Long Story Short

The Art of Storytelling Through Video in 2016 


We’ve all seen them. The powerful stories of human despair turned to triumph.  The motivational stories that uplift, energize, and inspire.  The informational stories that educate and elicit a response.  But in an online and on-air environment where there is so much to consume, how do you cut through the filler and create the stories that truly resonate with people over time?  The most difficult thing to do is to get a viewer to remember your video long after they watch it.  But the most successful philosophy is to start with a great story.  Without that, you don’t have much of a chance.

Think about your favorite TV shows.  Now think about the shows you grew up watching.  Did you ever watch an episode of I Love Lucy?  Think for a minute about why that show still resonates with audiences nearly 65 years after it first aired.  The answer is simple:  it’s funny.  It’s relatable.  It’s real. 

These days, people will always try to sell you on the latest technology, the fanciest graphics or effects, and the highest definition, 4K resolutions, and whatever else comes along.  Technology is great, and it has advanced a lot of what we do.  But when you think about it, we tell stories the same way we did 65 years ago.  We start with people.  We start with social issues, the every day struggles of life, or the desires that any one of us could have – whether it’s Lucy’s desire to be on stage with her husband, or someone trying to make a difference in his or her community.


1.  People watch People

I’ll never forget as long as I live what my college mentor told me about producing a good video.  He said, “People watch people on TV."  Simple enough sentiment, but when you look at some of the work out there, it’s easy to see how that gets lost.  There are so many theories about what attracts a viewer – animations, info-graphics, and so forth – but to me, the best story begins with a person.  I can look into the eyes of a person and feel a connection to him or her.  It’s someone who will provide an authenticity, a real voice that represents an issue, a cause, or a brand.


2.  Speak for Yourself

It isn’t enough to put a person on screen.  You have to let them tell their story.  When we work with companies who want to showcase what they do for their customers, we always encourage them to speak for themselves.  Don’t show up scripted or over-rehearsed.  That shows in the finished product.  Remember, you’re the expert in your field.  With the guide of a good producer, you should be able to comfortably tell people what makes you unique, what makes your story different, and why this story is important. 

A good producer reminds you that you’re just having a conversation. so be yourself, work together on crafting your message, and have your conversation with the producer, not the camera.

3.  The Producer Stirs the Pot

The biggest thing a video should accomplish is stirring up some kind of emotion.  A good video doesn’t have to make you cry.  But it does have to make you feel something:  a sense of comfort, a feeling that your product or service would make my life easier, a tribal connection to something, a desire to make a difference, etc.  And that really rests on the shoulders of the producer.  Often, a producer is the person who will be sitting with the talent (i.e. the person or people on camera) to help shape and craft the message.  A good producer’s first job is to make the talent feel comfortable.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by having cameras and lights shoved in your face, especially if you’re not used to it.  But a good producer reminds you that you’re just having a conversation.  So be yourself, work together on crafting your message, and have your conversation with the producer, not the camera.


4.  Keep it Brief

It’s an unfortunate reality that people have short attention spans these days.  What’s more amazing is how quickly the short attention spans have devolved.  For example, when we started our business nearly five years ago, we would advise our clients to keep their videos in the 3-5 minute range.  While there are still scenarios where we would recommend that length, more often, we encourage our clients to tell their stories within 90 seconds to 2 ½ minutes.  That has been analytically proven to be the most effective range of time for viewers to consume a video online.


5.  Show and Tell

While it’s important to tell the viewer what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s probably more important to show them.  Are you a non-profit that organizes clothing drives for the homeless?  If so, I better see the difference you’re making in your community.  It’s not enough to just hear about it.  Does your company offer a software or program that makes the lives of others easier?  Show me how it works.  These techniques get the audience more involved in the story.  Just seeing the impact the people on screen are making gives the viewer a chance to be a part of the process – they are no longer just ingesting a list of facts and figures.


A brief, personal message with a call-to-action is the most effective way of engaging an online audience.

6.  The “A-ha” Moment

Most effective videos conclude with an “ask”.  It could be a hard ask for financial support, or a soft ask for brand awareness, but either way, you’re likely asking the audience to do something after they’ve watched your video.  The best way to elicit a response from your audience is by including an “a-ha” moment.  That’s the moment in the video that everything comes full circle.  It’s the part of the story that tells us what we can do to make a difference, how we can get involved in an idea, or how we can benefit from your product or service.  This is essentially the messaging that shows us the powerful idea we can rally around.

Great videos show us what is possible in the world around us.  Sometimes it takes that outside perspective to influence us, and the best ones do it in a clear, concise way.  We would love to hear about your successes and trials in storytelling.  What’s been most effective for you?  Have you had any trouble in trying to get someone to open up?  Let us know!  We’d love to begin a conversation about great storytelling, because people may forget facts and figures, but they rarely forget a great story.

Contact Rob Czyzewicz