Last year, a contractor contact shared a YouTube video series with me. It was about Fivefork Farm in Massachusetts, and the moment I watched it, I couldn’t stop.
Well, I love flowers but am a horrible gardener. Hint: the video series is not about tips on growing flowers.
Although I lived in Boston for a few years, I actually don’t know where Upton, Massachusetts is, so it’s not like I was interested in a “hometown” story.
Lastly, I had never heard of Fivefork Farm, meaning I wasn’t a super fan, following the farm on social media.
So, why did I watch it?
It’s something so simple that I’ve been preaching to schools and districts for years: powerful storytelling. Take a few minutes to watch the first video below.
The agency, Greener Concepts (which I have no affiliation with, but would like to!) is obviously incredibly talented. The footage is crisp and clear, camera pans seem to come at the perfect time and the background music aligns perfectly.
But what they’ve also done is kept it simple: no huge sets, no formal sitdowns, the interviews are taken with one camera angle…in short, keeping it simple lets you focus on the story.
What I also appreciate is that Fivefork Farms’ story is broken down into chapters, keeping the length of the videos short, but long enough. I was judging school communications awards the other day, and what shocked me was how long some of them were. Just like many school websites, it seemed like communicators were trying to put anything and everything into the video, resulting in 10- to 30-minute that were disengaging. I’m not trying to insult the creators, but please keep in mind: we’ve become a society used to Reels and TikToks. No one is going to sit for 30 minutes to watch a school video.
Okay, I take that back. We WILL sit and watch a “video” if it’s so engaging, we just *need* to stop everything we’re doing.
Case in point: Netflix’s “Untold” series.
I’ll admit it: I’m not a TV watcher. But my husband is.
A couple of weeks ago, I was folding laundry in our family room, and he sat down next to me, turned on the TV and navigated to Netflix. We don’t really have the same taste in TV shows, so I typically zone out when he does this.
Except, this time.
He clicks on, “Untold: The Race of the Century,” and for the next 83 minutes, I do not fold one article of clothing. I was absolutely captivated.
Well, I get horrifically seasick on small boats in choppy water ever since we went deep sea fishing on our honeymoon on an afternoon that turned stormy. More than a decade later, I’m still quite traumatized by small boats on the open sea.
I’m Canadian by birth, so I don’t have an allegiance to Australia – never been (but if you’re a school in Australia that would like to hire me, I’ll gladly take your offer).
I’ve never been on a sailboat and have zero idea of what to do on one once you set foot onboard.
So, it makes 100% sense that I would be completely disinterested in this show, right?
The story was so interesting, and the way the production team was able to tell it through archived clips mixed with – yet again – simple interviews of participants, was absolutely extraordinary. I found myself hanging on every word: from the description of Australian’s engineer Benny Lexcen to the after-story of American Dennis Conner to vintage footage of what it was like to watch this race back then…pure gold!
I have since become OBSESSED with the “Untold” series and will watch any of its episodes. The storytelling is so incredibly outstanding and, as a researcher by trade, I sit in awe, making notes of camera angles, timing and background music.
How does this relate to schools?
Yes, both of these examples were developed by professionals.
But take a look at the root of each: the story. How can you tell the story of your school or district? WHO should tell the story for you? It shouldn’t be you or your most senior administrator – think about alumni, parents, students, community partners – anyone who has been impacted by the education you’ve provided.
And, don’t let a lack of videography skills or equipment hold you back. I love the phone videography tips shared on the Instagram account, @DIYfamilyfilms, and highly recommend you follow the account. You’ll feel like a pro in no time.
What’s most important when crafting your storyboard for a video is, well, the story. Think about how you want someone to feel after they watch it, what action you want them to take and, most importantly, who your audience is. Keep it short and sweet, stay true to your brand and your target audience and have fun!
One last note: feeling inspired by a video or TV show? Pause it, grab a notepad and pen and begin making notes with timestamps. I recently did this for a Masterclass I found very entertaining so that when I’m trying to tell a story in a similar way, I already have an idea as to how to plan out the filming.
Need help figuring out your school or district’s story and target audience(s)? Click below to access our free Storytelling for Schools worksheets and get started today!