Bruce Fenton is an investment advisor and founder of Atlantic Financial Inc., an independent investment firm that advises American clients on investing in the Middle East. Fenton is also the editor of The Fenton Report, a Global Wealth Management magazine focused on changes to the global economy.Fenton embraced online video a few years ago to support his goal of reinforcing his expertise in investing in Dubai. Online video helps position Atlantic Financial as a thought leader in Middle East investment opportunities. Moreover, it works in concert with other elements of Fenton’s Dubai-niche marketing efforts, including speaking for the Kuwait Ministry of Finance. Describe your overall business. We are an investment firm that focuses on global investing, founded in 1994; prior to that, I was with a major Wall Street firm. We serve individuals and institutional investors, typically those with several million dollars to invest, who want to participate in the changing global economy. We help U.S. investors invest in the Middle East. This includes high net worth individuals or endowments and pensions. Unlike many investment companies that work in the region, whose primary goal is to get money FROM the region, we bring U.S. money TO the region. Why did you decide to carve out a market niche in Dubai? We believe that the Middle East is an under-invested market and makes sense for the right investors. As a globally-focused company, we seek out areas of the world with exciting economic growth stories. We also look for investment stories that have not been over-told. The Middle East is an amazing and very positive story of innovation and development, and Dubai is one of the best examples of the changing Middle East economy. Since our firm focuses on this region, and so few people in America know much about the area, we want to get the word out as much as possible. Since there are so few Gulf economic experts, the more we do, the more our services are in demand. We would never have been able to do this if we focused on a more common segment, like U.S. tech stocks or corporate bonds. Talk about your decision to utilize online video in your marketing mix. Dubai is so amazing; words cannot fully express it. There’s an indoor ski resort, islands shaped like a map of the globe, and Dubai is home to the largest Tiger Woods golf course and the world’s finest hotel.Video has a unique ability to show something vividly. We chose online video to market our expertise, thinking, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video might be worth 100,000 words.” Also, let’s face it, other than for investment-geeks like me, global economics is not that fascinating. However, we want people to learn more about the wonderful, positive things about the Middle East and we wanted to make an interesting video, not just for potential clients but also for the general public. It’s a great way to share our passion for a story. The great thing about a video is that you can convey a lot more information in a very short amount of time. I regularly need to paint a vivid economic picture of Dubai in my daily work. I can tell people all day the wonders of Dubai. But when they see Dubai in our videos, it really gets the message across. The most common reaction is “wow.” People are usually amazed and want to learn more. What was your overall experience in planning and producing online videos? There is a reason that the typical news program or television documentary has 100 names in the credits. Producing a video is more work than it seems. The most important steps are in the planning process. If you plan to develop a high-quality video, do not underestimate “post production.” Adding music and editing a work professionally can be expensive and take a good amount of time.The best bet is to keep the video simple. If you get a high-quality professional camera, good lighting, tape in a totally silent room with no echo, and have a well-planned and executed message, you can make a nice video at essentially no cost. If you want it to look like PBS or the Travel Channel, that could take a year or cost $50,000 for a five-minute piece and even then, it may not be any more effective at getting your message out.Our first video about Dubai was more complex, production-wise. There are wonderful airplane shots that a contact gave us permission to use, and music – with all the effort we put in, the video looks professional enough, but is not necessarily more effective than something simple. The second video is just me with a handheld camera, standing in front of the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, talking about the construction. This was very easy to produce, and is more popular than the first one. What have the benefits/results been? Any new business/leads, media coverage, or networking opportunities? Our Dubai video series serves as a nice sort of calling card. We park our videos on YouTube, and I send the links to new people I meet in business. The videos are typically about four minutes, so people can watch them during a break at work. People like putting a face with a name — when you’re working in the Middle East it helps as well, because my friends there like to see stories about their own region, especially positive stories. The great thing about the Internet is that you never know whom you will reach. People from all over the world email me. Some have seen the video and invite me to dinner at their house. It’s great fun! Anyone in the world can watch that four-minute video and know me better than if they read 100 of my articles. What’s your most important lesson or observation about the potential of online video as a marketing tool for business? By all means, be genuine, be yourself and be pure in your intent.Successful videos are authentic; they deliver honest stories that touch and inspire viewers. Personally, I have a passion for explaining, especially to my fellow Americans, that the Middle East is extremely misunderstood. Nineteen out of the twenty-one countries there are vibrant, peaceful places. If my overriding goal for this video project had been to “sell” something, or if I had been speaking about a topic for which I had no passion, the videos would not be nearly as successful. What is your advice in recommending online video to others? If you have something to say, say it. But, make sure to balance professionalism with the energy that comes from improvisation and spontaneity.Don’t read verbatim from a perfect script. On the other hand, don’t go off on an 11-minute tangent. You need structure, and a clear, professional, genuine message. Remember, you are competing for people’s most valuable asset: their time. Create something interesting. You won’t likely equal the latest Brad Pitt or Britney Spears gossip item, but if you strive for a level of quality in line with the local news and have a niche market that is interested in your message, in my mind that is a success.Like the web itself, video on the web is not the be-all and end-all of human or business existence. It’s simply another tool and can be fun and rewarding. Be brave, and get your message out.