MULTIMEDIA STORYTELLING: AN INNOVATIVE AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT TOOL
If you want to capture the attention of your audience, great media is essential. But producing video can be expensive and photos often don't tell the whole story. So how do you tell compelling stories about your organization, programs, and art on a tight marketing budget?
At ArtsFwd, an initiative of EmcArts, we've been experimenting with a great media format - the audio postcard - and having a lot of success. Part of ArtsFwd's mission is to share stories of innovation from arts organization all across the country and we've found audio postcards to be an affordable and highly effective way to communicate a lot of information in a direct, intimate way.
With this guest post, we'll share some best practices we've learned from producing over 30 audio postcards this year, including 16 about grantees of the Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund and 12 about arts organizations in Cleveland who are developing new strategies to engage younger and more diverse audiences.
What is an Audio Postcard?
For our purposes, we define an audio postcard as a 3 to 4 minute media piece that combines two elements: an edited audio track and a stream of images. The final product has the feel of a video, but without the cost of producing moving images with synced sound.
What are the benefits?
It's your voice: An audio postcard let's you showcase the unique personalities in your organization by having your staff tell your story in their own voice.
Less expensive than video: A professional video with multiple interviewees and b-roll typically costs thousands of dollars to hire a director, videographer, and editor and can take weeks or even months to produce. An audio postcard requires hiring only a local audio engineer to record a 30-45 minute interview session and edit it down, which typically takes less than two weeks and under a thousand dollars in hard costs.
Shareable: An audio postcard be uploaded to video sharing sites Vimeo and Youtube, shared on social networking sites, embedded in your website, emailed to your community, and shared with the field.
How do I produce an audio postcard?
Below are step-by-step instructions for how to produce a compelling audio postcard:
Pick your topic: Keep it concise. You won't be able to capture your whole organization in 3-4 minutes, so pick a part of your story. Make sure that you have (or can capture) a significant number of photos related to the subject. Audio postcards are a great tool for sharing new initiatives, programs, challenges, or calls to action.
Select your interviewees: Who will tell your story best? It's ideal to have two interviewees. One interviewee gets monotonous and more than two interviewees gets confusing.
Develop a line of inquiry: Do your research beforehand. Write 5 to 10 questions that get to the heart of the story you want to tell. Instead of yes/no questions, ask "how" and "why." Don't forget the basics - ask the interviewees to introduce themselves and briefly introduce the topic of the audio postcard before you get into the specifics. [Note: You can fully script your story beforehand, but scripted narration tends to sound more like marketing-speak than authentic story telling.]
Record your interview: Bad audio will ruin your audio postcard. If you don't have the equipment and experience to do this in house, hire a local audio engineer/producer to record your interview. Make sure they are getting clear audio of each voice by directing the microphone at the person speaking. Before you start, the interviewer should remind the interviewees to keep their answers brief and to answer in full sentences by repeating the keywords in the question in their answer. Set an end time for your interview to keep your interviewees from getting too verbose. If someone gets off track, the interviewer should jump in and redirect the conversation. The costs to hire an audio engineer to record your interview typically ranges from $50-$150.
Finding your story: You'll need to edit your interview down to 3 to 4 minutes, which means finding the nugget of your story. We recommend that you work with an outside editor who is skilled and start by sending them 6 to 8 concise bullets points that describe the arc of your story and any sound bites you think should definitely be included. Expect to do 2 or 3 rounds of revisions. If you're editing it yourself using professional software, iMovie, Bandcamp, or a similar tool, do the same exercise of writing bullets points before you start fishing through the audio for the good stuff. The cost for an outside audio producer typically ranges from $400 to $800 and may be the same person who recorded the interview.
Add images: Gather a wide variety of images, probably 40 to 60, that are related to your story. Use a program like iMovie or Final Cut Pro to pair your images with the audio. Add simple fades in between. The relationship between images and sound doesn't have to be literal, it's more important that your viewers have something intriguing to look at while they listen to your story.
Branding it: Add your logo and website at the beginning and end so that viewers know where to find out more. Credits are also a good idea.
Sharing it: Once you've made your audio postcard, share it widely! If you're successful, you will have created a short piece of media that tells a compelling story in your own unique voice.
We hope you find the audio postcards as exciting and flexible as we do.If you use the format, we're curious to see your results. If you're interested in making an audio postcard, but have more questions, feel free to be in touch. You can reach me at kmangu-ward (at) emcarts (dot) org.