Author   |    Speaker   |    Chief Content Officer

What if we stopped trying quite so hard with our video content marketing? What if we just told our true stories honestly and simply, and with empathy for the very real problems our customers have? 

A video from a tiny Arizona startup busts some common myths about using video as part of a content marketing program.

There are three other things to love about it, too:

1. The video is script-less—but still it speaks volumes.

2. It sits squarely in the sweet spot of how I define great content, or content that is useful x inspired x empathetic.

3. It’s a great example of how a scrappy attitude and simple execution can be powerful.

It’s made me wonder: What if we didn’t try so hard to be amazing and awesome? What if we just spoke from our hearts, with empathy for the real problems we solve?

Details on all that in a minute.

First, take a look at the (very short) video, produced by Mesa, Arizona-based Crowd Mics, an app that turns a smart phone into a wireless microphone allowing you to be heard over a room’s sound system:

Are you underwhelmed?

I was at first. Then I thought about it, and I realized that the video is so simple, it’s kind of genius… because it busts a few video content myths:

Myth 1: Video is hard, expensive, complicated, and time-consuming.
Truth: Nope, nope, nope, and I’m-sorry-but-you-couldn’t-be-more-wrong.

Co-founder Tim Holladay (who owns Crowd Mics with his brother, Sean) said he spent an hour putting the video together. He got the idea for the bones of it when the brothers were helping out at their local Startup Grind event, where organizers had used Crowd Mics to amplify audience questions in the Q&A.

A few days later, when the Startup Grind video posted, “We realized that you could hear the questions so well. We knew Crowd Mics would help with the live room, but it was amazing when recorded,” he said.

No script, Tim said, just a little planning:

“[W]e just pulled a few videos from other similar [non-Crowd Mic] events and showed the contrast. Just a quick-and-dirty edit, but you get the idea. And I promise, no audio editing.”

“I edited it in Final Cut Pro on my little Macbook Pro,” Tim told me. “I have a couple years [of] doing random videos here and there. Nothing professional, just self-taught. Probably took an hour or so.”

Myth 2: Brand videos should be slickly produced.
Truth: Scrappy trumps slick.

I talk about this a lot: The best marketing tells a true story well. In this case, “true” means “relatable.”

Although I’m certainly a big fan of beautiful and artful video (I’m thinking here of Chipotle’s The Scarecrow or Airbnb’s Hollywood and Vine), sometimes a simple execution of a good story can run circles around a slicker production.

So to all the content marketers I talk to who think video content is hard….

What if we stopped trying quite so hard? What if we just told our true stories honestly and simply, and with empathy for the real problems our customers have? 

“Authentic” is one of those words I’m allergic to in a marketing context: Too many times “authentic” is applied a little too vaguely, isn’t it? (What’s “authentic”? What does that mean, anyway?)

But in this case the video feels real—authentic—because it is: the vignettes from various meet-ups feature real people at real events with real sound issues.

In other words: Let the story dictate the production values, not the other way around.

This Is What ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Means

Haven’t we all been in that audience, straining our eardrums to hear the question that someone across the room just asked?


Scrappy little dog

Haven’t we all taken pity on the poor room runner, frantically trying to scale chairs in a meeting room to hand the question-asker a microphone?


This video shows that pain—with real empathy for the grief of being in that audience, the speaker on stage struggling to understand the question, and the event organizer struggling to deliver the best experience for event attendees.

Don’t Make Me Work

My one quibble is that the video (and the companion email sent to the Crowd Mics list) failed to include a call to action or sharing icons. So, if you want to share the video on social networks, you have work relatively hard to find the original video and then share it socially (which is how I saw it, when my friend DJ Waldow shared it on Facebook).

Better, of course, is to make sharing stupid-easy for your audience by embedding social-sharing icons.

Also better is to be sure that you don’t leave your audience hanging. Draw a path for them to follow: in this case, to download the app, or sign up to get more updates, or show them what else Crowd Mics can do (and it can do more).

Crowd Mics co-founders

Sean (L) and Tim (R) Holladay

But those are easy fixes. The truth is that it’s a great first effort for co-founders Tim and Sean—newly minted content marketers whose company didn’t exist a year ago. (It launched in February of this year.)

Prior to Crowd Mics, Tim worked at a tech company and in commercial real estate; Sean graduated from nursing school just a few weeks ago.

But since February, the two have thrown their whole hearts (and savings!) into Crowd Mics. It’s especially telling how—when I reached out to talk to someone at Crowd Mics via the live-person chat window on its site—Tim himself answered the ping. Oh hai, Tim.

“Our early clients are reporting a four-time increase in crowd interaction with Crowd Mics,” Tim told me. “We’ve been working to get Crowd Mics into every event possible and help the audience be heard.” (Side note: I’d love to try it at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum this October.)

Because, he added, “We’re pretty scrappy here!”

And so, as a result, is its marketing.

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32 Responses to Scrappy Video Content Marketing: What If We Didn’t Try So Hard?

  1. Jay Baer says:

    Great post, Ann. I totally agree that we are over-producing most video. My daily “Jay Today” show is iphone and a tiny bit of editing. That’s it.

    And for the record, Crowd Mics is amazing. I hope they get traction, because it’s a super good idea (and they are good dudes, too).

    • Ann Handley says:

      Yes! I do love me a well-produced brand video, but not all video has to be epic.

      And yes – I agree on Crowd Mics! Great idea that solves a real problem with a simple solution from two great guys. What’s not to love?

    • DJ Waldow says:

      Yeah Jay … HUGE fan of CrowdMics. If I had money, I’d invest. Ha! And that Jay Today thing … kinda cool too.

  2. Sean D'Souza says:

    I’m not necessarily in favour of overproduced videos. But this one took its time to get to the point. I had no idea what I was watching and that’s the problem. The problem wasn’t in the quality of the video. I just didn’t understand what I was supposed to see, for at least 5 seconds.

    I might be exaggerating. Maybe it was 3 seconds.

    But the context of the video matters. The location matters. If you showed this to me as a trusted source, I’d last the seconds. If I just ran across this in a crazy day, I might not stay long enough for 3 seconds. I personally think the video is just fine—it’s as it should be.

    But they’ve lost me for no reason without any context to begin with.

    That video would get more attention if there was just a little more attention at the start. This concept applies to everything in life. First impressions matter. If you’re dressed like a slob, you might be el Honcho, but I won’t know and it’s easy to pass you on the street. If you’re dressed appropriately, I might still pass you. You need something—that little something to get and keep my attention.

    In this case, it’s a little title—just something.
    The drama is missing. It can be fixed. It should be.

    Because I get the point quickly.
    And of course, then the point drags on too long. The video could have been sliced a bit and taken me to the end so I could get the app.

    We record all our workshops and this would be awesome to have. Right now we have Elmo (yes, the same Elmo you and I are thinking about) to get the people to speak into the mic. And they all do. But if we had an app like this, it would be super-cool.

    But I digress….


    • Ann Handley says:

      Interesting feedback, Sean. And thanks for taking the time to write it.

      I definitely suspect that the Holladay brothers will refine their approach going forward…. incorporating your feedback and others.

      And I agree on the awesome-ness of the app! I’d love to use it at our B2B Forum this fall….!

    • Howard Koor says:

      well stated. A lot depends on the mode that you are in too. I was a bit disoriented by this. I do like the “off the cuff” style though. The search continues….

  3. Ivan Nelson says:

    Nice post Ann! Your example also busts another Myth: Audio is a secondary concern in video production. As the Crowd Mic video demonstrates, viewers are a lot less tolerant of bad audio than bad video.

    So one can tell a good story with a mic on a shoe string budget, but telling a good story visually on a shoe string budget is a lot more difficult.

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  5. Sean D'Souza says:

    They have.
    There’s another video at:

    Crowd Mics Demo Video:

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  7. Great post Ann. One of our biggest downfalls is trying too hard. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t have big goals, but when we try too hard we tend to lose focus on what others want and need, and only look at the problem from our perspective. Simplicity isn’t sexy, but it’s incredibly useful for solving problems.

  8. Ethan Beute says:

    I love that you wrote this post, Ann. Your takes on those myths are absolutely true.

    For years, we’ve watched our customers use webcams, iPhones, iPads, Androids, and other simple devices to communicate with video. Some of it is for publishing for larger audiences (website, YouTube, blog, social, etc), while some of it is simple one-to-one communication (email or SMS).

    What our most prolific video making customers say is in complete alignment with this post: don’t use a script, don’t over produce, be real, just do it.

    Your post reminded me of this one I wrote last March about a simple video:

    Thanks for raising up simple video!

  9. Jayme Joyce says:

    This is SO TRUE!

    Ok, full disclosure, I make slick videos for people for a living- but it’s really not that hard to make videos, people!!! And YES! Scrappy DIY video often rocks!

    Most people don’t even consider video as a part of their content marketing- because of all of the reasons you listed: hard, expensive, complicated, time consuming. I would maybe add over technical, equipment, etc.

    But it really isn’t and doesn’t have to be!

    I’m so glad to see these entrepreneurs taking the plunge with video! Sometimes, I just wonder what it will take for others to jump in with them?

  10. DJ Waldow says:

    “the video is so simple, it’s kind of genius.” HELL YEAH. Love the video, the company, and the brothers. Thanks for this “review” Ann!

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  12. Really great insight into video Ann. I totally agree with Sean and his comment about the need for context. I nearly skipped over the clip but hung in there because of your recommendation.

    What really got me thinking about the value of this app was the very common problem of not being able to hear questions at community events and press conferences. It happens sometimes at the White House and again yesterday at a police news conference in Ferguson regarding the riots. You couldn’t hear the media questions nor community leaders asking questions. How frustrating. And how effective this app would be in those situations.

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  14. Stephanie says:

    Hey Ann!

    Great post and I couldn’t agree more. I think that marketers are so obsessed with getting consumers to buy their products these days that sometimes they miss the point of selling the product in the first place. If a product is actually useful or needed, consumers will want to buy it regardless of the quality of the video that they are putting out. I think that empathy is always the route to take when selling something to a consumer. If you can tug at someone’s heart strings then you don’t need flashly equipment or a lot of money. Again, great post and can’t wait to read more!

  15. Atiya Rahman says:

    I love this post! I absolutely agree that some videos are over done when they don’t need to be. What is important is that the point gets across. It doesn’t need to be ridiculously expensive or tiresome to get those results. However, at the same time I have seen some marketing videos which clearly spent a lot of money and time on a video and I appreciate the quality.

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  22. Raquell says:

    Good point Ann, it´s true that if your idea is clear and you know what you have to comunicate isn´t neccesary to do a huge video production.
    But the problem is where to comunicate, because if you do a simple video and post it on Youtube, it will not have many views. But if you send it through video email like (because it autoplays) the result is more than if you produce a espectacular video. It´s more simple, it´s more real

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