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Video Killed the Radio Star: Social Media Now Means Spokespeople Must Be Great on Camera

April 29th 2024

As COVID-19 arrived in North America four years ago in early 2020, late-night talk show hosts across the U.S. were forced to shutter their elaborate studios and do their shows from home. The drop in quality was, well, quite noticeable.

Compared to the videos of regular YouTube creators, the late-night hosts' attempts were laughably amateurish. The cameras were positioned at a low angle as if they were purposefully trying to film up their own nostrils — but luckily, the image quality was so bad that it didn't much matter. The audio quality was tinny and atrocious. The lighting was unflattering — less Late Night and more Night of the Living Dead. The background was strange and distracting, as if they had given no thought to what would be visible behind them in their shots (cue the @RoomRater posts).

Caption: Creating a decent social media video is not as easy as the average teenage YouTuber makes it look.

But the real disaster? The hosts themselves. Lost in this bizarre new world, they floundered. The roar of the live audience, their usual source of validation and laughter, was replaced by the deafening silence of their basements. Jokes that would typically kill in a studio now landed with the grace of a drunken tap dancer. Pausing for nonexistent laughter was like watching someone waiting for an elevator that's clearly out of order — just plain awkward.

The New Rules of Social Media: Everyone is a Broadcaster

The late-night hosts' work-from-home experiment highlighted an important issue for communications professionals: in our modern social media era, the expectations of business leaders and communicators is to be polished and effective on-air talent. Traditional media training focusing on bridging, blocking and flagging, can help (and is essential for senior execs) — but is no longer enough. Even compared to the average TikTok influencer, most business leaders barely meet the bar for effective video communications.

Research reveals that 85 per cent of internet users watch online videos daily — and the average users spends around 100 minutes a day watching them. Users tend to prefer video content, retain more of the information being conveyed and engage (like, share and comment) more with it.

Digital marketers are also reporting incredible success with video on social media — 87 per cent of marketers say that video content on social has directly lead to an increase in sales.

However, it’s not just companies and brands that are embracing video on social media: it’s now totally mainstream – take a look at the Instagram video on the United Nations’ official account. 


This is António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivering a video message, and one produced specifically for a platform like Instagram Reels. It is short, shot in portrait aspect ratio, well-produced (but not overly produced) and is captioned (because the majority of users watch social media videos without sound).

If the UN and António Guterres are spending time and money making social media videos, then other organizations should probably be doing the same. Given that social media is here to stay (notwithstanding its recent challenges – we are talking about you TikTok and X), and media is still struggling to keep its footing, organizations can no longer depend solely on the media to convey information and create the videos of them delivering the message. They must take increased ownership of their messages and talk directly with their audiences. And they must do it effectively, authentically — and increasingly on video.

This can be intimidating because it means leaders and spokespeople must get comfortable with this new environment and change how they think about communications. Delivering a message directly to camera in a way that’s natural and engaging requires a specific skillset. You can be a tremendously experienced executive who has done hundreds of media interviews and conducted countless press conferences — but creating video content on social media is different.

Here's a recent example from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In this video — which was not posted on the Meta account but instead on his own account — he announces the launch of The video isn’t perfect — he’s clearly reading from a script and the lack of eye contact with the camera lens lessens the connection with the audience — but it’s still a good example of a large company effectively making a major announcement via social media. The camera setup, his clothing, the background and every other component of the production has been chosen with social media in mind.  


How to Succeed at on Social Media Video

So, how do you make a successful social media video? Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

Video and Streaming is at the Heart

Communicating on social media means mastering different formats like video, text, live streaming, podcasting, etc. Not only must communicators be able to deliver messaging across these formats — and know how to adapt a message to each platform — but they have to understand the technical requirements of each. They must become comfortable being streamers, podcasters and YouTubers.

Respect (and Embrace) the Conventions of the Platform

As our late-night hosts illustrated, achieving the right look and feel for a platform, including YouTube, can be trickier than it seems. Videos need to look and sound good, but they can't be too flashy and overly produced — they must retain a certain DIY aesthetic that sets them apart from the typical video created by corporate media. Each medium has its conventions, trends and hashtags that you have to understand and respect.

Be Authentic – Know Your Message But Don’t Use Scripts

In media training we teach about message development, about the process of developing messages that tell your story in an effective, accurate and authentic way. All this still stands in the social media world. And just like we tell clients not to read the key messages word-for-word, the same goes with a social media video. A compelling social media message requires a high level of authenticity. Similar to the point above, it won't be effective if it seems overly scripted and produced.

A good example of a video that was too sophisticated and slick for its own good was Will Smith's apology on YouTube.


From how it was filmed, edited and stage-managed, it's clear this wasn't an off-the-cuff video quickly filmed by a man desperate to get something off his chest. What he is saying may be genuine, but it is also clear that a script and multiple takes were involved here.

In contrast, here’s another video from Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is reviewing Apple's Vision Pro, a competitor to Meta's own Quest. Yes, he's biased, but he's not trying to hide that fact. He does an excellent job of seeming authentic and adhering to the platform's conventions while delivering a carefully crafted message.

Caption: Authentically and informally delivering a message directly to camera is a skill every business leader must develop.

We Need to Talk About TikTok – All Video, All the Time

If the lack of any mention of TikTok thus far has filled you with hope, prepare for that optimism to be dashed. No article on social media would be complete without a mention of the world's fastest-growing platform.

TikTok has around 1.5 billion monthly active users, projected to grow to 2.2 billion by 2027. TikTok users are also particularly engaged. Users collectively spent 4.43 billion minutes on TikTok each day in 2023. Individual users spent 23.3 hours on TikTok per month.

TikTok is also becoming a go-to resource for news and other information. More and more people use TikTok as a search engine, while around 43% of users say they consume news on the platform (and this is even higher for Gen Z).

So, if you're wondering if your organization should be on TikTok, the answer is yes. The good news, however, is that a TikTok presence doesn't demand goofy employee dances or cringy tours of the CEO's private jet (we actually recommend you avoid this one).

For inspiration, look at an organization like the World Economic Forum, which shares simple videos that often use stock footage and music to tell a story.

TikTok is going through a bumpy time in terms of governments, but this will get worked out. The medium is TOO good for it to disappear like earlier versions such as Vine. As is often the case, those who refuse to adapt to our changing world will be left behind. Now is the time to get comfortable telling your story on social media.

Coast Comms offers media training and media relations services, as well as social media planning, support and training. Check out our Services page to learn more, or get in touch by sending an email to, or call (604) 767-0207.