Video content is crucial to modern campaigns – social media platforms like Facebook actually give preference to videos over photos and text posts, because people tend to prefer them. An introductory video is a must for most campaigns – it allows you to speak directly to your voters and supporters in your own words, wholly controlling your campaign’s message. It can feel overwhelming to produce and film your own video at first, but candidates quickly get the hang of it (some even create one every day). The five tips below break down the process and include best practices to help you avoid the mistakes many first-timers make.
- Write a quick script. You don’t have to memorize it verbatim, but you do need to have a clear idea of what you want to say, and you want it to be no longer than a minute (or two at the very, very most). Thirty seconds is generally best. Most viewers may not get past the seven second mark, so it’s important to get the crucial information in upfront.
As you write, remember who you are talking to and what they find interesting. Start with introducing yourself, the office you’re running for and why you are running. A formulation that works for many people is: “My name is Eric Green, and I’m running for City Council because it’s time we do more for our small businesses and clean up downtown.” Leave the policy specifics for your website – the goal here is to communicate to voters who you are and what you care about. Avoid listing grievances, and try to focus on solutions, not problems. At the end, have an ask – whether it’s signing up to volunteer, following you on social media, donating, or signing a pledge to vote card.
Write out what you want to say and then time it out using a stopwatch or the timer on your phone. When you have a script you’re happy with, practice it in front of a mirror, in front of your friends and family, and the camera.
- Have the right (cheap) equipment, and at least one volunteer to help you film. You will need a smartphone and a stabilizer, which you can buy on Amazon or at your local gadget store. Don’t worry too much about sound – the mics on a modern smartphone are pretty good. But if you are technically inclined, ask for a ‘directional mic’ that is compatible with your smartphone.
Recruit at least one other person to help you film. This person will press record when you are ready, watch the footage as you film, and press stop. They can give helpful tips on what they see, help adjust if the lighting is too dark, or ask passersby to steer clear of the background until you’re done.
- Choose your location and setup. When creating a video yourself, it’s best to be authentic and direct. If the noise is minimal, pick an area outside in the district you are running in that voters will recognize (Main Street, a business corridor, town park, or in front of a local landmark). Extra points if the background helps to underline why you’re running. For example, if revitalizing downtown is your top priority, consider filming in the affected area. Make sure you are in a quiet area with no wind and very little ambient noise. If outside isn’t an option, a kitchen table or informal living room works well.
Then set up your smartphone on a stabilizer, and make sure it is level. Do a few takes to check the lighting and sound. If you aren’t happy with how you look or the background, change it. Look directly into the camera, not at the person behind the camera who may be helping you, and speak as if you were having a conversation with a voter (because you are). Straight to camera is best. Do as many takes as you need, and have your volunteer take note of which you feel are best.
- Look the part. When choosing what to wear, shoot for business casual. The rules for online video are the same for TV: wear a solid colored shirt or blouse – light blue works for many people – and steer away from patterns, especially in loud colors. You want to look like yourself, but you are also asking people to trust them as their representative. Make sure your hair is out of your eyes – you may want to get a haircut or blowout beforehand. Take a comb, blotting papers, and an extra outfit with you, so you can adjust on the spot without having to go home.
- Be confident. As you speak, remember that how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. Be positive and self-assured. People want to vote for someone they like, someone they can imagine spending time with, and believe in. Now is not the time to be frantic or negative. Introduce yourself and share your vision with confidence, and voters will take note.