How to Move a Crowd Using Video

Greenpeace's grotesque 1 minute video made the KitKat-Orangutan connection painfully clear

Digital and visual storytelling are all the rage these days, and for good reason.  Going viral on Youtube can result in powerful changes.  For example, Greenpeace’s Nestle campaign started with a one minute video connecting eating KitKat’s to killing orangutans for palm oil.  Within months, Nestle had made the requested changes to its purchasing.

Last week’s inVision 2010 conference in San Francisco hosted by See Change brought together activists, media makers, nonprofits and funders to discuss the use of visual media in the social sector.  On one panel, filmmakers, producers and activists from Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Active Voice and The Video Project  detailed how to make a film successful at driving social change.

Here are the 12 tips I gleaned:

  1. Tell a great story. Connect the story to a real person.  And show change over time.  These elements make a film sticky.
  2. Build a film project within the existing framework of an organization and use it to heighten the power of the organization, rather than creating a campaign around the film alone.
  3. Leverage testimonial, a great way to get a quick and dirty sense of what’s happening on the ground in the region your film is about.
  4. Try short film when lacking the luxury of time to get out a message.
  5. Use video to promote offline action.
  6. Identify your audience. Create the film with them in mind.
  7. Create an experience for your audience to discuss together. Consider who you want in the room to have a shared experience around your film.  Can this film bring together disparate parties?
  8. Plan the media around your desired outcome. What do you want your audience to do, feel or think after experiencing your video?  David Donnenfield described this as the “completion backwards principle.”
  9. Create a customized marketing plan for each piece of media
  10. Use the film more than once. Don’t let it air once and then be forgotten.  Repackage it.  Find new markets.  Repurpose segments for different groups of people.  Try new channels for distribution.
  11. Motivate your base first. If you can’t get them to act as desired in reaction to your video, you have a problem.  If you can, they will help you find new avenues to spread the message.
  12. Integrate your video into a strong campaign with goals and tactics outlined.

What have you found particularly valuable when creating visual media; or moving when consuming it?

Amie runs Cobblestone Solutions, LLC, a consultancy focusing on business development, marketing, communications and strategy for mission driven companies. Previously, Amie served as Director of Business Development for Viv (a Bay Area environmental start-up), Program Manager for Social Venture Technology Group (a boutique consulting firm focused on measuring social and environmental impact), and Associate Consultant at Bain & Co (a global management consulting firm). She is particularly interested in innovations that reduce waste, altering consumer behavior for good, and leveraging the power of business to solve the climate crisis. You can read more from her on her blog, on, and on JustMeans.

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