Great video begins with a great story; we’ve always known this and at core we believe all human beings get this. That’s why we found Jonah Sachs’ book Winning the Story Wars: Why those who tell–and live–the best stories will rule the future quite insightful. In this post we’ll unpack a couple of his points as they relate to video.

3 Kinds of Stories for Great Video

Winning the Story Wars identifies three powerful story types:
  1. Genesis Stories, which tell how your organization was founded;
  2. Symbolic Stories, which use fiction to illustrate a deeper truth (most commercial ad campaigns are in this category); and
  3. Documentary Stories, which use real-life events to communicate a message.
We’ve produced great videos that fall into each of these categories, but it’s fair to say that our clients, many of whom are nonprofits, generally favor documentary stories with authentic people and their stories at the forefront.

Great Video has an Effective Protagonist

Sachs says that great stories start with a protagonist the ideal audience will warm to. That protagonist might be one person, or a small group of people.  In a genesis story, a great video may have a founding group at the heart of the story. This video, which MiniMatters produced for our client the American Chemical Society about planned giving, is a documentary story, and its protagonists, Cathy Sigal and her deceased husband Irving Stanley Sigal, exemplify the principles identified in Winning the Story Wars for great protagonists.
Sachs says that protagonists should have these three attributes:
  • The ideal audience should find them relatable–should identify the protagonist as a member of their own tribe.
  • There should be something unexpected about the protagonist because our brains are hardwired to pay attention to the unexpected.
  • Protagonists should defy established norms in some way.
The Sigals are members of the ideal audience’s tribe because they, like most ACS members and potential donors, are chemists with a passion for chemistry–especially at the field’s inspirational leading edge where it can change lives. In the video, Dr. Cathy Sigal identifies the unexpected attribute–her husband lost his parents at a young age and gained his sense of life’s limited time from this tragedy. Thus, Dr. Irving Sigal completed his college degree in two years and pursued his research on drugs to fight HIV/AIDS with a furious fervor. Then, while rushing home from a conference, he was killed aboard Pan Am Flight 183 when it was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland.  This was just a short time before his discoveries led to drugs that could manage HIV/AIDs and saved countless lives. Dr. Irving Sigal also meets the final criteria of defying established norms by working on drugs that would treat HIV/AIDS in a time when that meant serving a reviled population. And Dr. Cathy Sigal’s capacity to turn tragedy into a fitting memorial of partnership and love tied to chemistry compels the viewer.

What Great Story Will Your Great Video Tell?

Every organization has many effective protagonists that have impacted the organization’s destiny, and every great video has a winning story at its heart. Telling those great stories is part of why we love our work. And the story of how those great videos produce great results is another reason. If MiniMatters can help you with fundraising video, association video, or other video production needs, we’d love to talk with you at 301-339-0339 or via email at [email protected]. We serve associations, foundations, nonprofits, and businesses primarily in Washington, DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia.