7 Tips for More Powerful Online Video Storytelling

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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:
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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