Is a picture still worth a 1,000 words? What about videos? Any business or organization can use the power of video content to build its brand and promote its products. However, it’s not always cheap to do or get it right to make a difference.
Today’s guest is Doug Scott from Tectonic. He describes how nonprofits with small budgets, but big aspirations, maximize their impact with video marketing.
Ben: Hi, Doug. Welcome to the show.
Doug: Hey, great to be here. Thank you so much.
Ben: Absolutely. Before we get too far along, would you mind taking a moment just to introduce yourself to our audience and explain what you and your team do over at Tectonic?
Doug: I'm the founder of Tectonic which is a video agency for nonprofits. I choose to say video agency and not video production company because the value that we provide isn't in making videos. It's in partnering with our clients to achieve measurable outcomes that help them get more of whatever they need to do more good in the world.
Personally, my background, I'm a film school dropout. My dream was always to go to Hollywood and make movies. I saved up my money, went to school out in California in LA, and it turned out to not be the thing for me after all. Through a lot of twists and turns, even spending a year traveling around the world and interacting with amazing people, lots of those people worked in nonprofit organizations. All of a sudden, that bell went off in my head and said, you know what? That passion that you have for telling stories and this newfound desire to help nonprofit organizations can be in the same idea, and that could be a video company that helps nonprofit organizations.
That's where we are. We started Tectonic about eight years ago and we work with some of the best nonprofits in the world, in my opinion—I might be a little biased—but everyone from the American Lung Association to World Relief, to Mutual Rescue, to groups out of MIT, Harvard, and Stanford, even museums like The Tech Interactive and the Chicago History Museum, so a wide cross-section of really amazing organizations to do really great stuff.
Ben: Very cool. That's awesome stuff. In your opinion—I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you have strong opinions in this area, being that you are a video agency that focuses on nonprofits for a reason—what do you think makes video such a powerful format or a powerful medium, specifically for nonprofits?
Doug: The same things that make a video as powerful for nonprofits are the same things that make it as for every other organization out there, and yet there are some nuances that are specifically for nonprofits. But taking a step back, why video in general?
When you're starting to see more and more of the big brands in the world adopting a video-first communications strategy—video is so powerful—they're seeing such a return on investing in video, talking about lifestyle brands and big athletic brands, that video is just propagating all of their networks. It's really resulting, obviously, in a really compelling return on investment.
The reason that video is one of the most powerful tools in any organization's toolbox is that it's extremely efficient. Practically speaking, it takes 60 seconds to read 250 words, but in that same 60 seconds, a video could show you dozens of images that are rich in color, detail, and context that would require thousands of written words to communicate.
Video is also highly engaging. It's the only medium that combines all the others, whether it's music, images, design, text, the human voice. It's all tied together into a single short time-bound soundbite. It encourages and engages numerous learning styles and senses it wants to create something that's really emotionally charged for a mass audience that's repeatable and shareable. It's just gold in that way.
Then lastly, video is preferred over other forms of communication. There's a lot of research coming out. Facebook and Instagram's research studio said that video content on the platform receives five times longer engagement or viewing five times longer than static content. The video is often shared more frequently and generates more engagement than static content.
Another study I found said research shows that when both video and text are available on the same webpage, 72% of people choose to watch the video rather than read the copy on the page. That's certainly true for me. If there's a video, I'll search the web page first, and then if there's a video, I'll watch that first and then read the copy afterward, maybe.
Then lastly, one's preference for video increases as their age decreases. If you want to reach younger supporters and prospective donors for nonprofit, video is key. Then specifically for non-profit organizations, specifically in this time frame during COVID, video has never been more important. When the opportunity disappears to be able to meet with people in person, prospective donors, or prospective volunteers, video is the way to continue to have those kinds of conversations, to begin to continue to share the stories of your work and with virtual events taking a huge rise in every sector, including in the nonprofit sector.
It's the main way for nonprofits to keep their doors open during these days is to have things virtually that people can engage with and ultimately help fund their work for that organization. Video is incredibly important for all organizations and especially for nonprofits.
Ben: Awesome. I always love it any time a guest on this show can offer those kinds of stats and actual data to support assertions that way, so that's some great stuff. You've made a pretty powerful argument in support of the value of video content for nonprofits and for video content, just in general. I imagine that cost is going to be one factor, but I'd be curious to get your thoughts as to what are some of the common obstacles that prevent nonprofits, or maybe even prevent companies (in general) from investing in video, because if all of these benefits are as self-evident as you've laid them out, what keeps organizations from going all-in?
Doug: When people ask that question, the immediate response for most is it's just so expensive. It's just too expensive. We can't justify it. I reject that idea. I do not think that is why people don't invest in videos. The reason why people don't invest in videos is that they can't quantify the return. It's not that it's impossible, but it takes work to be able to quantify the return. If I were to tell you, Ben, for $100 investment, I could get you a $300 return. Would you be willing to make that investment?
If we can do that at some level of clarity or some kind of assured way of doing that for video, all of a sudden people are thinking maybe this is a deal I can't pass up. Maybe I do have to invest in video because, in the long run, it's really going to be able to transform our organization.
It's not as easy as saying to us we can't make that promise to our clients and say you give us X amount of dollars and we'll give you this amount of dollars in return. We do a ton of work to be able to figure out if the video that we're creating is better and secondly, what is the return on investment of our video work?
We even have a level of service where we will guarantee that we're going to hit certain milestones. The way that we do that is that we just guarantee that we will not stop until we hit the milestones that we agree upon. If we're able to really quantify the return, then people all of a sudden will begin to invest in video. It just takes work to be able to quantify it.
Ben: I think that is such a good point because if you're generating a return, that's really not that expensive relative to what you're bringing in. I think it's also very true for video. It's true for so many things in modern marketing, but quantifying the return, as you say, it does take effort. It's not always easy to do in a way that it actually gets beyond vanity metrics, to actually prove real ROI.
If we can identify that that's maybe the number one obstacle, maybe it's the number one challenge, or thing that's just getting in the way of nonprofits, of companies in general, investing in video and taking advantage of all the benefits that it offers.
Say I'm a marketer, a nonprofit, how would you advise that I get started just on a tactical, practical level? How should I get started in at least attempting to quantify the value of my video content?
Doug: I'm a marketer of a nonprofit and we work directly with the Chief Marketing Officer, different folks in the marketing department at nonprofits all the time. I would think that my goal would be to quantify whatever it is that I'm doing to demonstrate that it's having an impact. Like what you would do for any channel, there are a few things that you would want to make sure you have at the beginning to be able to measure against.
Number one, we do benchmarking. We recommend benchmarking. Practically that's identifying four of your “competitors.” Nonprofits don't normally think about their peer organizations. We use the term ‘peer organizations’ so it’s a little more palatable for nonprofits. Identify four or five of your peer organizations and do an audit of their social media videos. What kind of views are they getting? What kind of response and engagement are they getting from social media?
Go through their websites, identify every place that they have video, what pages they have video on, what types of videos those are, put together all that information into a spreadsheet, then apply the same criteria to your organization and see where you fall out. You’d learn so much just by doing that. A lot of our clients, people we interact with, that's a great first step for them to be able to do.
After benchmarking, you want to get a baseline. To get a baseline, that really means talking to your audiences. For us, a baseline means going out to audiences—both internal and external—and asking them some really great questions about what it is that they care about for video. What types of videos they like to watch, what other types of videos do they like to watch from other nonprofit organizations? Who do they think has the best non-profit videos? What do they think of the organization's videos? What do they honestly think about the video content that they're creating right now?
We actually have them score while showing them videos, ask them to score different metrics of the videos so we can get a quantifiable number of what currently they feel like the videos of that organization are hitting in a number of areas. All that does is that later in the process when we're creating videos for the organization, we can at least now have a way to look back and to reference whether or not we go back to those same folks that we got the initial baseline from and say, please score this new video that was created based upon your feedback. What do you think about this one? Is it scoring higher? That's the goal, that we have a higher, more engaging, better video after this process.
Benchmarking, baseline, and then the next thing that we do is identify what big strategic objectives there are for the organization that the video would want to be a part of. Usually, there are some big goals that the marketing or fundraising department has. Then, we develop smart goals just for video. That acronym SMART, see if I can do it now. Specific, Measurable, Actionable…
Ben: I believe it's Relevant. I think it's R. There are at least three or four different variations of that phrase and we use that in our content all the time. To be completely honest with you, I'm as guilty of anyone of getting at least one or two of those letters confused, but they all pretty much mean the same thing.
Doug: Yes. Really good, thoughtful goals that you can actually measure and have a time horizon attached to them. We took all of those goals for our clients and then that's what we go after then. They can be inputs and the outputs as far as how many videos we create, how much that we film in a year. All that stuff is really secondary to achieving these outcomes of hitting these goals.
That's where things really shift is when you're looking at your video content and any of the content that you're creating as an outcome-based as opposed to output-based. That's a mind shift for a lot of marketers and nonprofit organizations, but a very helpful one and one that there really should be focusing on. It's not a question that they don't want to, it's just that there's a lot of work that has to go in to be able to even get to a place where you can measure an outcome.
A lot of times there's just not space for them to be able to put in that time and work to lay the groundwork, to be able to measure, to get an outcome-based approach. We really advocate for that and that's where we should start. Let your boss give you 4–6 weeks to do this stuff, benchmarking, baselining, and then get that baseline to be able to in the future, compare your future work to get some goals established. That's something that we do with our clients.
Ben: Like so many things in marketing, getting buy in to do video marketing from C Suite executives, from board members, from clients, from whoever is holding the purse strings for your organization really depends on your ability to prove a return on investment. That might sound really basic and it might not sound like it's super relevant to videos, specifically, but it's still worth reiterating that point.
Your goal here isn't just to create a great video. It's to create a great video that makes a difference that you can measure. When you can measure and quantify the impact that that video had, it will be a lot easier to sell your internal stakeholders or your clients on what the value of video marketing really is. Now, back to Doug.
How would you advise from a change management perspective? I don't know if that's really the word I'm looking for, change management, or I guess maybe it would be a change if it's outside of something you would normally do. How would you advise they go about just making the case and making the case in a way that's effective so they can actually get by just to spend a significant amount of time just doing that legwork with the data?
Doug: I think it'll be an easier time convincing your superiors of this than you would think because if they've been around in the nonprofit marketing world, they have a certain level of frustration that is borderline infuriating already.
Marketing staff has a longevity duration within an organization of between 2–3 years. It's a massive amount of turnover. I think the greatest reason for that turnover is because people don't put the time in to develop things, that they can actually then benchmark their work against in the future.
A lot of unrealistic expectations get set when the new person comes in and says we need you to hit these things. It's just an exercise in frustration for the 2–3 years that that person is at the organization. They feel like that person, that new hire is the reason why they're not succeeding. They're not good, so then they get the boot, someone else comes in, and the same process repeats again.
All of this could be stopped, not all of it, but the only way it can be stopped is for the new person coming in to have the time to establish this baseline and benchmark for their organizations of which they can use to inform all the content, put forward, and develop smart goals so that they can be able to have reasonable goals that they can specifically measure to demonstrate that they're doing their job and doing it well.
That's the only way they're going to get better overall as an organization. Otherwise, it's a complete crapshoot of whether what you're creating is going to really connect with people, whether you're getting better at creating content. You'll have your highs and your lows, and you won't really know why certain content works or certain content doesn't work. With this kind of method, you're able to progress and make better progress over time.
Ben: So true. Your portfolio, your client roster, and just the places where your work has been featured—you've got stuff on NPR, CNN, and all these other large places—I think all of that collectively speaks to your experience and I think really validates the quality of the work of your team, not only the quality of the work that your team is doing, that you're doing. I think it also shows the power that video has to really draw a lot of attention to an organization. I think any significant nonprofit would probably love to get that kind of coverage.
What does it take for a video to get the attention of (say) New York Times, NPR, CNN, whatever major national outlet it might be?
Doug: One of the great challenges in the work that we do for video marketing is—it's really beyond video marketing—the ethics behind how you frame what it is you're talking about. There have been times when I have instantly identified what would be a really compelling approach to a specific video and yet only met up against reality like the organization is not quite there yet with how they're doing the work that they're doing. We can't really make that claim.
You constantly are afraid that someone told me one time that I find myself in the front of my mind regularly is like our job as marketers are to push up to the edge of untruth in the sense that we're trying to present the most compelling picture of everything is complicated. Everything has so many levels of gray to it. We tend to get that, but as a marketer, we're trying to push right up to the edge of simplicity, and positivity, and compellingness to the edge of untruth.
Don't go over that edge with your toes up to the line. When you do that, it really begins to make sure that you're keeping yourself honest and that you're really only telling stories that you know. The nonprofit can back up, doesn't serve anybody if you were to tell a story that's not going to ultimately best serve the work of that organization. But when magic does happen, when you come in contact with an organization with an incredible story, doing incredible work, that's a lot of fun. We've been blessed to have that opportunity a few times now.
One of our clients is called Mutual Rescue, and it's an initiative of a nonprofit in Silicon Valley that is about animal rescue from animal shelters. They decided on a branded content approach where we're just telling amazing stories about animals who have transformed their owners’ lives. That series has just taken off online with over 120 million views cumulatively now and that's gotten tons of press. That's an instance where the video content itself just had so much engagement on social, that the press took hold of it. That was where a lot of bigger press hits came from around that campaign.
Another campaign we work with is with Health Awareness for concussion prevention. It’s with an organization called TeachAIDS. Again, some of the players behind that just made the content so compelling. We were partnering with the Stanford University football team and Stanford Hospital. When you get those kinds of names involved in the process, all of a sudden it's a much more easy story to sell to the press. Then, they're interested and may find their way onto different news sites and such.
One way of getting that kind of exposure is by having some viral content that the press can't help but ignore, that that becomes the story. The other approach is just to be able to find amazing organizations doing really compelling stuff, and video is just the tipping point. It's not necessarily the driving force, but it's just that extra thing that all of a sudden it makes it easy for the news networks to be able to say, okay, yeah, let's put that on air.
That's something that we can easily show and that the work is already done for us. They've already got a great video. We don't have to go and shoot anything ourselves. We could make plenty of B-roll packages of our work so that the local news or national news can show our videos then on broadcast and such as well. It's being prepared, finding the right clients, not going too far when you're working with a client. Sometimes the magic just happens.
Ben: Cool. Let's say I'm a nonprofit marketer or maybe I'm just a marketer on a team at a company somewhere. Let's say that I'm interested in investing in video marketing like I'm sold on the value, but maybe it's not something that my organization has ever done before. We just maybe haven't made a serious investment video. What would be the very first thing that you would recommend that person do to get started?
Doug: It's back to what we talked about before with really putting the time into benchmarking, baseline, identifying objectives, and SMART goals. That is going to really be the thing that'll set your entire program up for success.
What we do at Tectonic is that you can hire us just to do that and then that's the full engagement. We will come in and we'll just do that for you and say here's what we recommend. Go ahead with it with your own team if you want to. Hire another agency—that's fine with us—but we'll also put in a proposal for what we would do if we were the ones to go further during that process with you.
The same thing could happen in-house. You could form a task force of incredibly capable volunteers. I'm thinking of nonprofit, but if you're in a for-profit company, getting a couple of new staffers, some time to really put the energy into developing this, and not committing that you're going to actually do everything that's in it, but just taking a peek at what is possible by putting the time in to develop these metrics and develop this baseline. That's where I think people want to start first.
The second thing to really look at is what I mentioned earlier as well, tying the way that you think about video to the sales funnel. Certain video content, especially around social, is much more awareness-focused. One of the things that we've discovered is that especially on social, highly-produced video is not more engaging than user-generated video for social media.
In fact, if anything, especially for nonprofit organizations, we did an entire research project called the Nonprofit Video Index where we looked at 778 nonprofit organizations' use of video on social media for an entire year. Then, we rated all those different organizations and we identified the top 100 videos by platform for the year from those organizations. All this information is on our website, the Nonprofit Video Index.
But in doing so, we identified that the most engaging videos, more often than not, were user-generated single-shot videos for social media. That's the stuff that we don't need to do, but that's something that we can just give to our clients and say get your team out there with your iPhones and start filming away. No cost at all.
There is still a place for a highly-produced professional video, but on social, you don't need to. Most of the time, it actually doesn't do anything better or might actually be worse than having really authentic user-generated content on your social media account.
That's the thing. Tying it to the sales funnel and awareness can be social media-based when they get into the interest and decision portions of the funnel, and that's really going to be where you have some professional video that can help explain things. You could be a brand film, could be a product film if you’re a product-based organization. Even nonprofits have a process, sometimes, that they want to highlight. We can do that through video as well, too.
Testimonials, whether that's donors or whether that is customers for the decision point. All this stuff really ties into it. We look at that and then do some testing in that as well, too, to find out. AB tests on your website and your email, to find out if with video, does it perform better or worse, and what types of video do that perform better with. All that stuff would be great to get started.
Ben Sailer has over 14 years of experience in the field of marketing. He is considered an expert in inbound marketing through his incredible skills with copywriting, SEO, content strategy, and project management.
Ben is currently an Inbound Marketing Director at Automattic, working to grow WordPress.com as the top managed hosting solution for WordPress websites. WordPress is one of the most powerful website creation tools in the industry.
In this role, he looks to attract customers with content designed to attract qualified leads. Ben plays a critical role in driving the growth and success of a company by attracting and engaging customers through relevant and helpful content and interactions.
Ben works closely with senior management to align the inbound marketing efforts with the overall business objectives. He continuously measures the effectiveness of marketing campaigns to improve them. He is also involved in managing budgets and mentoring the inbound marketing team.