The Creative Toolkit for Marketers

Professional vs. Non-Professional Talent: Who Should Be On-Camera for Your Marketing Video?

Bryan Johnston

Behind the scenes look of a woman being interviewed on-camera


When creating marketing video content for your business, you may face a particularly sticky dilemma: should you hire professional actors or use employees as your on-camera talent?


You’d think that it would come down to “you get what you pay for,” and in most cases you would be right. In general, hiring professional talent increases the production value of your video.


However, there are always exceptions to this rule. In fact, there are times when casting yourself, employees or customers in your video may be the appropriate choice. This article breaks down when you should and shouldn’t use professional talent.


3 Reasons to Use Professional Talent in a Video

1. Your Video Calls for a Spokesperson

If you have a spokesperson or host on camera for an extended period of time, you’ll generally want to use professional talent. In these cases, you’re more than likely working off of a script with lengthy blocks of copy.


Professionals can do this stuff in their sleep and it comes across completely natural. You more than likely won’t get that with Mike, the outgoing sales guy on your staff, who’s always so smooth in social settings.


Why? Because it’s amazing what can happen to people once they’re put in front of a camera, under lights, in front of a crew, and there’s the pressure of performing with the clock ticking.


I’ve seen this happen too many times to count, where a person’s natural effervescence completely vanishes when the lens is on them. And that inability to look natural on camera can get expensive.


While a professional actor can knock it out of the park in a couple of takes, the non-professional will invariably take much longer and going into overtime with your crew won’t be cheap.


That said, there will always be the exception to the rule. Maybe you’re that person who’s simply a natural on camera. If that’s the case, great! You’ve just saved yourself a ton of money by being able to do all of your own on-camera gigs.



2. Your Video Has Characters

If you’re shooting a video that has a storyline complete with characters, you’ll want to pay extra money for professional talent.


An actor will make you forget that you’re watching people act. You simply buy into their characterization – you don’t see the mechanism at work. The moment the viewer begins noticing “acting” they are taken out of the moment, and that kills your video



3. Employees Leave

You’ve just spent your hard-earned money producing a video using several of your employees on camera, and one month after you roll it out, one or two of those employees leave your company.


Do you still keep them in the video? What if they took a job with a competitor?


If you replace them, you’ll have to pay for another video crew to come out and shoot again. This is often a challenge if you use in-house talent.


With professional talent, you’ve paid for their services and they’re not going anywhere. It gives your video a longer shelf life, which in turn, saves you money.


3 Reasons to Not Use Professional Talent in a Video

1. Authentic Business Messaging

A key word for many businesses is “authenticity.” Customers and clients can spot fakery a mile away and it can detract from your brand, message or image.


When you have a heartfelt message you need conveyed, it’s best to use real people to deliver it, ideally without a teleprompter.


For example, if you’re promoting your company’s non-profit work you may want to use the CEO, president, or project manager on camera to tell the story. It offers a sincere, personal touch, especially when you put the person’s name on-screen so the viewer knows for a fact that the person on camera is legitimate.



2. Customer Testimonials

Everyone loves testimonials. They’re a very convincing way of letting the world know how great your company or product is without you having to say it yourself.


Consumers like them because it’s not salesy. They aren’t being manipulated by some slick salesperson; they’re simply being told by a complete stranger that they had a wonderful experience and wanted to share the news.


Can you use “actor portrayals” for testimonials? Sure, but it’s usually not necessary. You only need a few happy customers who are willing to go on camera to sing your praises.



3. Interview-Based Videos

Too often people think that a definitive word-for-word script is necessary for a marketing video. I disagree. As long as you have a script outline and know precisely the key message points you want covered that’s all you need.


Having non-professional talent reading off a teleprompter is generally not a good idea. That’s because when the average person reads off a teleprompter, they look and sound like they’re reading off a teleprompter. It can often come across as stiff, wooden and forced. It screams artificial.


When you sit someone down and simply ask them questions, you’ll get much more natural responses, and you don’t need a professional actor for that.





Tips for Using Non-Professional Talent

Use Short Sound Bites

If you’re forced by budgetary or time constraints to use employees on camera, don’t make them read more than a couple of sentences at a time.


Constantly cut away to a different person. It keeps the visual interest up and most anyone can sound reasonably natural for just a few seconds. You’d be surprised at how often people can pull off sounding authentic for three seconds, but not for four.


You’ll know it when you hear it. Shorter is better with non-pros.



Casting Your Marketing Video

There are times when using yourself or your own team members in your marketing video is perfectly okay. In fact, sometimes it’s the best solution such as a customer testimonial video or a “who we are” video.


Other times, go with the pros. You will seldom regret it. Remember, it’s what they do for a living.


Click the image below for a free downloadable infographic on how to look great on-camera

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Tags: Video production, Marketing video, On-camera talent, Video talent, professional talent, non-professional talent, actor

Bryan Johnston

Written by Bryan Johnston

Bryan Johnston is the Creative Director at VMG. He loves movies, sports, reading, and writing. In no particular order. His one wish is to see the Seattle Mariners win the World Series in his lifetime. He is not holding his breath.

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