“It was only a joke” – how video scripts can destroy your reputation


When it comes to posting anything on the internet the advice is simple: “Don’t say anything you might one day regret.” This advice serves many well when it comes to day-to-day online activity but it can be forgotten when putting together more permanent online promotions, such as video.


With law firms now embracing online videos as an important part of their digital marketing plan, it’s important to ensure that the finished piece does not end up attracting negative attention, simply because its message has been misunderstood.


A quick search online can provide plenty of examples of bad online videos for law firms. While many suffer from poor quality shooting and scripting the videos themselves are innocent enough. However, no matter how good the video looks, using a script that could be deemed offensive can have a much deeper and far reaching impact.


One such example is a 20 second video promoting the services of an American law firm which has been singled out as racist by many viewers, with its use of negative stereotypes to portray a Chinese car driver involved in an accident. As reports of the video began to surface, the law firm issued a denial that they ordered the video and a counter argument came from the video producers that they were just following the law firm’s script.


While the argument continues we felt it was a good idea to highlight some ways you can make the most of what online videos offer, without finding yourself in a similar situation:

–   First of all consider who you’re aiming the video at. This is always your first decision as it will shape your message from the start.


– Now consider the audience you are not aiming your video at. Is it possible that anything you’ve put together might be misunderstood? It’s perfectly OK to use humour in your video but while you and your audience might find the jokes amusing and relevant, others may not. Context is everything and even if you are aiming your video at a small group of people, controversy spreads across the internet like wildfire and it may not be long after the video is uploaded that news desk start calling you.


– Exactly how well does the video represent you as professionals? Of course you need to show your human side but people still want a law firm who commands a high level of respect.


The best way to avoid any problems is to get some outside advice. Test the script and ideas on friends and independent colleagues. If there’s a suggestion that it might cause offence, or it’s simply not working then have a re-think. If you’re hiring a professional agency to look after your video production then make sure they’re acting in your best interests.


The first question a good agency will want to know is what you are trying to achieve. With this goal in mind they can work hard to make sure you achieve that, and not just simply agree to every one of your ideas. Of course there is every chance that you will have had some great ideas on what the video should contain but even so a good video production agency should come up with options to consider before you go ahead with filming.


A responsible video production agency, like a responsible law firm, will always act in the clients best interests. If they think something is not going to achieve the results you are after, for whatever reason, then they will not be afraid to say so.


Videos give your law firm a chance to really show off your services to a much wider audience, helping to convey your personality, professionalism and experience quickly and easily but remember, first impressions count.


Simon Gamble is Head of Film Production at mmadigital, online marketing for law firms.