7 Tips for More Powerful Online Video Storytelling

As a television news reporter, I was pushed everyday to create a powerful story on a tight deadline, and to make that story 1:30 or less. Consulting firms spend millions researching audiences, and they know what makes a good story. Here are a few tips I learned from the news business on telling good stories. The same tips hold true when working for a client and you are telling the business' story.

1) Tell the story through the eyes of one person.

People relate to people, not numbers. It's more affective to show one good person than to tell me about hundreds of anonymous people. Think Jessica in the well if you are old enough to remember. Ask your business owner to select a good client for you to interview. The client will be someone who their prospects will relate to. Ideally, the person will represent the company's target demographic, and the person should be friendly, well spoken and attractive. CBS 60 Minutes has been successful for decades by telling great stories. Don Hewitt, the Executive Producer until 2004, often said these four words: "Tell me a story.

2) Have your client or business owner be the expert and educator.

Don't use the sales pitch person in your video. How did the business owner change the client's life by the service or product offered. He or she should be shown to be passionate about their career, knowledgeable, and concerned. The story will lose credibility if the business owner simply talks about how they are the best at what they do.

3) Use the interview portions to convey opinion and emotion.

Look for the emotion of your story, especially when it comes to the client. We often do stories about dental makeovers, and I strive to find the emotion in why the person chose the service and how they feel after getting their new smile. Find the emotion in your business owner as well. They are usually people who love their business and they love when they can use their talent to help. Work to capture that emotion and your story will be more compelling.

4) Keep the interview or soundbite portions of your story short.

In news we were told soundbites should go no more than seven seconds. In stories about businesses, you can go a little longer, but strive to make them short and powerful, not long and detailed. Viewers will tune out when people get into details.

5) Keep the story short because of attention span.

It may seem hard to believe but the reporter stories you see on the network news are rarely more than 1:30 on tape. Valerie Hoff, of Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA-TV, says she's done stories as short as 35 seconds, but the average length is 1:30.

6) Try to make your stories visually appealing.

Try to make your stories visually appealing and let the video more than the audio tell the story. People are more visual and the mantra of news was always write to your video, don't write first and then match video to your script. You are basically narrating pictures.

7) Start with your best video.

If you don't capture people's attention in the first few seconds, you've lost them. They will tune in to something else.

You might think "I'm not doing a news story. I'm doing a sales video for a client." My answer to that is use the same formula they do on the news, and it will become a sales tool for any client. You might think news stories are boring. They are sometimes boring because the reporter doesn't have time for nice effects and music. You aren't on a two hour deadline to finish the story. The formula is one that has worked for decades. A third party telling the story through the eyes of one person affected. If your client were featured on ABC World News Tonight, there's no better sales tool. So, just make them look like they were.

About our Guest Author:
7 Tips for More Powerful Online Video Storytelling Donna Davis worked in television news for 20 years, most recently as main anchor at Florida's News Channel. Ms. Davis now owns her own video production company and produces a half hour television show in Atlanta. Ms. Davis is also the President of the Atlanta Internet Video Marketing Association. Since 2004, Ms. Davis has owned the video production company - Innova One Productions and she also produces a television show titled "Home And Style." Their web site is a great place to see the her story-telling formula at work.

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What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

    These are some really good tips.
    I'm going to print them out and keep handy while I'm doing an upcoming video.
    Thanks,
    Chris

    • http://www.learningdslrvideo.com/ Dugdale

      I was going to write the same thing. I am printing this out - great post!

  • jason greer

    Nice article. I will definitely be following your work.

    • donnadavis

      Thanks. I appreciate that. Feel free to contact me directly as well at
      donnadavis@homeandstyletv.com. ReelSEO has been so helpful to me. I know the story-telling
      part, but I need a lot of work on distribution and syndication of videos.

  • Mr. G

    Nice piece Ms. Davis,

  • scott westerlaken

    Great points!

  • http://twitter.com/PaulReynoldsTV Paul W Reynolds

    Great article! I whole heartedly believe in this format and try to follow it exactly. For years I have been "preaching" to our local businesses that video is the future of the internet and that they better have, not only a web presence but, video all over that presence. It's vindicating to read an article like this. So many small business owners are reluctant.

    Just recently I met a young lady business owner and she understood the concept acceptingly. I had the pleasure of working with her last month and together we made this video of her business.

    Thanks again for the article.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Paul - great video. Thanks for sharing. that is what Id call a very well done SMB video - great story, great production value, clear vision and selling proposition... Good stuff. I guess it doesnt hurt that she is cute as well ;-)

  • http://www.mlwebco.com/ Michael Locke

    "It’s more affective to show one good person than to tell me about hundreds of anonymous people"

    Brilliant. I so believe this. What a great post. Thanks for the tips.

  • http://viewpointorange.com/ sn0wfl8ke

    Good storytelling through videos can seriously elevate a brand image. Well summarized!

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh, Media Writer

    'You are narrating pictures.' That's a very nice way of putting it.

    The exception may be interviews, when you want the face to be on camera all the time.

    One way to keep this interesting is to shoot from different angles, change the music, tempo and add images to counter-balances the key points.

    Glad I found this site.

    Thanks,
    Ivan