How to Create Engaging Video Content – Jess Hawkins & Mark Pirrie

Mark Pirrie and Jess Hawkins are the husband and wife team that run local marketing and video production agency, Breadcrumb.

If that name seems familiar it’s because they’re also long-time sponsors and supporters of the Optimisey events.

So when I was planning a session on video content, video SEO and YouTube SEO they immediately came to mind. They took a bit of persuading to take the stage themselves (they’re far more comfortable behind the camera, in the edit suite and planning marvellous marketing campaigns, than talking to rooms full of people!) but they finally agreed.

The result was this great talk from them, sharing their experience on what makes great video content; how you can have amazing videos without a Hollywood budget; and the things you should consider before you even pick up the camera – plus loads more (including which camera to pick up!).

It was the perfect partner talk to Aleyda Solis’s on How To Rank Great Video Content, so once you’ve watched this one, head over and digest that too!

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The video of Mark and Jess’s talk and a full transcript (including a video they shared… of course!) are all below – with the usual caveat: any errors are almost certainly mine or my typos, not theirs.

Video & Slides


So, hello everyone, I am Mark, and this is Jess [Hi!]

We’re Breadcrumb and we’re a marketing and media business. We’ve been established for about 6 years now. Our background disciplines are marketing and media, funnily enough. We’ve been working in industry, collectively, for about 20 years.

We produce content and because we are a marketing company as well, we actually know where to put it, so that kind of works.

I just wanted to show you a quick video…



Hopefully the purpose of that was to give you a really good taster of the range of content and the types of content you can produce. The reason for showing that selection of content is because each of them are targeted at completely different audiences. Every piece of content you create needs to be designed with your target audience in mind.

Identify your target audience

So how do you identify that audience? First of all, look at your demographics. Look at the age, income, gender, marital status, location, education, occupation and really just target that demographic to start with.

Following that, you need to be clear on your brand, your brand style, any guidelines you might have, but it’s really important to identify what your brand is about and the values that is has. The third thing you really need to look at is identifying in which channels you’d like to target your audience. So where are you going to put it? Are you going to put it on social channels? Are you putting it on your website? That will really influence how you start creating your video.

If you’re looking at starting the process, there is a thing called the ‘golden circle’ that’s used in marketing terms is why-how-what and it starts from the middle and we work our way out.

Why we do it, how we do it and what we do.

You can apply that to video production as well and you can look at what-why-how, which is – what is it you’re trying to sell, why are you selling it in the first place and how are you going to sell it. Similarly, you can swap it around and have what-how-why, which is what (where we actually make stuff), how (our stuff does this) and why (why you need one/why you need to buy one – the call to action).

Building out your ideas

So, from there, you then need to start building your ideas around the creative and how are you going to start that process.

First of all, consider how your video will stand out. What’s your USP? How are you going to look different to your competitors? Then look at, is it engaging? Is it relevant? What you’ve to in your mind, is it relevant and engaging? Ask other people, have conversations before you even start the process.

Is it sharable to your audience? Will it really mean something to them? Is there an incentive to make an action – whatever action that might be?

So, what action do you want that audience to take? Do you want them to like? Share? Comment? Visit your website? Email sign-up? Or is it purely a brand exercise? You need to identify that before you start looking at how you’re going to create that video content. Is your video content going to be consistent and regular? Video is much more effective as part of an overall strategy and don’t forget overall that your video will represent your brand and so it’s really important to identify that first.

Once you’ve done all that, then you need to look at scripting and storyboarding. At that point you could have a script and an idea, and then you could work with an agency to work out the vision that does that, but what I’m going to show you now is how you could actually do it yourself – that’s much better. I think that will give you an understanding of the processes involved so then when you do have lovely big bucks to go and speak to agencies, you can say, I actually understand the process, understand why they’re charging for that. Now it makes sense.

Equipment, Filming and Editing tips

I’m going to give you some tips now for filming and editing.

First one you’ve to to think about – you’ve got your script; you know what you want to do and now you need to look at your location and think about certain things such as background noise.

So, if you’re thinking, ‘I’d like to do a chat with someone about this brand or whatever it might be and we’re gonna do it in a café’, that’s obviously not going to work.  You have loads of background noise, loads of chatter going on, clunking of cups and things like that or sweets *points at those cheeky enough to scrunch wrappers during the talk*.

Then you need to think about, am I talking about an Eco brand? Should I do the filming outside in the environment, in nature?

Think about the location in that way too and with regards to sound, if you’re demonstrating a tool or something that’s making a noise, and you can hear a noise going on as someone is talking and the viewer can’t think of where that noise is coming from, if you frame somebody talking about whatever it might be in the shot with the noisy thing behind, the person that is watching it will accept it even though the sound might be a bit poor, they still think ‘oh, I know where that’s coming from’. So, it doesn’t confuse people.

Okay, the next bit is kit…so this is the good bit. That’s the fun bit, the camera bit.

You can basically do anything with a phone these days. You can use digital SLR’s, people are using them a lot, but phones are absolutely fine depending on what sort of phone you’ve got, but if you are using your phone, think about the actual kit that you can get with that. You can get little packs like this online at Amazon, they’re quite cheap, maybe £90 or something like that and you get your tripod, you get a mic, input etc.

The digital SLR route is much better, you get a better-quality picture, you get more lenses that you can play with and purchase over years and its good fun, but you need to consider, don’t just buy one off the shelf, think about what it can do and most importantly, does it have a mic input? So many people buy an SLR and then realise ‘oh I can’t use it for vlogging’, or ‘I can’t use it to say anything into it’, so the sound is, which I’ll talk about later, absolutely critical when you’re actually shooting.

Think about where it’s going to end up. If you’re thinking about maybe it might end up on Instagram, then you need to think about the ratio of the images so it’s almost square so all of your content that you need to be demonstrating needs to be in the square a bit. If you’re doing it 16×9 then Instagram stories are 16×9 but portrait, so you need to frame it that way. Facebook is 16×9 and there’s all different pixel sizes you can get online but it’s essentially, you need to adhere to those.

Twitter as well – its 1920 pixels by 1200 and you can only upload a film at the moment of up to about 512 megabytes or something, which only gives you a certain number of seconds you can use to think about the content there, but anyway, you won’t be wanting to make a two-and-a-half-minute video on Twitter because obviously no one will watch it unless it’s amazing, something about Meghan Markle or something. So, think about your audience, think about how long you want it to be, think about the format, the shape, the way you frame the camera, that kind of thing. Essentially you can get started with your own phone.

Lighting and sound

The next thing I’m looking at is lighting and background. Now this next slide is a very common mistake. So, the lady you can see on the left, she’s got a window behind her and she’s silhouetted naturally. There’s no other light involved and that just looks horrible quite frankly.

You need to think about where you should put that person if you have got any light. You need to look at the natural light, so you should spin her around and then the light coming from the window onto her, and this would actually produce a nice bit of natural light.

If you don’t have that, you can buy small LED panels. They’re not very expensive, again you get them online. Cute little mini tripods for them, they’re battery-powered and they’re really effective but if you can use natural light where possible, then do that, but be aware that if you’re using the sunlight, the sun’s going to change over time, so the light will pick on whoever or whatever you’re filming, and they will completely go in and out when the sun goes in and out of the clouds.

So, think about that too. If you can use LED lights, then I would definitely think about doing that because then you’re in control.

There is another thing here which is the framing and talking space. Have you heard about that rule of thirds? Yep? Okay!

A photo of a dog on a mountain to demonstrate the rule of thirds - via
The Rule of Thirds (image from

So, the rule of thirds – what you’re looking at here is a talking space that the gentleman is looking to his left and so you want to normally speak and that’s how you do it, you’d frame the body up on the thirds on that far side, the eye line would be on the top line of thirds, and so your eyes would naturally be drawn to where he’s at, where his or her eyes are.

If they were talking doing a piece to the camera, you would then frame them in the centre, probably. You can frame them slightly to the side, which is nice, if there is something behind them, but as long as you keep the eye line on the top line of thirds, it just works.

It’s the same for photography as well. You can but the trend, I’ve seen loads on TV and you can do it the same where the person is on the other side. They’re just doing it to be funky, I think. It’s weird frankly but you can do it.

B-roll and stock footage

The next thing to consider is B-roll. Heard of that? Yep?

So that’s cutaways or overlays as my colleague John would call it (he’s from the 70’s). That is essentially shots that you have to supplement the film.

So, if you wanted to film your lovely cat, and you did a wide shot of the cat eating out of a bowl, and it goes on for two-and-a-half minutes, and you think ‘oh that’s great but no one’s going to watch it. I want to make it more interesting’. You could then after that cat has walked off, film the bowl, perhaps film the bowl before when its being filled, changed the shot to a close-up so you can start collecting a series of little shots that you could then overlay or cut over the top.

That enables you in interviews – if you’re doing an interview with someone and they keep messing up and messing up, then you can just say don’t worry about it, just let them mess up and keep going – and then you could cut where they’ve messed up and that cut break, rather than having a kind of juddery break like that, what you would do is then overlap something that was relevant to what you’re talking about over the top and then it makes a nice seamless film.

If you can’t do that, and you just want to use something else, you can use stock licensing. There are loads of sites out there. Some are really expensive, some are not.

Pond5 is quite good, a bit expensive. Shutterstock, if you’ve got any for that or Adobe Stock – they do video. Depending on what account you have it could be £49 a pop…but a good one to use is Pixabay which is free so you can use that. Everyone should be going for Pixabay.

There are also Videoblocks which is a subscription model and that is about $180 a year but there’s loads of stuff; mainly Russian footage, but there’s some really good gems inside as well, so that’s something you need to consider to make you feel more professional.

Tripods and gimbals

Looking at stuff – other bits of kit. That thing is on the left is a Gimbal. Have you heard of that? Yes? Maybe?

That’s an Osmo 3 and its available for phones. You can get it on Amazon for about £90 and that is a three axis Gimbal.

You can use it to walk about, you can make more interesting shots, you can pull away from someone and move it. If you’re filming someone or something you can keep it very steady and it’s easier to do that set up a tripod. You can just go like that and hook it on and then you’ve got the access going to that’s a really good bit of kit.

If you did want to do the tripod route, there’s loads of kits again, little packs you can get that have bits for cameras, SLR’s or you can have little adjustments that you can then put on your phone, Go Pros on there, stuff like that so you can do it quite well.

A good brand is Manfrotto, but you can get some really cheap entry-level ones that you could start using and of course if it’s a phone, it’s not going to be very heavy, but I would recommend if you’re doing anything that you want to look professional, then you should really consider a tripod or a Gimbal.

Next, we’ve got a very important thing which is sound. I have had to fix so many people’s films and it is heart-breaking because it’s really lovely and looks great, but this sound is awful and that is something that you really need to consider.

You can do films without sound of course and just have music, you don’t need anything talking, but if you’ve got someone talking, sound is absolutely critical.

You have different types – you have really cheap entry-level levalator cord. Which is basically a tiny mic – clip on mic. Again, you can buy those  online very cheaply, they’re very effective that’s why you need to do SLR if you’re going to use one with a mic input like a mini jack.

And then the phone microphone itself – that is a Rode and its really dinky it’s quite cool. I may have done something really subtle to go on top of a windshield so if you’re outside and you’re filming and then there’s loads of wind and they’ve put a really subtle thing that’s really covert – that’s what you get.

I wouldn’t use it but it’s kind of cool, looks like a little hat doesn’t it?

It’s really important if you don’t have anything like that, just make sure if you’re doing an interview your subjects close or as close as possible to you and again check the background noise as well.

Music and sound effects

Moving on, if you want to make it look really nice and that’s great, but then you want to improve it a bit more, you want some music and sound effect added.

Did you know that YouTube do their own copyright free music?

So, under audio library on YouTube, you can download loads of tracks. It does mean that if you want to differentiate yourself a bit its difficult because other people might be using the same track, but it’s a great start.

If you wanted to start making videos then that’s available you’ve got sounds effects, little clicks, pops and whizzes and whatever else so that’s really good to do.

Again, if you want to buy music, Pond5 – I keep going back to ‘it’s expensive’, but it’s really good.

There is also Audio Network, which is a good one and Audio Jungle, which is really good.

The pricing depends on what time of track it is and also what you’re doing. If its commercial, you might have to pay a bit more. If you’re going to use it for selling your products online or if its internal just so you wanted to do something to show your colleagues, they’re very cheap like they range from £6 up to £30 or something like that. So, it’s not too bad at all but again, check online for rights usage.

Then to the other bits. You’ve got all these bits, and now you need to make it into a film. So, you need to actually edit.


We’re going to talk about editing on mobile now. It’s really easy nowadays to edit on mobile. I don’t know if you’ve had a go at it, but there’s some very simple things you can download for free.

On Android InShot is really really good. Power Director is good as well and its free at the moment. There are rumours it might not be soon so download it quick. That supports 4k so most of your phones the modern phones will film in 4k and you can keep the quality. So, you can edit in 4k and then that’s on the left that’s what it looks like. You can add filters and effect and things like that, and it all allows you to trim and cut and add music and sound effects and things.

iPhone have iMovie – you must have heard of that because most products come with iMovie but if not download that.

VELO and InShot – again for iPhone. My eleven-year-old daughter she vlogs all the time and she cuts films so quickly. She’s using iMovie, Velo, InShot and then she uses Phonto for creating a thumbnail and that enables you to then create thumbnails to have a nice thumbnail at the start, so when it loads up on YouTube you could then select your thumbnail and it looks great.

Adobe – I’m very Pro Adobe. I think they’re really easy to use.

Premiere Rush is a thing you can put on your phone and you can edit. It’s quite simple editing you can do.

You can then connect using Adobe Cloud if you have that, most of you might have that I don’t know. But that would then enable you to take what you’ve edited on your phone, open up Premiere on your desktop, and it will pick up that and you can import it. You can then add even more to it. So, you could do an offline edit, like an easy, quick edit on Premiere Rush and bring it into the Premiere Pro. You can make it really fancy.

Desktop wise we use Premiere Pro its really simple. You can integrate aftereffects and it’s very easy to use. You can use lots of other things like Final Cut – I know there are some Final Cut people here. It’s horrific, I don’t like it, but lots of people do. It’s quite clunky I find.

You’ve then got Camtasia. A lot of companies have Camtasia. You can do video in there; it’s not as easy to use but you can fudge it a bit and make it work.

If you want to get really fancy you can use DaVinci Resolve and that’s for grading and stuff like that. That’s mainly what it’s for, but that’s kind of all the different sort of tools that you can use, and I hope that gives you a very good indication of how you can do it yourselves.

Obviously, we’re thinking that agencies are best, but I think if you wanna just, as I said start, if you want to get a bit of an understanding of how it works, it’s worth just doing that using some of these tools and using your phone to do it.

Test it out, does that story actually work? You know the one I’m trying to tell, does that story actually work? I do it myself before I then hand over a script, I think is amazing and the agencies like ‘oh no’.

So that’s what I would say. I hope that gives you a good indication to get started.

Thank you!

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