This week’s Academy Awards were another reminder of the power of visual storytelling. However, unlike Hollywood film studios, most of us don’t have millions of dollars and state-of-the-art equipment to deploy when creating our own visual content.
Succeeding on social means mastering video and visuals on a much smaller scale. It can be difficult to keep on top of all the trends, but if we want to reach young audiences with our messages on climate change or gender equality, then we will need to take risks, venture onto new platforms and explore new formats. This can be daunting, but the DevCom community is full of advice and good ideas.
Our DevCom Zooms In event on 13 April brought together about 40 communications experts to share experiences and advice on “Viral Video and Visual Branding”. How can we produce great content on a budget? And how can we increase our chances of going viral?
Based on our lively discussion, here are five principles to bear in mind the next time you’re planning to go visual in your communications.
Principle 1: Connect with People’s Emotions
In her opening remarks, our DevCom Co-Chair Amalia Navarro (@Amalia224), comms director at SEGIB, put it best: videos need to evoke emotion. Before filming a video, ask yourself not only what your audience needs to know, but what they are concerned about you want them to feel. People can only remember a limited number of facts and figures. Connecting with audiences means focusing on their lives … the food they love, the music they like or the landscapes they dream about. And a quick look at search engine data will tell you what audiences care about most.
Principle 2: Count Every Second
It only takes one second to scroll past a video that took hours to produce. Our guests from TikTok — George Nikolaou (@nikolaou_george0), Yuan Cheng, and Matthew Harris (@matthew-harris) – told us that, on their platform, the first three seconds (yes – that’s 3 seconds!) need to be particularly attention-grabbing and engaging.
The most effective videos across all platforms are short, simple,
and to the point! They are also consistent. Find a posting frequency
that suits your schedule and make sure that your posts appear
at regular times every week.
Principle 3: Optimize Your Platforms
With new platforms emerging all the time, where do we publish our content? Laura Parry-Davies and Jessica Voorhees, both digital communications officers at the OECD Development Centre, advised us to do our homework. You can’t be everywhere, so find out where your audience is and what formats they prefer. This can help you choose up to 3 main platforms.
Once you know where you need to be, you can save time and money by creating content that you can adapt and re-use across platforms. Our speaker Basak Pamir (@Basak_Pamir), Senior Communications Officer at the OPEC Fund, agreed that we should be creating multiple assets from one video, be it by shortening, lengthening, or making small changes to stretch it. There are many tools that can help you do this, including Adobe Spark, PlayPlay, Moovly, Kine Master, Frame.io, and Canva.
Principle 4: Build Partnerships
Don’t try to produce all your content alone, or to reach your audiences with only your accounts. There are many ways to partner up! Many of the most successful campaigns have thrived on user-generated content. Challenge your audiences to produce their own videos, for example through challenges or contests. More generally, don’t forget to prompt users to engage with your content, for example, by liking, sharing or commenting – they won’t do this unless you ask them to!
Building partnerships also means partnering with influencers. Sara Fonseca Silva (@sarasilva_lf), social media manager at the European Commission, noted that while trends in video production come and go, influencers have been a mainstay, and we need to capitalise on them. UN social media expert Gisel Ducatenzeiler (@giselduca) furthered this discussion by sharing advice on partnering with local “micro” influencers to help reach very specific audiences. You need to do prior research in order to make sure that your partner aligns with the values and goals of your organisation.
Principle 5: Practice Makes Perfect – for Real
A final bit of advice from the heart: don’t try to be perfect! Videos are about human connection, and humans make mistakes. Indeed, imperfections can make your videos more authentic, and thus more watchable. What is important is sharing your unique voice and personality. Think about the people, images and places that distinguish your organisation and be sure to give them lots of space in your videos.
So don’t be afraid and just start, even if you do not yet have the budget and tools to produce an Academy Award winner! Please share your results with us and count on the DevCom Community for feedback and support. For more ideas, you can also check out our Toolkit for Sustainable Development Communicators, which includes advice on choosing formats, channels and partners.
P.S. If you’re interested in getting your organisation on TikTok, check out the TikTok for Good initiative (Twitter, Facebook), which provides partners with account verification, content support and strategy during their first few months on the platform.