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How to Use Video Storytelling Effectively in Times of Crisis

John Boitnott

Jul 21, 2020

Both consumer and business audiences often respond more to visual communication than written content. Photos and videos tend to be more entertaining and visually stimulating, and consequently create longer-lasting audience engagement than written content does.  

While video has already told many brand stories, the platform started to get even more attention once COVID-19 hit. With a need to connect, audiences sought out video stories that could both inform and provide some comfort during an uncertain time. Although the intent of heightening brand authenticity remained the same, the video storytelling that’s emerged since COVID-19 illustrates how it can also be an effective crisis story management tool. 

Let’s look at examples of companies that created story videos during the COVID-19 crisis to support customers and grow their brands. Messages within these brand storytelling examples have evolved from what marketers developed prior to the crisis. They can provide insights into the strategy to take when producing platform-specific content during difficult times. 

What Is Video Storytelling?

Before exploring video storytelling in a time of crisis, it’s important to define the concept and understand how the tactic has previously been used. 

Brands have used visual storytelling to grow closer to a specific audience by sharing the story of the company and its product. Developed through marketing and sales efforts, the video’s narrative walks the viewer through a pain point or issue the audience experiences. 

The video story then uses the narrative to involve the audience by building an emotional connection. The combination of emotions, music, and visuals transforms the video into a personal story for the audience. The solution offered to the customer completes the authentic effect while never making the viewer feel as if they were just sold something.  

Video Strategy During a Crisis

A crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded much of people, including isolation, while they wait and wonder what’s going to happen. The loneliness and uncertainty drive them to spend more time online, looking for connections. Video often becomes the missing human connection because it offers information and familiarity. 

User-Generated Content: Examples from VSCO and ADT

Launching a product in the midst of a crisis can be difficult. However, one brand found a way to use video storytelling to drive awareness of its new product. 

VSCO (Visual Supply Company) is already a popular tool for creating and editing visual imagery. The company wanted to introduce its new Montage tool, which allows the app’s users to compose video and use it as a storytelling tool. VSCO reached out to its audience to create and share with the tool, expressing how they felt during the current crisis. They encouraged relevant hashtags like #VSCOMontage and #VSCOCOVID19.

In this way, their target audience could see and experience what the tool could do, while simultaneously enjoying an outlet to express and connect in a challenging time. It led to extensive, creative user-content in the form of video storytelling for VSCO.

Security solutions company ADT also focused on user-generated content for its “Safe at Home” video marketing campaign. The company used the campaign to connect its brand to security and safety in the home year-round. It also served to remind customers that the shelter-in-place mandate is the best strategy to stay safe during the pandemic. 

In the video stories, viewers can see individuals and families coping with the stay-at-home order. The stories featured multiple demographics so audience members could connect more easily. This was intended to provide comfort, familiarity, and security, which also reflected ADT’s brand values. 

Shifting Perspectives: Examples from IKEA and Guinness

In a time of crisis, video can be a good way to shift the viewer’s perspective away from stress and anxiety to something more positive. This is something you didn’t see as often with videos produced before the crisis. Ikea did this with a series of videos that tell the story of a person’s house—with the house as narrator. The idea was to go from dread and isolation to the security and enjoyment of a home. 

In the process, Ikea was also able to align its values of helping its customers create a home that is meaningful to them with the experiences they will have there. 

The images displaying what a home means provided a way to redirect viewers to the comfort and connection people can have with their homes and families. 

Guinness took a similar approach with video storytelling to get its audience to refocus on positive perspectives. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were essentially canceled around the world, so the beer maker created a video story that reminded its audience of resiliency and celebration. Using images that spanned the brand’s centuries-long existence, Guinness was able to show how it has survived many crises, including two world wars. 

This campaign tied the idea that everyone becomes Irish on St. Patrick’s Day with the reality that we are all human every day. It offered a touching message that connected St. Patrick’s symbols, including Guinness beer, with the ability to still celebrate, thrive, and be kind to each other. 

Tips to Video Storytelling

Here are some recommendations for engaging video storytelling during a crisis:

  • Acknowledge the crisis but build your video story off of it into something that is more positive and hopeful for the audience. 
  • Look for ways to see and show the crisis from the audience’s eyes. 
  • Align the narrative and story resolution to brand values you share with your audience.
  • Focus the video story on doing the right thing in the face of adversity or turning a challenge into a solution that benefits the community or society. 
  • Include user-generated content to diversify visual images and illustrate the array of personal stories. 

To learn more about creating a purpose-driven social media campaign that connects with audiences on important issues in creative ways, read our ebook with inspiring examples from top brands.