Kirsty Marrins: It's time to start investing in video

It's boom time for video, but few charities seem to have it in their armoury, writes our columnist

Kirsty Marrins
Kirsty Marrins

According to a report by Cisco, video is projected to claim 80 per cent of internet traffic by 2019 and live video will account for 13 per cent of internet video traffic by 2021. In 2017, 82 per cent of Twitter users watch video on the platform and more than half a billion people watch video on Facebook every day. Video is booming, yet so many charities still don’t have video in their content arsenal.

The RNLI is a charity that takes its brand very seriously and is always ahead of the game, from Bitcoin to the General Data Protection Regulation. It's recently developed a role that focuses on adapting and creating video content specifically for social media.

Becky Steeden, social media business partner at the RNLI, explains: "We did some research at the beginning of the year to understand how what we do on social affects our brand health indicators. We haven’t been able to prove causation yet – we’re working on it now – but we were surprised by how clear some of the correlations were between our Facebook activity and our brand-awareness key performance indicators. Video came out as the strongest driver for us."

Brand awareness should be a vital part of a charity’s communications and marketing strategy and, through its research, the RNLI knew it needed to invest more resource in social video – and more specifically on Facebook – to achieve their goals. Steeden says: "We’ve taken a pre-existing content coordinator role and adapted it so that half of his working week is dedicated to social media video production. We already have a fantastic film and image team here at the RNLI, including two videographers, but we needed the resource to turn around topical video content in a format suited best to Facebook, and other social platforms, often at very short notice."

Most charities will say that lack of budget and resource is the reason they can’t invest in video. Having a person dedicated to producing video for social media might seem like a luxury to many, but is it? I’d argue that a communications team needs to have at least one person skilled in producing and editing video content. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about producing slick corporate or campaign videos such as this genius one by Movember:

Or this hard-hitting one from Oxfam, which feels like the trailer to a movie:

Of course, there will always be a place for these types of video, which require professional support from an agency. But when something takes off, like #nomakeupselfie did, having someone skilled in producing short, social media-friendly video clips will help your charity to stand out. And all you need is a smartphone and perhaps an inexpensive external microphone.

However, if you know that you need many professional videos then it makes sense to employ a video producer, as Parkinson’s UK has done. Mike South was hired by the charity four years ago even though it had budget only for a part-time post at the time. Since then, It has built an in-house film team that creates a unique style of films within an overall communications content strategy.

South explains: "Lights and cameras look shiny and complicated, but film-makers aren’t wizards. They’re doing the same thing your charity has always done... telling stories. They just know what ‘that button’ does. If you’re big and you’re spending anywhere near a year’s salary on video annually, stop it. You've been hiring writers and designers for years and now it’s time to hire a film-maker."

South agrees that video shouldn’t be restricted to big charities: "Even if you’re a small charity, it doesn’t matter. You will already have someone on staff, or a supporter, who is already making films for fun. Give them the time and support to make something clean and simple. It doesn’t have to be as good as a freelancer. In fact it probably won’t be, but it will work just fine. We’ve trained other staff members to make films on their phones and create weekly videos for our website and social media. Regularly going from client brief to finished video is way more efficient if it’s done in-house. Take proper ownership of your charity’s stories and make your own films."

Child’s i Foundation staff in Uganda regularly film video clips for use in supporter newsletters or social media, which tell the story of how they are making families, not orphanages. But they also make fun ones. This brilliant one was filmed last year after Richard Osman announced the winner in the World Cup of Crisps competition that he organised on Twitter, where he also encouraged people to donate to the charity:

So just how is that new role at the RNLI working out? Steeden says: "In the first few months, these videos have far exceeded our KPIs, so we’re hoping they’ll have had a significant impact on our brand health measures when we come to review the correlations again in the new year."

Kirsty Marrins is a digital communications consultant and a trustee of the Small Charities Coalition

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