How to Create Engaging Video Stories That Resonate

6 min read
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Have you ever felt bored out of your mind watching a video? Or sat through a draining presentation with 100 words per slide? In both cases, an engaging story would have kept you interested. Your audience wants the same from you, especially if you're an environmental organization. This step-by-step guide will provide the crucial ingredients creating brand stories that prevents people from sleeping on your message.

Why Do People Pay Attention, Let Alone to Engaging Stories?

Smeared motion of large men group  representing people paying attention to your story for creating brand stories.
Photo by sasan rashtipour on Unsplash

Several factors influence people's engagement. However, at the core of creating engaging stories are these three key factors: 

  1. Curiosity
  2. Emotional Connection
  3. Novelty

The "curiosity gap," as explored in a University of California study, shows that people are drawn to narratives that gradually fill knowledge gaps while leaving some questions unanswered. This keeps viewers engaged. 1

Emotional connections involve viewers mirroring characters' emotions, deepening their engagement.2 Lastly, the "oddball effect" reveals that unexpected stimuli capture attention and disrupt patterns, preventing habituation and maintaining interest.3

By leveraging these elements, you can create stories that captivate and resonate with your audience. Let's dive into the steps.

Step 01: Determine How You Want Your Audience to Feel

Eye closed catching bubble representing the audience feeling for creating brand stories.
Photo by Joshua Ellish on Unsplash

Have you heard of starting with the end? This method applies to your story. Do you want your audience to feel inspired, angered, or reflective? The emotional impact you desire will guide every story decision you make.

Exercise: Key Feeling Brainstorm

  1. Set a five-minute timer and brainstorm ten or more descriptive feelings relevant to your topic.
  2. Set another three minutes and select the top three feelings. 
  3. Finally, set your last timer for one minute to select the critical feeling that best encompasses how you want your audience to feel.

Example:

For our film Belonging, our three desired audience feelings were hopeful, empathetic, and motivated. We chose motivation as our key feeling because it resonated with our intended audience, organizational leaders. However, the film appealed to a broader audience, with most people feeling happy and inspired.

Remember that your brand story may have multiple audiences. Is there one key feeling per audience segment? Knowing your audience and how you want them to feel will act as a filter for every decision moving forward to create your engaging story.

Step 02: Find The Heart of Your Engaging Story

Unknown silhouette people representing finding the heart of your story for creating brand stories.
Photo by Simon Shim on Unsplash

Sometimes, stories aren't engaging because they feature the wrong person on camera. So, what makes a person the wrong person? Let's understand the role of this person, who we will now call the Heart of your story.

The Heart is the vehicle by which your audience travels through your story. However, not any vehicle will work. You're looking for a Heart with a strong desire, motivation, and uniqueness. You're looking for a Heart with a strong desire, motivation, and uniqueness

  • Desire: What is this person pursuing? (This relates to curiosity in your viewer). 
  • Uniqueness: What sets them apart from others? (This refers to novelty for your viewer). 
  • Motivation: What fuels their desire for what they do? (This relates to an emotional connection your viewer will have). 

Exercise: Character Finding for Engaging Stories

Numerous methods exist for discovering the Heart of your story, such as your staff, personal connections, referrals, emails, cold calls, online communities and forums, and surveys. 

  1. Gather a list of character leads.
  2. Conduct pre-interviews with 5-7 character leads.
  3. Rank each potential character based on their desire, motivation, and uniqueness. Whoever stands out numerically and according to your gut is the Heart of your story.

You may think pre-interviews are a waste of time, especially for a story about your company. You might feel getting the Communications Manager on camera is easier. This is part of comms work, right?

Wrong.

Pre-interviewing several people helps control your biases and choose a character to resonate with your audience.

Step 03: Structure for Engagement

Spider web representing story structure for creating brand stories.
Photo by Andrew Lancaster on Unsplash

The study I mentioned above, by the University of Chicago, found that viewers may become more engaged with narratives that leave specific questions unanswered. This "mystery box" effect creates a desire to keep watching to find the answers. 4

Engaging stories have structures that lean into the power of unanswered questions, leading the audience to discover what's next. Our article on the 6 Plot Points Your Story Needs names and details the plot purpose for your structure.

From developing company announcement videos to more story-driven content, this structure will help you capture and hold your audience's attention. 

Summary of the 6 Plot Points

  1. Hook: Captures attention and sets the stage.
  2. Conflict: Introduce the challenge and an unanswered question.
  3. Initiation: Characters take action to overcome conflict.
  4. Journey: Emphasize the top 2-3 milestones along the journey.
  5. Resolution or Result: Resolves conflicts and ties up loose ends.
  6. Call to Action: Inspires the audience to take action.

Exercise: Creating a Narrative Structure for Engaging Stories

  1. Plot out your story using the six essential plot points.

Step 04: Share Sensory Details 

Hands in powder paint. Creating Brand Stories.
Photo by Debashis RC Biswas on Unsplash

Imagine standing 10 feet away from a painting. You see the image as a whole. As you walk closer, only inches from the picture, you notice details that captivate you. Anchor your story with vivid and specific details, but avoid granular information about every person or step involved in the project. These details can take your audience off the story.

Share sensory details—your story's sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings.

Consulting and author, Annette Simmons, says, "Your goal is to tell a story that activates your listeners' imaginations so that they see, hear, smell, touch, and taste (through imagination) your story as if it were happening." 

Exercise: Creating Sensations

  1. Brainstorm a list of vivid, specific descriptions for each of the senses.
  2. Imagine the details as you tell the story.
  3. Identify familiar experiences and feelings that relate to the point of your work or the story you're telling.
  4. Choose the key plot points (i.e., Hook, Conflict, Journey) to share sensory details. 

Example: How Belonging Added Sensory Details

For Belonging, we chose sights and sounds to engage the audience. Minnesota's raw, poetic scenery, with the prickly sound of raindrops and birds chirping, helped immerse the audience into the story as if they were there with the characters.

"There were so many creative elements that grabbed my attention—shifts in focus, sounds, how you captured the faces of the [characters]."

Misty Anderson, Advisory Board Member, BairStories

So, How Do You Create Engaging Brand Stories?

To create engaging brand stories, focus on curiosity, emotional connection, and novelty to captivate and resonate with your audience. These elements collectively ensure that you're creating a brand story worth watching while effectively communicating your organization's message.

Remember to start with the end in mind, find the heart of your story, and structure it to captivate your audience. So, go ahead and craft stories that inspire, resonate, and leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Does all this sounds good, but you don't have the time to do it yourself? Schedule a free 30-minute discovery call to explore if we're a right fit to take this off your plate.


Citations

1 The Power of Curiosity" in Science, Vol. 345, Issue 6204, 2014.

2 The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in an Age of Information Overload" by Daniel Levitin

3 "The oddball effect and the expectation of surprise" published in Cortex, 2017

4 Narrative suspense heightens attention to unanswered questions in film" published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2017

We're a Minnesota-based storytelling agency following the story wherever it takes us.

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