Hook, Hold & Payoff


True confession: I get bored very easily when I watch a video. For example if I'm watching a school promotional video I'm always secretly thinking about that adorable kitten video with 15 million views.

One simple way to keep your audience engaged is to tell a story. Your high school English teacher told you that every story has three parts: beginning, middle, and end but what does that look like in a short video for a school or non-profit?

Recently I worked with New Hampton School on the donor thank you video at the top of this article. The challenge was to tell a story in under two minutes that had emotional resonance. Here's how we did it.

The Hook
We knew we needed a strong beginning to keep viewers engaged. Rather than open with a slick message or title card we jumped right into the video and made it feel like we were still setting up the camera. We asked a question and at first students seem to be confused. The hook works because the shots look and sound good but the students don't quite know what to say. The audience is wondering, "What are they thankful for?" Lovely UAV shots help delight the audience. Time to hook the audience: 20 seconds.

The Hold
We showed students looking confused so now we need to let them look awesome. Cut between multiple students saying authentic and touching things not just about the school, but also about their families. After reviewing our YouTube viewer retention data we found that our audience in past videos was sometimes leaving after about thirty seconds. Thoughtful students and sweet UAV shots aren't always enough. The solution: at about 30 seconds into the video we introduced a new visual element of the thank you notes. Time to tell the audience how thankful we are: 1 minute 15 seconds.

The Payoff
We decided early on that there wasn't a desired action for the audience after watching this video other than a good feeling. The payoff of this video is just a sincere message of thanks. The visual style of the thank you matches the visual style of the opening question to book end the video. Time for a parting message: 15 seconds.

Many thanks to Trent, Sandy and all the students interviewed for this video - it was fun to make and the audience loved the simple but well executed message.

What do you think? How do you use storytelling elements in your videos? Did you make a thanksgiving video? Let us know in the comments!