John Reith was the BBC’s first general manager in 1922, when the British Broadcasting Company was created by a consortium of radio manufacturers who wanted to produce programmes to drive up sales of their wireless sets. Autocratic but pioneering, he even started the Radio Times - and came up with the name - to publicise the company’s programme schedules.
Reith is best remembered for establishing the traditions of public service broadcasting and for embedding the BBC into the British way of life. He popularised an idea which had been put forward by David Sarnoff, head of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), that all programmes should be ‘educating, informing and entertaining’. While Reith didn’t invent this expression, it became a template for the values of the BBC and his name became synonymous with it.
The mantra that content should educate, inform and entertain is as true today as it was in 1922 and it applies far beyond broadcasting. All of us in Learning & Development should heed those words.
Video content, for example, is now very easy to create. And, according to our research, a growing number of L&D teams (56%) are now producing their own video content. On paper, it seems an obvious thing to do, particularly as nearly everyone now has a phone that can shoot video, so we’ve all got the necessary equipment in the palm of our hands. But this is where Lord Reith comes in. Yes, you could probably make a video that’s entertaining and, yes, you could probably make one that’s educational or informative. But to make a video that ticks all three boxes is far from easy.
It’s not enough just to educate or inform. There’s a simple reason why you also have to entertain. That is: unless you engage people at an emotional level, your video content is not likely to be memorable. This comes back to the fundamental principle that people learn nothing when they’re asleep and very little when they’re bored. To learn, we have to be engaged. When learning is fun and interesting, we become emotionally involved - and, when that happens, the learning points become much more ingrained in our minds.
At Video Arts, we’ve produced an eight-step guideline to help L&D teams create video content that is educating, informing and entertaining. It includes advice such as clarify your objective; know your subject and your audience; decide what style of video will best suit your need (for example drama, animation, interview or ‘how to’); script or storyboard the sequences; use appropriate production values and make it bite-sized and pacey.
However, simply creating a video is not the ultimate goal. Your audience needs to be able to see it. YouTube is not the only option here. Online video platforms offer a personalised, secure and accessible environment for your video content. Plus, you can target different groups of learners with personalised video playlists and track usage with analytics. If you’re going to create memorable videos, it makes sense to have them in one place where they can be accessed anytime on any device or operating system.
Lord Reith’s demand for educational, informative and entertaining content has guided the BBC’s technological and creative development for over 90 years. The clarity of that vision should be a lesson for us all.