant, especially if there becomes a need for it to be done in multiple languages. But in making video communication genuinely accessible, durable, and more easily integrated with written communication, the question becomes not “whether” to do it, but “how” to do it more efficiently and effectively.

One innovative approach comes from CaptionHub, whom I became aware of as participants at this year’s IABC EuroComm conference in Rotterdam. CaptionHub has developed a cloud-based approach that flexibly integrates subtitling and translation, streamlining a lot of the management and execution involved and reducing the time involved with transcription, translation and captioning .

For me, since words are the foundation of effective internal communication, any movement which helps enable videos to be entered into the organizational record is welcome movement  Thanks, Shel.

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