From the archives of The Influential Executive, 11/2008
How (and why) to make your leader a ‘virtual spokesperson’
iSpeakVideo is one of a number of vendors that can transform your executives into walking, talking web site hosts.
You’ve seen a “virtual spokesperson.”
You go to a website and after a second or two, a pretty woman or a natty man pops up on the screen. “Hi. Welcome to XYZ Inc. I’m glad you’re here. Let me show you around our site ….”
And you’ve probably thought: annoying, or cheesy, or both. But the executive communication pro inside you thinks: It has potential.
Erik Kretschmar is the co-founder and business development VP of a company that makes these virtual spokespeople work via “video walk-on” technology. He blames the tackiness of some virtual spokespeople to amateurish vendors, unappealing actors or lousy video scripts—pitfalls he says his firm helps its clients avoid.
Though the lion’s share of iSpeakVideo’s work does involve actors and not real executives (the company has a stable of actors to choose from), the firm is also set up to support executives who want to hawk a new product on a website, introduce analysts or shareholders to an investor relations page, put a face on an FAQ page, or welcome new hires to an intranet employee-orientation site.
Here’s how such an experiment would work, say for one 30-second video walk-on:
You’d write a script for the executive—though iSpeakVideo people would look it over and make suggestions if it’s too long or too short or otherwise not suited for video walk-on. Then the executive either flies to one of iSpeakVideo’s studios, in New York and Florida, or goes to one of iSpeakVideo’s local affiliate studios, where he or she reads his or her spiel from a teleprompter, in front of a green screen.
The vendor then creates a sample video for the client to see; once approved, the virtual spokesperson is walking and talking all over the website—all in a matter of weeks, and for about $700.
Kretschmar acknowledges that using actual executives or employees for video walk-ons brings an element of risk into the pictures. “Some of the best videos and some of the worst videos we’ve done have involved real people,” he says.
If you think one or more of your executives could warm up part of the corporate Website or the intranet, give Kretschmar a shout at [email protected]
And we’d love to hear from readers who have had—or who do have—interesting experiences, good, bad or ugly, with walk-on videos. Write to [email protected].