Storytelling to make an impact
Stories stick. Translate the cause you care about into a video. Learn a framework for telling stories on your channel that have social impact.
Set a video strategy
Videos that showcase topics you’re passionate about can be exciting to produce, and you probably have lots of ideas. You can narrow your focus or brainstorm a plan of action with these considerations:
- Format: Having a topic in mind can help dictate what type of video or series you’d like to make. There are limitless formats to choose from, and you could even make up your own. Some popular formats being used in this genre on YouTube are vlogs, scripted sketches, interviews, documentary-style videos, and unscripted moments on camera.
- Audience: Who is your target audience? If you already have an established audience on your channel, think about what types of video formats they like or expect; and if you plan to do something different, consider giving them a head’s up and explain why.
- Frequency: Determine how often you plan to make videos on this topic (or something in the same style). Is this a one-off video or will you create a series? (Creating a series can help build emotional attachment to both the characters and the message and allows you to develop these over a period of time.)
- Don’t feel like you have to fit a complex issue into a short video; audiences are willing to listen and engage. Take your time to explain the issue you care about.
- A strong ending will encourage your audience to tune back in and see what happens next.
See it in action
Find a video format that worksKat Blaque has multiple series on her channel focused on unpacking social issues like, “In my opinion”, “What is:”, “THE ISSUES”, and more.
Determine what the best upload schedule is for youعمر حسين has a specific release schedule that he keeps to and lets his fans know about it in the channel description.
Craft your story
People remember stories. Research is important so that you understand the facts and can define a clear message. When you’re ready to communicate your message, consider how you can emotionally connect with your viewers to illustrate your points.
It can take a lot of courage to share and, depending on the topic, you may be met with negativity. But capturing a raw story can be one of the most powerful ways to communicate on YouTube.
A story is often the journey of a character you care about (including someone in real life you might be working with), confronting and dealing with an obstacle, to reach the end goal. Even if you're creating a documentary or discussing a social issue, the same rules can apply. Usually stories follow an arc:
- The setup or an inciting moment.
- Confrontation or rising action.
- Resolution where the hero succeeds or fails.
Can you find ways to illustrate your message with a story arc?
Think about how you want your audience to feel. Simply reciting statistics may be dismissed by your audience as boring. Instead, it can be more powerful to appeal to their emotions, such as happiness, excitement or nostalgia. Tone is super important too. Positive and negative emotions can trigger different reactions from your audience. Carefully consider what your goal is and how you want your message to be remembered (and talked about.)
- A positive message may not always trigger the audience to do something for your cause. The goal of some channels is to be warm and fuzzy but if that’s not your intention, consider how to tap into those other emotions.
- You put the “YOU” in YouTube. Your strength is your voice--use it! You are the expert when focusing on your own personal stories. Or you can use your voice to ask someone about their life and support them in telling their story.
See it in action
Tapping into sentiment can inspire changeEmotionalFulls created a short, scripted, emotional film that inspires viewers to leave their excuses behind and take the first step.
Sharing your voiceComedian Humza switched gears to a more serious note and created a short film about bullying on his channel.
5 creative ways to approach critical topics
When you’re ready to script, you may find that social impact topics sometimes can be difficult to discuss. Here are a few ways to tackle ideas that could be perceived as controversial or different:
- Explore perspectives: Can you experience a part of someone else’s culture through dress, food, sports, or religious events? Is it what you expected? Consider simulating a “Day in the life of…”: You could challenge stereotypes to highlight how we treat each other by asking “Why do certain stereotypes exist? Are they really accurate?” Be sure you’re informed on all of the obvious ‘sides’ and see what you learn.
- Share stories of those affected: Consider interviewing people who have been or are suffering. Perhaps they are targets of online hate speech, minority groups, or people just trying to figure out their life.
- Co-create videos with people in your target audience: Videos starring community members may resonate more. For example, if you want to share a story about Islamic extremism and you want young Muslims to find it interesting, try co-creating it with your target audience.
- Celebrate diversity: Highlight relationships and friendships that cross racial, ethnic, religious or other barriers. You could show the value of diversity in your community. Document day-to-day instances of cultural or other exchanges. Celebrate diversity with diversity!
- Infuse humor: Humor has been shown to play an effective role in undermining hateful narratives and can make your video more engaging to your audience. Can you reflect on a serious topic with lightheartedness?
- Remember to consider what it means for individuals to be in your videos. Is it safe for them to show their face? Will they have to deal with repercussions? Do not put your subjects into situations that could negatively impact them.
- Try to highlight similarities rather than differences.
See it in action
The goal for many social impact themed videos is to have your audience do something. People typically want to help, so consider giving them a specific ask or outcome. Not having an action for your audience to take is also OK! Making a video is powerful on its own too.
It’s also important to engage in conversation with your audience. You can do this in the Comments section of your video, by hosting a live stream, on the Community tab, and on other social media channels. Encourage your audience to share their own story too. If you run into viewers with opposing opinions, be sure you have a well-composed point of view and beware of feeding trolls! For more on community management, check out the next lesson.
Examples of actions for your audience:
- Share the video to spread awareness.
- Change their behavior.
- Speak up!
- Donate to a cause. You can link to personal fundraising pages or your nonprofit’s website with cards.
- Sign a petition.
- Call elected representatives or vote.