How video directors think about creating effective videos can help product managers create better products
Some of the best product management lessons come from unexpected places, and I enjoy finding them.
This interview is a perfect example. Current Resident is the name of a creative video production group in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I think of them as video storytellers. Effective product managers are also storytellers. So, I wondered how much of their video creation process would be similar to product management processes and what new insights they might provide product managers.
To explore that, I found Patrick Shelton, a partner and director at Current Resident. He has a deep love for both narrative and entrepreneurship — who better to discuss his craft from a product management perspective.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[3:48] What work do you do?
I am one of the owners of Current Resident, a production company and content studio based in Minneapolis, MN. Our mission is finding what makes you or your organization special and understanding that differentiation doesn’t necessarily come through features and benefits, but can come through values and stories.
[6:37] What’s an example of a video project you’ve done?
One project was for a company called Staff Book, which created an app that expedites the nurse staffing process for traveling nurses. We created a launch video and helped Staff Book articulate their process.
What are the steps you take in making a video project?
[11:08] Explore and Identify
We dive into the industry, researching and doing competitive analysis to become a category expert. We collaborate with the client to understand what differentiates them and go back to the goal of the piece of content. Every decision has to be built to achieve that goal.
[17:12] Prepare and Assemble
We ask, What’s our differentiating piece? How are we going to tell the story? For Staff Book, we decided to do an animated video and create different content for each of their customers—nurses, CEOs, etc. We knew that we had to talk to each customer with the right content. We told a story rather than just explaining.
This is where we put everything together by collaborating with our animators and client to build scripts and design elements.
[24:21] Solve and Celebrate
This is post-production and editing, which is intertwined with production when doing animation. Then we celebrate!
Throughout the entire process, we’re very adamant about client collaboration. No one person can create a great piece of content that achieves great business results. It’s important to have the client be part of the entire process so that we stay on track with the story they want to tell.
[27:29] What kind of prototypes do you use?
We use storyboards and animatics. An animatic is an inexpensive or free video to show the concept. It can be shot with a phone or inexpensive camera, with whoever is nearby. Then it’s edited and a music track or other creative element is added. Seeing an actual video helps people buy into the idea.
[29:56] What’s the difference between a good video and a great video?
We always come to every project with a point of view. A video is useless unless you have something to say with a point of view. It can be difficult for customers to understand why our point of view gives our products value, so it’s important to over-communicate. Providing excellent customer service also helps us make great videos because it increases collaboration. The customer has some pull in the product, but they’re hiring you as the expert, so you have to know when to stand up for the idea and not say yes to everything.
Bonus Question: What are your insights for making collaboration work better?
Be ego-less. Be willing to say that you’re wrong. But also know when to say that you’re right. Know when to fight for ideas that are worth fighting for. Use the tools at your disposal. Sometimes I feel like I must have my hands in everything, but the best stuff we’ve made is when we hire the smartest people we know and let them go free. Then we can discuss whether their work aligns with my point of view and arrive at a single focus. You may need to step back and reframe the problem by asking, What is the customer trying to accomplish?
- Patrick’s video production company, Current Resident
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.