Thanking donors through video has become increasingly popular. Too bad this effort from my alma mater falls flat. Here are 4 ways to improve this student “thank you” from Yale. You can easily incorporate these strategies in your next video project.
1. Authenticity. If the purpose of the video is to make donors smile, then it’s a fail. That’s because the students have obviously been asked to “look at the camera and say ‘thank you’.” We feel their awkwardness. Even throwing in the mascot dog doesn’t help. There’s a much better way to coax great performances out of non-performers. Have some conversations before you start filming. Don’t tell them exactly what to say. Give them context. Ask them some other questions first. Ask questions that elicit the answer you need (“what would you tell a donor who made it possible for you to have heat in your dorm this winter?) rather than asking the subject “when I say go, say thank you”.
For more interview techniques, see my course on Lynda.com (The Art of the Interview). Here’s a snippet about building rapport.
2.Depth of Field. Every shot has students plastered against the same stone wall. What a missed opportunity to show off the campus and the students in their “natural habitat”! Lenses aren’t just fancy add-ons. They are vital storytelling tools. By adding context in the background of a subject, you convey meaning and increase impact on the viewer.
3. Energy. Adding motion to the camera, and multiple camera angles, makes a HUGE difference in the energy and impact of a video. Who knows why the Yale videographer felt he or she couldn’t move from that one spot. But one easy way to add energy would be following some of the subjects down the walkway (which would automatically create depth of field as we’d see action in the background). I love having subjects talk while walking (or driving). Having different students pop up in a variety of places–the library, from behind a tree, from inside a classroom–would have added all kinds of energy to this piece. Plus alumns would have had a fun walk down memory lane seeing all these locations. In this video about a Rabbi, we shot him walking, driving, leading prayer, on the telephone—all things he does in his very busy days.
4. Music. Music has a big impact on the impression your video makes. It affects edit pacing and rhythm. While the laid-back guitar vibe of the Yale piece is nice for a Friday afternoon Frisbee game, it doesn’t convey the dynamism of student life. A catching music theme–and more variety in camera angles– leads to (millions!) more views of this flash mob video from Ohio State (though I’m guessing they didn’t get music licensing rights for the song)
So before you launch into a “quick” video for any purpose, think about how you can use these 4 simple tools to add impact.
Amy DeLouise is a producer and consultant who has created hundreds of videos for fundraising and education.
When SilverDocs became AFI Docs, the once highly successful documentary festival did more than change its name. It changed its brand. And not in a good way.
For over a decade, SilverDocs was a roaring success. The public-private partnership between AFI and Discovery Channel brought groundbreaking–and often future Oscar-winning–nonfiction films to the silver screen in a well-regarded documentary festival that supported the active local DC area film community, while drawing thousands to a newly renovated Silver Spring, Maryland cultural district. As a member of that local DC production community, I have been proud to see colleagues’ films screened, and see them debate with nationally known mediamakers on panels and in hallways. Our local chapter of Women in Film and Video, with 900 members, played an integral role in many of the events surrounding SilverDocs. Sky Sitney, the passionate and gifted director of the festival, took it to new heights of nonfiction program content and relationship-building.
Flash forward to the creation of “AFI Docs presented by Audi”—which already sounds like so many other corporate sponsorships such as FedEx Field and PNC Bank Arts Center. The festival turned away from its warm hug of the film community and became a more “industry-driven” project, according to a Washington Post interview of Nina Gilden-Seavey, Silverdocs founding director. The result was not just a damaged brand in the eyes of the local community. It was a bad employment brand, because the new mission was one its visionary leader couldn’t support. So Sitney has quit to pursue other ventures.
Rebranding can be a tricky endeavor. It’s a balancing act between where you’ve been and where you want to go. The trick of any rebrand is to avoid New Coke syndrome. You want to be sure that your community, and especially your leadership, can come along for the ride. (Hint: If you’re still being called “Formerly known as…” a year after your rebrand, it’s time to rethink the plan.) That’s not to say that change and progress aren’t a good idea for institutions. But an organization without its people won’t succeed in today’s interconnected brand landscape. And it takes more than sponsors to make a good nonprofit run well. Let’s hope AFI Docs will find its way to rebranding its rebrand, before it isn’t any brand at all.
Amy DeLouise is a multimedia producer who consults on branding and marketing for businesses and nonprofits. You can reach her at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com.
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.
With the recent passing of Eiji Toyoda, it’s a good moment to look at a man who re-invented the Toyota brand. While he didn’t found the company (a cousin did), Eiji Toyoda took the Toyota brand from a low-budget also-ran to a global powerhouse. How? By focusing on systems and how to make them better. And by letting the people inside the company help him do it.
Toyoda created a process of labeling assembly line parts–a precursor to the bar code–that made Toyota plants the model of efficiency. He also promoted “Kaizen”– a process of continuous improvement that, at least in his version of it, relied on the company’s own workers as the source of the best ideas to constantly improve quality and efficiency. Toyoda understood that what would distinguish his family’s cars from other cars was to deliver quality for a price-point that worked for American customers –the ultimate Toyota target market. Today, it’s hard to imagine someone not knowing the name of the company that has brought us the Lexus, the Prius and the Camry.
But when organizations talk about re-inventing their brand, they often think first about logos, websites, social media campaigns and marketing slogans. These are essential tools, don’t get me wrong. What’s often missing from the recipe for a better brand is, well, a better brand. Toyoda’s secret ingredient was to focus on how people and processes delivered cheaper, better cars. Translated for nonprofits, that means delivering on the mission in a way that is more consistent, with more impact. Communicating about that terrific quality and impact is actually the last step in the process.