Video storytelling to amplify the impact of your organization

A screenshot from Storyvine, the guided video service.
A screenshot from Storyvine, the guided video service.

A scaled solution for nonprofits looking to create video content

By Kyle Shannon

Kyle ShannonStories are the lifeblood of social organizations. To a large degree, your ability to tell stories is directly proportional to your ability to succeed and grow. While charts and graphs of success are important, the stories of people you impact is the best proof there is.

Video is an increasingly powerful and in-demand way to share these stories, and yet a major challenge remains. How do you increase your ability to produce video content without dramatically increasing your budget?

If you want to create video, you effectively have two major options. There’s professional video, which is typically high quality but is limited in its scalability. It can be expensive, slow and logistically complicated.

On the other side of the coin is user-generated video, which seems great in theory. It’s authentic, often engaging and you can have as much as you want, since there are now billions of devices with high-quality cameras. The problem? User-generated video is completely out of your control, and the storytelling quality is unpredictable at best.

There is another option. Think of it as professional user-generated video. By using the best attributes of both professional video and user-generated video, you can create a hybrid approach to creating video content. Storyvine is a Guided Video platform that is designed to live in the space between the two worlds of Pro and User-Gen video, and will be discussed here, but there are numerous tools that can assist in the activities that must be managed to effectively scale video storytelling.

Here are two examples of Pro-UGC Video created using the Storyvine platform. The first video is from the National Association of Public Charter Schools:

Here is a grassroots presidential campaign video created with Storyvine:

Content strategy is key

Regardless of which tool(s) you use to create and manage your video content, it’s critical to understand that “more video” is not a strategy — video is simply a tool. Your content strategy should emerge organically from your goals as an organization. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your major initiatives? How are you measuring success? Who are your stakeholders and what do they need to feel taken care of and connected to the organization?

Answers to these questions will lead naturally to important content strategy questions. Who’s stories do we want to capture? Why will they share them with us? Who are the audiences for these stories? What are the communications initiatives we have in place that this video content could augment? And finally, whose job is it to create, capture, curate and connect these stories with relevant audiences?

Now you’re ready for the 4 C’s of creating video content in a scalable, sustainable way:

  • Create
  • Capture
  • Curate
  • Connect

Here’s a 3-minute video on how to create a video on Storyvine.

Step 1: Create the story program

Once you understand the kind of stories you want to capture, you can design everything from the kinds of question you want people to answer, to the visual design and branding of the videos that will be produced, to the communications you will share with your constituents to let them know their voice is important and might be reaching out.

By asking the right questions and eliciting a series of answers, you end up creating content that is consistent and well-structured. Here are some questions you might ask to get things rolling:

Intro: Share your name, location and why you got involved.

Q1: What was you most impactful experience with the program?

Q2: How has being involved with the program changed your outlook about it?

Q3: Give a shout-out to someone you engaged with who made a difference.

With Storyvine, we create a story template that consists of a VideoGuide (the coaching prompts) and a visual Storyboard of what the final video will look like. The video segments are captured via an iOS or Android mobile app that prompts the user what to say in a step-by-step capture process. The videos themselves are then “automagically” edited into a fully branded video within minutes.

Outside of Storyvine, you can use this same structured approach to improve the quality and consistency of your video content.

Step 2: Capture the video content

Because smart phones and tablets are so ubiquitous and contain high-quality cameras, you can capture content at events by having your team members capture the raw assets of answers to the prompting questions you created, or even have people film the clips selfie-style. There are a number of techniques to get the people you want to film to increase your ability to capture the stories you want.

Friends and close colleagues

With video, most people have a basic fear of looking silly. No one wants to go first. That said, once people see that others have done it and realize it’s socially safe, they’re much more willing to participate. So leverage the relationships you have with your friends, colleagues and even superfans whom you can cajole into getting the ball rolling. You can then show off their videos as examples for others to follow.


Even though events can be noisy and chaotic, they are also often high concentrations of people who’s stories you want to capture. With a little bit of pre-planning, your team at the event (or even volunteers who can be trained at the beginning of the event) can “wrangle” participants at the event and capture more content than you can imagine.

Here’s a good example that was captured an education-centered event:

A lot of Storyvine clients use events as the launchpad for creating their first video content.


We’ve had good success with clients creating “Video Challenges” where Person A films her story and then “calls out” Person B to film his. It works. So do friendly competitions for most creative stories.

Deadlines & assignments

Let people know they have one week to capture their content, and follow up with them one day before the deadline. Also, let Sally know that it’s her job to film two people this week, and hold her to it.

Build it into a process

This is by far the most effective approach. Let’s say you want people in your org to film testimonial videos. Build the video capture task right into the process, like so:

  • 1. Sign person in.
  • 2. Make sure person is taken care of.
  • 3. Sign person out.
  • 4. Ask if he or she will give us a testimonial.
  • 5. If yes, film him or her.

Another variation on this theme is something like “It’s Thought Leadership Thursday”… make the creation of content an event.

Step 3: Curate the stories

If you successfully increase the quantity of video content, you now have a new challenge on your hands. Namely, who is looking at what was created and what are the criteria to determine which videos should be shared far and wide.

Our experience has been that when you use a tool like Storyvine to increase the number of videos, not every video will be perfect — and that’s OK. We see a normal bell curve of quality with the videos that come into the system. If 10 videos are created, one might not be usable, most are fine to really good, and one or two are terrific, maybe brilliant.

The highest-quality stories can even be elevated and leveraged into other kinds of content, like compilation videos of the best soundbites for a website or gala presentation.

Here are two examples of compilations created from the structured approach to capturing content as I just described. Age of Agility is a four-minute short from America Succeeds:

I Stand with PP is a 75-second short that shows the power of Planned Parenthood:

Step 4: Connect the stories to relevant audiences

The final step is relatively straightforward. In a world with as many digital channels as we have today, there are increasing number of options where you might share your newly created video content. Short videos might be used as “snackable” social content on Twitter or Instagram. Videos longer than 60 seconds might live on your website or your YouTube channel. Business-focused social networks like LinkedIn are featuring more and more video, and it’s often longer-form video.

Especially when it comes to fundraising and development efforts, don’t be shy about sending a video link directly to a person whom you feel will relate to that story. “Here’s a story of one of our people I thought you might enjoy.” That kind of personal outreach and connection will go a long way to keeping donors engaged.

Experiment and see what works for your organization. Compelling video stories will drive social engagement, and when you find a kind of video that works, make more!

Kyle Shannon is the co-founder/CEO of Storyvine, a Guided Video platform and allows companies and organizations to create professional, authentic video content … at scale. You can find him on LinkedIn or on Twitter at @kyleshannon.

Source: socialbrite

Video storytelling to amplify the impact of your organization