Insights On Tap: Video & Storytelling Re-imagined Recap

Insights on Tap: Video and Storytelling Re-Imaged was our third and last panel this summer, and it was tremendous. Ryan Johnston, director of content at Social Distillery, led a discussion about video and storytelling with Ben Cecil, video strategy director at UPG Video Marketing, Spike Jones, managing director of digital at Edelman, and Pat Kondelis, senior producer at Bat Bridge Entertainment.

We even Periscoped the talk so that others could tune in if they couldn’t make it. And no, we weren’t Periscoping through our iPhone because we couldn’t afford a camera; it was because we’re hip. Enjoy the play-by-play.

What makes a good story?

Ben (@YoBenCecil) – Usually what pulls you into great stories are great characters. When you think about a great story or book, you think about the characters. Regardless of if it’s a documentary or a marketing/advertising approach, if it’s inclusive and if you can identity with the characters it results in a good story.

Pat (@Roundmp) – Agreed. Great characters make great stories. From a documentary perspective, there needs to be someone interesting enough that you can expense following around and spend your time doing so. What do the characters want to accomplish? What’s their struggle? What’s their journey? What is the end goal?

If you have a luxury of time, sometimes the best gold is letting things naturally unfold. Some of the best content I’ve ever gotten is the stuff that isn’t planned, but you need the budget to just ‘keep the tape rolling’ and let things develop.

What kind of story generates the most buzz?

Spike (@spikejones) – We use video as a tool in the toolbox. We can’t forget about the basics of a story: setting, plot, conflict, character, etc. We need to make sure that all of these elements are there; if there aren’t there then we’re screwed.

People share stories both online and offline and the number one reason someone shares a story is that it feeds their ego and makes them look good. The second reason is because the information is new or complicated. The third reason is because it causes emotion. So, 1) Ego, 2) Info, 3) Emo. If the story falls in to one these areas, you’re doing all right. If the story satisfies all three, then you have gold.

What makes a good storyteller?

Pat – It comes down to execution. Something amazing could be happening but if you don’t know how to deliver that story in an engaging way, it’s all for not. You need to deliver a story that is entertaining and engaging. It’s really difficult to gauge what people are going to like or what sticks with people. The best stuff that I’ve worked on has never been seen nor bought. You get introspective when this happens, and you wonder what it was that missed the mark. So I think it comes down to execution.

How do you go about finding the best way to tell a story?

Ben – It’s all about where you start in your process. For us, the storytelling we do is to drive demand in some way. We start with one thing in mind: that the brand, product or service is not the hero. If you tell your story from that perspective, then it’s a showcase. Nobody wants to watch a video of ‘you’ about how good you are. That’s not engaging and there’s nothing there.

We try to find an angle, to see it from the potential buyer. There is always something there that can bring at story to life. You’ve got to get your perspective right. How does your product or service change someone else’s life?

Star Wars isn’t a story about light sabers. Star Wars is about a desert farm boy who realizes his life long dream is to strike down the evil empire, and turns out he has to kill his dad to do so….and then he gets to party with Ewoks. You can’t put the product in the pilot’s chair in the Millennium Falcon; that’s where the customer belongs.

How do you get people to do your story telling for you?

Spike – It goes back to feeding their ego. You can create influencers with the videos you make, instead of the other way around. They might not start off as social media influencers, but they’re passionate about the topic/subject/brand and you can leverage that.

For Chevy, we went to automotive forums and found Jared. Jared commented on everything in the forum and people really liked him but he only had 10 Twitter followers. We found Jared and filmed him telling his story. Jared was from Ireland, loved matchbox cars, graphic design, 8-track airbrush art, etc. In the last 30 seconds of the video his garage opened and we got him driving off in his Chevy with a perma-grin on his face.

We edited the footage down and said ‘thanks for being a fan of Chevy’ and we just gave him the video and walked away. Jared posted it on YouTube and became the most influential person for Chevy over the next two months. Jared became an everyday influencer and Chevy found success through this tactic…so we did it again and again.

Where does technology fit into storytelling?

Pat – This is something we talk a lot about at Bat Bridge. High Profits was the first sizzle that we developed, pitched and got five offers to buy it. We captured the story through a cinematic lens. We wanted the audience to feel like they were in a movie and it has paid huge dividends for us. Everything we do we’re trying to push the envelope from a production value because we have to convince a network to buy it. Our business is saturated with production companies and technology is getting cheaper and cheaper so you have to be constantly pushing the envelope.

Spike – For clients, they’re always like ‘We need to do some Periscoping. I want to try some Meercat, that’s going to be great.’ I appreciate that attitude, but I have a job to sell things for my clients. Sometimes it’s video and sometimes it’s not. There are so many channels now it’s easy to get confused and it gets overwhelming. Step back and know what you’re trying to accomplish before you get caught up in technology.

Ben – What always ‘trumps all’ is a great idea. What’s going to make it worth watching? What are they going to do when they stop watching? Regardless of the ‘buzz-worthiness’ of a technology, never loose sight of the idea. Before you think about technology you need an idea that’s going to be great.

Pat – Going beyond the great idea, you have to also think about how you’re going to make it. How are you going to get them to trust you with their story? That’s huge in my business. We hear great ideas all the time. The worst thing we want to do is promise something we can’t deliver.

Ben – Video was that shiny new thing when it went online. When it came of age, people jumped on video and bastardized it. Spend 80% of the effort on the idea and 20% on the execution. Your idea sucks if you’re flip-flopped with those percentages.

What are some things that distinguish campaigns that sink or swim?

Ben – Do I see myself in the story? If I’m a part of it, it’s a great story. Those that understand that their narrative isn’t about them are the ones who are successful.

Spike – A campaign should always come back to a brand’s North Star. Brands tend to get bored before their customers get board and they deviate. The brands that always ladder back to that North Star, you remember. Dove is doing a great job with this right now and are continually reinforcing and pointing back to what they stand for and who they are via current campaigns.

What does the future hold in terms of media networks like Netflix and HBO?

Pat – I don’t know. We’re in the golden age of television. There’s fantastic content everywhere and people willing to watch things on all networks. For unscripted video, we find it positive that the trend is that we’re coming out of reality television and coming back to quality TV. Networks want authenticity. We hope it continues as we want to make real stories.

How have things like Vine, Instagram video, Periscope, GIFs, etc. changed how brands tell stories?

Spike – It’s forced brands to shorten and condense their story. It’s amazing that people get bored and abandon their 10-second Instagram videos. Geez!

Ben – YouTube has democratized video. We all think we’re talented with photo and video now. We all think we can take a bad-ass picture. No filter bro. Putting your videos online via Vine or Instagram is an empowering medium – that’s why people are so into it. These technologies have put the power more in everyone’s hands – everyone thinks they’re video savvy because of it.

Insights on Tap: Questions from Periscope Audience

Ryan took a question from our Periscope audience.

Is there a formula for viral videos…and can I have it?

Ben – It’s like getting lightning to strike. ‘Going viral’ has been a plague. Instead you should try to ‘go viral’ with the 100 people you really care about.

Spike – The most viral videos don’t usually meet their revenue goals. Because there’s so much content out there even minimal engagement is impressive.

Have some questions of your own? Shoot us a tweet at @SocialDistiller.

Recommended Posts