Video done right: Protect Our Winters

Great videos don’t need to be earth shattering displays of far out creativity and mind-boggling production values. Video is a storytelling form that lifts characters, dialog and emotion off the page and into the visual line of sight. Basically, video shares a story.

Marketing videos – especially PSAs – can often get overwrought or overdone. It’s hard to keep it simple.

We like this short piece from Protect Our Winters — an organization created by winter sports professionals that advocates for policies that halt climate change and gets pro athletes into schools, communities and Congress. Check out the video:

It may have helpful to share some images of winter that weren’t all about the high alpine environment and maybe more familiar to viewers. Maybe the scene of a city park hushed by a fresh blanket of snow would connect more people with their personal experiences.

But the scenes left in are aspirational, true to the character of the organization, and one can always add more scenes. Brevity and focus are powerful tools, too. We think this is powerful and a great example of how strong video doesn’t need to be complicated.

What do you think?

Storytelling + Video = Power to change behavior

A common refrain: Our video has a great story, great message, and clear call to action. But only 350 people watched it. WTF?

Story of Sushi
The "Story of Sushi" by Portland's Bamboo Sushi tells the story of how industrial fishing is destroying ocean life and presents alternatives. Something to think about with your next sashimi.

There are no simple reasons to explain why some videos take off and others languish in the dustbin of irrelevancy.

How did you distribute it? What was the keyword strategy? What sharing tools were used? Did you use AdWords, Facebook ads, or other paid marketing? How big is your social media audience? How engaged are they? Was Will Ferrell in your video? Useful questions though maybe the answer is simpler: people just didn’t connect with the story.

Perhaps you’ve seen the story of sushi video created by Portland’s Bamboo Sushi. We’ve embedded it below. The video is both clever and lovely in its simplicity and clarity of message. There is a story here: bad guys that overfish the seas, good guys that do it right, and the hero is the viewer – the person that has the opportunity to ask questions, know what’s going on and force change to happen.

What’s missing? The 2 x 4 over the head that has “take action now by calling your Senator.” The action is the story itself and its ability to make the viewer think about their behavior.

We will be the first to tell you that if you’re in the advocacy business you need to know your call to action in every message be it email, video, blog post or presentation.

But there is often greater power in using story to lead people to act on their own. A good story guides the participant to their own conclusions and you need not hit people over the head with your advocacy. Sometimes a big stick just scares people away while a good story makes them think. Thinking is good.

What Nonprofits Can Learn From the YouTube Laugh Factory

Wired Magazine shares lessons from Maker Studios.

Last month’s Wired magazine had a feature on Maker Studios and the rise of commercially viable independent web-based videos. Their takeaways on effectively using video online:

Rule 1: Make a lot of video content. A lot.
And if the video releases are regularly scheduled, all the better.

Rule 2: Target a niche.
Be really clear on what audience you are targeting and make sure you understand that audience really well.

Rule 3: Connect with your fans.
Olga Kay is sending a personal note to each of the 450,000 people subscribed to her YouTube channel. Nuff said.

Rule 4: Collaborate.
Collaborations can make for great content and introduce all of the folks to each other’s audiences.

Rule 5: Optimize for the algorithms.
One example: tagging, title, explain, and annotate your videos with as many specific and general descriptors as possible.

The goal for most nonprofits might focus more on engagement than ad revenue, but the lessons apply just as well.

The beauty of what you do

Flower from Louie Schwartzberg video at TEDxSFWe came across this video from TEDxSF the other day. In it, Louie Schwartzberg talks about his work over the years as one of the world’s great time-lapse nature photographers. The video he shows the audience is, indeed, amazing. Yet he goes on to talk about how the beauty of nature fills him with gratitude for the opportunity to live in this world.

It seems that each day, month and year we as individuals and organizations are focused on the crises and problems in front of us. People are hungry. Animals are hurt. Wildlands are logged and mined. We all need help to stop it. And we need that help right now. The pace of change and threats seems only to increase. People need more. Organizations are struggling to stay afloat. We must act. Now.

For nonprofit fundraisers and marketers, the reality is that crisis works. And people only give money when asked. So we create dire threats to our communities (this isn’t too hard to do) and send email after email about those crises.

But we don’t often spend time and energy weaving in real beauty and gratitude. We need to tell stories of hope and success, not just threats. There is magic in beauty and gratitude. Without it, we live in a world that has only crisis. We foster cynicism in our constituents and staff, which leads to ambivalence. Grab the opportunities to show gratitude and bring hope to people. Perhaps this video will help inspire that in you, as it did us.

Time spent watching online video going up means you need to tell a good story to the right people

Time spent watching online video vs. streaming viewers.
Time spent watching online video going up while number of people watching holds steady.

People are watching more video online. Recent data from Nielsen shows that the growth of time spent watching online video is outpacing the rise in unique viewers. In other words, most people that will watch video online are already doing so. Growth is coming from those people spending more time watching video.

Nielsen and others cite growth in long-form video watching and not just watching more videos. People are spending more time watching movies and TV shows on Hulu, Netflix and other streaming video outlets. More people watching Weeds on their computer doesn’t have many direct benefits to organizations using video to build awareness and market their issues. Minimally, however, this is a sign that people are increasingly able and willing to view longer length streaming content.

There are a couple important takeaways for organizations. One is the value of good storytelling in video. Another is the need to take distribution strategy seriously from the start. Video content is found through many channels, lives in many places and needs to be much more than something plopped on YouTube and embedded on a web page you host.

Tell a Great Story

This shouldn’t be news to nonprofits. Some of the most successful online videos have been a few minutes or longer because they’ve used storytelling to drive engagement and sharing. A couple great examples of this are the Story of Stuff and the Meatrix. If you want to dive into some of the storytelling themes used in these videos I suggest you check out this recent presentation by Jonah Sachs, a point person behind both Story of Stuff and the Meatrix.

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