The Secret to Effective Video Storytelling

Guest Post 4 min read

In grad school, one of my peers’ thesis was about the role of technology in shaping who we are as human beings. 

She explained this to me after a heated debate broke out in one of our classes when our professor told us all we were no longer allowed to bring laptops into the room. Our prof argued it was a distraction. We argued that they were the only things keeping us on top of our massive workload (which was mostly true, even if we were group messaging mid-class). 

My classmate explained to me that for her thesis, she was arguing that technology and media (like the stuff we watch, listen or read on our smartphones and computers) are an extension of the “self”; that part of what makes us human is our attachment to, and use of technology and tools.

Now when I look around and notice everyone with their smartphones and screens, I always think “Yep, she had a point.” 

She aced her thesis defense, by the way.

Storytelling in the digital age

It’s no joke that people spend most of their waking hours staring at screens. Whether this is good for the collective psyche is a whole story on it’s own. Addiction. Insecurity. Anxiety. These can all result from too much attachment to technology.

On the flip side, connection, insight and joy: these can also be the products of screen time spent watching, listening and reading our favorite digital stories.

It’s no surprise that with our increased connection to smartphones and computers over the years, we’ve seen an uptick in video streaming services. Netflix. Disney Plus. Hulu. HBO. 

(Side note: As I list these off I feel like I’m reciting the greatest Presidents of all time to my grade 8 class. They feel that important).

I’ve currently got three series on the go right now: I’m rewatching Rome, from HBO for when I want some GOT-like-television-vibes. I’m streaming Derry Girls on Netflix for when I need a laugh. Plus, I just finished all the episodes available of the Last Dance, the Michael Jordan documentary, and I’m waiting for the next episode to drop.

What makes these shows so good? Let’s reframe: what makes me (and millions of others) keep watching? 

We’re emotionally invested in them. We’re hooked into feeling connected to the progress of the characters, their journey and the lessons they learn (and we learn) along the way.

Video storytelling basics

You’re probably thinking “My SaaS tool or skincare line isn’t going to be the next HBO hit show.”

But do you think that’s what Nike said to themselves as they developed one of the most groundbreaking taglines, commercial series and brands in the world?

Regardless of your video storytelling goals—whether you’re launching a television ad, or starting up your own YouTube channel to increase brand awareness—there are certain elements you can steal from your favorite shows in order to develop a more compelling video story.

  1. Infuse information with emotion to create meaning.

Sure, maybe you’re selling a SaaS tool or skincare. Simply saying “Come buy our tool because it’s the best”  or, “trust us, our skincare line is better than all our competitors” isn’t going to work.

Through video storytelling, channel your fave shows by thinking of the meaning you want to create for your audience. Understanding. Hope. Outrage. Desire. These meanings won’t be 

found by saying “we’re the best; we’re better than all the rest.”

Instead, your video should answer the question, “what is my video story about, and why should someone care)?”

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick video story puts the audience’s emotional experiences first:

  1. Create an emotional journey for your audience.

You don’t need all the beginning, middle and end stuff that you learned in English lit class in your video story. That’s boring for you and it’s boring for your audience.

Instead, think of your video story like a structured, meaningful sequence of information that hooks your audience in, makes them feel attached, and leads them towards meaning.

In the Kaepernick video ad above, the hooks are set even before the video was aired. Everyone knows the storied history Kaepernick has with the NFL, the obstacles he faced and how he’s overcome.

  1. Make the story feel personal to your audience.

How can you take your audience deeper?  How can you make the emotional journey you’ve created for your characters, feel like the emotional journey of your audience? 

In the Kaepernick video story, the audience feels part of the story because the information is grounded in universal truths. 

Kaepernick is simply fighting for something that compels all of us, universally as humans: Freedom. 

The secret to great video storytelling is emotion

When it comes to powerful video storytelling, emotion is what brings your audience one step closer to your message. 

Emotion is what helps your audience connect with and feel for your characters; it’s what makes the overarching story feel like their story. Ask yourself how you can make your audience go deeper and feel more connected. That’s where meaning is found.

Guest post contributed by Alexa Hubley


Video storytelling is an emotional journey that grounds information in universal truths in order to take your audience deeper. 

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