6 dos and don’ts for effective videos

As they say in the marketing world, video is king. In other words, video content is rapidly growing in prominence as a key tool for effective communications (check out Contently’s survey results and this infographic from IMPACT). Video can engage audiences in ways other content options cannot, and producing video is getting much easier.

As a result, many organizations are jumping on the video bandwagon, but with minimal results. Why? Because they aren’t approaching video production in the right way.

In an article for Contently, Tallie Gabriel shares three dos and three don’ts for producing effective brand videos. Read the summary below or the full article here.

Do tell a unique story

“Even the most dry informational content needs to live within an engaging narrative—if you want anyone to pay attention,” says Gabriel, adding: “If the narrative naturally strikes an emotional chord, even better.”

Need inspiration? Check out the video below.

Do center your videos on human characters

Human stories, as opposed to abstract concepts and statistics, can do a better job in triggering our empathy and making us care.

Gabriel explains: “When we hear a statistic about a disease affecting tens of thousands, for example, it’s hard to conceptualize the size of that story. But when we’re told the story of one patient—her personality traits, family members, hobbies, and values, it’s much easier for us to feel for that single character.”

Do try something outside of the box

The internet is saturated with video, and there’s a lot of competition out there. Stand out by thinking outside of the box.

“Don’t be afraid to have fun and try things that may surprise your audience,” says Gabriel.

Need inspiration? Check out the video below.

Don’t show us talking heads

Gabriel says: “Featuring a human is great, but make sure this human is interesting and actually doing things in your video. Nothing will put an audience to sleep faster than a talking head (especially a talking head rambling on about technical jargon).”

Don’t cut corners when it comes to quality

“Whether it’s thanks to poor sound quality, unfortunate pixellation, or a strange color tone, consumers can tell if a video is low-budget,” says Gabriel. As a result, this may impact negatively on audience engagement. Producing quality video content may cost more than other communications activities, but the cost and time commitment can be truly worth it.

Don’t assume that because it’s a video, it’s automatically entertaining

Gabriel makes some important points:

“Too often, brands think that by creating a video, they’ve automatically made something interesting. But those of us who had to take a middle school health class know that video can all too easily be boring, or worse—uncomfortable. People generally give video two seconds before clicking away, especially on social platforms. If you don’t grab your audience within those two seconds, your video was just a giant waste of resources.

When creating video, you still have just as much responsibility to hook your audience with something they haven’t seen or heard before. Just make sure it’s something they want to be seeing.”

Bonus tip: Don’t assume video is the best solution, but Do use it as part of your larger, targeted communications strategy

Video is certainly on the rise and will be increasingly important and relevant in the future. But it certainly will not be the golden ticket or panacea for every context. Organizations should not be quick to jump on the bandwagon, but instead utilize appropriate strategies and channels that are suitable for their audiences and contexts.

In this article for Medium, Joshua Lasky explains:

“Great digital strategies are a mix of formats optimized for how audiences actually want to read, listen, and watch what you have to say. Before you publish on a subject, ask yourself if it would be easier for your audience to watch or read what you’re trying to communicate. Ask yourself whether a video should be the focus of, or a supplement to, your editorial coverage.”

 

 

 

Freddy the Fly: A lesson in effective development communications

The organization I work for, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), recently released the short animated video, ‘Freddy the Fly’, which I helped produce. ‘Freddy the Fly’ tells the story of a community that is mobilized to clean up its act and become open defecation free. But what makes the video so unique is that it is told from the perspective of a fly, who grows increasingly grumpy as the community steadily improves its sanitation and hygiene.

The main audiences for the video are those who need to hear the messages to improve their sanitation and hygiene (communities, school children, and the like) and those who can use the video as a tool to promote sanitation and hygiene behaviour change (development practitioners, especially those involved in sanitation programmes).

Check out the video below:

Ensuring that sustainable development issues, such as behaviour change and sanitation, resonate with your key audiences can sometimes be challenging. This can be due to the dynamic, multi-layered nature of these issues, as well as the complex and technical concepts linked to them. For example, how should one communicate faecal sludge management to non-sanitation practitioners?

This is where effective communications comes in. After identifying your audiences through communications and content strategies, communications professionals must ensure that they convey messages in the most clear, concise and engaging ways possible, adapted to those audiences. This includes identifying the appropriate tools and channels through which the messages are conveyed.

Though I’m being subjective here, I think ‘Freddy the Fly’ is a strong example of how to effectively communicate international development topics that may seem overly technical or not immediately marketable or exciting. Like pooping in the open! Here’s why:

  • It conveys key messages via a powerful channel: video.
  • It uses effective storytelling to engage audiences.
  • It repackages multi-layered, low-profile (but extremely important) topics – such as behaviour change through Community-Led Total Sanitation, sustainable sanitation and hygiene and open defecation – in an easy to understand, entertaining way.
  • It uses simple but creative visuals and narration (rhyming couplets) to engage audiences of all ages.
  • It tells the story from the perspective of a fly, using the element of novelty to engage audiences.
  • Finally, it’s an effective organizational promotion tool, as it effectively positions the organization addressing the issues presented in the video: WSSCC. The end of the video explains how WSSCC, through its Global Sanitation Fund, is helping end open defecation, with numbers to boot. It also directs audiences to WSSCC’s website, where they can learn more or support the cause.

Voila, the anatomy of an effective communications product. If you’re interested in learning more about WSSCC’s work, or sanitation and hygiene improvement in the context of international development, check out wsscc.org.

Why nonprofits need video (+ 5 tips and examples)

While video is not the only solution for engaging content in our digital age, it is nonetheless a great tool for nonprofits. And the great news is video production isn’t as complicated and expensive as it used to be.

As highlighted by Ronald Pruitt, the founder of 4aGoodCause, well-produced videos are great because they can:

  1. Provide authentic and compelling visuals to tell your story
  2. Provide a sense of ‘being there’ to the viewer
  3. Engage your audiences both intellectually and emotionally
  4. Effectively move people to act through the combination of storytelling, imagery, music and personal appeals
  5. Expand and encourage audience growth and reach through online distribution and social media shares

So, how can nonprofits truly leverage the power of video? Pruitt offers five ideas for and examples of great nonprofit video marketing, summarized below.

1. Tell your story

Why was your organization established? What has been your journey so far? Use your video to share your organization’s story. As covered in previous posts, effective storytelling can go a long way in engaging audiences. Once engaged, invite your viewers to support your organization by directing them to a relevant section of your website.

Example: Falling Whistles, a nonprofit organization campaigning for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

2. Spread awareness of a problem that must be addressed

Use your video as an opportunity to position your organization as a solution to the problem. Invite viewers to learn more about how to address the problem on your website.

Example: Girl Effect, a nonprofit organization working to reach 250 million girls living in poverty across the world by 2030, giving them the tools and access to the critical assets they need to achieve their full potential.

3. Motivate action

Use your video to show each viewer how they can make a difference, and mobilize them to take the action illustrated in your video.

Example: Love146’s video to take action against child trafficking and exploitation.

4. Create catalysts

Inspire supporters to become catalysts for global change.

Example: Dressember, a collaborative movement using fashion to support the abolition of modern day slavery.

5. Share the impact your nonprofit has made

Share testimonials to show how your organization has improved people’s lives. This will help viewers better understand the real impact or your organization and therefore inspire them to support or continue to support your work.

Example: LoveYourBrain, a nonprofit that works to improve the quality of life for people affected by brain injury.

Video is important, but not the (only) future of media

Image: Tsahi Levent-Levi, Flickr

There’s been a lot of hype lately around video being “the future of media”. If you go by this interview with Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for EMEA, or Contently’s recent interactive infographic, marketing and communications departments should be scrambling to jump on the video bandwagon.

With all the hype around video, this article by Joshua Lasky for Medium is a welcome and nuanced perspective on the trend. As witnessed on social media, video is certainly on the rise and will be increasingly important and relevant in the future. But it certainly will not be the golden ticket or panacea for every context. Organizations should not be quick to jump on the bandwagon, but instead utilize appropriate strategies and channels that are suitable for their audiences and contexts.

Says Lasky: “Great digital strategies are a mix of formats optimized for how audiences actually want to read, listen, and watch what you have to say. Before you publish on a subject, ask yourself if it would be easier for your audience to watch or read what you’re trying to communicate. Ask yourself whether a video should be the focus of, or a supplement to, your editorial coverage.”

I couldn’t agree more. 

#MeWeSyria: Youth-led storytelling for social change

The innovative programme, #MeWeSyria, empowers young Syrian refugees to share their narratives, voices and vision for change through storytelling and communications.

As highlighted in an article on the UNHCR Innovation website, the programme integrates therapeutic, artistic, and communications frameworks to develop self-awareness, promote recovery and wellbeing, and restore some control and hope in a world of chaos. Through collaborative storytelling exercises, these young people practice working in creative teams, leadership, and creative problem-solving skills, while honing their role as agents of change.

For example, youth in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey are given video cameras to share their stories in creative ways. In the video below, young people film conversations between their future and present selves.

#MeWeSyria is so important for two key reasons. Firstly, by enabling young Syrian refugees to take the lead and tell their story through collaborative and creative ways, these young people can focus on hope, innovation and positive change. Furthermore, they help move the narrative on Syria away from extremism, loss, and helplessness towards healing, empathy, and resilience.

#MeWeSyria’s director, Mohsin Mohi Ud Din, powerfully expands on this in an Al Jezeera feature story: “In the process of storytelling we find the ingredients of peace and of change-making and sustainable development. Because without empathy, without pluralism, without self-expression – without these things being taught and exercised by Syria’s youth – then you’re just going to have a camp filled with young children that are going further and further into isolation, and further and further into extremism.

When we look at the world right now, we see a world on fire. We see the failures promoted. We see those that have the microphone and yell the loudest, they have the control of the stage. And if we let this continue to happen – if we let those with evil intentions have the microphone, have control of the video – we’re going to lose and miss out on supporting and valuing young change-makers and the creative enterprise that exists among Syria’s youth.” Watch the video below.

In addition, the programme creates a platform and avenue for the rest of the world to empathize with, hear and share the stories of hope and peace from these young people. In the UNHCR article, the authors – Mohsin Mohi Ud Din and Michael Niconchuk – expand on this point quite eloquently: “Just as we pay special attention to tragedy, we, as their audience, should learn to listen better, nurture and value their hope, and take their successes, and not their sufferings, as a rallying cry to protect, support, and value their change-making lives.”

Indeed, as the authors note, “Youth are not just consumers or containers. They too are the creators and curators.”

Learn more about #MeWeSyria via the following links: