Have you ever really thought about what strikes you emotionally, or intellectually, or viscerally?
Close your eyes and reflect on a movie, or perhaps a stage play or television show, in which you were brought to tears…or were inspired deeply…or were made to think in ways you’ve never thought before.
How many of your senses are involved? Is it what you see, or how you see it? Is it what you hear, or how you hear it? Is it the words or how they are spoken? Is it having had the experience itself, or is it how that experience made you feel that sticks with you? Bingo! I think we’ve stumbled across something now.
Experiences that can trigger the kind of emotionally moving and memorable responses we are talking about most often include engaging visual imagery that draws you in and intriguing sounds that enhance those visuals. There are often spoken words that come from the heart that speak to something that relates to you. And most often there is music that reaches into your soul, setting the stage, the tone, and the rhythm of the piece. And finally, there must be elements of a good story. All of these come together to capture your attention, engage your mind, draw on your emotions, and convey a message — a story that impacts you, stays with you, and somehow changes you.
And that is why video can be such a powerful tool to reach and engage potential donors for your cause. Video can encapsulate unique and stunning visual imagery, personal and heart-felt words, dramatically moving music and weave them all together to create powerful stories that impact a viewer.
While video can be one of the most effective and powerful communication tools you can utilize, unless careful attention is paid to all the details of the production process, it will be little more than just another communication piece. It is those details that produce the emotionally engaging effects described above.
The following is a sneak peek into the professional video-producer’s handbook. (This is an abridged list of the many, many things that make the difference we are talking about.) Here are my top 10:
1. Shoot and capture video and audio with quality, professional gear — and know how to use it.
Lighting, positioning, framing, movement, lens choices, depth of field, mic placement, etc. I can’t stress enough how important these things are. Quality up front always means a better outcome
2. When conducting interviews, preparation is critical.
Carefully select your interview setting for visual appropriateness, privacy, and sound isolation. Pay attention to the background for visual interest and distractions. Please, do not put your visual subjects (especially your interviewees) up against a wall; you are not shooting a police line-up! Flatter them with lighting, good framing, and close-mic’d sound. Nothing screams amateur louder than poor positioning, background, framing, lighting, and sound.
3. It’s not about you.
When inviting an interviewee, do not cheapen the experience or diminish its importance by telling the individual that it won’t take much of his, her, or their time. Yes, be considerate of that person’s valuable time, but also make it worth the effort to get this valued person’s thoughts and insights. Take 45-60 minutes for a thorough and thoughtful conversation—and set the expectations accordingly.
4. Think of interviewing as a way to deepen engagement and provide stewardship.
Knowing how to treat and relate to your interviewees (often a very important donor or potential donor) is critical. The crew (especially your producer/interviewer) represent your organization. That professionalism and relationship with the interviewee will directly affect the quality of the material captured and your interviewee’s experience. Just as important, the interviewee’s experience will impact how he or she feels about the credibility of your organization.
5. Be genuinely interested.
The style and manner in which the interview is conducted means everything to the depth of the material captured and the possibilities of the final product. This should not be a question-answer exercise. A casual, relaxed conversation allows you to dig deeper for more meaningful and heart-felt responses. When creating emotionally engaging pieces, understanding “why” is far more important than being told “what” or “how.”
6. Find the story.
After the shoot, the editing process becomes critical. Understand what makes a good story line, find the right material, then carefully craft the elements to create an arc of a story with a beginning, middle, and end. (Understanding story is a huge topic all by itself and demands your own research and study.)
7. Edit judiciously.
Establish the tempo and rhythm of the piece that’s appropriate for the subject matter, the story line, and the pace of words being spoken. Give it space to breathe and sound natural. Fill visual edits with appropriate B-roll sequences or well-designed graphic elements and fill in audio holes with ambient room sound. Nothing takes a viewer out of the moment more abruptly than seeing and hearing the edits.
8. Choose music wisely.
One of the biggest contributors to a piece that works on many levels and just plain feels right is a good music score. The music under the visuals must support the content and mood of the message, the pace of the delivery, and the voice of the story. It must be edited and “scored” to support the emotional ebb and flow. Think of a movie and the scenes that moved you most. That’s what music can do.
9. Now, make your video look great.
Hopefully you started with footage that was wonderfully shot, nicely framed with appropriate movement, and properly color-balanced and exposed. Along with all the previous aspects accomplished, careful and consistent color grading will give your story the best chance of your video working at the highest level and making that powerful impact you desire it to have.
10. Finally, share it.
Make sure everybody sees your masterpiece. Beyond your intended audience, do everything you can to ensure that your interviewees see themselves and how everything came together to make them look and sound amazing. You’ll be surprised at how impactful a stewardship tool that can be!
Well, there you have it. Oh, actually there are dozens of other things that also need to come together to make your video the powerhouse of communications it can be. But you get the idea. When you use video to its fullest potential, it is an extremely powerful tool. So, for your next video project, demand attention to at least the top ten. And let video start really working for you.
To learn more about strategies for engaging donors through video, view this webinar, Video as an Engagement & Stewardship Strategy, presented in partnership with the Association of Donor Relations Professionals (ADRP).