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Case Study: What It Takes To Make A Video With Impact

Nonprofits like the idea of videos but are often skittish about deciding to make a video. Too expensive. Too much time. Too many unknowns, like when, why and how to make one.

With that in mind, I want to share a video that I did for a client recently and then share some takeaways.

As background, Texas Health and Environment Alliance (THEA) works to give a voice to people who live near superfund sites and other sources of toxic chemicals. The group has helped build a coalition of residents of Houston's Greater Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens, an area that has suffered from years of environmental injustice. Recently THEA organized a news conference so that those residents could talk to reporters about living in a known cancer cluster. The event was attended by reporters and shown over Facebook Live. That's what we used to put together a video that focused on people telling their stories in their own words.

So, a few things to draw from this.

  1. Video works best when it connects us with other human beings. It can convey emotion better than any other medium. Emotion creates empathy and isn't that what nonprofits are all about - Building the emotional links between people that can spark action? It's important to remember that emotion can't be manufactured; it must be honest.

  2. Less than perfect is more than enough. There was a time when video had to be high production value - and there is still a place for high quality videos for big events, like a gala - but after 15 years of watching pet videos on social media, viewers' standards have changed. Thank goodness. This particular video presented a lot of challenges. It was shot on a cell phone, shown on Facebook Live video, saved as a recording and then edited. The video looked muddy and the audio from the cell phone mic was awful. So, we leaned into the quality problems, only showing the speakers on part of the screen and showing their words in text so the viewer could read what they couldn't hear. In some ways, the roughness gave people's stories more impact.

  3. No script, no problem. In this video, people speak from the heart. Their pain and frustration come through in a way that would have been lost if they'd read from prepared statements. Nonprofits always want to put themselves in the best light when they make a video. They plan out their message, script their statements and practice in the mirror. That can backfire. We don't talk like that in real life and it can come off as inauthentic.

  4. Canva! The first portable TV-quality video camera cost as much as a small house in the late 1970s. News crews shot their stories and then went into a special booth and put their stories together on equally expensive editing gear. This video was shot on a regular smart phone and edited on a laptop using a free open-source editing software and Canva, a graphic design tool that is offered free to nonprofits. Tools that we could only dream of a few years ago are at our fingertips today.

Effective videos don't rely on high quality production, a perfectly polished script or expensive technology. They require creativity, patience, and a storyteller's perspective. More important than any of that is the person telling that story. If they are genuine and their emotion comes from their real experience, video will capture it better than any other medium.

Do you have stories to tell? Let's talk! Email


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