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Creating a School Video Without Breaking the Bank

How to break through the information overload to get your school messages out.

Students posing for a school video

Feeling a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information you have to absorb each day? Beginning to think you are merely roadkill on the side of the information superhighway? Are you inundated with far more information coming in than you can assimilate? Well, you are not alone.

In fact, one study shows that the typical adult receives the data equivalent of 174 newspapers a day. Another study puts it at 63 gigabytes of media a day (which translates to 10,000 times the Complete Works of Shakespeare). One study predicts that by 2025, we will be creating 163 zettabytes of data per year (and a zettabyte is one trillion gigabytes).

How can you compete with this information overload and break through to get your audience the right information? After all, to be an effective educator, you must be a good communicator. If the knowledge you need to share doesn’t get through to your equally overwhelmed audience, you are just wasting your time. The competition for attention is stiff, and the proof is evident by the state of your e-mail inbox, Facebook feed, and the online resources you access daily.

Given that fact, what can you do to reach your parents and community members to get your school messages heard?

You must make your message compelling. One successful and affordable way to do that is through video.

Why does your school need video?

School videos are highly impactful. They draw our notice amid the chaos of information clamoring for our attention. Here are a few examples of why they work.

Increase Conversations

If schools were a business (selling a product or service), we’d tell you that video boosts conversations and sales. In education, that translates to:

  • increasing enrollment
  • engaging parents
  • attracting quality staff
  • enthusing students
  • creating a positive public perception

Build Trust

One of the primary goals of effective school marketing and communication is to build trust. Building long-term relationships requires trust and support, and this includes parents, students, staff, taxpayers, or donors. It is no longer about trying to “sell” them, but to provide them with the information and evidence to let them make their own decisions. Videos can ignite emotion, improve parent engagement, and build trust. They provide visual proof.

Increase Visibility & Shares

As mobile device use increases, more of your intended customers are watching videos on the go. Because of this convenience, video consumption rises over 100% every year. If you aren’t going where your audience is, you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to engage and influence them.

Reach Your Audience

You have to take your message to where your customers are, right? So where are they? They are watching videos—on Facebook and YouTube or websites or video links e-mailed by a friend. It’s like everyone is going to a party, so be there or be square. YouTube is now the 2nd largest search engine, so you need to be there as well.

Make it easy for your customers to share your news and your influence with their friends, community, and family through their social media channels. Remember, people share emotions more often than they do boring facts, so increase your shares by engaging their emotions.

Even your SEO (search engine optimization), which helps your school get found online, will be positively affected because Google gives lots of ranking cred for the length of time your site visitors stay on your pages, ranking you higher. Video extends their visit.

Learning the HOW of creating school videos

The good news is that your school videos no longer have to be high-end, expensive marketing videos. With the explosion of YouTube, the home-grown video has become perfectly acceptable, and sometimes even more credible than a professionally filmed one. We’ve seen some remarkably effective videos created by students, staff, and volunteers to promote their school’s successes.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Cameras: The quality of most smartphones will take you where you need to go for most school videos. (Use it in horizontal/landscape orientation for the most flexibility). The newer devices have high-quality cameras that produce surprisingly good quality videos, especially if you are doing an impromptu filming of an event or success story happening live. Now you can purchase fancy lenses for your smartphones for a wide array of effects.
  • DSLR Cameras: If you want to go big, it can also be surprisingly affordable. You can get an excellent entry-level DSLR that will serve your needs quite well for your more professional projects for around $500. Look for audio/in if possible so you can use an external mic.

There are some great short training videos for you depending on whether you are using a smartphone or a DSLR camera. A bit of searching on YouTube will provide you with many examples. Here are a couple of samples:

Making a video with your smartphone
Making a video with a DSLR

    • Editing your video: Check out Lynda.com. It has some great, affordable courses and is an inexpensive and entertaining way to get up to speed in a hurry. You can also find free training and tips on YouTube, Vimeo school, and Wistia library. Once you decide which type of software you would like to use for editing, go from there. We use Camtasia (for PCs), and many Mac users use Screenflow. Some prefer the editing software that comes with Windows or Mac (Windows Movie Maker or iMovie app), and there are others like AVS Video and Pinnacle (many have a trial version you can test out). There are also much more advanced video editing programs. As you gain confidence, you can migrate to programs like FinalCut or Adobe Premiere Pro for their advanced features. But if you are just starting out, you don’t need to push for this level of expertise, especially if you are short on time—and who isn’t? Most videos on YouTube and social media are not professional, and they still get many happy viewers. (Also, if you are a high school, consider letting students edit your video for experience and credit).

    • Length of video: We have become a country of short attention span, immediate gratification, media overloaded people. So, just acknowledge that and keep it as short as possible and still get your message out. That can be anything from 15 to 90 seconds. A 2012 Wistia study shows us that less than 50% of viewers will watch a 1–2 minute video to the end. So, keep it short!

    • What about lighting? The light needs to hit your face when filming a “talking head” or an interview. This doesn’t have to be expensive and could be as simple as moving a desk lamp closer to your webcam. But, if you are interested in getting a bit fancier, check out Wistia’s video describing how to create a lighting kit that is well within the budget of most schools: https://wistia.com/library/down-and-dirty-lighting-kit

    • Audio: If you want to make a noticeable difference in your video quality, consider upgrading to an external microphone. If you do a lot of interviews, consider opting for a wireless Lavalier microphone. You can find them rated very highly for less than $20. Just search in Amazon—be sure to check out the reviews and ratings.

    • Video Intros: When you want to brand your school videos, try adding a video “bumper” to the beginning and end of your videos. Splasheo is a very affordable program that makes it easy to create a personalized intro and give you a professional outcome for only $47, $97 for outros (endings). You can also make your own and use the same ones for every video, so you only have to create them once. Camtasia has some great tools to make your intros as well.

    Where to host your videos

    It should go without saying that your videos should have links on your school websites since they are an important part of your school communications strategies. Place them where appropriate, of course, like the news page, and any other topic-specific page. Then link to the “hot topic” videos from your home page in a teaser news areas. Some schools will also create a media page, where they link to all of their latest videos. But, before you place them on your website, you’ll want to host them where you can take advantage of closed captioning (they must have closed captioning to have an ADA compliant website) and reduce load time on your website servers. You will also use your school website link on your school social media channels, digital newsletters, and in e-mails to drive traffic to your school websites and create even more engagement.

    So, what are some hosting options?

    • YouTube: All schools should create a YouTube channel. There is just no downside to it. Even if you have another method of hosting your videos, posting to YouTube is a good idea for search and SEO benefits. 
    • Vimeo: various plans are available, from free to $20 a month, depending on your needs and usage. You can control access to your videos and create channels, and it has a player you can use for editing to make it look nice on your website.
    • Wistia: This has a robust platform, and for more than three videos it costs $99 per month plus $.25 per video over 10. It offers respectable analytics and lots of tips to teach you how to shoot video.
    • School Tube: This is a free service for schools to upload and host school videos. However, it doesn’t appear that they are still updating their platform. I am unable to get responses to my attempts to contact them, so beware. It also looks like closed captioning is available on their platform, which you would need to create during your video editing.

    What types of videos should you make?

    Okay, we’ve convinced you it is time to join the party, but now what do you want to video? Fortunately, the list is endless, and it will depend on your school needs. First, what is your primary goal? Do you want to increase enrollment? Do you want to notify the community about a new program? Do you want to win support for a tax override election? Are you looking for business partners? Donations? Volunteers? Recruiting high-quality staff? Creating a strong brand? Do you need to earn the respect of parents? Show your community you are the school of choice? All great goals.

    So, as an example, let’s assume you want your video to help you with enrollment. You would think about your target audience (who you are trying to attract) and clarify things like demographics, values, goals for their child, etc. You can do this by interviewing a few families you recently did attract and ask them what their top three needs/priorities/fears are. Learn at least three things your video should target, and then address those needs. If this were marketing 101, you would be creating a customer persona and content that resonates with them. For our purposes, we’ll keep your first video very simple. Here are a few quick ideas for approaching this type of recruitment video (hopefully this will inspire other approaches for whatever needs you choose to address).

    • Video parents who selected your school. You could invite several families to the school to answer few selective questions. Be sure your questions address the top three priorities you determined earlier. You could also have families take their own videos and submit them to you for editing. The more you get, the more responses you can select from to narrow your focus on your top priorities.

    • Interview alumni from the school. This is especially effective if you have a few well known or successful alumni who would be willing to share how attending your school helped them become who they are today. It’s hard not to listen to a great success story when the evidence is in front of you.

    • Do a series of interviews with people like the principal, a few teachers, some students, a few parents, the nutrition director, a secretary, the custodian, and the superintendent. Ask them to share a few words about why they love your school. I’ve seen this done effectively with just a one-word description from each person. It's quick, compelling, believable, and shows a broad base of support from many people at your school. It could simply be titled “The Faces of .”

    Also, as a bonus for hanging in there for this whole article, please accept our free download with some additional resources called school video tips & topic ideas. If you have effective examples at your school, please share them with us, and we’ll add them as a resource example for others to enjoy as well. E-mail us at Info@SchoolWebmasters.com with the subject line “great school video examples.”

    Just Do It!

    At the risk of treading on a famous motto, like Nike says, just do it. Give it a try. What have you got to lose? You are likely to be very impressed with the outcome, and you can certainly improve your school marketing and communication efforts by sharing your school stories in a way that people will enjoy and share.


    (1) Richard Alleyne, “Welcome to the information age – 174 newspapers a day,” The Telegraph, Feb. 11, 2011 (Compare that to 2 ½ pages 30 years ago.)
    (2) James E. Short, “USC CTM Releases Report on Americans’ Media Consumption,” USC Marshall School of Business, Oct. 28, 2013
    (3) IDC, Data Age 2015, “The Evolution of Data Through 2015,” sponsored by Seagate.