10 tips for effective video case studies

Hi. I’m John from eskimosoup. I’ve been asked several times recently how we create such a wide range of video case studies through which people share the most incredible, sensitive and personal stories.

It’s one of those specialisms that has almost crept up on us at eskimosoup. When I was asked by a Chief Executive of a prominent charity how we’ve managed to achieve this when so many others haven’t quite made it work it made me to reflect on the fact that we do have over 10 years’ experience of doing this so we have picked up a few tips worth sharing.

Before we get to the 10 practical tips, I feel it worth sharing why this is such an important form of media. This is something I talked about on the Storyboard Show a few weeks ago (Storyboard is a company I co-own and is a key ally of eskimosoup. You can see the film here.)

In the interview I reflect that video interviews with people who have lived and breathed personal experiences provide a sense of authenticity that even the most talented writers and actors cannot recreate. Having produced video case studies on the sensitive topics with people directly affected by lung cancer and perinatal mental health in the past few months; we have seen consistently that audiences react so much more empathetically to this form of media than they do NHS guidelines, subject experts or clever analogies created by a marketing team.

Watching a short film through which someone shares part of themselves; their hopes, fears and a whole range of emotions allows us to connect and empathise. It is not just what they say; it is the ability to look into their eyes, their expressions, their body language and almost undetectable little signs that somebody gives out that shows us they mean what they are saying and draws us into the story. One example is the honour we had of working with a lady called Hayley who shared her experience of perinatal mental health with the aim of helping others. One incredible moment is where she illuminates the screen when she talks about how the help she received gave her hope and has helped her be the best mum that she can be for herself and her children. You can see the film here.

A well-made video case study is ideal for social media as it can be expressed, liked, loved and commented on with positive words of support. It is worth mentioning too that everything we have created in 2019 has also been featured on TV, press or radio as they are also in the storytelling business and need content, which benefits all parties as you are given a larger reach.

So, having built the case, here are the tips about our process:
1. The interviewer speaks with interviewees over the phone or in person a minimum of two or three times before carrying out the interview. This builds rapport and trust.
2. Do not publish a video if you feel it will put the interviewee at risk or could become a negative experience for them. It is best to discuss your concerns directly with them and give them a right to reply.
3. The interviewee must understand the implications of taking part, i.e. people will see this, social media responses can be unpredictable, this could be picked up by TV, how we intend to use it, how although they have editable control before release, and once released we no longer have control.
4. Build rapport. If this is done correctly the interviewer has little work to do, but listen to the interviewee and refer back to points made in earlier discussions.
5. Our interviewers do not have a printed list of questions. We have a well-informed conversation.
6. Interviewees have a choice of locations for filming. Some people prefer you to come to their home and others wouldn’t dream of doing that!
7. Be upfront with the purpose of your campaign. You do not need to put words into people’s mouths, however if they understand how you want to influence and help your audience, they will do it for you anyway.
8. We do not push interviews for an emotional response. It’s a low move to push someone to tears.
9. We agree with guests how they want to be perceived and then in the edit do what we can to meet these wishes. This is where decisions around music and lighting are so important too.
10. Tell interviewees that they are the most important person in this process and then make sure that they are. Yes, we need to think about sound, lights and angles, though them feeling comfortable is the most important part of telling a story the right way.

So, whilst two interviews will never be the same; that’s 10 tips we’ve learned in over 10 years of creating video case studies.

Throughout all of this it is never lost on me that it takes a very special person to relive what is most often a very painful experience for no personal gain just because they want to help someone else. For me it is one of the most inspiring parts of my job and we’ll strive to keep doing it well.

Thanks for reading.


Pictured: Bernie’s Story for People Hull, can be viewed here.

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