In a previous life I made documentaries and corporate videos. And I’ll never forget the words of my client as I turned up to the arranged location with my crew and van full of production and lighting equipment.
“I just thought you’d have like a Super 8 and a few lights,” he said as we returned with yet another set of equipment.
Little did I know that that comment, made way back in 1984, would sum up the very thoughts of thousands of unsuspecting clients attempting their first forays into creating a professional communications ‘piece’.
Because few understand just how much skill and complexity is required to produce the professional results they encounter every day on their television screens, radios, billboards and now computer screens.
Simplicity ain’t that simple
No that beautifully simple shot of the model by the breakers framed by a stunning sunset was not just a lucky coincidence of the elements but the combined work of professional writers, art directors, models, photographers, finished artists, lighting directors, producers and others too numerous to mention here.
In other words, it takes all of these professional and well-paid artists and technicians to re-create that rare moment that nature can serve up by itself once in a blue moon.
Those who have been exposed to the media industry long enough know this reality only too well so plan and budget for it accordingly. But for those experiencing it for the first time, it seems that there is very much ado about not much at all.
And now for the first time, the multimedia capabilities of websites are exposing smaller business operators to the complexity and expense of professional presentation results.
Multi-media = multi-disciplinary
Those smaller businesses who have ever had to create a professional full colour brochure or catalogue, or television ad or advertising campaign make the transition to professional websites relatively easily.
But for those whose exposure to advertising and promotional material has been limited to a quarter page ad or a letterbox leaflet, the requirements to achieve professional results will come as quite a shock.
Just this week the gulf between professional online presentation and client expectations of how to achieve it was brought sharply into focus when a client provided me with the photography for their new website.
The client, a home builder and renovator, wanted the shots to demonstrate the beauty of the results they could achieve.
Unfortunately the poorly lit, out of focus and poorly composed iPhone snapshots did little justice to the client’s professional handiwork – and these were the ‘after’ pix!
Anyone seeing these shots on the ensuing website would make for a hasty exit and commence a search for a more professional provider.
You still get what you pay for
While I’m not advocating that smaller business operators go into hock in order to achieve the results you might expect of a highly paid advertising agency, it’s important to understand that a truly professional and competitive result can only be achieved by employing professionals in each of the disciplines it takes to create a great website.
Professional design, copywriting, photography, search engine optimisation, development (if required given the number of excellent ‘off the shelf’ platforms available), video production and so on.
Of course there are a number of tricks and workarounds you can employ (many of which appear in this blog) to achieve a professional result on a budget.
But sometimes there is no escaping the fact that unless you can hire a professional to create that critical element of your website, the damage to your brand and reputation may cost a whole lot more than the cost of the media professional you really need.
Particularly when your less capable competitor gets the business you should have had because they employed professionals when you didn’t.
In other words, scrimping on what is now the most public document of all is the falsest of economies.
Craig Reardon is a writer, educator and operator of independent web services firm for SMEs, The E Team.