Monday, February 20, 2012

Cause Video Checklist

Our friend Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, has often referred to the importance of “viteracy” — a word he coined to mean “video literacy” — in the current social media climate. I and my NYU faculty colleagues Howard Greenstein and Tom Watson couldn’t agree more, which is why we’ve added a video lab to the social media strategy class we're team-teaching this term in the Master's program at NYU. (We’ve also just added Andrew as a guest speaker for that March 3 lab, along with some other thinkers and co-practioners.)

Here is Cause Global's list of "10 things to think about before you start shooting" a cause video:

1. Consider your video an “argument for” something — a donation, a better explanation, greater awareness, a solution, a bigger pool of volunteers, a cause. You can make it highly personal, from your own experience. Or you can approach it as a citizen journalist. In either case, you want to showcase a need.

2. Keep it strategic. Remember, you’re making this video to help advance one or all of your organization’s strategic goals as stipulated in your social media strategy papers. Good videos show versus “tell.” What does your organization most need to show? Does it need to clarify its “reason for being?” Promote a lesser-known initiative? Kick off a new campaign? Prove impact? Be clear about the purpose of your video before you start shooting. Just telling a story isn’t enough.

3. Remember “the ask.” Consider your video a visual “ask” aimed at getting individual viewers to act in some way. What will your video be asking them to do, and where can they go to do it? Will you need to configure an extra page on your organization’s Website that will take micro-donations? To text in $15? To tweet your video?

4. Choose a single, simple message. Make your video short, maybe 60-90 seconds, max. Once you’ve determined your video’s “argument” and strategic purpose and ask, then you’re ready to select the message. Boil it down to a sentence. What is the single message this video needs to convey? The American Jewish World Service, in its prize-winning, 2010 video last year, was making an argument for more cross-sector engagement. Its strategic purpose was to boost awareness of AJWS, both inside and outside the organization. The ask? To go to its Website to give money, time, ideas. And the message? Says Judd Apatow, the filmmaker: “They were saying, ‘We are a Jewish organization but we serve and support all people in need, and we need more donations and new members to help us to keep doing this well.’”

5. Choose your audience. It is important to select who you really want and need as an audience so you can target your message. AJWS was facing an erosion of younger members. Its target audience was Millennials.

6. Choose the “voice.” Is your intent to make your message heart-wrenching, clever, provocative or funny? All of the above? At a panel in which I participated during Social Media Week last week, Buzzfeed President Jon Steinberg told attendees that digital content shouldn’t simply be about conveying “information.” It should also be the kind of content that gives people an excuse to connect (again) with their friends. Therefore, the content has to be fun or weild unusual emotional impact. “The stuff that goes viral is the kind of stuff that people can feel important or cool or relevant about, just by being associated with it,” Steinberg said. AJWS filmmakers chose humor as their “voice” because they knew humor was effective in messaging Millennials.

7. Think multimedia. Sure, you’re making a video. But don’t forget to think about the music and the still images and interviews you also might want to use. Does your organization have archival photographs you could use? Can you use illustrations if you can’t get much original footage? How about a simple animation? A podcast for narration? AJWS chose to do a series of short interviews with well-known people and edit them together. But you also can use still photographs and narration, Ken Burns-style -- or mix both stills and video.

8. Don't oversweat the equipment. For organizations operating on a shoestring, it's okay to keep it very simple. Nothing elaborate is required. Check out the video and camera functions of your phone. [Here are some smartphone video tips, to get you thinking about that option.] Or, borrow a Flipcam or dust off your old one. The Kodak zi8 pocket cam, the Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG10 or the lineup of Sony Bloggie Touch cams also offer acceptable options. [We especially like the audio features on the Samson Q3.] See if you can borrow something from your organization.

9. Map your scenes. Learn a bit about “storyboarding” — how to make a visual map of each shot. Where you want to “locate” your video? In your yard? Times Square? A studio? At your organization’s next fundraiser? At an environmental dump? An animal shelter? A performance space? What will this video need to show?

10. And finally, don’t agonize over the “putting-it-all-together” phase of things. Editing is a skill but one that you will be able to get the hang of in no time. Most software programs like iMovie and Movie Maker have simple editing tools, and there are some good Webinars offered by TechSoup and other organizations to walk you through some basic editing.

Go ahead. Involve your organization. Tell them it's time to visualize the mission statement, and get ready for a fascinating ride.

-- Marcia Stepanek

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Anonymous Zohar Rom said...

Your insights reminded me of a statement by screenwriters Khris Baxter & Brian Baker: “Success hinges on the ability to tell and sell a compelling story. Why? People aren’t moved by numbers. They can’t identify with facts and figures. You have to weave your products and your mission into a story that resonates with people’s hearts before their minds. Stories enhance attention, create anticipation, and increase retention. Storytelling is the ultimate leadership tool.”

February 21, 2012 at 12:01 AM  

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