Using Video to tell Stories of Impact

How leaders can use visual storytelling to reach people, mobilize them, and amplify their message.

What would we do if New York City’s taps went dry? In an outstanding video story, Charity:Water had movie star Jennifer Connelly walk to Central Park with a gasoline can to get dirty water from the lagoon and bring it home to her children — as millions of mothers do daily across the globe. The video transforms a serious problem from statistics into a narrative the viewer has an emotional connection with.

Through our work, we have developed five principles that allow leaders to create compelling visual media.

1. Articulate strategic objectives

Crafting effective content starts with articulating clear goals and understanding your target audience (including their interests and motivation). The importance of your stories can create pressure to rush or skip planning stages. However, designing an engagement plan is imperative to reaching the right people and mobilising them for your cause. Careful planning will ensure that the key messages are clear, that the video narrative is consistent and that the voiceover, footage, and motion graphics are aligned with those messages to create a coherent and strategic video.

2. Develop engaging, emotional storylines

Facts can be committed to memory, but emotions are far more powerful. Pull the reader into your story right from the onset. The more they feel while encountering your story, the more powerful the connection with your brand. That emotional connection is best developed by showing your audience tangible evidence of your on-the-ground work. Help them buy into you story by giving them concrete examples of how your work has affected lives. Specifics, in this case, can speak volumes.

3. Be authentic and relatable

The content you are creating is about bringing the reality you face on a day-to-day basis to the world. To do this, honesty and transparency are key. Make your stories personal. The charity:water video shifts a problem that can feel far away into a viewer’s known space, which allows them to see it in a different way and understand the issue more emotionally. Your stories are not about pitching. They are not about selling. They’re about you! They’re about creating a connection with your user. Those users want to hear your voice, your experience, your insight. One way to do that is to let the your personality and your brand persona shine through. The more specific and concrete the examples used are, the more real and authentic the story will feel.

4. Collaborate with talented storytellers

Keep in mind that effective storytelling is a skill that is developed over time. Professionals have creative and technical expertise that they have honed over years to help them turn compelling stories into high-quality content. Skilled storytellers are able to take complex, difficult topics and whittle them down to their simplest form without losing the emotional impact. As with many things, simplicity can allow for the most impact but is often the hardest to achieve. This is a craft of patience and the reward is well worth the effort. Collaboration with people and teams who have the knowledge and practice to produce great stories can jump start your content.

5. Build campaigns beyond the video

Strategy reaches beyond a single piece of content. Think of the story you are telling as stretching across your organisation’s entire timeline. Creating a cohesive voice across pieces will allow you to position yourself against competitors, as well as more effectively publicise events, attract applicants, amplify your mission, raise funding, and show the impact of your projects. Create a social media campaign around a video using talking heads, snippets, and GIFS. Engage your users. Ask them questions — engage your users and create a lasting conversation.
You’ve built your mission and your brand. Now it’s time to tell your story. People want to hear it!

Interested in creative impact storytelling? Our partner company Mensch Creative produces videos to tell stories of impact. —
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