Advocacy Video That Won't Break the Bank

by Ben Holse (He/Him)

Advocacy Video on a budget

Advocacy Video On a Budget

Advocacy video  is all over social media and across the internet. Video has really become an essential channel for leveraging support on an issue for nonprofits. It’s no wonder why, many advocacy organizations and nonprofits have supporters with compelling narratives, and video is a great medium for storytelling. But we’ve seen too many small or mid-sized nonprofits that still choose to avoid creating an advocacy video strategy because they have a limited budget. 

Well, great news. Developing an engaging video for advocacy doesn’t need to be hard or expensive. In fact, you can create a compelling video for your advocacy organization from your iPhone or on Zoom. All you really need is a good story. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many groups and organizations produce advocacy video. Instead of relying on someone to go out and do a full shoot of your supporters, nonprofits are frequently using content that’s produced by individuals from the comfort of their home—which is referred to as user-generated content. Below are some of the best practices for producing an advocacy video based on our experience producing video mid-pandemic.  


Video Goals for Audience and Use. 
The first step to producing a great advocacy video is to pin down how long the video will be. Here you should ask yourself, where will the video run online? Will your advocacy video run on social media, YouTube, your website, or as a pre-roll ad? The answers to these questions will inform which length will make the most sense. For instance, if you plan to run your ad only on social, you may want to consider doing a 15- or even 6-second video. If you want to instead run an ad on YouTube or on pre-roll, where you want access to as much inventory as possible, then producing a 6-, 15-, and a longer 30-second video would be a good idea. If you plan to develop a video that simply lives on your website and is intended for the more engaged viewer, a longer form video of one minute or longer may be acceptable. While it’s okay to have a longer form video for your most devout followers, remember that shorter form videos (15-seconds or shorter) are more likely to be watched to the end than longer videos.

Make a Point Quickly & Have a Call to Action
When it comes to creating an engaging advocacy video online, you want to make your point as quickly as possible. In TV ads, it’s more common to hold the big reveal until the end of the spot, but studies have shown that this isn’t a good tactic for digital video. Online viewers often watch only the first few seconds of a video before moving onto the next thing. As such, make sure your most important points are communicated at the very beginning. If your viewer doesn’t get the message of your video in the first 6-seconds, you should take a hard look at your script and go back to the drawing board. 

Digital Video Best Practices 
One of the key differences between digital video and a TV ad is that a significant portion of your audience will watch your video with the sound off. Many online viewers will, for instance, encounter your video on their Facebook newsfeed, where it is automatically muted. To make sure your message is communicated to those viewers, you should always make sure to include on-screen captions and that your video makes sense to someone who doesn’t have the audio on. Think of it like watching CNN, the chyrons at the bottom of the screen tell you what they’re talking about even if you have the volume down. You don’t need to caption every word, but you do need to have on-screen text that broadly follows the script so a viewer can clearly understand your message when scrolling past your advocacy video online.

Make Your Issue Easy to Understand. 
Some advocacy topics can be difficult to understand for someone who isn’t already aware of the issue. Your advocacy video isn’t a place to read your organization’s white paper. Instead, you should work to find a way to break complicated issues down into short, digestible bites for your viewer. Go into the video production process assuming that your audience has a very limited understanding of your issue. Think about how you can describe why that issue matters to the viewer in a sentence or two that’s visually and emotionally compelling. 

Recruit Real Supporters 
Creating an engaging advocacy video is all about using supporters to demonstrate the real-world effects of your position. Real supporters can help inject emotion into your issue, put a face to your cause and give a sense of urgency to your issue. And you don’t need fancy lighting or a sound person to tell these stories. A direct to camera testimonial can be even more engaging than a slickly produced video if the story is compelling enough. 

Write a Script You Can Stick To
Regardless of if you’re using real testimonials of supporters or if you’re just shooting video b-roll, you will want to write out a script before you start filming. Your script will allow you to make sure you’re getting all of the footage you need during the shoot, so you don’t have to go back and do pickup shots later. Writing out a script for your supporters will help them to feel more confident in their delivery. It will also ensure that your organizational talking points are covered and you don’t have to go back and have supporters re-cut their portions of the video later. 

Use User-generated Content
There are a lot of different ways you can produce an advocacy video. You can shoot a bunch of b-roll of your subjects and edit the video together with a voiceover artist. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of success by having real supporters record real testimonials about an issue that we then edit together. These user-generated content videos have an authentic look and feel to them and are as they are typically shot by your supporters themselves on either a phone or on a recorded Zoom call. There are also tools like Boast.IO and others that allow you to easily store and display supporter videos. Just like you would if you were interviewing supporters in-person, you should give them talking points so they are hitting the right messaging in their sections. 

Make Your Video Feel Authentic  
A lot of advocacy organizations feel like they can’t produce a video because they don’t have a lot of money to spend on a cameraperson or a fancy editor. That’s okay! Chances are your supporters will be more put off by a slick, Madison Avenue-style video anyway. Of course, you should always make every effort to prepare your subjects and make sure they have a one-pager with some best practices (there’s a line between video that’s not perfect and video that’s simply not usable). If you have a nice podcast microphone at your office, dropping off equipment for your supporters to borrow to increase the production quality can always help you get better takes. One thing we’ve learned from 2020 is that the best advocacy videos start with a great story and a great storyteller. Your video, audio and post-production quality come second. 

Do you need help creating your own advocacy video? Need help just getting your advocacy campaign off the ground? Reach out to The Campaign Workshop for help!