CASE District I wishes to thank Embryo Creative for their generous support as a gold conference sponsor and for their work in designing and producing our 2019 conference welcome video. Embryo Creative has supported CASE DI for three years.
Ask yourself: would you watch one of your institution’s videos?
If one randomly popped up in your social media feed, would you slow your scroll and watch the first 5, 15, or 30 seconds? Would you watch to the end? Would you click on through to the landing page?
If the answer is “no,” think about why.
Is the video too long?
Nope. It’s just the right length!
Is the cinematography bland and lifeless?
Nope. It’s gorgeous!
Is the subject stiff on camera?
Nope. They were so relaxed!
So if you’re acing the production values, what’s wrong?
Why aren’t people watching and responding?
Am I boring you?
Perhaps your video is just...well...boring.
You’re in good company.
There are hundreds of big budget Hollywood flops that have turned away audiences. Thousands of television shows that died in the ratings. And countless ads viewers just skipped.
It’s not a problem specific to higher education marketing, but it is a problem affecting your ability to connect with students, alumni, and donors.
We live in a hypercompetitive media landscape where all content producers (like you) are vying for a fixed, finite resource: viewer attention.
Your video is competing not only against productions from other universities and other non-profits, but also against Stranger Things, Marie Kondo, The Avengers, Twitch, the Kardashians, Big Little Lies, Law and Order: SVU marathons, and Game of Thrones (spoiler alert: it doesn't end well). Plus, lest we forget, cutesy cat videos.
There's too many demands and not enough attention to go around.
So what should you do?
How can you make videos your audience will actually watch? And share?
First. Don’t increase your budget. Not yet.
Yes, more money can fix many things that turn off viewers. A healthy budget lets you hire talented people to act, film, and edit. It lets you spend more time researching stories or coaching subjects. It lets you experiment with visual effects or camera trickery.
But all the money in the world can’t fix boring.
So what can?
Why you watch
Think about what makes a great video.
There may be a compelling story with enigmatic characters. Heroes and villains. Conflict and resolution.
I bet there’s purpose. And focus. And soul.
Above all, I bet there’s something unexpected that grabs your attention and won’t let go.
Change isn’t (that) hard.
When you defy expectations people are more likely to watch.
Of course, that’s probably easier for me to say than for you to do.
You may be facing an institutional culture that eschews change. Or perhaps you don’t have the right team in place with the right mix of creative storytelling skills.
So start small. A little creativity goes a long way.
Experiment. Always and often.
Most academic videos that I’ve seen are interview-driven.
If that’s the case for you, try filming your next interview with the subject standing instead of sitting. Just to mix it up.
Next, experiment framing your subjects with a super-wide angle lens and conduct the interview in an interesting place on campus. Make the location a character, not just a backdrop.
Then take a leap and film away from campus. Show the world beyond the quad.
Take one risk with every video you produce and soon, you’ll be telling different kinds of stories. Ones that start in the middle. Or begin at the end and go backwards. Maybe instead of telling one story in two minutes, you attempt to tell twenty.
Finally, something interesting.
The more risks you take the more interesting your videos will become. And the more your viewers will reward you with their precious time.
One day you may even cast your school’s most-famous acapella group in a series of skits that involve increasingly perplexed students hearing music in the most unexpected places on campus...like from a hamburger in the dining hall.
If that popped up in your feed, you’d probably stick around to see what happens. And so would your audience.
About the author(s)
Ryan Ferland is Director at Embryo Creative. Since 2007, he’s helped academic institutions tell stories with purpose and wow viewers. See for yourself at embryocreative.com