How to Make a Storytelling Video

Video content saturates our daily lives, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish your brand from the masses. Yet, effective content creators are able to grab your attention in the first 15 seconds of a video and hold you until the final title card. Odds are, these companies and individuals employ video storytelling. To help you better understand what video storytelling is and how to use it to your advantage, we’ll walk you through creating a video that tells a story and give you pointers to get started.

What Is a Storytelling Video?

Image via Flickr by State Library of Queensland

Video storytelling is a manner of creating content that uses traditional narrative structures to evoke emotion from your audience and encourage brand engagement. Think of a story as an example in a lesson: By communicating your message through story, you’re skipping to the part where you apply it to real life — the part where it all makes sense.

Story in video typically centers on and aims to create a strong emotional association with a featured product, company, individual, or brand. As video storytellers, we can use this medium to establish a connection with our audience and inspire viewers’ actions and reactions. This makes story in video a powerful and effective tool.

Preparing To Create a Storytelling Video

To create a video that tells a story, start by exploring several things:

  • What is the story you want to tell? Clearly identifying a story you’re passionate about can give you a roadmap to follow as you move through the process of creating your video. It influences your decision-making at every step, so know your narrative inside and out.

    A simple way to do this is by telling your own story in an honest, authentic way. You can’t get that wrong and there’s nothing special you need to do to prepare. That said, there are boring and non-boring ways to tell your story. An outside perspective can help you decide which points of your story are most relevant to meet your goals.
  • Who is your target audience? Knowing your audience can help you find the most effective way to tell your story. By choosing a method proven to do well with your intended audience, you set yourself up to achieve your intended objective.
  • What is your story’s objective? To put it more simply, how do you want your audience to respond? Emotion is a powerful motivator, and different forms of brand engagement often correlate to the emotion a story leaves them with. By identifying how you want your audience to react, you can guide your creative decision-making through the lens of how you want them to feel. While marketing often get a negative reputation from manipulating people’s emotions (and this is certainly true in many cases), you can aim to connect on an emotional level that is not manipulative, but is truly authentic.
  • Who are your story’s “characters” or “personalities”? If you’re personally representing your brand, think of this in terms of how you’ll present yourself. “Characters” play a huge role in how closely your audience remembers and identifies with the story being told. Strive to showcase who you really are—the aspects of your  personality relatable to your viewers. You can do this by emphasizing your most endearing personality characteristics and highlighting distinguishing features. This will humanize the story’s key players and connect genuinely with  your audience.
  • Where does your story take place? Setting influences the story and how your audience connects with your brand. Develop a setting that grounds your story in reality. Just like characters, it helps if the setting is relatable and familiar.

Each step in creating a storytelling video draws on the answers to these questions. Spend as much time in this stage of the process as it takes to discover the key components of your story.

How To Create a Storytelling Video

Once you’ve answered the preliminary questions, you can develop your video. We’ll simplify the storytelling in video process to five steps:

  1. Develop your narrative. Most modern stories adopt variations on the same story structure or narrative arc consisting of six parts: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. In storytelling with video, you include these elements on a much shorter timeline. To empower each part to perform its intended role within the story, you should make each of these beats strong and memorable. Solidify this narrative as much as possible before filming.
  2. Hire a production studio or gather a team. Filmmakers come with their own brand of style. In selecting a production studio or hiring your team, consider their style and how it will complement your story. In addition, filmmakers with professional experience can make a world of difference in the final product of your video storytelling. Elements like polish, lighting, aspect ratios, and color palettes distinguish great storytelling videography. Give yourself a leg up by partnering with professionals who will elevate your content. If you’re working with limitations such as stay at home orders, even a remotely recorded video can be in a way that offers some unifying polish while acknowledging limitations in a way that leans into limitations as assets rather than flaws.
  3. Film your story.  Always film much more than you need. This will make it easier for your editors in post-production to tell your chosen story.
  4. Edit your footage. It’s essential to follow a narrative arc when cutting your film into the story you want your audience to see, but don’t be too tied to what you had in mind when you started. Videos always change in the editing phase. Check that you’ve included all beats the audience will need, and keep it short. Viewers’ attention spans are only so long. No matter how good your story, capping your video at three to five minutes maximum will challenge you to preserve only the necessities. By mining the elements that serve the story, you can ensure higher quality content. Consider hiring a professional to simplify this part of the process and give yourself an objective set of eyes.
  5. Have a promotional strategy. Once you’ve created your storytelling video, it’s critical to follow a marketing plan that will get your content in front of viewers. This plan can involve social media posts and paid ads, strategic content placement, press releases, or even pop-up events to create buzz around your brand and guide your audience to the video. Develop this strategy in advance so that when your video goes live, promotions have already generated traffic.

Things To Keep in Mind When Storytelling With Video

To set yourself up for success, consider these pointers:

  • Hire a professional interviewer. Telling a story is both an art and a science. If you’re filming documentary-style, you won’t be expected to tell your story in a packaged story off the cuff. A professional interviewer will ask the right questions and follow threads within the flow of a natural conversation. To develop quality content that informs, entertains, and inspires, engage an expert.
  • Show, don’t tell. Audiences retain stories they experience longer than information they hear. If you can create a compelling visual and emotional story, the connection will follow.
  • Trust your story. Often, you’ll find your story knows more about what it wants to be than you do. Let your story guide your decisions throughout the filmmaking process. Doing this will result in a product that’s clear, cohesive, and impactful.

With each new storytelling video you create, you’ll develop the ability to effectively and be innovative in the way you engage your audience.