May 2, 2012

An engaging, uplifting nonprofit promo video

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Code for America from Inkerman Road on Vimeo.

Code for America: 5 tips on upping your video game

Lauren MajorCode for America, a nonprofit that uses technology to transform local governments, boasts a creative, compelling promotional video that not only clearly describes its message but also engages its viewers to get involved. In just five simple steps, any nonprofit can follow its example.

Be human and personal

1Be sure to make a personal connection early in the video. Many organizations and causes have a cohort of motivated, smiling people behind it. Bring these people to the forefront and show how upbeat and promising working for the cause is! Code for America illustrates its work environment by interviewing employees about what part of the job and cause they like. People are human and social creatures and are more inclined to stick with a video if they can relate to the on-screen subjects.

Use captivating visuals

2Watching a talking head is no fun for anyone. But listening to someone speak while looking at colorful flowers or a fun work environment is far more interesting. The supplemental footage in a video that does not capture a talking head is called b-roll. For example, Code for America’s video displays a shot of the office while founder Jennifer Pahlka speaks over it.

Get creative with light

3The video’s lighting is bright and vibrant throughout. This, quite literally, illustrates Code for America’s cause in a positive light. For example, founder Jennifer Pahlka is interviewed outside, allowing her to be shot with the warmth of natural lighting. The creative use of silhouettes, close-ups and angles, by video producers Inkerman Road, provides a nice break from the traditional head and shoulders frame.

Keep it short — under 2 minutes

The completion rate for a 30 second video is close to 90%, but it drops to about 50% if the video is 2 minutes

4The ideal length of a web video is under 2 minutes. People love video, but attention spans today are dreadfully short. This Code for America piece clocks in at 2 minutes 30 seconds. Wistia, a popular Web video hosting service, found that the completion rate for a 30 second video is close to 90 percent, but it drops to barely more than 50 percent if the video is 2 minutes. Of course, completion rate might not be critical, as long as viewers get the important bits of your message and are happy with your video. But if the call to action is in the last 10 seconds and no one watches that far, you have a problem.  Which is why it’s a really good idea to front-load the video with the call to action and other critical message elements. Whatever you want the targeted audience to walk away knowing should be at the start of the video.

Instill optimism and hope

5Code for America does not focus on what the government is doing wrong, or why its services are necessary. That would lower the mood of viewers. Instead, the organization encourages people to take action by focusing on the future and how the combination of technology and government can improve lives, ending with a positive message: “Try helping your government work better for you and see what happens.”

Did you improve your video to make it more successful? Are you interested in learning how you could? Let us know if you’d like us to analyze your video.Lauren Major is a visual storyteller who helps nonprofits, NGOs and small to mid-size businesses create and share their stories of social good and corporate social responsibility. She is a visual artist, consultant, producer and a partner in Socialbrite. Visit her profile page, see her Major Multimedia site and blog, follow her on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.

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