The Power of Images in Storytelling
Images can be just as powerful as words. When we pair our stories with images we have an opportunity to add another layer to the conversation, tailor our message and give it a touch of branding. Whether it’s raw or edited, video is a mighty tool for attracting attention to your company, product or initiative.
Forget those clunky camcorders. Today, anyone with a decent cellphone or digital camera can record video. It seems you can’t watch a breaking news story on television without seeing footage from an eyewitness who was at the scene long before the professionals, capturing an event as it played out in real-time. With the same basic, readily-available technology in hand, you too can harness the power of video, become a storyteller and elevate your company’s message.
Do it right and you could add an invaluable asset to your marketing and communications arsenal. Do it wrong and you’ve wasted time and resources, or worse, distracted from your message altogether.
Here are some things to think about before you hit the record button:
Know Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach? You can’t make an impactful video if you don’t know who you are targeting. If you are trying to reach a broad audience, your video has to convey the story in a simple but memorable way. For example, if you are trying to take a complicated scientific product to a mainstream consumer base you have to cut out the jargon and present your message in laymen’s language. On the other hand, if your video is only intended for experts in your field, then you can tell the story at their elevated level. When creating a video for the media, do not hand them an advertisement. It has to have an editorial purpose that correlates with the newsworthiness of your latest pitch.
Who is Your Voice?
Once you know your audience, you can determine who should tell your story and how. Sure, your employees will probably think any video about a project they’ve been a part of is good enough for the company Facebook page, but that is not the goal. You need to find the right person or people to tell it, in a manner and tone that appeal outside the walls of your corporate headquarters. C-level execs are great but are they always the best person to tell your story? The answer just may be “yes” if you’re trying to reassure investors of your financial solvency. But maybe the person who should tell your story is the engineer who has spent years working on the same project day in and day out, or the scientist who got into medical research because cancer touched his family. Maybe you should think outside the box, and find the average person whose life was impacted for the better by your company’s work. The more humanized and relatable, the better. Your “voice” can narrate the piece, provide a compelling interview or just be a central character throughout the video. Whoever you choose, choose wisely and don’t choose too many.
For example, when Twitter jumped into the IPO waters, the company posted the video below on its YouTube page, summing up its journey in just 1:41 minutes. In this instance, the story was about the company’s success and infiltration into world culture. Who better to talk about the evolution than the founders themselves?
The Images Must Match the Message
If someone is confused about why you are showing something, they will spend all their time trying to figure out why and none of their time listening or absorbing. Whether this is during a presentation or an interview, or via captions on the screen or a voice track, the words and the images cannot compete. When what the ears are hearing is in sync with what the eyes are seeing, your message can be digested in one harmonious piece. Journalists understand this concept so be sure to tailor any visual materials you offer them to the topic you’ll be discussing. They don’t want what is known in the broadcast world as “wallpaper,” which, as the name suggests, is nothing more than generic video to cover a blank space.
Too Many Words Can Be a Bad Thing
Sometimes a graphic or animation can explain a concept better than video. If you are integrating a graphic into your video content, keep it simple. The same rules you learned about making paper or computer-aided resources apply: easy-to-read fonts, a simple color palette, etc. It’s important to remember that if the graphic is only on the screen for a few seconds, you should include only what can be fully read and understood in that span of time. If you are including a quote, be sure it is read to your audience. Otherwise your audience will be reading the quote and not listening to your message.
Quality Still Matters
Oh, cellphone video. It’s a blessing and a curse. Aside from a breaking news situation, media outlets will be hesitant to use your video as supplemental material if the quality is not good. Shaky video is distracting and looks unprofessional. If you are going to be making a habit of recording on your camera, tablet or phone, invest in a tripod or devise another device to stabilize your shot. It can make a huge difference.
Here is a timely example of poor quality video that served a great news purpose but would not be acceptable under most other circumstances. If you are considering using video that looks remotely like this, please think twice. (Warning before you click: this video is not G-rated.)
If It’s Yours, Protect It
If you are sharing your video with a media outlet or posting it to the internet, remember, once it’s out of your hands it’s gone. Some higher level news agencies may ask to license the content, which will put strict time and usage restrictions on the video. Others will not put any usage restrictions in place, unless you ask for them in writing. Either way, it’s a good idea to font the video with your company’s name and/or logo in the top right corner. That way wherever it ends up, people know where it came from. You don’t want it to be archived in a footage library and used as b-roll (generic video cover) down the road for a story you don’t want your company associated with.
So go ahead and illustrate your story…but go carefully, choose wisely, and have some fun.