Tips for Branded #Storytelling with #Video

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Storytelling through video can help you advocate for a cause, raise awareness and money, train, and motivate.  And with video engagement levels and distribution platform options at an all-time high, charities, associations, government agencies and corporations are producing more reality-based short video content than ever before. But many communications teams launch into producing videos without a solid script. That can throw up unnecessary roadblocks to success. With a plan for your  nonfiction story arc and a script-to-screen process, producers can lower their overhead costs and improve storytelling impact and audience engagement.

Identify Characters: Be sure you’ve identified a main character (protagonist), which might even be your organization. Are there supporting characters? Those might be other people who can speak about this person or product or initiative.  Don’t use more than 3 or 4 characters in a less than 5-minute video, or you’ll overwhelm viewers and confuse your narrative.

Write a Script: You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. Don’t shoot a video without a script. Even if your video is largely based on real people interviews, you want to have some kind of game-plan going into those interviews so you can craft a compelling story. Your script can include bullet points for the topics of potential “soundbites”–something that helps you create your interview questions and craft the story line on paper before you start spending money in the field or studio.

Create Storyboards: Particularly if you’re producing a graphically-driven piece, you will need storyboards to help guide the way before you invest in animation.  For other types of videos, your storyboards can be as simple as stock images in a Powerpoint with a few descriptions beneath each one. These visuals can really help you when you’re faced with choices of how to light, shoot and edit your production.

Get Interview Transcripts: If you are interviewing people for your show, get transcripts made–a very small investment of a few dollars per minute–so you can select your soundbites on paper before spending time and money editing clips together.

Build an Editing Script: Once you’ve inserted your favorite soundbites or options into your initial script, you’ve created an editing script. Add in your selections or options for stock music and other visuals, such as stock or archival photos, videos and graphics, and you’ve got your guide-posts for a streamlined post-production process.

For more detailed tips about how to create an effective short-form branded stories on video, try my new Lynda.com course in nonfiction Scriptwriting.

Amy DeLouise is a director/producer, speaker and author who makes branded short-form videos for impact.

Board Diversity Impacts ROI

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It’s hardFoliage as Shapes - IMG_0052 s.c to find an organization today that’s not focused on, or at least giving lip service to, diversity. But have you ever considered the cost to your organization of not having a diverse leadership team? When Catalyst first came out with their study about the ROI for investors of companies with more diverse boards, many were surprised. But the numbers were clear: Return on Equity, Return on Sales and Return on Invested Capital were all significantly higher (53%, 42% and 66% respectively) for companies with more women on their boards.

The same is true for nonprofit boards.  Boards lacking diversity can make poor financial decisions, such as investing the bulk of their endowment with an investment manager  “everyone knows.” Boards lacking diversity can miss big opportunities to reach new communities and new donors. They can miss out on creating new partnerships.

So how can you create a more diverse board?

First, let’s define diversity. When I meet with boards on this topic, everyone’s first instinct is to think ethnicity and gender. These are important. But just as vital to decision-making are having people of diverse ages, life experiences, socio-economic backgrounds, family structures, and more.

Range of Ages. The most common lack of diversity I see on boards is related to age. And the most common form of ageism I see is against younger people (which on boards tends to mean under- 35). Yet the views of the 18-35 set, and their facility with the internet and social media tools, makes them especially valuable on boards.

Varied Life Experiences. Another area where boards often lack diversity is in life experiences. That’s because so many people are recruited to boards by friends, business associates or college/grad school classmates. So if you have one corporate lawyer on your board, you’re likely to have two or more. That’s not to say anything against lawyers, but there is also diversity among types of legal expertise and it could benefit your board to have more than one kind. Life experiences also include living overseas, blended families, military families, LGBT, and religious background.

Personal Attributes. A third area for boards to focus on when attaining diversity is a mix of personal styles and personality attributes. Even if you’re board is every color of the rainbow, if every person on it is a forceful leader, you’re going to have trouble filling your committees. By the same token, if everyone is a quiet, behind-the-scenes type of operator, you’ll have trouble finding committee chairs every year. You need a mix of several personality types to make a board fully functional.

Varied Connections. Finally, board diversity requires diverse community connections. One of the most overlooked areas for recruiting board members is among the clergy. Rabbis, priests, and ministers tend to know a lot of people in their communities, as well as other organizations that are making a difference there. That makes them great “connectors” to have on your board, irrespective of whether your organization has a religious mission. Other great connectors are people who volunteer in communities in which your organization wants to reach. And also don’t overlook individuals who serve on national boards, where they make contacts all across the country.

Tapping diverse talents always leads to a stronger board. And a stronger board helps you avoid costly mistakes and deliver on your bottom line: the mission.

Amy DeLouise is a video producer/director and consultant who works primarily with nonprofits and their leadership teams.

Brain Chemical Connects Us to Human Stories

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When we watch cSigning a Checkharacters on the screen, why do they make us laugh or cry? And why does one story make us want to support a charity or social cause? It turns out compelling human stories trigger a chemical response in our brains. Neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zak has been studying the neurochemical oxytocin for years, and learned that humans have a chemical response similar to animals when we find another human trust-worthy: a spike in our oxytocin makes us feel connected to another human being. Even when watching the human on a screen, this response is triggered—what Dr. Zak calls the golden rule response: “if you treat me well, in most cases my brain will synthesize oxytocin and this will motivate me to treat you well in return.”

Most recently, Dr. Zak conducted a study with several short films from St. Jude’s Hospital. When viewers connected with the characters in a short film about a father whose young son is dying of cancer, they had an increase in cortisol and oxytocin. That chemical boost ran parallel to feelings of empathy with the characters, which was increased when there was a strong “narrative arc”—a powerful dramatic rise and climax to the real people story line.

This doesn’t come as a big surprise to those of us working in nonprofit direct response and impact story-telling. We know that to get donors to give and communities to care, we have to tell powerful stories. We know that viewers must connect emotionally with our characters, just as they would with characters in a fiction film. We do this through not just their words and images, but through lighting techniques, music scoring and the pacing of our edits. But building empathy isn’t enough. We have to create a dramatic arc that builds to a climax. We have to create suspense around some kind of obstacle that the characters must overcome, whether it is in their past or present. And our viewers have to relate to that obstacle, even if it is not precisely the same for them.

This is why pre-interviewing potential characters is so essential for documentary-style stories based on real people. Before they go on camera, we need to understand what will be compelling, what will not be relatable, and what will build suspense for our viewers.  And now it turns out that what we’re also doing is triggering those chemical responses in the brain that will make our subjects and their story connect to the brains of our viewers.  In the case of nonprofit storytelling, we need those chemical responses to be strong, because we are usually looking for a response that extends to well after the video ends: we want a viewer to get involved in a cause, donate money, write to their elected officials, or change some previous behavior (stop smoking, lose weight, etc). So it turns out that all these years I thought I was an English major-turned-filmmaker, it turns out that I’m in the neuroscience business: triggering a brain response that helps people act on the golden rule, and do great things for others and the world.

Amy DeLouise is a director and producer who tells real people stories to help viewers connect with causes and take action.

3 Ways to Ruin Your Next Video (and How to Fix Them)

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Amy DeLouise Dynamotion set   1. Your Client (or Boss) Wants Your Video to “Go Viral”

Of course they do. But your project doesn’t have Jennifer Aniston as its on-screen host. Nor have you the budget to license Gerry Rafferty’s famous Baker Street song for the big finish. Not to mention the fact that you can’t afford to rent a large hard-cyc studio with full production crew, direct the separate shoot and graphics session for the dancing babies, and don’t forget about the puppy and its handler! But we digress…

Solution: So if you don’t have the budget for those things, how do you give your client the views they want? The first way is to assess where their community lives online. Are they pinning on Pinterest? Tweeting on Twitter? Posting images to Instagram? Checking in on Facebook? When you understand the platform where your community lives, you can more successfully design content they want to interact with and share with friends and colleagues. I hate to mention that your end product might not even need to be a video. It might be more effective as an Infographic that tells your story. It might be a powerful image that can get pinned and reposted. It might just be a fantastic blog post that you cross-promote by making it a guest blog post on a more trafficked site where your community likes to be informed.

 2. Your Client or Boss Wants to be IN the Video

Of course they do. They are the head of a department. They are an expert. They are in charge of this project. And maybe they are just fantastic on camera. But chances are, they aren’t. Chances are, they do more speaking in front of live humans, not lenses. And so you will need to come up with Another Way.

Solution: Enter animation. Animation can allow your on-screen host to introduce ideas and elements that bounce around on the screen and keep everyone’s attention, without having to just look at a talking head. Lots of companies are now providing Whiteboard Animation services for educational/informational productions. But really any animation style can be used as long as you take the time to develop a script, and storyboard out the frames so you know what visuals are best for telling your story.

3. You Plan to Shoot This Video on Your iPhone

Sure, you can do this. I even have iPhone footage of myself on this website. But I produced it using professional lights, a teleprompter, a backdrop, and someone to help me so I wasn’t juggling everything myself.

Solution 1: Remember that if you decide to shoot with a phone, the lens is the size of your fingernail. It will not be able to capture images and lighting with dramatic contrasts or motion, so keep things reasonably steady and use supplemental lighting.  You’ll need to hold on each planned shot for longer than you think, as the phone will shave the last few frames off each image as it saves them. But even more important than the images, a phone will only record the audio you provide it. That means, having someone shout and hope your on-board mic will pick it up won’t work. You’ll need to have a DAR (digital Audio Recorder) and a mic. It’s worth the investment if you plan on doing this often.  You’ll also need iMovie or some other editing program to help you get rid of unwanted scenes and frames. There are plenty of consumer products to choose from. One other note: phone footage will not do well if you are planning to blow up your video on a large conference screen (move to Solution 2).

Solution 2: If you decide being a videographer, sound recordist, director, producer, and editor is too much for you, then planning your workflow with a professional production team can improve your results. If you’re concerned about the budget, plan to lessen the work for the outside team by doing these time-intensive tasks yourself: location scouting, interview scheduling, and supplemental photo or footage research within your company archive or stock archives.

Amy DeLouise is a writer, producer, director and speaker who loves making great video content come alive.

 

Sure Way to Increase Donors and Activists: Tell Stories

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Sky at Sunset In philanthropy, the saying is that people give to people, not causes. Connecting at the level of hearts and minds has always been critical to building long-term relationships with donors, and also with grassroots supporters. And the best way to do that is through storytelling.  Now that YouTube, Vimeo, and other Web 2.0 tools are giving so many nonprofits a “channel” for their stories, personal narrative is being rediscovered.  But to tell a compelling story requires critical elements.

What makes a compelling story about mission?

1.       Focus on outcomes. Everyone loves a success story. Reality TV is filled with them: obese person becomes thinner, aspiring chef wins the prize, talented singer gets a record deal.  Think of the success stories in your organization, but instead of listing them as bullet-points, express them through anecdotal stories.

2.       Focus on people. The people who make it happen and the people whose lives are changed. Who are the people who made a difference in students lives? What are those students doing today? Who is the volunteer who went into a community and changed it for the better? What is happening in that neighborhood now? What would have happened to that child without a medical intervention paid for by others? What kind of life does this child have today?  Interview-driven narratives are highly successful at building the case for donors and volunteers.

3.       Show why your organization matters. Somewhere in the narrative, you need to show viewers why your organization made a tangible difference in the outcome.  It wasn’t just random acts of kindness that led to this success. It was your people, your dedication, your/their dollars at work.

4.       Engage viewers in their own narrative. Make sure there is a call to action somewhere in your story, usually at the very end. “How can you make a difference just like Alice did?”  “With just 20 cents per day, you can change the life of a child like Shawn.” “Join us at our XYZ event to make your voice heard.”  Think about what story viewers want to create for themselves after watching yours.

5.       Provide follow-up options. If a viewer is moved by your narrative, they should easily be able to click somewhere next to the video or case study to do something–sign up for the conference, make a donation, become a member.  Despite the tendency to want sheer numbers—hey, our video got 20,000 views!—you really want qualified viewers. And viewers who will ACT once they’ve heard your story. So be sure you provide a way they can engage other than passive viewing. The framework around the video should have clickable links. And if you are participating in Youtube’s nonprofit program, you can embed links to your nonprofit site directly in your video content.

Telling and hearing stories is our oldest human instinct. Web 2.0 just makes it easier to share.

Amy DeLouise helps nonprofits tell their stories, strategize about their futures, and influence the world around them.

Do Tag Lines Matter?

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Labyrinth_HigherEdAmyDeLouiseBlogIn a word, yes. Especially in a hashtag- and keyword-based world. Of course, not every organization needs a tag line. The American Red Cross does not use one. But then, you know what they do and how they do it. Sometimes, the very best tag lines tell you why an organization does what it does.  In consultant-speak, this is called the “Vision” of the organization (as opposed to the Mission, which is the what and the how). So, your mission might be to feed the homeless, but your vision is a world without homelessness.  And that premise–and your passion about it–should underly your tag line.

The Salvation Army has a tagline:

Doing the Most Good®

It’s a little generic. But my guess is they decided to have this because the words “salvation” and “army” both carry heavy negative connotations. The word “good” by contrast, has a very warm and fuzzy feel to it. “Doing” demonstrates an active stance. “Doing good” could describe pretty much any nonprofit. By adding in “most” they are communicating effectiveness and efficiency–the best use of your money.

Many nonprofits less well known than The Salvation Army use a tag line to enhance identity and market positioning in a crowded space. Particularly if the name does not provide full clarity about their Mission or Vision.  One of my favorites is the tag for Common Cause: Holding Power Accountable.

When developing a tag line, there are three steps you can take to help you:

1. Define Your Brand Personality (smart, young, respected, edgy, etc.)

2. Define Your Vision (the way the world would be if you succeeded 100% in your mission) and what makes you so passionate about it.

3. Determine Your “Gap”–that is, the gap that might exist between what your name says and who you are, which is often the gap between what people know about you and what you WANT them to know about you.

Defining your message in just a few words can be a challenge, but a tag line can go a long way towards helping you define your identity in an ever-crowded marketplace.

Amy DeLouise consults on nonprofit branding, and produces digital content to promote those brands.

Your Board is a Branding Asset

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Many nonprofits struggle with how to engage the board in branding and marketing. Sometimes staff even view the board as adversaries in this work, who think marketing is a distraction from mission. But the board may be your hidden asset if you give them the right tools. Consider these five ways to engage the board on behalf of this important work.

1. Connect Marketing to Mission. Board members are involved because they care about the mission and are connected to it in some personal way.  Set aside time at one meeting to have each board member identify a core aspect of your mission that they find most important and why.  Have each board member name one or two ways they could connect another circle they move in (social, work, alumni, etc.) to this aspect of your mission.

2. Find Examples From Other Spaces. Nonprofit board members often work in the for-profit world. Bring them examples they recognize–from banking or real estate or law.  A legal video that went viral on YouTube (there are some!), a business Twitter campaign, a newspaper story that generated web views and buzz. All of these can help your brand ambassadors understand the role of marketing in delivering on the mission.

3. Help Board Members Use Social Media. Many board members skew older than staff.  They may not be comfortable using social tools, or they may not consider using them to promote the work of the organization. Give board members monthly updates with hashtags, photos and other resources to help promote your upcoming fundraiser or event.  Give them examples of how retweeting or tagging and posting a photo on their Facebook page might net you hundreds of new views and real dollars.

4. Give Board Members Tangible Updates of Your Messaging Impact. Give board members an inside look at your social metrics–what pages on your website are most “sticky” and why, how many people follow your blog, what happens when you tweet, when you post a new item on Facebook.  Give them not just numbers but stories about who your communities are, what they need from you, and what they respond to.

5. Show and Tell. Do a live demo of as you interact with various communities and constituencies through your different social networks. Let board members see in realtime the kind of impact you have, and how the message can be multiplied exponentially.

3 Ways Your Board Can Help Your Brand

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Blue Glass c B. DeLouise1.      Build in Time for Your Brand Story

Board members are obviously committed volunteers, but sometimes they are connected to your organization through only one pathway (i.e. a child with a disease that you are trying to cure, a son at your school, they are a member of your association, etc.)   So board members need to be briefed on your big picture “brand promise” to your customers and constituents. They also need to fully understand the experience you promote for your donors, your staff and your other volunteers.  A retreat is a great opportunity to build in time for board members to share their own experience of your brand, and to practice their “elevator pitch” – connecting your key brand talking points to their own personal experience with your organization.   Let them practice presenting, both one-on-one and to the full group.  This way, your board members can be better—and more comfortable—brand cheerleaders.

2.      Teach Board Members how to Share Their Passion Through Social Media

Many board members are not digital natives. They may need some help both understanding social media platforms and learning about the tools that make them effective. A retreat offers a unique time away from the bustle of everyday life to demonstrate how you are using social media to promote your organization, and how board members can help. For example, provide them with the hashtags of your upcoming fundraising events or keywords you want associated with your brand. Show them sample tweets, Facebook posts and Linked In updates. You can even break into smaller groups for working sessions with different social platforms. Finally, offer a link where board members can download approved photos or logos to use for such posts. And encourage them to share their personal stories about your organization. Your board members are ambassadors in the community both in person, and online—use them!

3.      Collect Stories of Your Brand in Action

People give to people, not causes. Connecting at the level of hearts and minds has always been critical to building long-term relationships with donors as well as grassroots supporters. The best way to do that is through storytelling.  Now that YouTube and other Web 3.0 tools are giving so many nonprofits a “channel” for their stories, personal narrative is being rediscovered.  Use your board retreat as an opportunity for sharing personal stories, and collecting those details that you can use in your next e-newsletter, Facebook posting or future web video.

Improve Fundraising Results in a Social Media World

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If your development director isn’t delivering on fundraising as you’d hoped, you’re not alone. According to a new national study by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, many nonprofits are not raising the money they need to succeed. For those on top, one of the key factors was “a culture of philanthropy” by an almost two to one margin.

What does a culture of philanthropy mean? According to the study:

  • People across the organization act as ambassadors and engage in relationship building.
  • Everyone promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving.
  • Fund development is viewed and valued as a mission-aligned program of the organization.
  • Organizational systems are established to support donors.
  • The executive director is committed and personally involved in fundraising.

At the heart of many of these success indicators is storytelling. And in today’s world that means harnessing digital media and social networks. Here are some ways to incorporate those tools in your fund raising work.

  1. Mission ambassadors and relationship building -Make sure board members, alumni, and other key supporters and donors use their social networks to promote your story. That means traditional social networks (i.e. speaking to friends about your organization), but also digital networks. Provide these boosters with regular support—like emailing the right hashtag to use when tweeting about an upcoming event, or sending them links to a new video on your web or Youtube page that showcases your mission in action.
  2. Everyone promotes philanthropy and can articulate a case for giving-Provide “elevator pitch” training volunteers, including board members, but also to staff who are not directly involved in fund raising.  Help these natural supporters explain the case for giving by explaining their own passion for the organization and their connection to your mission.
  3. Fund development is mission-aligned-Be sure budget presentations show your outputs (results) in terms of mission accomplishments, not just programs. Video and photos can be a great way to demonstrate this impact (and keeps people from falling asleep in budget meetings)
  4. Organizational systems support donors.- Cultivation systems and databases are critical. But one of the most overlooked “systems” is creating an internal online-accessible library of images, fund raising scripts, and videos that volunteers can use to make the case for support. Once you’ve create this space, be sure to encourage staff to update it regularly, so that new content is always available for the latest stories about your mission success.
  5. Executive Director commitment to fund raising. – Part of fund raising is not just meeting with prospective donors and making the ask, but raising the profile of the organization and its mission. ED’s can often raise their personal profile and reach a wider community efficiently by taking advantage of social media tools: regular blog writing, microblogging on Twitter, or even photos uploaded from events to Instagram.

There’s no magic potion for development success, but digital tools give us more of a boost than we realize.

Amy DeLouise frequently works with nonprofit boards, leaders, and marketing staff to improve their branding impact–in other words, how they tell their mission story.