TV documentary makers Kim Goodhart and Reuben Pillsbury were dismayed by what they called “plastic flower corporate videos” – phoney-sounding exhortations to customers or employees. So they founded their own company, Real TV, to make videos which combine the art of powerful story-telling with the science behind how to motivate people. The result: videos that empower individuals and transform organisations.
They spoke to Idealog.
Idealog: “Plastic flower videos?”
Kim Goodhart: Nobody likes staged messages, but we saw organisations delivering videos that felt fake to their employees and customers. The commercial that shouts at you telling you what to do; the ad that tells you your life will be better if only you buy their product, the scripted speech intoned by a CEO from a teleprompter, or the rugby celebrity lecturing employees on health and safety as if he knows more about their job than they do.
Our view is that these videos and commercials lack sincerity and fail to deliver the results they need. They are disempowering and do nothing to connect or communicate honestly with the customer or employee.
And the alternative?
KG: People like real things. The flower that wilts with all its imperfections moves us with its beauty. Heroes are not perfect. They are defined by their ability to rise above their failures and to overcome the obstacles on their path in order to achieve their goal.
Reuben Pillsbury: In our TV programmes – shows like The Lion Man, Castaway, Henderson to Hollywood and others – we told stories which revealed the hero within an ordinary person. We showcased their journey of self-discovery and we realised the power shows like these have over the audience.
That’s fine for TV. But surely it’s different with corporate video?
KG: Our TV shows had the power to connect with the audience and transform hearts and minds. But TV shows aren’t created for the impact that they will have on society as a whole. They aren’t about celebrating the human spirit and empowering individuals to achieve their vision and so we shifted our focus.
We realised that we could take the ingredients of the way we made observational documentaries and apply it to transform indivduals, organisations and communities, inspiring them to step up to new ideas, to give them a sense of purpose and to align them with the dreams and aspirations of their leaders.
What does that mean in practice?
KG: We don’t script. We film as much with the guys on the ground as the CEOs, and we focus on showing what really matters, not just talking about it. The feedback is that everything feels very real and natural and people enjoy watching them.
Five years on, what sort of clients have you worked with?
Mitre 10, Mainfreight, Carter Holt Harvey, Noel Leeming, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport – and many more. Here are some examples:
Clients like what we do. For example, we did a safety training video for Mainfreight, where we allowed staff to tell stories about hazards and near misses and even accidents and injuries. This is part of the feedback from Martin Devereux, group manager - team development.
“The video cut through the masculine, macho, bullshit and it’s reached men in particular, who are surprisingly vulnerable when they talk about these things. What stunned us the most was how many people we found who’d had similar experiences. Not in terms of the exact accident but they could relate to being in hospital on their backs for four weeks because of a workplace accident which happened in 1992. I think it triggered many memories for many different people and as a result there’s a lot more conversation about safety in our business.”
Kirsten Riechelmann, group manager learning & development at Mitre 10 (NZ), says the company commissioned Real TV to inspire staff to be more customer-focused. “I think the videos… changed the culture. You walk into our stores now and you can feel it. It’s different. People know why they are there. Not having control on scripting was a bit scary but when I got the first one back I was blown away.”
The Mitre 10 video helped the company win the HR innovation award for the most innovative project in NZ, saysLloyd Pinder general manager human resources. “The results that we saw from the programme was immediately a 16% year-on year sales increase.”
What is the fit with the Innovation Council?
KG: We were approached as a potential sponsor to make the promotional videos for the New Zealand Innovators Awards, because they saw us as a company intent on inspiring people to think and act in new ways. We wanted to help others develop innovative ideas and turn them into a commercial success so that New Zealand could thrive. This wasn’t just about marketing and promoting the awards. It was about inspiring others to step up and follow in the paths of the extraordinary innovation heroes.
The videos Real TV made with the Innovation Council to promote the awards featured both during the events that led up to the awards and on the awards night. However, they were more than just a promotional piece. They were about asking questions of the heroes. Finding out what it took to achieve their dreams.
Unless people share the real stories behind the path to their success, unless we share the hardship and the struggles that it took along the way, the tenacity to withstand setbacks, the resilience required to make it happen and the sweet treats of success that make the journey worthwhile, then we aren’t teaching or preparing people for the journey ahead. In order for New Zealand to be successful we need to uncover the challenges we face and start finding solutions to those problems and we need to inspire others to take that same journey.