Advocacy Video on a Budget
Advocacy videos are available on all social media and the internet. Video has really become an important channel to get support with a problem for nonprofits. It’s no wonder why many advocacy and nonprofits have supporters with compelling narrative, and video is a great medium for storytelling. But we’ve seen too many small or medium sized nonprofits still choose not to develop a video advocacy strategy because of a limited budget.
Good news. Developing an engaging advocacy video doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. In fact, you can create a compelling video for your advocacy from your iPhone or Zoom. All you really need is a good story. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the number of groups and organizations producing advocacy videos. Rather than relying on someone to photograph your supporters, nonprofits often use content created by individuals in the comfort of their homes. This is known as user-generated content. Below are some of the best practices for making an advocacy video based on our experience of making videos during the pandemic.
Video targets for audience and usage.
The first step in producing a great advocacy video is to determine how long the video will be. Here you should be wondering where the video is playing online. Will your advocacy video appear on social media, YouTube, on your website, or as a pre-roll ad? The answers to these questions provide information about which length makes the most sense. For example, if you plan to run your ad on social media only, consider making a 15- or even 6-second video. Instead, if you want to run an ad on YouTube or pre-roll where you want to access as much inventory as possible, making a 6-, 15-, and 30-second longer video is a good idea. If your plan is to develop a video that is simply stored on your website and is intended for the more dedicated viewer, a longer video of a minute or more may be acceptable. While it’s okay to have a longer form video for your most devout followers, keep in mind that shorter form videos (15 seconds or less) are more likely to be watched until the end than longer videos.
Quickly make a point and call for action
If you want to create engaging advocacy video online, you want to get your point across as soon as possible. In television commercials, it’s more common to hold the big reveal until the end of the commercial, but studies have shown that this is not a good tactic for digital video. Online viewers often only see the first few seconds of a video before moving on to the next step. So make sure your key points are communicated right from the start. If your viewer doesn’t get your video’s message in the first 6 seconds, you should look carefully at your script and return to the drawing board.
Digital video best practices
One of the main differences between digital video and a television commercial is that a significant portion of your audience will watch your video with the sound off. For example, many online viewers will come across your video in their Facebook news feed, where it will be automatically muted. To make sure your message gets delivered to these viewers, always include screen captions and make sure your video makes sense to someone who doesn’t have audio. Imagine you’re watching CNN. The chyrons at the bottom of the screen tell you what they’re talking about, even if you’ve turned down the volume. You don’t need to label every word, but you do need to have onscreen text that largely follows the script so a viewer can clearly understand your message as they scroll past your advocacy video online.
Make your problem easy to understand.
Some advocacy topics can be difficult to understand for someone who is unaware of the problem. You cannot read your company’s whitepaper in your advocacy video. Instead, you should work on finding a way to break down complicated problems into short, easy-to-digest bites for your viewer. Get into the video production process assuming your audience has a very limited understanding of your problem. Think how you can describe, in a sentence or two that are visually and emotionally compelling, why this problem matters to the viewer.
Recruit real supporters
Creating engaging advocacy video is about using backers to demonstrate the real impact of your position. Real supporters can help add emotion to your problem, put a face to your cause, and add a sense of urgency to your problem. And you don’t need fancy lighting or a sane person to tell these stories. A testimonial right in front of the camera can be even more appealing than a skillfully produced video if the story is convincing enough.
Write a script to stick to
Whether you’re using real testimonials from backers or just doing video b-roll, it’s a good idea to write a script before you start filming. Your script can help ensure that you get all of the footage you need while you are recording so you don’t have to go back and take pictures later. Writing a script for your supporters can help them feel more confident about their delivery. This will also ensure that your organizational discussion points are covered and that you don’t have to go back for backers to re-cut their parts of the video later.
Use user generated content
There are many different ways you can make advocacy video. You can shoot a series of b-rolls of your subjects and edit the video with a speaker. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of success with real supporters recording real testimonials on a topic that we then work on together. These user-created content videos have an authentic look and feel and are usually recorded by your supporters themselves either on a phone or on a recorded Zoom call. There are also tools like Boast.IO and others that make it easy for you to save and view supporter videos. Just like you would if you interviewed supporters in person, give them talking points so that they get the right messages in their sections.
Make your video authentic
Many advocacy organizations feel that they can’t produce video because they can’t spend a lot of money on a cameraman or fancy editor. That’s okay! Chances are, your supporters will be more put off by a nifty Madison Avenue-style video anyway. Of course, you should always make every effort to prepare your subjects and make sure they have a one-pager with some best practices (there is a line between imperfect video and simply unusable video). If you have a nice podcast microphone in your office, you can always get better recordings by giving equipment to your supporters for loan to improve production quality. One thing we learned from 2020 is that the best advocacy videos start with a great story and storyteller. Your video, audio, and post-production quality comes second.
Need some help creating your own advocacy video? Do you need help getting your advocacy campaign off the ground? Contact the Campaign Workshop for help!