For a few weeks now, I’ve been receiving e-mails from a well-known PR consultant promoting the idea that anyone can become a video-production expert in just two hours. Consumer-level video cameras and editing software have become increasingly affordable and user-friendly. Imagine the money you could save by turning members of your staff into corporate video producers for your organization.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, giving an employee some technical tools and basic video-making instruction does not make that person a videographer—any more than giving me a hammer and a saw makes me a carpenter. That’s something I learned last year when I discovered the front porch steps and railings on my home were rotting out.

How hard could it be to replace six steps? I bought some lumber and started to cut the stairs and support stringers. As I began to assemble the pieces, I realized the ground under the bottom step was a little uneven. Hmmm . . . I would just trim a little here and there to make them flush. . .  After a lot of bad cuts, I realized I needed to work the angles. How I wished I had one of those laser-guided mitre saws to improve my cuts!

I made a decent job of those stairs in the end, but it took me 40 hours—more than six hours per step! A professional could have done it in a single afternoon. Yes, it would have cost me some money, but I would have saved a week of my time for doing more important things . . . things I’m genuinely good at, like making professional-quality corporate video.

Before turning yourself or members of your busy team into amateur video producers, first consider: is this the best use of your time, of their time? Creating video may seem straightforward, but what if you encounter unexpected obstacles—like the uneven ground beneath my front steps? What if your consumer-level tools can’t produce the professional quality you and your customers expect? What about your corporate reputation?

Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of dreadful content created by well-meaning employees: footage with poor sound, colour, or cuts; content that is woefully off-message for the organization.

Beware of plunging your staff into what I call the “inverse learning curve.” Picture a steep learning curve; now turn it upside-down. While trying to master a complex problem in an entirely new realm of work, your people can disappear into a “black hole” of problem solving. Having only the most basic training, they may lack the skills and time to find their way out. This can be a stressful and unpleasant experience for everyone involved.

We hear that a lot from clients who come to The Edge Communications after trying to make their own video. It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours to truly master any skill, and video making comprises multiple skills: scriptwriting, videography, editing, and the creation of video graphics. It’s a technical craft, an artistic craft—engaging viewers with the art of storytelling—and a strategic craft rolled into one.

It’s setting the bar just a bit high to expect amateur video producers to pick all that up in just two hours. Much the same could be said of carpentry. And I’ve learned my lesson there: the next time the deck needs repair, I’m calling a professional.