MarTech Interview with Lee Firestone, CEO at OpenReel

The use of video is impacting marketing, sales and even HR operations across businesses in big ways: Lee Firestone, CEO at OpenReel dives deeper into this trend in this QnA:


Welcome to this martech chat Lee, we’d love to hear more about OpenReel today – take us through some latest innovations and highlights!

Thanks for having me! This is an incredibly exciting time for OpenReel. It’s become clear that leveraging remote video streamlines the production process for newly distributed teams who still need to more efficiently collaborate on meaningful content. 

This fueled a year of incredible growth for us as we fundamentally disrupted the way enterprises, media and entertainment conglomerates, startups, and nonprofits create video. As demand grew, we rapidly scaled in order to support our amazing community of storytellers; OpenReel saw a 12x YoY increase in new business revenue, expanded our accessibility to over 125 countries, and grew our internal team from 8 to over 45 full time employees. As our business has continued to create the remote video category, we’ve also updated our core technology to introduce Remote Capture 2.0, the substantial enhancement to our patented technology, as well as earned ISO 27001:2013 security certification. 

This past March, we were also excited to announce our $19M Series A investment from Five Elms Capital, bringing our total investment to $23.9M. This is a major milestone for OpenReel that cements the role of remote video creation in the future of production. These funds will be used to continue growing our internal team, particularly our engineers, as well as accelerate our product development pipeline and go to market strategy. In fact, we’ve got some groundbreaking product announcements that we can’t wait to share soon!

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Can you comment on the most surprising ways in which video in marketing and video capture is changing the way marketers and sales teams are planning strategies with video today?

Since OpenReel was built to power global collaboration for an increasingly distributed workforce, I had a front-row seat to the changes that marketing and sales teams were experiencing during the recent shift to remote work world-wide. One of the most surprising learnings for me was how seamless the transition to remote video capture has been for teams across industries. While video teams may have been used to traveling for work, they quickly saw how easy it was to collaborate remotely, and how that capability removed many pain points associated with in-person shoots. OpenReel’s ability to produce high-quality results while maintaining security and lowering costs were other reasons why I think the transition went so smoothly.

It was also encouraging to see that the demand for OpenReel wasn’t just coming from one kind of business. Media and entertainment companies, consumer brands, higher ed, nonprofits, and more all quickly embraced the new technology. Marketing, HR, and internal communications teams were able to film everything from educational series to global virtual conferences to full-scale commercials to university classes. I knew that OpenReel had ample use cases, but I’m really inspired by the creativity and the variation I’ve seen that’s pushed the boundaries of what can be created by empowered cross-functional teams all from the smartphone, tablet, and webcam devices they already have on hand. 

Seeing the boom of social media and the way video is used to showcase stories, brand insights and more: how do you feel the use of video will evolve in future in this space?

Social media is having a huge impact on consumers’ preference for video over other forms of brand communication. This evolution of video as a predominant part of most social media platforms has organically shifted consumers’ feelings towards video; once an unfamiliar way to communicate, video is now a preferred way to get information from both friends and brands. 

Simultaneously, social media has influenced the types of videos consumers want to see and the kind of content that brands should make. Rather than lengthy videos, today’s video style — ushered in by social media — is bite-sized, dynamic, creative, and full of visual and audio storytelling. 

If brands want their video messaging to stand out, they have to keep up with the consumer trends and take inspiration from social media platforms. Shorter videos will keep audiences more engaged; stimulating content will leave consumers more likely to remember the messaging; and a message that resonates with recipients will likely encourage them to pass it along to their friends and family. 

What are some of the top tips you would share with marketing teams and users experimenting with video capture and video marketing tools for the first time?

My biggest piece of advice is to not shy away from getting creative with the content. Following a formula won’t necessarily make for a strong video, especially in an era where viewers are looking for personality and levity in their content. With today’s tech, it doesn’t hurt to film something out of the box to see how it pans out to form more memorable connections with your audience. Using remote video tools removes the financial burden of shooting multiple takes or changing gears on content throughout the process, allowing teams to make changes to the content with ease. If an idea doesn’t work out, a team can easily cut it and start again, and when they hit the right chord, the video will truly resonate with key audiences. What’s more, by having up to 9 key stakeholders on a virtual set, you ensure that each function gets the shot they need, while being able to craft the approved messaging in the teleprompter script beforehand to ensure the delivery is as easy for the subject as it is on-brand for the marketing team. When the logistical, collaboration, and budget hurdles of traditional shoots are removed, marketers are liberated to let their creativity shine and increase their content velocity at scale. 

What are some of the top marketing elements that you feel should be showcased via video today (testimonials, etc): a few best practices to follow here?

A strategy that has a lot of value in marketing, and that can easily be translated to a video format, is product demos. Demonstrating a product in person is great, but it can just as easily be communicated via video, without requiring customers to make their way to a showroom or schedule a lengthy meeting. Whether the product is an updated tech platform or a brand new consumer tool, video provides potential customers a deep look at how the product works in practice. The basic principle of show, don’t tell, applies here — it’s much more likely that a customer will purchase something they’ve seen work than if they’ve simply heard or read about how it functions.

A few predictions that you have for the future of martech?

The last year rapidly accelerated the evolution of the workplace, demonstrating the importance of a robust, flexible, remote tech stack that enables seamless communication and organization. Even as society and offices re-open, we will not fully revert to previous practices. Rather, we’ll see an influx of hybrid events, conferences, workplaces, and procedures that allow employees greater flexibility in where they choose to live, how often they travel for business, and how frequently they work in an office. The remote tech stack will be a permanent and essential fixture of the workforce, so it will be important for us to keep iterating on the enterprise tools we’ve come to rely on and prioritizing resources that add greater ease and affordability into our lives, without sacrificing quality experiences.

Some key takeaways for marketing leaders and CMOs/ CEOs in 2021: top factors they should keep in mind as they plan for the rest of the year, innovate and expand their teams?

The past year has been like no other. While it may have taken us out of our comfort zones, it also challenged us to rethink and evolve workplace routines that we may have taken for granted in the past.

During the last year, OpenReel underwent a rapid internal expansion. Two key challenges were onboarding employees when in-person interactions were off the table, and training staff for cross-functional roles to meet demand. We ended up reimagining our onboarding process, ensuring new hires had a deep understanding of what other teams were executing on. This hiring initiative has fostered transparency, accountability, and empathy for not only our teammates but also the customers we’re supporting, as well as prevented individuals from working in silos. Additionally, by investing in top-of-the-line enterprise technology, each new hire has been able to learn and grow into the tools, increasing performance and productivity by removing burdensome manual processes. Not only has this allowed OpenReel to scale more efficiently, but it’s also improved company culture and retention.

Even when we return to the office, we’ll continue approaching onboarding in this way, and we will challenge ourselves to consistently review and improve existing processes on a regular basis.

Something else to consider: while offices are re-opening, the workforce won’t remain the same as we left it in March 2020. Instead, we can expect a hybrid future, with an ever-growing segment of employees who remain permanently remote as top companies increase flexibility for their employees in order to remain competitive from an output and talent perspective. Leadership teams should continue looking towards enterprise solutions that speak to this trend, supporting initiatives like remote video recording, virtual conferences, and more. Why wouldn’t global organizations film professional-quality video faster and more affordably from anywhere, without sacrificing control, creativity or collaboration?

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OpenReel™ is the leading Remote Video Creation™ platform that empowers enterprises, consumer brands, media companies, and agencies to direct and film professional quality video content from over 125 countries.

Lee Firestone is CEO & Co-founder of OpenReel. He founded OpenReel in 2016 with a singular vision: to streamline the process of creating high-quality video content. During his nearly 20 years working in digital marketing, growth strategy, and sales, he experienced firsthand how resource-intensive video shoots were—but how crucial enterprise-level video can be for businesses to succeed. Today, Lee is actively delivering on this vision as OpenReel provides professional-quality video to Fortune 500 companies and well-loved brands via Remote Capture. Under his leadership, the company has experienced unprecedented momentum and growth. 

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