Getting more out of video for your charity (Guest Post)

In this guest post, Adam Woods, senior writer/director,, shares his top seven tips for how charities can use video to spread their message without breaking the bank.

| 20th Oct 14

In this guest post, Adam Woods, senior writer/director,, shares his top seven tips for how charities can use video to spread their message without breaking the bank.

You’re a charity, you’d like to use video to help get your message across, but you think it might be too expensive? Well, the good news is – it needn’t be!

I’ve outlined a few tips below to help you get the most views for your video project, without a Hollywood budget!

1. Be honest

Before you start, it’s worth being honest whether video is the right medium for your message. Imagine yourself as a News at Ten editor. You have twenty stories clamouring for attention for the bulletin tonight, but only finite resources to send a crew out to film a story. Would your charity’s story make the grade, or would it be as well-served using some crisp written copy and some well-chosen pictures instead?

2. Be brief

Next, I think an essential part of any creative project is the brief – this will be the blueprint for your video.

Not satisfied with being one of the 20th century’s more noted scientists, Einstein was fascinated with the act of creativity. Here’s his quote I use a lot when I’m working out how to approach a project:

A succinct definition of what you want to communicate and why is often harder to do than come up with the idea. That’s why so many people skip it – they go straight to ‘shoot’ before ‘aim’. But in my experience, a well-defined brief is essential in any creative project, and below I’ve created a handy acronym to help me remember the key proponents to the brief.

Viral3. Be well-armed

Here’s my own template for creating a good brief: PAM’S ARM.

Try and get your brief down onto one side of A4 with just a sentence for of these areas:

P is for purpose – simply put, what is the reason for making the video? Keep it direct, and honest using language everyone will understand.

A is for audience – who do you want to watch this? Try to avoid being too general, and paint a memorable picture of them as real people. If there is more than one audience for the video (e.g. trustees and donors), check whether you’re trying to fit in more than one purpose for the video.

M is for message – single-minded, simple, and honest. This isn’t the creative idea behind the project; it’s summing up what you want to say in an easily understandable way.

S is for support for that message – what facts support this message? Real measurable facts work best, even if they aren’t that palatable. The more honest you are in the brief, the greater the chance your video has to touch the hearts of your audience.

A is for attitude – what is the tone of voice you want? Try to avoid being too general, and paint a picture of what kind of personality you want the video to have so it can resonate with your audience.

R is for response – what is the one thing you’d like your audience to feel, do, or say the moment they have finished watching your video?

M is for mandatory – is there anything that absolutely HAS to be in the video?

It’s always worth having a few people outside the organisation read your brief to make sure that it rings true. Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re that close to the project.

4. Be realistic

I like bringing this up in meetings with clients when they ask how much a video will cost:

You can have it quick.

You can have it good.

You can have it cheap.

But you can only have two of these at any one time.

Seeing you want it good and cheap, that means the quick approach is out. So valuable time spent in the planning and finding your contributors is really important. Think of a timescale, and double it. You’ll find you have more choices, and a better result.

5. Be open

So now you have a brief and a realistic timescale, how do you go about making it?

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret about charities and video. They are made for each other. Why? Because at the heart of charity is giving and improving people’s lot. And people LOVE telling stories like this. So your project may well be very attractive to some professional video makers.

My suggestion is you try and attract the best professionals you can to your project, by being really clear about your objectives (the brief), professional in your approach (realistic timescale), and open in how much you have to spend.

You can try and make the video yourselves, and in future posts I will be giving you some tips on how to do this, but good film-making is a craft, and I’m suggesting that even with a small budget, you might find that video professionals are more interested in working with you than you might expect.

Team6. Build a team

I think it’s useful to divide up the process of making a video into separate stages so that you can see what type of person you’ll need at what stage.

In general there are three main stages – design, build, finish.

Design – basically the blueprint for your project, this is most commonly the script, but can be a storyboard. Find someone who is passionate about your work, but is also experienced in writing/storyboarding for video. There are numerous freelancers out there who you can talk to. Try a freelance site like PeoplePerHour or Elance. I would advise talking to them in person (even if it’s Skype) so you can get a feel for their approach and that you’re talking the same language.

Build – this is where you actually set about making your video. This is commonly a shoot, but could also be animation. This is often the most expensive part of your project, so pre-planning is essential. And with a crew or cameraperson, they will tend to charge by the day, so it’s worth getting all your interviewees in the same place. Also, find locations that are quiet, light and accessible.

Finish – this is where you take the raw material from your shoot, and edit it. You’re effectively bringing all the elements together, such as sound, vision, music and voice, so it’s good idea to get a good editor to come on board and help you. A good edit can really make the difference between an average video and one that really sings!

With all the accessible digital technology around, you can find one person to do all three of these. I’ve written, produced, filmed and edited videos. But I’m definitely better at some things than others! So see if you can find specialists, or companies who have the different skills within one team.

7. Finally – be bold

It’s often the simplest ideas that can cut through the noise on our screens, so don’t be put off by complexity of video technology or jargon about vlogs and video content. At the heart of connecting with audiences is a good idea.

So plan your brief, and get it out there – and be bold with going with a strong idea.