Using video for social change (Part 2)

February 25, 2014

You’re making a video! That’s awesome. Now what?

In my first post I shared several core concepts we use when building video for social change: creating effective viewer engagement, finding a story about an individual to represent your cause, and sharing successes rather than dwelling on problems.

As you move into producing your video, here are a few techniques to help you make one that’s effective.

First, commit to building the best video you can. Video is unequalled as a tool for engagement. Its combination of moving image, ambient sound, dialogue, music and editing can generate powerful emotions. But that complexity, if handled poorly, can backfire. The quality of videos across the web is rising, and so are viewer expectations. A recent study of 1,200 consumers by the video-hosting firm Brightcove suggests that producing a bad video may be worse for your cause than making none at all. If you think about your nonprofit as a brand (and you should—you’re in marketing now), consider these points from the Brightcove report:

  • 62% of consumers are more likely to have a negative perception of a brand that published a poor-quality video
  • 57% are less likely to share a poor quality video
  • 60 percent say a poor quality video will dissuade them from engaging with the brand in other ways

This doesn’t mean you have to spend vast quantities of money to make a good and effective video. Even if your team is entirely in-house and you’re shooting on an iPhone, practice a few key disciplines:

  1. Stay focused. The best videos aren’t trying to do or say everything. Rather, they’re trying to do one thing well: get the viewer to want more. A video’s job is the get your audience’s attention. Once they’re leaning in they’re ready to hear more about your cause, your vision, and the action you want them to take.
  2. Earn the audience’s attention. Shorter is (almost) always better. Viewer drop-off rates for web-based video jump after about 90 seconds. There are occasions when longer videos make sense, but consider when and how your viewers are going to see your work. At their desks? On their phones? Or ask yourself, would you want to sit through a 10-minute video someone forwarded?
  3. Get an outsider to bring a critical eye to the product. Insiders have blind spots. An uninformed test viewer can tell you what’s making sense—and what isn’t.
  4. Kill your darlings. Yes, you love that shot of the bald eagle at sunset, but if it’s not advancing your narrative it has to go.

Finally, have a plan for your video. Don’t make it, put it on your website and hope for the best. A video should be part of your larger communications campaign. It’s a great tool—but you need a whole toolbox if you’re going to change the world.

–Hal Clifford is a principal at Take One Creative, a Colorado creative agency devoted to helping those who do good work in the world tell their story powerfully and effectively through video. Follow him: @TakeOneBoulder.