My husband is not a content marketer. He’s not on Twitter. His LinkedIn page exists because it’s as much of a staple as his white t-shirts. My husband is a videographer, an editor, and a director of photography. Working with multiple clients as a freelancer, he balances a roster of amazingly diverse clients from nonprofits and public broadcasting to global household brands. One day he’s editing in his home office, the next he’s shooting in New York City. He makes many, many videos, and admittedly, I haven’t seen them all. But while I’m sure they’re all the best they can possibly be, sometimes, he turns it up to level eleven.
Recently, my husband was DP (Director of Photography) and editor for a video for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. The goal was to showcase the challenges of living with Cerebral Palsy in a relatable way. Using his storytelling skills, my husband and the production crew created The Quest for the Rainbow Bagel, with author and personality Zach Anner as the star.
With more than 15 million views across Upworthy, Facebook, YouTube the Cerebral Palsy Foundation website, and more, what they found was much more than colorful baked bread with a hole in the middle. How did my husband create this viral video? While there’s no perfect recipe, these ingredients certainly helped the cause.
As a content marketer, and in the world of digital media and online video, I’m used to fast-paced content turnaround. This was not the approach for this project. There was a full-day (painstakingly challenging) shoot to document Zach’s journey through the bare minimally accessible city. Then, though a linear story, there still was the lengthy and detailed editing process, with rounds of revisions, animations, and finalizing. Multiple people were involved from concepting, to writing, to reviews, to revisions to coordination for the launch. The moral of the story: It’s important to take the time to do it right, versus rushing to get it out the door. Focus and work tirelessly on what you believe in, and others will tune in.
Evoking emotion – from fear to humor to sadness – creates a connection between the video and the audience. It attracts the viewer, and keeps them consumed in the experience. It’s challenging to make someone laugh, cry or feel afraid. It’s even more challenging to evoke all of these emotions in one video, and that happens with this story. The talent is instrumental in evoking emotion. Great talent, like Zach Anner, made that connection with the viewers in order to create and exude emotion.
Once you’ve determined the message of your video, be open, honest and transparent about that topic throughout your video. This video hit the topics of ableism and accessibility head on, and demonstrated these challenges in a showing versus telling way. Zach openly shared how he felt, to the point where “Ableist Hipsters” was one of the most shared quotes of the video.
Attention span is short for video, sometimes as short as seconds (think of snaps and Instagram stories). That’s why it’s crucial to tell a story in an easy-to-digest, straightforward way. This video told a linear story, documenting and following Zach through his experience. It didn’t divert to other topics or people. It didn’t break away. Oftentimes we want to cram so much into a video that we lose the audience completely. While your story doesn’t need to travel from one place to another (or Manhattan to Brooklyn), it should be easy to follow.
Oftentimes when content goes out the door, we move onto the next thing. However, the launch of a video (or any new piece of content) is just the beginning. This video was successful due to a well thought out launch strategy. The video started on Upworthy’s Facebook Page, which is a relevant, credible channel. After all, their mission is to “Draw massive amounts of attention to stories that matter.” Perfect. Think through where your content will live, and how you’ll continue to promote and share it over time.
My husband did not do this alone. Collaborating with his good friend and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, the combined teamwork made sure the story was told the best way possible, and viewed tens of millions of times.