We have witnessed the evolution of the school video. Not that long ago, school videos were 20 and even 30 minutes in length and viewed on VHS cassettes. The tone was typically serious and the objective was to cram every detail about the school into the time allotted. These videos featured the obligatory welcome message from a bow tie-wearing head of school, and all had an eerily similar quality.
Today’s families are more sophisticated consumers of media, and school videos have evolved accordingly. Rapidly shrinking attention spans can make one minute feel like an eternity, and the chance to create a lasting impression of your school can come down to a matter of seconds. The Yield sat down with Victoria Muradi, director of admission and financial aid at Durham Academy (NC), Scott Allenby, director of communications and marketing at Proctor Academy (NH), and Lisa Pelrine, director of admissions at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School (MA), to talk about their recent video productions.
Share an example of a video created by your school. Is the intended audience current or prospective families? What did you hope to accomplish when you created it?
VM: We have admission-specific videos that are one to four minutes in length. They highlight the mission and values of the school through the perspective of a particular student, family, program, or faculty member. The audiences for these films are prospective families and potential employees. One of our most successful promotional videos can be found here:
Durham Academy is a pre-kindergarten through 12 school, and the preschool is our biggest entry point. Although we have a strong academic brand, we’re known as college preparatory; people don’t necessarily think of us as an option for their preschoolers and kindergarteners. This video articulates a universal experience—the anxiety parents face when trying to find the right school for their little ones. It creates an immediate connection because every parent can relate to wanting the best for their child. This video follows a family through the process of making that choice. The family discovers and ultimately chooses Durham Academy, learning how the school partners with parents in raising young children. We hoped to soften our purely academic image by highlighting the constant movement that happens in a preschooler’s day, capturing parent and teacher testimonials, showing the family in their home, and having conversations about the school’s values and the nurturing nature of the program.
SA: There are several recent videos we’re very proud of, but if I had to choose one, I’d go with “Who Are You?”, found at https:// proctor.wistia.com/medias/takupel1f9. It’s a short (30-second) video of secondary footage set to “Who Are You?” by The Who. It quickly showcases the diversity of programs at Proctor and the idea that while at Proctor, you can define yourself through any number of different paths. Our target audiences were both prospective and current families. Our messaging to both is equally important—our current families need to be reminded of the value Proctor brings to their children’s lives and to make sure they are taking full advantage of the experience in which they have invested. And it also serves to introduce Proctor to prospective families in a fun and engaging way. The smiles on kids’ faces tell a powerful story to both audiences: “My kid is happy. Those kids are happy. I want my kid to be like those kids.”
LP: My favorite video is the Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall #InspirationVideo. You can find it here:
In it, teachers at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School surprise their students by sharing a personal message about how the students have inspired them. The emotional messages and the students’ reactions were recorded as part of our InspirationVideo project. The intended audiences were current and prospective families. We wanted this video to capture the culture and climate that make our community so welcoming. For current families, we wanted this video to reaffirm that our teachers are invested in our students, above and beyond teaching them in the classroom. One of the biggest challenges in marketing a school is showcasing a true sense of your community; we captured the special connections that happen between teachers and students in a way that could be seen by an external audience, including prospective families.
How did you quantify your video’s success? Were there any concerns or complaints?
VM: We posted the video on our website, and a shorter version was used as the primary content for external digital advertising and an ad timed to run during admission season on our social media platforms. People immediately began commenting that we captured the journey of prospective preschool parents. We generated about 68,000 impressions (17,000 unique impressions) with a .96% unique click through rate to our tours landing page. About 3,000 actions were taken (likes, clicks, shares) in reaction to the video. It is the most-watched admission video on our Vimeo account, with 1,844 views.
SA: There are both statistical and anecdotal measures of success for videos, and it’s important to recognize that they do not always align. It’s more important for us to be sure a video is getting in front of the right audience than it is to go viral. With this perspective in mind, the viewership numbers for this video were solid, but far from our most viewed. The feedback our admission team got and that we received through comments on the video link and social media were incredibly positive. As one parent wrote in the comments section of the video, “WHO am I? A GRATEFUL Proctor parent!!!” The video resonated well with three constituencies, each in a different way. It simultaneously got prospective families excited about what is possible at Proctor, while reinforcing to current families the hands-on approach to learning their children are experiencing. A third audience that we did not create the video for, but received positive feedback from, was alumni. The video resonated with them and brought them back to their Proctor experience, leaving everyone with a smile. We believe this simple, short video was spot-on in terms of reinforcing our brand to our constituents and to the marketplace as a whole.
LP: We submitted the video, along with a press release, to local news stations and education-based news sites, and it was picked up by a few, including Boston’s CBS affiliate WBZ-TV and Inspired School Marketers. While the video and news story received thousands of impressions, and we saw a spike in visitors to our website during its release, it can be difficult to quantify its exact success. We use this video as a marketing tool in emails, on our website, and at on-campus events. We’ve heard great feedback from both current and prospective families.
Did you work with a professional videographer, or did you produce the video in house? Please elaborate on choice and provide details.
VM: We produced the video with StoryDriven Media, a local professional video marketing company. We have worked with them for about four years. Their approach is unique in that there is no script. Initially, they met with me and our director of communications to strategize about the concerns of our prospective preschool parents. Then, we strategized together about how we might showcase one specific family’s journey. StoryDriven took it from there in terms of interviewing the family, capturing them at home and school, and editing. They submitted a rough cut and we provided feedback in terms of narrative and visuals, fine tuning it until we felt that we had exactly the story we wanted to tell. The budget was between $10,000-$12,000.
SA: We have an in-house staffer on our communications team who shoots and edits videos for us. She has worked with the school for almost 15 years, has had two children attend Proctor, and knows us inside and out. Having this institutional knowledge and brand native expertise is critical to the video content we produce each week, not just this video. She used a Canon C100, go-pro, and iPhones. We had no additional budget for the video—it was just part of our weekly workflow.
LP: The video was produced in-house by our assistant director of marketing and communications, who has previous experience working in TV and film. There was no budget for this video, other than equipment that the school already owned. It was shot using a Canon T3i camera and Rode Microphones VideoMic. The planning, shooting, and editing took about 20 hours to complete.