5 (Plus) Tips for Creating Compelling Videos
Increasingly, donors and other potential supporters who visit a nonprofit’s website are looking for a more immersive experience that includes something beyond facts and figures about the organization. A video element is fast becoming de rigueur. But it’s not always as easy as pulling your smartphone out of your pocket and yelling, “Action!” to create useful, good-looking videos that represent your organization’s vital work and case for support.
Here, John Gelety, director of video services for FundRaising Success parent company North American Publishing Co., shares some insights that can help nonprofits make the most of their video efforts.
According to Gelety, Internet tech company comScore, which measures online data, reported that there were 36,194,133,000 video content views in January 2013 alone. Yes, you read that right — more than 36 billion. YouTube served up 12.5 billion of those streams, with Facebook coming in second with 425 million.
“To say that video is one of the leading tools for marketers to use is truly not an overstatement,” Gelety says. “Media theorist Marshall McLuhan created one of the most famous and poignant phrases of modern media: The medium is the message. New forms of media have their own sets of rules, and content is ultimately developed that takes advantage of these rules. This maxim still holds true today as marketers come to terms with the powerful medium of video to engage audiences through digital channels.
“Quite simply, video enhances awareness efforts,” he adds. “Even at its core, video is a visual medium that evokes an emotional response. Sure, organizations can write about their brand or offer up a benefit statement or initiative. But they should ask themselves, ‘What is our story?’”
FundRaising Success: What should come first in the video process: the video or the text that will accompany it?
John Gelety: Video goes hand-in-hand with other content. Like in any successful campaign, strategy is key. Think about what you want your video to say (again, what’s your story?) and how it will be placed with your other marketing materials.
FS: Is there a basic format for producing a quality video?
JG: Because of the advent of HTML5 and more advanced Flash technology, you want your video to be in the highest definition it can get. Natively, recent camera technology shoots at around 1920x1080 but also goes as low as 1280x720. Newer screen resolutions are amazing, but also remember that the majority of online video is watched on mobile devices. That means brighter but smaller screens. Simply put, just make sure whatever you shoot is clear, steady and audibly strong. Video is a “show me” medium, so as long as the images are compelling, you’ve done half your job.
FS: What length do you suggest for videos that will be sent to potential donors and other supporters via e-mail or that will appear on the organization’s website?
JG: Attention spans, at least online, are getting shorter and shorter. The ease of clicking around the Web and watching videos means it’s easier to watch something for a minute and then move on. An average short-form video is around 3.5 minutes. If the video is not compelling or to the point, people will drop off around 10 seconds in. That’s why it’s important to know your story and where it’s headed.
You can definitely do a five-minute (or more) video about your organization or cause, but think of any video you do as a story in three acts: Act 1 should pose your main argument and set up the rest of the video in a captivating way. Act 2 should be focused on the details. Act 3 should wrap up the story and have a call to action. Shorter videos have more of a chance of repeat viewings, but longer videos give you a chance to flesh out your campaign. Consider a series of short videos in chapters instead of one long production.
FS: Most organizations do not have the budget to create professionally produced videos. Advice for them on how to create impactful videos in-house with amateur movie-makers?
JG: Video is one of the top generators of ROI. Of course, most consider producing video to be too expensive, be it with time, money or both. There is this myth out there that high-quality video just is not attainable with small or no-budget organizations. Yet, thanks to the progress of technology, we suddenly all have little production companies in our pockets. I have an iPhone that comes with an eight-megapixel camera, and I guarantee any recent smartphone or iDevice you or a co-worker has comes with a camera.
If you can’t hire a professional team to shoot your video, there is no excuse to not create your own content right away. If you shoot in a well-lit area, get good sound and hold the camera steady (or, in the case of iPhones, properly hold the camera horizontally), then you can create a compelling video.
It comes down to the story. You can have the most expensive gear in the world at your disposal, but if the message is not heartfelt or meaningful, then your video will just be very shiny, pretty nonsense.
FS: What are the biggest mistakes you see when people or organizations produce video?
JG: One of the biggest mistakes is not knowing what to do with a video once it’s done. Many companies create a video and throw it up on YouTube. That’s fine, but then what? Hope someone will wade through an endless sea of cat videos and find your message? Strategy is key. Posting on YouTube or Vimeo is fine. In fact, if you don’t have your own internal video player, that’s what you should do. But embed the video on your Facebook wall, blast it out on Twitter and embed it on the homepage of your site. If you do e-newsletters, create a thumbnail with a play button on the image and hyperlink it to the video.
People on both ends of B2B and B2C want a deeper relationship with your brand. Using video to tell a deeper story is a great opportunity to engage an audience. Don’t be afraid to “drink your own Kool-Aid,” as they say.
But video has to be seen first. It’s called “discoverable content.” When people want something, they search for it. Case in point: When Google understands that there is a video offered on a site, it will usually display a thumbnail as part of the search result for that page. I always ask clients what they plan on doing with their videos. Embedding a video via an iframe direct from YouTube, using Google’s Schema.org markups, using Facebook share tags, or just making sure they put them up front and center on their sites is simple best practice. Bottom line: Make sure your audience can find content easily.
FS: What are some top tips you can offer nonprofits when it comes to producing videos?
JG: 1. Video represents new rules in terms of content development. As you build your video library and propose work, you need to make sure you think about the story and keep content concise. The average length of a corporate video is 3.5 minutes, but I suggest keeping the production as short as possible. If viewers don’t connect with the message, they will drop out after the first 10 seconds.
2. Videos used in the marketing funnel should include a call to action or next step, either implicitly or explicitly. Keep the end in mind.
3. Remember that your audience is inundated with text, information and offers, the majority of which never get read. That’s why incorporating video and making it discoverable in content-based marketing is so important.
4. Hold your camera steady, have good lighting and, most importantly, make sure the sound can be, well, heard! Without good audio, the video will fall flat and fail from the first second.
5. Keep shooting. Experiment, play, have fun and keep shooting. You learn by doing and by making mistakes. And please, hold those camera phones horizontally!