When It Comes to Storytelling, You Can't Beat Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’d wager video is worth at least twice that. When I arrived at a former job in the performing arts I was shocked that the organization’s website had no audio or video. Interesting. This is an orchestra with a web site that featured no music. I don’t think I need to explain why web traffic was low and social media activity non-existent. And it’s not surprising that when we invested time and money in re-creating the website and including video and audio, traffic — and ticket sales — improved dramatically.

So, for those of you with development goals, causes to promote, audiences to engage, you will have more success if you include video in your content plan. Did you know that in December 2010, the average American spent 14+ hours watching video online and streamed a record 201 videos? (See comScore’s “2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review”.) I can’t think of a better way to engage people in causes than by sharing compelling stories that inspire action. SPCAs are doing a good job with this right now. Think about that Sarah McLachlan spot for the ASPCA – it gets me misty every time. It powerfully combines words, music and video to create a compelling, emotional story that moves the audience to act.

Consider your cause and picture your unique story coming to life on screen. Are you helping kids afflicted with cancer, saving your state’s natural treasures, assisting families displaced by a disaster? Your story told visually will positively impact your ability to raise funds that directly help you fulfill your mission. 

I can hear my non-profit marketing friends saying: “But, video is expensive.” Sure, it can be. But digital technology has made video much less expensive than in the past. I encourage you to look at your budget, move things around, and/or start saving — think about the big picture and how this investment can bring you more dollars. The old marketing adage is true: you have to spend money to make money. You can also start small if necessary. Grab your smartphone: ask a participant at your charity walk why (and usually for whom) they are walking; feature animals at your shelter; ask an employee what inspires her to work for your organization. Posting short clips like this on your site and social networks will engage more people than having no videos at all. 

However you choose to incorporate video into your content plan, you’ll want to show decision-makers results that justify time and dollars spent. The more positive results you share, the more likely you will be able to acquire larger budgets for future videos. Here’s an informative article on measuring the ROI of online video.

Storytelling is the key to successful cause marketing. And, in my opinion, video is a must-have for any organization’s content strategy. Your mission is worth the investment.

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2 comments about "When It Comes to Storytelling, You Can't Beat Video ".
  1. Joel Johnson from GMMB , June 18, 2012 at 10:22 a.m.
    Michelle, this article is a great intro to the topic, but you neglected to mention that online video has evolved really into full-fledged branded documentary for causes. Tide, Ford Warriors in Pink, Starbucks have all released docs about the causes they support now--and its more than a commercial. These films are shot by true documentarians who focus on the "real stories" of the people who are most benefited by the causes. For example, check out, Resetting the Table, by Starbucks about the American Mug & Stein company and the launch of the Indivisible Mug, or Ford's Warriors in Pink "Models of Courage" program that profiles several breast cancer survivors. Finally, at SXSW, Flow Nonfiction (client) has presented for the past 2 years on branded doc and they've been written about extensively.
  2. Michele Campbell from King Fish Media , June 18, 2012 at 1:49 p.m.
    Thanks, Joel. These are great examples of what is possible with high-level corporate sponsorships. These documentaries are powerful tools that benefit both the cause and the corporation (mutually beneficial relationships). This topic would be a good continuation of this post. Thanks for sharing this with readers.