One size does not fit all…planning for video messaging!

There are so many times I get a call about working on a video related project and the belief is that video production is a one size fits all. Many of the organizations that reach out with these types of requests are small businesses or even non-profit organizations. They ask me, “We want to do a video, can you help?”  Many times they have no idea what they want to produce this or how it will be used. It usually comes up in a marketing strategy meeting or even a board member makes a recommendation.

Mind you…I am not being critical of these organizations. I am happy to help and more than willing to help create a plan to execute a project. But here is the dilema that I am finding, there is a misconception that one video project is going to be the solution. There are too many variables. Especially if this small business or non-profit is investing money that might be a good portion of their marketing budget, a one shot deal could really make or break a company/organization.

This morning, I sat with a wonderful non-profit organization who wanted to work on a project. I think I spent close to 2 hours just listening to them and brainstorming. They have so many wonderful stories to tell, so many wonderful opportunities to leverage…a one size fits all project just is not what the doctor ordered. Many times, it could be more costly to the organization in the long term if all their eggs were thrown into one basket.

So…here is how I think we as practitioners and storytellers can help these organizations move past this common thread. Here is the exercise we worked through this morning:

Step One – Answer these questions:
1) Who is the audience(s)? List all the people/organizations/constituency bases that you feel would benefit from your message. Get extremely specific, as specific as possible. You want to be able to paint the picture of the audience(s) you want to reach. You want to try to see the world through their eyes and ears.

2) What is the purpose(s)? Why do you really want to use video as a medium to reach these audiences? Look at the audience(s) listed above, and try to identify each audiences’ specific purpose and how it is different from others.

3) How are you currently delivering your message(s)? List all the current mediums you are distributing your message(s). Are you emailing these audiences? Are you blogging? Are you using direct mail? Are you creating events for speakers to deliver your message? List them all. Even if it is a fax machine or in-person meetings, they are all relevant.

Step Two: Discover Context:
Take all the information above and lay it out so you can see everything. Create columns of information where the you can pair each audience with a specific purpose and a specific delivery method. Get your staff involved and have them go through this exercise with you. Once you are done organizing the information from Step One, then it is time to start finding themes and a mission statement(s) for this project.

Step Three: Identify Context:
From the information in Step One and Step Two, try to write a mission statement for this project. Begin identifying if there are multiple video projects, messages or just one big project. If you are finding that your organization has numerous initiatives and the potential to tell multiple stories, begin listing each video message. Then write a mission statement for each, a micro mission statement for each little video project and the audience you want it to reach. Then pair each video message with a distribution method in the third question of Step One. Yes…this might be the way you can use each video. You might have a video to show at a meeting and it might be different from the video(s) that are sent out via email or Social Outlets.

Now…take a break! Step away from this for a while. Maybe go to lunch or go home for the day. When you come back, it is time to move on to the final step…Step Four.

Step Four: Reality Check:
Ask yourself, why are we doing this? Really, why do you want to invest time, money, and energy to produce video projects to tell stories. Do you have the budget to meet these goals? Do you know of a vendor who would be willing to work with you…maybe as a non-profit? Will these vendors be the right match for your needs?

Now…this is my opinion and my practice. It does not mean that my method is the correct method to use. But, this is only the beginning of the planning, but what this does is it prepares you for the conversation of identifying your message(s) and if video as a medium will work for you.

Also…Step One is based one my research of the Rhetorical Triangle as it applies to Llyod Bitzer’s “Rhetorical Situation.