Mutual fund and ETF companies are always looking for more effective ways to communicate with current and prospective clients. The most valuable way is face-to-face communication.

Gestures, words and body language all work together to create the intended result - and the ability to "read" the other person's non-verbal clues can be helpful. There is nothing better than good two-way communication. Because it is in the moment, the participants should be able to express themselves in just the right way. Still, one-to-one communication is inefficient.

Efficiency can be improved by creating group communication opportunities such as a conversation around a conference room table or a presentation via a seminar setting, but getting people together can be difficult in today's busy world. Real-time webinars and conference calls reduce travel time, but still require scheduling and accommodating everyone's calendar. Recording webinars and conference calls is an option that many companies employ. "Live action" and "motion graphic" videos are also an excellent way to expand communication efforts and build online presence.

THE POWER OF VIDEO

The written word is efficient, in that a company or individual can say exactly what they want and distribute it to many different people; but it can't express all those non-verbal things one gets in conversation. Video, while not perfect, is more personal in that those non-verbal qualities can come through visually. When the message comes directly from a well trained company spokesperson, there is the possibility for a greater visceral connection and a trust-based emotion.

Video is scalable as the company can send the message to dozens or hundreds of people at the same time, and it's repeatable in that the recipient can watch it as many times as they'd like. It persists through time if posted online; if anyone wants to revisit it or share the clip with a friend or family member, that message is out there until the company takes it down. It is available any time, day or night.

Video is also more apt to go viral online. According to a Hubspot study, photos and images are two times more likely to be shared on social networks than simple text and links alone; but videos are shared six times more often than photos and images. Companies that place videos online improve the firm's organic search engine page rankings and provide a convenient location for interested parties to link and share on social media sites. Creating a branded YouTube channel can also add to a firm's brand building results; a great example is USAA's robust, educational YouTube channel.

PROSPECTS EXPECT VIDEOS

Video communications trainer and technology expert Bill Winterberg, has this to say: "Over the next five years, prospects are going to have expectations that they can watch something on the firm's website, whether that is an explainer video or a video montage that helps them figure out who you are and how you can help. Firms that don't step out and create videos are going to miss the opportunity to convert these prospects to clients." Winterberg was a financial planner and technology columnist for Morningstar Advisor before forming FPPad in 2008 to educate financial services professionals on video skills and technology options.

Financial advisor Andy Millard, who has also become a video trainer and resource for fellow financial professionals adds: "If your message is going to last, it must do so in the memory of the other person." Millard, whose low-stress-investing video series was featured in The Wall Street Journal earlier this year, says using video is an effective way to leverage time and talents. Since participating in an FPA social media boot camp in 2010 (led by yours truly), Millard has been recording a variety of educational and entertaining videos, typically with just him speaking directly to the viewer, via the comfort of his office desk. While it helps that Millard has some acting experience, he has perfected his delivery and personal style through trial and error.

HONING YOUR PERSONAL SKILLS

As video becomes more and more prevalent, financial services professionals should be prepared to appear on camera. Practice makes perfect, so getting comfortable now makes sense.

Good posture, clear diction, short sentences and a natural smile are essential. Solid colors and simple accessories are the best attire. Treating the camera as a single entity or additional "person" in the conversation will produce the most trustworthy and engaging result. A little extra eye-makeup for women and a good translucent powder for one and all (especially helpful on a bald head) are also recommended to reduce the harsh effects of studio lighting and today's high definition recording devices.

Marie Swift is founder and CEO of Impact Communications, a full-service marketing and PR firm serving a select group of highly successful financial advisors and allied institutions.

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