10 top tips to video storytelling success

Man filming on a smart phone

Creating video can be seen as a mammoth task, but the reality is, it’s what your audience wants and expects from you. Last month we hosted our top 10 tips to video storytelling success webinar and in this blog CIPR East Anglia Committee member James Sharp shares some of learning from the event.

As communicators, human stories are a powerful tool in our armoury. They are an effective way of engaging people, grabbing their emotions and getting your message across to your audience.  

Additionally, using video allows you to make complex stories easier to understand and deliver a more impactful message. They can bring your story to life and make it more relevant for your audience.

Last month I was pleased to be joined by Tom Gudegon from Chelmsford based video marketing agency Two Cubed Creative, for a virtual session that broke down the top 10 things we should all be thinking of when creating a video.

I am pleased to be able to share with you some of these top tips which I hope will allow you to go on and create some awesome video content that your audiences will love.

Tip One: Planning and pre-production creates better results

A successful video is all in the planning – after all failing to plan is planning to fail.

Have a think about the video you want to create, is there actually going to be any value creating it for your audience?

Ask yourself?

  • Who are your audience. Do you have a detailed understanding as to who they are and who you are targeting?
  • What do you want to achieve by creating your video? This is the most important element. Not only will it help you target your content, but it will enable you to track the success of your video. Are you looking to launch a new service, drive sales, encourage people to sign up to a mailing list or maybe get people to register for an event?

Tracking the success of your videos is key. If you see a past video hasn’t performed as you wish, don’t let that get you down. Not everyone gets it right first time round. Review the results and engagement and see if there is something you may have missed, or you could do differently to achieve better results next time.

Finally, don’t forget to storyboard. Have an idea of how you want your story to flow by mapping it out before you film. This will allow you to see any potential problems that would have maybe gone unnoticed – saving you time and money.

Tip Two: Get people by their emotions

Sometimes the story you tell doesn’t necessarily have to be a corporate ‘blah blah blah’ story. Take advantage of your service users, clients, customers and tell stories about them. Telling a story that doesn’t directly come from your mouth helps people trust you more, and trust is a key factor in marketing.

Testimonials are great for this. Find that hard hitting story that you know relates to multiple clients. If people see someone in a similar position to them has benefited from your product or service, they are likely to listen and invest.

Here is a video TwoCubed created for NHS Mid Essex CCG back in 2018. It’s not directly about a service that the CCG provides, but rather of a success story from a project that they were involved in. It doesn’t directly mention the CCG and the focus is on the project and its key results.

Word of warning. You may need to grab the tissues before watching – it’s a bit of a tear jerker. 😢

Maldon Up Project. Copyright NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group

Tip Three: Repurpose

Remember, a video isn’t just for Christmas. Don’t create one video and share it in one place. It’s not a nice to have. It’s not a family portrait. It’s a tool. Take advantage of it.

Create multiple assets. For example, in the Up-Project video (linked above), Two Cubed created a shorter version for Facebook and Twitter which had over 70K views and 700 interactions.

Just make sure that you take full advantage of the assets you have captured, and make sure that you think back to the end goal of the video campaign. Create short form versions for social media. This way you can create multiple assets from that one video. How about creating a mini-series telling different elements of the story in multiple videos? This will help you retain your audience’s attention.

Remember: 2 mins 20 is max on Twitter, over 3 minutes performs better on Facebook, and Instagram has a limit of 60 seconds for a grid post and then an hour for an IGTV. Stories are usually 15 seconds, but if your video is longer it will normally split it across multiple stories.

Tip Four: Be natural

Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Unless you’re targeting corporate bodies, relax, be yourself and most importantly, showcase your or your organisations personality.

Make your messaging natural, have an informal tone and don’t force a regimented voice (people don’t like robots).

Using everyday words that everyday people understand will enable far better results. If you’ve got some overly complicated terminology in your video and it’s not needed, or doesn’t sit right with your target audience, lose it.

At the end of the day, you want to ensure that the end result is as good as it can be. Take your time. If something doesn’t sound right, or didn’t come across how you intended, do it again!

Tip Five: Add visuals

Talking heads are fine, however they are not your only options. If your video relies on an interview or script, then listen and pay attention to help you identify additional footage you could capture.

Is there mention of someone enjoying going to the beach? Show it. Is there mention of someone volunteering? Show them in action. Could you improve the visual experience by showcasing shots of a town or village? Show it.

So long as the additional shots add to the story, use them. Don’t add in shots for the sake of it, if it enhances the story then that’s when you know to use them.

Sometimes you don’t even need sounds or talking in a video if you are utilising strong, evocative visuals.

Tip Six: Be creative

As communication and marketing professionals, creativity should be in our bones, so let this spill out into your videos. Don’t go for the easiest option with the plainest visuals – let your creativity run wild, you may be surprised as to what you think of and how you think of telling your story.

Don’t be afraid to learn from others, see how other people tell their stories and take note. If it would appeal to your audience, then use that to your advantage.

Tip Seven: Use the professionals

Sometimes, if budgets allow you can take advantage of using an external company to help you create video – but remember to take advantage of them and their expertise.

Listen to the advice that they give, inform them about your audience, give them access to your data and your campaign ideas to help them create assets that will perform better.

Don’t just tell them what to shoot and when to shoot it. They’re professionals for a reason. They understand how video works best, how to gain the best results, how to tell stories, what visuals may work and so on.

BUT, you’ve got to work with them. Let them learn as you learn and develop the video campaign together. It’s always risky going for just a single video from a production company, prepare to repurpose your content, because there lies more value.

Tip Eight: But don’t rely on the professionals

Having said that – you don’t always need the professionals. Although they know what they are talking about, and will likely be able to produce better quality videos, they are not the be all and end all.

The majority of us are going to have one of the most powerful tools in our pockets – a smart phone. 

Most smart phones can now shoot up to 4k footage. This means you can shoot your video, edit that footage and that can share and schedule that footage all from the same device.

You can watch the full webinar recording for lots more tips on how to use your device from lighting to sound.

Tip Nine: create something

For those that do not have the budget for the professionals or have access to a smart device – don’t let that stop you from creating video. So long as the story is powerful, that’s all that matters. It’s not about the gear, but the end story.

Tip Ten: Where are you sharing it?

Think about where you are sharing your video – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Is it intended for an in-feed post or for Stories or Fleets?

Interestingly most people watch video without sounds – so adding subtitles to your video will not just tick your accessibility boxes but also broaden the reach of your video.

I hope you found those tips helpful and if you create any new videos then please share them with us – we would love to see.

If you want to watch the webinar in full you can view it here. Don’t forget to log it and claim your five CPD points.

James S

Business as unusual

Guest blog written by Barney Brown, Head of Digital Communications at the University of Cambridge and one of the speakers lined up for CIPR East Anglia’s postponed 2020 Best PRactice Conference. Barney writes about how the need for a new digital strategy for the University of Cambridge is more critical than ever in these unusual times.

Working for a University since 2008 has taught me that the ebb and flow of Digital Communications is expected to match that of term times rather than calendar years or financial years. In reality there has never been any ebb, perhaps because the University of Cambridge’s digital presence totals at least two thousand websites containing millions of web pages. Collectively these pages serve the needs of students, applicants, researchers, members of staff, the media, interested members of the public and beyond.

Trying to make sense of this digital estate, and how it can be improved to enhance user experience, simplify the maintenance of it and protect and promote the brand is at the heart of a five-year programme of work: The Digital Presence Programme. The focus of the programme, who was going to work on it and the scope of it were agreed and green lit just before the Coronavirus hit. That left the board running it with a dilemma, pause the work or prioritise it? As a co-leader of the programme alongside Kate Livingstone (a leader in User Experience at the University) we strongly advocated pushing forward.

Practically nobody at the University can avoid interacting with digital channels in one shape or another in order to work through their days, and that has meant an explosion of new content, adding to the mountain that already exists. So we’ve agreed to continue and in fact accelerate the work as much as we can. Principles that we had already started establishing around content strategy have been put to practice straight away in areas of our site like the Coronavirus pages, and a push to analyse and prepare for better uses of Intranets and collaboration tools has become a race.

At the core of the five-year programme is the idea that we assess what we have, what our audiences are and where they are, and how we can better use external vs internal channels, public vs private content. Our existing setup at the University has understandably resulted in nearly all content, irrespective of intended audience, appearing on monolithic public facing websites. These are now being audited and assessed. Do people always need new websites for new projects? In nearly all cases, the answer is no. Is a website, or conventional web pages the best solution for a problem? Increasingly not.

We are challenging ourselves to question the need for the over two million web pages that make up cam.ac.uk. What purpose do they all serve? How can we maintain them all? How can they be better designed to work across multiple devices, interact with authoritative sources of data, and bring in new audiences? All of this in an environment which rightly devolves the act of creation and publishing of content across hundreds of departments.

Now could have been the perfect opportunity to pause and take stock of a programme like this and question its relevance in the face of financial and practical pressures, but in reality we need it to start flying now more than ever. The approaches and processes we’re adopting to develop the programme are changing and evolving on a weekly basis which feels positive.

When we finally get back to our physical offices the work will continue in this new normal, and in truth I think the programme and all of us will benefit from it.