Quality Issues to Consider When Hiring a Vendor for Content Production

Managing Vendor Quality

In my previous post I looked at legal issues involved in hiring a vendor to produce content. In this piece we’ll focus on quality, which can be a nebulous term.  Every vendor and consumer will make claims or demands about quality, but what do they really mean by that?  No vendor would claim anything other than their work is “of the highest quality”; no consumer would ask for work that wasn’t “very high quality.” So what exactly is quality when applied to a vendor-developed project?

I think this can be broken down into two basic areas for the enterprise consumer. 1) how technically proficient is the vendor, and 2) what level of production is provided by the vendor to the finished product? If you have a production background the first should be fairly easy to identify; for those of us who have come from other paths, here are some basics to consider:

  • For a video shoot, who’s doing the shooting and editing? A videographer or a photographer who does some video on the side (or vice versa for a photo shoot)? Someone with a lot of experience or someone’s nephew fresh out of film school? Do they know corporate work or is this their first opportunity for it?  None of this may affect the product, but it’s important to know in advance. Don’t be afraid to ask for resumes and samples of previous work – in fact, you should  insist on it.
  • The same questions and approach applies to text content or social media management. Are these experienced writers with expertise in your company’s area of business? Are they familiar with your audience and know how to write for your customers? Do they understand the specific risk issues around your industry and know what they can say and what they can’t?
  • How do their samples look to you? If you’re unfamiliar with the production process, watch video samples as you would a television program or movie.  Watch once to get a sense of their ability to tell a story, then again looking for technical skills. Does the camera pan smoothly? Do the cuts, edits, and transitions enhance the story or interfere with it? Does the lighting seem appropriate to the scene – not too dark, not too light?  Are the backgrounds appropriate for the piece – busy, distracting, or jarring? In all cases, the technical aspects should appear invisible so the viewer concentrates on the message.
  • They’re familiar with the latest advances in equipment and software. They don’t need the just released 4K camera or running the latest version of editing software, but they should be current with their equipment. If you’re not sure what to look for, take a few minutes to review the online shops selling equipment (B&H Photo is usually a safe bet) to get a sense of where things are at in the market.
  • Do they know your systems? If you’re bringing someone in to work directly on a WordPress site or a SharePoint system, they should be familiar with those tools. Time spent introducing the vendor to their working tools is time they’re not creating the content you’re paying for.
  • Do they understand output formats? Some video production people know a lot about creating and editing video, but next to nothing about delivering it to viewers. Your streaming environment may be unique to your needs, and it’s important that the vendor can meet those needs. If you expect a master copy with limited compression, you don’t want someone offering you a highly compressed WMV only. Likewise if you need multiple bitrate copies, they should know the difference and provide what you need.

High quality work depends on you understanding what you want from your end products. Call me and we can work together to deliver the best, most effective content.

Featured image “Grade A Egg” by Steve Snodgrass, used under CC BY / Rotated slightly and cropped