Video Making for Fun and For (Non)Profits

Sean King

Sean King

Video may not be the most widely used marketing channel, but it is definitely one of the fastest growing. Video, when done right, can grab your audience’s attention and make a lasting impression. Sean King, who is also participating in our Nonprofit Marketing Guide Mentoring Program, shares some takeaways from his organization’s recent video campaign. ~Kivi

Guest Post by Sean King of YEA!

When the Executive Director of our organization put forth a challenge to create a campaign that would appeal to students 16-22, as well as a fan/donor base of 35-64 year olds, we were ready for the challenge.  The result was a campaign that gained a good deal of positive feedback, created buzz along with 100,000 YouTube views (and growing), didn’t break the bank and assisted the organization to meet and exceed its business objectives in the fourth quarter.

A little back story:

Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) is a non-profit musical youth organization that teaches life lessons through music.  From operating a world champion drum corps to programming for underserved youth, YEA! has challenges from recruiting students for its programs to fundraising from an earned income model that survives exclusively on membership fees, ticket and merchandise sales, sponsorship and personal giving.

The Cadets drum and bugle corps, the flagship program of YEA!, was founded in 1934 and has recorded 20 national and world championships, including their latest in 2011.  They were in need of a campaign that would recruit students, compliment holiday fundraisers, assist in holiday merchandise sales and set the stage for the annual campaign coming in the second quarter of 2012.

We created a video campaign to assist in achieving their objectives called “Always a Cadet.”

Here are 10 tips we suggest from our video project:

1)      Take a look at augmenting your program by adding video to your marketing team. Technology has decreased in price and increased in accessibility to the point where to tell a story accurately, intimately and imaginatively, an investment in video production pays dividends.

2)      Do some research to find a full-time videographer, or if budget is scarce, a freelance independent contractor, intern or student could be the ideal answer. Finding just the right individual was made easier as we brought Alex Giddings on to our team. Alex was a recent photo-journalism graduate with video skills and was knowledgeable of our activity. With his unique view of the project (and the world), we invested in a hi-def camera and a Macintosh video editing suite and away we went.

3)      YouTube is a weird and wonderful thing. YouTube provides access to all from both the publisher’s and viewer’s point of view without a great deal of cost or angst.  Just watch what your videos are associated with!

4)      Find inspiration in the media around you.  As for our project, we decided on a mash-up of the iconic ESPN ‘This is Sportscenter’ commercials and the ongoing NCAA campaign of “We’re all going pro someday.”

5)      Use the icon of your brand, no matter how large or small, to help tell your story. The plan was to use our flagship brand, identified by our fans and target audience in their trademark West Point-inspired uniforms, and place members in uniform in real life situations.  ‘Always a Cadet’ was born.

6)      Watch the budget and ask for favors. We had a few ideas on a simple whiteboard, two members who were willing to volunteer some of their time in exchange for a lunch or two, some toll and gas money, and a few forgiving mall security guards and shop owners, we went to work.  Note: if ever shooting in Grand Central Station, the NYPD may not have a deep appreciation for your efforts.

7)      Keep it short, simple, sweet.  Most studies tell you that you start losing interest from viewers after the one minute mark, and by three minutes your viewership has flat-lined.  We have a note on our whiteboard that says “60 Second of Awesome.” Each of our ‘Always a Cadet” episodes clocked in at :20 seconds, with bumpers.

8)      Be consistent in your scheduling and messaging. If using a multiple episode campaign, let people know when to expect each episode and give them something to look forward to. From late October through Christmas eve, every weekday afternoon at 2PM we provided a treat to our fans on Facebook that entertained and engaged our supporters.

9)      You don’t always have to make an ask. No matter how much people try to connect the dots between marketing and results, it is a very difficult task.  Technology has made it easier, but most marketers will agree that if you have agreement on the business objectives, the right combination of audience, media and message will deliver results. We did not incorporate an outright “ask” or push for a sale or promotion embedded in the content, but rather an open ended opportunity for us to continue to build the overall brand and message.

10)  Think long term and beyond the immediate. Create your campaign with an end result in mind.  While our original intent was to achieve our fourth quarter objectives, long term we were trying to position the brand and get the seeds planted for our annual campaign which kicks-off in the late first quarter.

In the end here were a few of our takeaways:

To our donors and our alumni the takeaway was mission based: The lessons you learn from our organization will remain with you for the rest of your life, and even when you are no longer wearing the uniform, your experience will be with you wherever you go.

To anyone considering participating in our program, we were showing we could make fun of ourselves, creating a point of differentiation with the other groups we compete with for talent and positioned ourselves as trendsetters in our space; in the end, this is a program you want to be part of.

In summary our team learned a great deal, had some fun and hopefully created a few laughs for folks.  As non-profit marketers, we proved the hypothesis that with a little creativity, a few folks willing to take chances, talent from someone with a good eye and video skills, you can make a relatively small commitment that will pay large dividends on a variety of levels – but you do need to take that first step.

A serial entrepreneur at heart, Sean King has been consulting with small businesses and non-profit organizations for over 20 years.  Currently, Sean is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) a non-profit organization based in Allentown, Pa. which teaches life lessons through music.  He also continues his consulting practice through Aspire Brand Networks.  Sean resides with his wife Natalie and son Haydn in the global crossroads of Fogelsville, Pa. You can follow him on Twitter @skingaspire

Author: Kristina Leroux, Community Engagement Manager

I am the Community Engagement Manager at Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com.

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