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Visual Storytelling for Marketers

Humans have been telling stories with pictures since the days of cave paintings, so we should be pretty good at it by now. Contemporary filmmaking, TV and YouTube offer ample evidence that we are. But as marketers, we need to do more than just tell a good story. Our stories also need to inspire potential customers to learn more and, ideally, make purchases.


Recently, Manroop Takhar wrote in a Business2Community blog post that “storytelling allows you to create an emotional connection with your audience.” Good visual storytelling, using video, can help marketers build and resonate those connections. The first step, as with all good marketing, is know your end game, what’s your goal. In video terms, your goal has to do with the impression you create with your audience on behalf of your company, product, or service. This may come through in obvious ways like tag lines and copy, but unless your video truly embodies the truth of this messaging, people will see through it or (at best) be confused.

Second, choose a video format best suited to capture the “truth” of your goal. Whether it’s a multi-camera company showcase, a product demo, or a simple testimonial, your emphasis should always be on those moments of truth when a speaker or scenario is conveying something the viewer can relate to on a visceral level. These moments are the basis of a compelling narrative, which sometimes requires little more than choosing them well and then stringing them together.

Third, plan but don’t over plan. Your video shoot is an opportunity to capture real situations that demonstrate the full power of your product or service. To accomplish this, you either need to schedule filming around a real situation, or recreate those conditions in a way that remains compelling and authentic. Interviews with clients, staff, and company leaders can also work well when edited against footage that tells the story and/or offers nuance about your company. The visuals from this latter footage, known as B-roll, can be continued over the audio from interviews (after you’ve “established” who they are), and allow the interviewee to effectively narrate the footage. It’s important never to think of B-roll as “filler.” A truly effective B-roll shot not only needs to be compelling in itself, it needs to add meaning without being too simplistic.

Fourth, film more than you think you’ll need. Successful films and videos are most often characterized by a high “shooting ratio,” or ratio of footage filmed to footage used. A 15 to 1 or 20 to 1 shooting ratio is not unusual when you consider that in movies the ratios can be as high as 100 or even 200 to 1. Because video shoots never go exactly as planned and we never know where the magic moments are going to occur, it stands to reason that the more footage we shoot, the more likely we are to get something good. A good videographer does not assume that most of what she films is going to be good. In fact, just the opposite. If from an hour of filming we end up with three minutes of good, usable footage we consider ourselves lucky. The ability, in editing, to soberly put those moments together and eliminate what is not going to be compelling to your audience (regardless of how you might have tried or wanted for it to be) is what makes for a great video.

Of course, all of this takes time, but if you don’t think it’s worth it, consider this last stat from Hubspot, via M Booth and Simply Measured: “On Facebook, videos are shared 12X more than links and text posts combined.”

For further proof of the value of video, check out this infographic created by Helena Jaramillo and supplied by visual.ly

value of video

Integrated Educational Video Media