How to Plan an Effective HR Explainer Video in 6 Questions

By Andrew Davies

Similar to their B2C cousins, explainer videos created for HR communications require careful planning. But answering 6 key questions ensures that they’re as effective as possible.

If you’ve bought an app, subscribed to a new online service, or just been on the internet over the past decade, you’ve probably seen an animated explainer video; short, engaging videos that bridge the gap between an ad and a full-on presentation. They’ve become ubiquitous not because they’re a fad, but simply because they work. If your goal is to grab attention, deliver a message and leave an indelible impression, then explainer videos are one of your best assets.

If you want to know why, check out our post on the advantages of video, and specifically animated videos, to HR communication.

If you’ve tried to make one yourself or have one made, and it didn’t work as well as you thought it would, or you’re thinking of creating one but are unsure about the process, then have no fear. The entire process comes down to 3 steps:


Before you start thinking of visuals you should ask yourself some questions. These considerations usually culminate into a creative brief, which will serve as your roadmap throughout the production process.


If you’ve done step 1 well, this should be the fun part. This is where you see your idea take shape and come to fruition.


All that hard work is for naught if no one sees it. So this step makes sure you get your video in front of the key people who need to see it.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to dive a bit deeper into Step 1: Plan. Let’s review the 6 key questions that’ll help you masterfully navigate this stage and prepare your own Creative Brief along the way.

1. What’s the Goal of the Video?

Like Steven Covey suggests “Start with the end in mind.” So ask yourself what you want viewers to be able to do after watching the video. In consumer marketing, this is typically called the call-to-action. This seems like it should be so easy it’s unnecessary since the goal is essentially why you’re making the video in the first place. But writing it down as a concise statement helps crystallize your thinking about what points to include and, more importantly, what to leave out. Trying to accomplish too many things in one video leaves room for the viewer to get confused and dilutes the impact of your efforts.

For example, if your goal is to increase signups for a new retirement plan, the video needs to answer the questions employees are most likely to have, like: “Why should I sign up?” and “How long will signing up take?” Conversely, questions like “How long have retirement accounts been offered at this company?” while interesting, don’t immediately serve the goal. How well you define the goal and keep that goal in mind as your video takes shape will determine its overall success.

There’s always a temptation to include more information than necessary as it all seems relevant to you at the time. But remember, you’re competing against gifs and cat videos on Reddit, so keeping a clearly defined goal in mind ensures you make the most of those precious seconds of attention time.

If you find there are just too many necessary points that you can’t cut out, then think about creating multiple videos, each with a clearly defined message.

This series of explainer videos we created for Anthem each quickly cover an individual topic rather than trying to explain it all in one long video. Click the image to see the videos.

2. Who’s the Audience?

Again, this might seem like a no-brainer since you’re creating a video for internal communication. But really think about who the intended viewer is and specifically, what their state of mind will be when they watch your video(s). Are they new hires getting up to speed with the company’s procedures? Veteran employees being trained on a new system? Executives undergoing leadership training? Even though they share the identity of “coworker” they have different sets of desires, fears and definitions of what they consider relevant.

Knowing who you’re targeting will influence the video’s…

  • Treatment
    Visual style plays a big role in how well your video is received, so it’s vital to cater to the right sensibilities.
  • Tone
    Jargon and communication styles vary from department to department, so match the video’s voice to the community you’re approaching, showing that you’re speaking directly to them.
  • Targeting
    When it comes time to promote your video, you’ll need to know which eyeballs are the most valuable and where they’re most likely to be.

3. What’s the Style?

If you’re working with a vendor, then expect this to be a dialogue between your preferences and their recommendations. Of course, they’ll have suggestions based on their expertise, but having ideas, however vague, of what you think your target audience would like will give the conversation a good starting point.

Even if you’re going to DIY it, you’ll need to think about:

  • Tone of voice – If there’s going to be a voice talent (VO) you’ll want to decide on the narrator’s gender, age, education level, and emotion. If there won’t be any VO, then this pertains to the tone of the onscreen text.
  • Visual style – Having references of other videos you think will resonate with your audience will help tremendously. So look around YouTube and Vimeo and see what you like. Will your audience and message be best served by stock footage, animated characters or motion graphics? Successfully completing questions 1 and 2 makes this decision easier.
  • Music genre – When done right, the music supports without being noticed. Check out this article on the importance of music and places you can go to source some really good tracks.
  • Brand guidelines – Depending on the organization level of your… ahem… organization this should already be compiled somewhere. Probably safely guarded by your head of design.
Visually appealing videos, no matter the style, grab and hold viewers’ attention better, ensuring you get your message across.

4. How Long Should the Video Be?

This, of course, depends on the audience and the goal of your video, but a general rule of thumb is the shorter the better. For a typical explainer video, you should aim for under 2 minutes. Any longer and you run the risk of losing your audience’s interest. Regardless of the length, make sure to get to the main message, or at least tease it, within the first 8 seconds. Why?…

Source: Vidyard’s Video Benchmark Report


“The average retention rate by the end of a video is 37% across all views studied in this report… a video less than 90 seconds in length sees an average retention of 53% compared to a video over 30 minutes that retains only 10% of its audience.”

– Vidyard Video-in-Business Benchmark Report

For more on optimal lengths for HR videos check out our article about “Optimal Lengths for HR Videos”.

5. How Will it be Promoted?

Start thinking about how you plan on getting people to see your video, A.K.A. your promotion strategy. This could be as simple as deciding when to post your video to the company intranet or as involved as coordinating the release of the video with other internal communication channels. For a truly effective video campaign, breaking the video up into shareable, supporting nuggets that can be deployed at various times to various communication channels will give you the most bang for your buck.

Repurpose & Reinforce
Once your video is complete it’s truly just the beginning. Segments of your video can be repurposed into supporting content formats as a means of reinforcing your message. Whether you create a shorter snippet from a longer video or use a static graphic from the video as part of a one-sheet takeaway, there are a variety of options you can employ to effectively promote your campaign.

Exactly which set of supporting content to use on which channel will be completely up to your campaign goals, and budget (both in terms of time and money).

But here are a few ideas:

  • Micro-videos – Up to 15 second snippets
  • GIFs – Looping snippets from the video
  • Slideshows – Key points from the story told in static slides derived from video screenshots or storyboards
  • Infographics – Turning relevant data into a static graphic
  • Snapshots – Individual charts or images from the video

6. How Will You Measure Success?

A detail that sometimes gets overlooked in the rush to start producing is deciding what will constitute “success.” You might not have an idea of exact figures (say increase enrollment by 35%) but determining what you’d like to measure, and for how long, is a good starting point.

This will obviously be determined by the goal of the project. So, for example, if the goal is increased signups for a new wellness initiative, you could use traffic on the microsite as well as click-throughs from the associated email campaign as measurable indicators. Whatever metrics you want to use to signal that your video’s working for you, start collecting initial data now so you can see what kind of effect the video campaign will have once launched.

“Incorporate measurable objectives. Have a distinct URL and activation code, and incorporate a drop-down that asks ‘How did you hear about…’ to track effectiveness of this communications tool.”

– Karen Reiner, VP, Door Number 3

Congrats! You’ve Just Made a Creative Brief

With those 6 questions answered, you’ve got your bases covered and can confidently
move on to the next step of producing the video.

Here’s a template you can use to compile all your answers. Use it for your own documentation or as a guide to hand over to your production team.

“Writing a brief forces you to think your project through, from concept to delivery. This process can illuminate problems early, allowing you to make changes before you’ve paid for work, or put time into feedback.”

– Anni Murray, RockContent