Published: 27 May 2016

The audience rules: plan for impact before your next video production

Video works best when it’s seen by the right people – the ones who will share it, promote it, watch it and when targeted correctly, the ones who will donate and engage beyond expectation. The films that do strike a chord are often planned and supported with marketing, planned distribution and great PR.  

Your intended target audience needs to be told your film is available to watch. Without promotion, they probably don’t even know it exists. Just look at the trailers, teasers, sponsorship deals and press junkets that accompany Hollywood films. Charities don’t have those kinds of resources. But instead of letting a video sit in a corner of its own cleverness, here are some examples of how some charities are smartly focusing resources.

Produce for impact

In recent years, there has been a rise in people specifically tasked with finding, warming the audience and distributing video content. An “impact producer” nurtures the audience for the film and makes sure the video content hits home. They also help you understand how video can inspire change and measure the impact a film has had. 

When Postcard Productions was making Stranger on the Bridge, a film about Rethink’s mental health campaigner Johnny Benjamin (who launched the viral social media campaign #FindMike) it worked with Natasha Coleman to make sure the film had maximum impact. For Natasha, it’s important to plan how to involve the audience:

Viewers don’t want to be passive consumers anymore and if they’ve seen something that moves them, they want to know what to do next, how they can get involved or how they can help.

It's about more than offering the chance to donate money. Instead it’s suggesting ways to engage further or even how to be part of the campaign. Natasha is helping Stranger on the Bridge reach new, more targeted audiences. She says:

It’s not just about broadcasting to everyone or hoping that people will watch it in the millions on YouTube. For example, we’re editing shorter clips from Stranger and packaging them for a schools audience, to be shown in classes and assemblies.

Top tip: warm up your audience – let them know your video is coming, by email for example. Tease them with clips and once it’s ready, email them again and ask them to share; people love to help in ways that aren’t simply giving money or volunteering.

However, not all charities have the resources or need to invest in impact producers for their production. Here are some more traditional methods that have also proved successful. 

Amplify organic reach with paid social 

Don’t just plop your film onto YouTube or your homepage and hope that it will magically draw people in. Paid advertising can be hugely effective and surprisingly cost effective.

Dementia UK used this approach to promote a film that was part of its new brand launch. The video was very specific – aimed at promoting a nursing service for carers. They ensured it reached the right supporters with a planned release, all supported with paid advertising. 

Comms officer Lucy Roberts oversaw the process:

The video launched on our homepage, and we also did social media advertising. Facebook was (unsurprisingly) particularly successful. We targeted based on findings from audience research and the cost was less than £0.01 per view.

Top tip: ask your video production company to make short clips for social media. You can also try pulling out soundbites and quotes to use on social for additional promotion.  

Video as a PR tool

Video worked really well for Tommy’s and its #miscourage campaign. Tommy’s has had a lot of success with Daily Mail articles supported by a video featuring one of their beneficiaries.

Similarly, as part of a recent child sexual exploitation campaign, The Children’s Society combined a press release with video to secure coverage in the Huffington Post

Top tip: try to promote as you go. Tweet pics and updates from the shoot and record short clips on your smart phone and in real time on social media. Don’t forget to capture good quality stills from the shoot day. 

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Jeremy Jeffs, director and producer, Magneto

Jeremy Jeffs is a founder partner at Magneto Films, a video production company specialising in making online films for the charity sector, health and not-for-profits. Magneto also works with a small number of brands to produce strategic and branded content. Jeremy has over 15 years experience of broadcast documentary making and has made more than 30 films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and National Geographic.