Content Marketing All-Stars Q&A: Mike Esser of Red Hat

By NativeAI / January 13, 2017

Need inspiration for creating excellent video
content? Then make sure to check out what Red Hat is doing. 

The software company consistently produces
exceptional pieces that engage, entertain, and inform. Moreover, many of its
videos convey Red Hat’s core message — that the open source approach can be
incredibly powerful — in a clear and compelling way.

Recently we sat down with Mike Esser, Director of Creative Strategy and Design
at Red Hat, to learn more
about how the company tackles video creation, and to find out which trends in
the space he’s watching closely.

Check out the Q&A below.

Q: Starting
broadly, what do you think is the difference is between good video content and
bad content?

A: The story is paramount. It needs to
resonate with your audience. You need to understand the person that you’re
trying to reach and then craft a story that’s meaningful to them

Once you’ve
nailed down a compelling story and you’ve captured all your footage, getting
the sound design right is critical to making a good video, in my opinion. It’s
those three things: the story, the visuals, and the audio, all working together
to deliver a great video experience.

I think a lot
of folks think about music and sound design way too late in a project and end
up using stock tracks. Without good sound composition, you can’t possibly hope
to have a good video. That’s why we budget for custom compositions
whenever possible.

One thing that
I would add here is that in today’s world of social media, motion graphics are
key. People are watching videos on mobile devices without sound, so it’s really
important that the graphics are engaging, tell a story as well, and that they
also represent your company’s brand. 

Q: What
role does video content play for Red Hat? What are your goals?

A: Red Hat has had a dedicated video team
working in-house for well over 10 years, so video plays a huge role in just
about every aspect of our business at this point. There are now several small
teams throughout the company that create video content, all with a dedicated
audience in mind.

In my time
here, I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of thousands of videos that cover a
wide-range of topics. We create everything from external marketing videos,
event openers and internal communication pieces to videos that build open
source awareness and pieces focused on lead generation.

There’s a huge
advantage to having an in-house creative team like ours working day-to-day with
the company; we really have a deep understanding our overall business goals,
our various audiences, and the portfolio of products we sell.

Our primary
goal with our video content is to create engagement and conversation with Red
Hat. If, at the end of the day, a piece isn’t getting somebody to engage
further with Red Hat or more of our content, it’s not serving its purpose.

Q: We
love the Open Source
. How did they come about? What are your goals with the

A: Red Hat has built it’s business on open
source principles and the open source development model. It’s something we
are deeply passionate about as a company. It’s in our mission
statement. We believe open source principles and methodologies can not
only shape how technology is developed, but can also help solve some of
society’s biggest challenges.  

Open Source
Stories, Red Hat’s film series, was created to shine a light on people and
organizations who believe in the power of open and open source, and who are
choosing to develop their ideas with others out in the open, rather than behind
closed doors.  

One of my
favorite pieces in this series is about an organization named e-NABLE. It’s an incredible story of how
one organization open sourced designs for prosthetic hands. Anyone with a 3D
printer could contribute to the effort, and they accomplished in a matter of
months what would have taken years to do if it hadn’t been open sourced.


Our goal with
this series is to grow it beyond films. The team is working hard on new stories
and new ways to telling them. In the coming months, we will update our website
with long form written pieces with interactive content, podcast interviews, and
more so stay tuned! It’s a project that many folks want to contribute to
internally and externally and we’re excited to see where our community takes

Q: How
do you create the videos?

A:  The story and execution ideas are mostly
crafted internally and collaboratively with various people across Red Hat, but
we also work with a broad set of external agencies and freelancers when extra
hands or a specific skill-set are required to get a job done. We really enjoy
working with our external community of creatives and view these folks as true
extensions of our team.

For Open
Source Stories specifically, a lot of that work has been done by the in-house
teams, but we certainly couldn’t get the beautiful footage we have without the
help of this extended team.

Q: How
do you make sure the pieces connect with the right people?

A: That all starts with a really important
question that we ask in our creative brief: Who is the intended audience?

At Red Hat, we
have a broad set of personas that we try to connect with. It’s essential to
understand the differences between say an IT manager’s day-to-day and their
business challenges versus a developer’s day-to-day so that we can create
content that will resonate with each of them. We work closely with others
across the business to understand what’s important to these folks. I think it’s
also really important to look beyond their job title and try to understand them
as human beings. What are they doing outside of work that might influence a
piece a content we create?

In a creative
brief, if someone says a video is supposed to speak to both a C-level executive
and a developer, we see that as an opportunity to shape the request a little
bit. It might mean that we end up making two different pieces, or that we don’t
make a video at all for one of the personas.

The last thing
I would say is to make sure you have a promotional plan and are placing that
content in the appropriate channels, at the right time, for your audience. If
you’re sticking a video on your website or your YouTube channel and hoping
people find it, good luck. Part of knowing your audience is knowing where they
hang out. Be there.


Q: Are
there some pieces of Red Hat video content that you’re particularly proud of?

A: This isn’t an easy question for me.
As I mentioned, I’ve been part of creating thousands of Red Hat videos, and
picking a few is hard.

When I walked
through the doors here 10 years ago, one of the videos that intrigued me the
most was Truth Happens.
You can watch it today and still connect with it as a piece of history. It is
still relevant in terms of highlighting how fast technology moves and what we
think we know today, will no doubt change tomorrow.  


I also really
enjoy hearing the different stories of our customers and finding creative ways
to tell those stories. I think the video that we worked
on with our Customer Reference team for Peavey Electronics is one of my
all-time favorites of these success stories. For this video, we not only got to
show how they used Red Hat technology but we also got a glimpse into the birth
of rock n roll and Hartley Peavey’s early days as his bands’ audio technician.
It’s a personal story wrapped into this technology story and I really think
it’s some of the collective team’s best work all around. From the story, to
graphics and sound design, I love it.  


Q: Finally,
are there any digital video trends that you’re watching closely?

A: We’re looking at VR and 360-degree video
and what kind gof engagement those platforms can deliver.

Video has
always been more of a push medium. You push it out to your audience and hope
they engage with another piece of content or visit the website. With things
like 360-degree video and virtual reality, you add a whole new level of
interaction and engagement that doesn’t just pull the audience in, but with
that interaction comes data about what they care about. For me, from a
marketing perspective, that’s the most compelling reason to explore these

I don’t doubt
that things will progress really quickly over the next year or two. I’ve seen
this happen a couple of times throughout my career where there’s a big industry
shift towards a specific piece of technology. It happened about six years ago
with DSLRs and we saw a whole new generation of filmmakers and videographers
enter the field. I think we’ll see the same thing with VR and 360-degree.

Written by NativeAI / January 13, 2017