There is no better medium to deliver an emotional impact than video. Anyone who has ever cried while watching a movie knows exactly what I’m talking about. But doing video for the sake of doing video – or implementing any tactic for the sake of that particular tactic – makes no sense. Tactics must support goals and strategies, as I recently tried to remind a senior marketer in what became a very strange conversation. And believe me, I tried hard to make this point.

But this exec wasn’t interested in emotional responses or audience specifics. He explained that he needed to counter a competitor’s seemingly formidable YouTube presence and wanted to get more videos – regardless of quality – up on the video-sharing platform. End of story.

Yet after review, it turned out that the traffic associated with the competitive videos was miniscule. And then it became obvious the videos weren’t named correctly and had been posted without keywords critical for driving traffic. So with these errors in basic execution, the likelihood of these videos ever being seen by a significant slice of the intended audience of IT managers and software developers was, well, remote.

Still, the existence of the competitive video worked my client into such a tizzy that he was about to embark on a poorly conceived counterattack that might have damaged the company’s brand. Thankfully, we were able to talk him down, and he adopted a more strategic course of action. Yet the misguided direction he was about to take is increasingly common.

You can’t just upload and move on
A longtime associate of mine recently audited a Fortune 500 company’s YouTube presence. The audit revealed that for every viewer of videos on the company site, thousands more watched the same videos posted on YouTube. So far, so good. But then the audit discovered that none of the YouTube-posted videos included the correct titles or metadata. Furthermore, the company had no idea that many of its videos were even posted on the site, so there was no way to measure or strategize about the effectiveness of this form of outreach.

It got worse. The audit also discovered that competitors had posted spoofs of the company’s videos on YouTube. And to truly pour salt into the wounds, the parodies attracted a lot more viewers than the original material. Had it not been for the audit, the company would have been blissfully unaware that its video marketing spend was actually subsidizing the competition.

With any form of marketing, execution is crucial. In the case of the company that supplied parody fodder for the competition, the big takeaway was that the vast majority of users don’t browse Web sites. They click on search results. YouTube and other networks must be part of a messaging distribution strategy, but they must be approached correctly, which calls for understanding how your target audience will find your videos.

A compelling story isn’t optional
Assuming your target audience will see the video you post, you still must make sure the video delivers. The art of great corporate video is about telling an engaging, emotional story while delivering a powerful messaging payload about the product, service, or company. Customer testimonials are often the best source of these stories because of their immense credibility and human interest.

But even here, execution can be tricky, especially during customer interview shoots. To succeed, the shoot must capture the customer telling his or her story in a way that is both appealing and compelling while still being on message. If the person conducting the interview doesn’t have an intimate understanding of the brand and of the messaging you’re trying to capture, you can blow thousands of production dollars on unusable video.

It does happen. One of our clients recently told us the sad story of a video-only production company hired to create a video testimonial. During the shoot, the interview subject exclusively used a derogatory nickname for the product. As a result, the shoot ended without capturing a single usable quote. With the budget exhausted, the project was scrapped.

All this could have been avoided by using a team with deep experience in the industry, one that’s able to run interviews that reinforce key messages – and eliminate the learning curve costs.

Unfortunately, examples to the contrary are easy to find. Some of our competitors engage in professional navel-gazing by starting with the deliverable. They do visually compelling work, sure, but it’s often based on the latest buzz. And after leading with design or tactics, they then try to force-fit content into a shiny wrapper. This is paint-by-numbers marketing. It ultimately looks amateurish and is a great way to deplete a marketing budget.

I’m still baffled when marketing people jump on tactics before setting strategy, or even before deciding what a particular campaign is supposed to cover. The same goes for video, social media, traditional collateral, or any form of marketing outreach. So I’ll say it again: don’t confuse strategy with tactics. Figure out who your audience is and what you’re saying before you decide how and where to say it.