Video Stars

Use video technology to promote yourself and your business.

Selling your expertise can be as simple as talking into a camera - and having a gimmick.

Those searching online for a commercial real estate professional might discover videos featuring a smiling Maryann Mize, CCIM. Usually in her one- to two-minute videos, she's standing in front of a building, talking about a property. But what catches your eye is that as she makes her points, she holds up cards with related words to underscore what she's saying. After she makes the point, she tosses the card away and goes on to the next point. Mize, senior vice president and senior credit officer at Charlotte State Bank & Trust in Port Charlotte, Fla., leverages that nice gimmick along with a touch of humor to position herself as a local market expert. Once you watch a video, you'll always remember the cards being tossed away.

That's one way to do it.

Promoting yourself on video can be as basic as talking into your smartphone camera, or as sophisticated as building a studio in your office and having guests on a weekly program.

Either approach can position you in the market and attract customers. With the ubiquity of broadband internet connections and the availability of cheap or even free video technology and services, now is a good time to consider this method to promote yourself and your services.

Go Big or Go Home

Michael Bull, CCIM, founder and CEO of Bull Realty in Atlanta, was already a well-known host of a radio show (now a podcast), “America's Commercial Real Estate Show,” when he tiptoed into the TV realm by video recording the radio show, which took place in a small closet-like booth. He received calls complimenting him on the show, sort of. They told him, “The info in your radio show is awesome, but your video really sucks.” Bull, determined not to settle for questionable quality, built a studio in his office with three cameras, professional lighting and audio recording equipment, a stage, a tricaster for live-switching the cameras, and a full-time video producer.

That's more than most people need, but he says that the videos of his show, in which he interviews industry experts, and his short “Ask Michael Bull” segments have helped define him for clients. He also adds QR codes on signs for properties he's selling so that people can scan them with their smartphones to get further information, including videos for specific properties. Even those who aren't interested in that property see that he uses technology in his business. “So even if they weren't interested in my property, they saw I was assertive in my efforts,” Bull says.

Tactical Advantages

Using video to promote your expertise requires a different approach than making a property video. You are still selling, but indirectly. It's true regardless of the industry in which you work.

“Nobody likes being pitched to,” writes Peep Laja, founder of CXL, an Austin, Texas-based marketing education service. “Your promo video has to be way more than just a sales pitch.” He notes that a promo video he made early in his video career in January 2009 for a fitness product lost half of its viewers after only 20 seconds, and all but 15 percent of the viewers had fled by the 1:32 mark. The reason he says it fared so poorly is that it was a “pure sales pitch.”

“Short and sweet” is the term that applies to videos you can find on YouTube starring Alec Pacella, CCIM, managing partner and senior vice president at NAI Daus in Cleveland. His video segments, dubbed “Daus You Know,” are simple clips running just a couple of minutes long. In them, he shares market knowledge about a recent interesting transaction or property deal, or even explains the unique wrangling that resulted in the owners of the Chicago Cubs buying nearby rooftops. He never needs to pitch himself directly; his videos show him demonstrating his expertise.

Make Something Viewers Want to See

Have a definite plan for what you want to do in a video, but you don't necessarily need to have a script. When Bull started his TV work, he spent a lot of time scripting. Now, he pulls together his guests on a general topic - say, office space - and plans the discussion around what is most interesting to them and what they can talk about without having to do extensive research. Then the video features him speaking conversationally with them “about things that are in their strike zone,” he says.

Pacella, too, has moved to a more informal setup for his short videos. In his early videos beginning in late 2016, he sat at his desk discussing a topic; he saw those videos as an extension of a blog or a newsletter. But those early videos came across as scripted, so now he writes at most some bullet points on a notecard and mostly ad-libs  his presentation.

Humor Is a Double-Edged Sword

Humor can be a great way to engage your audience. Laja highlights a commercial video from Dollar Shave Club in which the company's founder walks through his offices and warehouse, poking fun at his competitors and giving a hip and snarky explanation for how and why the shaving products service does things the way it does.

But not everyone has the same sense of humor. Dollar Shave Club's video is fun to watch, and indeed millions of people have viewed the video, which effectively communicates the product's qualities. However, some people are put off by the swearing and its irreverent tone, unmoved even by the man in a bear costume who can't catch a box thrown at him.

Spread the Word

Finally, spread the word about your videos. Bull and Pacella make use of social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn,  and Facebook to promote their videos; you also can  post them to your company website and include them in email newsletters.

Social media makes it easy for others to market for you. Share the video on your social media accounts, and encourage any guests on the program to do so as well.

When uploading videos to YouTube, Vimeo, or other video platforms, add tags to help search engines classify the file correctly. Use both general tags, such as “CCIM,” “commercial real estate,” or “real estate expert,” and tags specific to that particular video, such as “Forest Valley Mall,” “cap rates,” or “77 West Washington.”

Don't try to work the system by adding tags or titles that might attract attention, but don't accurately reflect the content. “It's important not to stuff random keywords into your video title for the sake of appearing in lots of searches,” writes Amy Liu, a senior manager of content marketing, on the Vimeo blog. “If your video title and description do not accurately reflect the content of your video, search engines may penalize you.”

Whether you are going after hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of viewers, video marketing can define you as a commercial real estate expert. It also can help you contact potential customers you're not reaching via your other marketing and networking. Finally, it can be a fun and creative way to share your market knowledge with the world.

Tech Tips From a Pro

by John Zipperer

Whether your videos are informal or formal, or take place on the street or in a studio, these guidelines will make them better.


Many people don’t think about something as simple as their clothing. It’s more than looking nice and professional or relaxed and approachable. A common mistake is clothing that creates a moiré pattern — which comes across in video as shimmering, wavy, and distracting. “To avoid a moiré pattern, don’t wear any crazy patterns like herringbone, flannel, or checks — including stripes. They dance around the screen and are distracting,” says Valerie R. Castro, a filmmaker whose work includes videos of hundreds of live events as well as experience in the film industry.

But solids have limitations, too. “Don’t wear black, because it is too harsh and sucks up the light,” she says. White tends to glow on camera and can become too noticeable on the screen. She considers blue the safest color to wear on TV, followed closely by pastels.

Finally, if you are shooting outdoors, the best lighting is natural sunlight. “Shoot with the sun behind you,” Castro says, to make sure your subject will be lit evenly. Cloudy days are more challenging, but not impossible.


A video with people speaking is useless if the sound is bad. When filming outdoors, use a shotgun wind protection screen on the microphone to prevent background noise — such as wind and traffic — from interfering with the sound. Avoid wearing dangly jewelry, because it also is distracting and can hit your microphone, causing pops on the soundtrack.

Finally, don’t speak too fast on camera. “You want your viewers to understand what you are saying,” Castro says. “Speak like you are having a conversation with a friend.”

Hardware and Software

The simplest way to get started is to use your smartphone to film. It won’t give you Hollywood quality, but it works. But for a bit more, the Canon VIXIA HF R800 at less that $300 is a “user-friendly compact HD camera,” Castro says. “Just point and shoot.” For $700 to $850, there’s the Sony FDR-AX33 Handycam, she says. A 4K ultra HD camcorder, which is higher resolution than normal HD, is easy to use. You’ll capture some great visuals with its ultra-high definition, but “you must have a fast and powerful computer to import these large image files.”

Once you’ve shot the video, use a video editing software program to cut, finesse, and tweak the video, including adding text overlays and titles. Good video programs for non-experts include iMovie for Mac, Vegas Movie Studio, or Adobe Premiere Elements, Castro says.

Need Help?

Video professionals can charge from $200 to $500 an hour. To save money, Castro suggests hiring local film students, who charge less and are always looking for projects for their resumes. 

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John Zipperer

John Zipperer is vice president of media and editorial at The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. Contact him at

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