Embracing the Unexpected with Video Content

AUTHOR: Corinne Wiseman, CSO
Sep 12, 2019
5 Min Read

When you’re tasked with creating videos for a non-profit organization, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and start playing the comparison game.

“Opera companies have such beautiful sets to capture!”
“Orchestras have it so easy, they already have the music!”
“Dance companies have bigger budgets!”

But in reality, none of that is true (well maybe some of it is, but it isn’t productive to dwell on it). No matter what your organization’s size and budget, it can be a challenge to prioritize and create quality video content. In this digital world, though, we know that video content is crucial. Here are three tips to keep in mind when creating videos.

Be Resourceful

While it can be helpful to have a skilled video professional on your team, that sometimes isn’t possible with a non-profit organization size and budget. I’m a firm believer that the best camera is the one you have with you. We’re lucky because the power of smartphones increases faster than we can keep up, and most of us have access to one at all times. I regularly create videos on my iPhone for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s (CSO) social media channels.

One of my favorite ways to use this tool is for our guest artist invitation videos. As an orchestra, we often have new guest artists every week. Some of them are easily recognized by our subscribers and single ticket buyers, but others not so much.

We started utilizing these concert invite videos to feature guest artists introducing themselves and talking about their performances. I especially love using an iPhone for this style of video because using such a common device keeps things casual, and it isn’t too intimidating when someone is likely jet-lagged and just wants to practice! This is particularly effective when a guest artist has a strong social media following, and they’re willing to share and promote the video too.

One of my favorites from our past season was this video with Esther Yoo.

Be Playful

Something I have found working at various arts organizations is that we often take ourselves so seriously. We care deeply about the art forms we are sharing with the world, but sometimes we can lose sight of just how magical these experiences are. This is when it is time to embrace the unexpected for your organization. For us at the CSO that meant trying out a new to us video technique, stop motion.

Stop motion is a series of photographs where objects are moved bit by bit, and then you put all the photos together to create a fluid video. I make these with my “real” camera, a DSLR, and then edit the photos and make them into a video using the Adobe Creative Suite. But there are plenty of apps for your smartphone that can do the same thing. This definitely doesn’t make sense for all of our concerts, but it fits with our Beethoven Revolution series.

We wanted to have a mascot of sorts for our three-year #BeethovenRevolution where we are performing all nine Beethoven symphonies. So we searched online and found a Beethoven action figure. He’s now referred to as Ludwig, we’re on a first-name basis after so many hours of photos.

These videos have been fun and creatively fulfilling to make and were totally unexpected by our audiences. Sometimes they receive great responses and other times not so much. But hey, you can’t take yourself too seriously. Here you can watch Ludwig and his friends getting ready to go to a concert.

Be Thoughtful

If you only remember one thing from this post, let it be that your story matters. When you have a strong story you earn your viewer’s trust and engagement, and the visual quality of your video is all bonus.

A great starting point for working on your storytelling is digging into your current video statistics. Good stories will have viewers interested from the beginning. Discover when your viewers stop watching a video, and this will be a good indicator of how fast you need to get them engaged. It will likely be a few seconds, but you can get creative with your opening line, a unique look, or impactful audio to earn that view.

Once your followers are interested, show them how they will feel or what they will experience when they come to your concert/exhibit/show. Your organization offers so much more than just a performance date, time, and venue, and your patrons want to know more too.

If you’re having trouble identifying why a performance is special, try talking to the people who planned it from an artistic standpoint. If you have an outside collaborator, this is a great opportunity to let them shine with a short interview. Or you can show the process of your director or curator, which they are often thrilled to share, and let your followers in on the magic. The little details that we take for granted in the day to day at our organizations are exactly what makes them so amazing.

Here’s a quick video that I made after a rehearsal for our big event this summer that went over well.

I hope these tips are helpful as you are thinking about how to share the awesome things your organizations are up to. Now go make a video!

Corinne Wiseman is the Creative Content Manager at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO). She is presenting at Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts 2019 on the evolution of CSO’s video production efforts.