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TIG 2013 - Video to Reach Clients presentation

Hello everyone! I’m just getting back to the office after a great time last week at the LSC TIG conference in sunny, 80-degree Jacksonville, Florida (I can’t resist boasting about that a little… it was 16 degrees in Montana this morning). It was a great experience and I loved getting to meet so many of you! If you haven’t seen them yet, check out Peter Campbell’s, Stephanie Kimbro’s, and Richard Zorza’s summaries of the conference.

For those of you who were unable to attend, or who missed the Northwest Justice Project (NJP)/Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) presentation, I wanted to talk a bit about one of my new favorite topics: video. Or, to be specific, Video to Reach Clients. Presenters at this session included:

Brian Rowe kicked things off with a discussion of LSNTAP’s experience with video hosting best practices. LSNTAP used to host videos internally, but they were so difficult to find on our site that we switched to a YouTube account. Views have risen exponentially – from 450 in 2011 to 3,500 in 2012. Besides being much more visible and accessible, the benefit of YouTube has been that it tracks not only views but also when people stop watching. With this data, we can tell a lot more about what length of videos are effective, what presentation formats work, and more. As a result, Rowe recommended hosting videos on YouTube, rather than on your own website.

Next, Alison Paul talked about MLSA’s use of video, which is threefold: educating those with legal needs, training new personnel, and featuring or honoring staff or board members. Using video for staff training is especially effective at saving time and money in an organization which only hires one or two new staff members every few months. In addition, Montana’s “Legal Tip of the Week” (which is published in local papers and to the website) often includes video clips.

MLSA started making videos with TIG funding, and later received a supplementary TIG for their series of “choose your own adventure” videos (interactive series which link to one another – a built-in feature of YouTube – depending on the viewer’s needs). Videos are made in-house by staff; experiments with help from law students didn’t work out too well and Paul didn’t recommend it.

As far as equipment goes, Paul estimates that MLSA spent about $12,000 total – but that much less could suffice (for example, the majority of that money was spent on a large-screen Mac computer for video editing). For a full list of equipment used by MLSA, see the slides used during the presentation. Also, for more on the MLSA’s video-creation process, see their video use policy document, series of how-to videos, and YouTube channel.

A few tips that Paul left the audience with included: train more than one person to use your camera! That way, if they leave the organization, take an extended vacation, or sustain head injuries that lead to memory loss, your video production doesn’t have to grind to a halt. She also advised using voice-over, rather than having the actors speak, so that it’s easy to just switch the audio track to another language or to update information (you don’t have to worry about lips matching up with speech or gender-inappropriate voices). Also, short clips are easier to work with; finally, be sure to review your video content often to make sure that it is up-to-date and relevant.

NJP’s go-to video guy, Daniel Ediger, next spoke about the low-cost tools he uses to create the captivating videos available on NJP’s YouTube channel. Many of Ediger’s videos are created simply with a whiteboard, some dry-erase markers, a simple video camera, and a USB microphone for voice-overs. A few more simple tools such as PowerPoint (or Keynote, for Apple users), Camtasia, Snagit, or CamStudio, and a small FlipCam or even a cell phone with video capabilities, plus just a bit of creativity, can be used to create very compelling videos. Take a look at the slides he used during the presentation for a more complete list of tools.

Like Paul, Ediger recommended using voice over for videos, so that audio and text can be easily swapped out to make the video multi-purpose. He also recommended including images of example forms and documents in your video as you discuss them, as well as live actors if possible – viewers tend to relate better when they see an actual human on-screen.

For those ready to start creating videos, Ediger walked through the production process. First, you’ll obviously need to choose a video topic. Think about information that is frequently requested from your organization or that attorneys frequently repeat – these are topics that would benefit from being readily available to the public.

Once you have a topic, the next step is to write and edit the script. Make sure it’s in plain language and that it’s as concise as possible. Ediger suggests using a chart format that matches each segment of the narration with a visual (see the example in his PowerPoint), so that no audio is without a visual component. Long stretches of talking with nothing to look at will get boring quickly. Leave more time than you think you will need to complete this step and consider a lot of options in terms of visuals – is it better to show a courtroom? A document? An animation of some kind?

Next: make and edit the video! This step, like the one above, will take more time than you think it will. When you’re working in isolation, you may be able to crank out a (short) video in just a few days, but any kind of collaboration will require weeks or months of back-and-forth. Count on spending roughly 4.5 hours of work per minute of finished video, especially as you start off. You may get faster as you work.

Once you’re finished editing, it’s time to distribute your video! This includes promotion on your website, YouTube channel, and other social media outlets, as well as any other distribution/promotion activities you may decide to undertake. Pay attention to tags and keywords for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

To put it in perspective, Ediger estimated that the time distribution among the various steps of video production are 10-30 percent script preparation, five percent shooting the video, 50-80 percent editing, and two percent video distribution and promotion.

This isn’t the last step, though – be sure to keep up with your video and its statistics. Who’s watching it, and how are they getting to it? Can you make it more visible? Check your analytics, and use the suggested terms for tags on your video. Also keep in mind that people frequently misspell things. One good tip is to simply copy and paste the text of your script into the video description, so that YouTube will search it. You also want your title to be very descriptive – not “cute” – because a good title will be prioritized in search results.

As far as curating your YouTube channel, you might consider things like creating playlists for foreign-language videos or substantive areas; regularly swapping out the “Featured Video” at the top of the page; and changing the way your channel looks with organizational branding or logos.

One nice feature of YouTube is that it will tell you absolute and relative audience retention numbers. Absolute audience retention means what proportion of your video most people are watching – that is, how long they stick around before clicking elsewhere – and relative audience retention compares your video to other videos of a similar length, so you can see if there’s room for improvement to hold your viewers’ attention longer.

For more inspiration, check out Xtranormal (an easy-to-use online animation tool), and videos by Éducaloi, Kentucky Legal Services, Common Craft.

Finally, Kristin Verrill talked a bit about ShareLawVideo.org. The site enables users to both share their own and download others’ raw footage, finished videos, audio tracks, and still photos. It’s free to use, you just need to credit the organization from which you’re taking content. So for example, you can use footage of a courtroom that someone else shot in order to cut down on your own production costs and time. Check it out!

Good luck with your video project, and subscribe to LSNTAP’s YouTube channel!
Liz