George Lucas Educational Foundation
Administration & Leadership

10 Mistakes to Avoid in Your School Video

School leaders using video to communicate with their communities—for everything from campus tours to fundraising appeals—can maximize their impact with these tips.

August 18, 2021
Viktorcvetkovic / iStock

As digital consumers, we all understand that video can engage an audience’s sense of hearing and seeing like no other medium. And because video production is now so accessible—anyone with a phone can make a video—schools are using video to inspire families, to support fundraising efforts, and for a variety of other purposes.

As with any other activity, there are better and worse ways to make videos, and as an educational consultant who works with schools to raise their profiles, I try to help school leaders avoid those worse ways.

10 Things to Not Do When You’re Making a School Video

Mistake 1: Thinking your video can do and say it all. You’re investing a lot of time and/or money in a video, so you might be tempted to make it as versatile as possible, but focusing on your stated purpose should be your only goal. If you make a video about your school’s social and emotional learning program, and then try to make it do double duty for fundraising or to celebrate an anniversary, it simply won’t work. If you try to say too much, you’ll end up saying nothing at all. Instead, make a separate video for each purpose you have.

Mistake 2: Talking only about your school and not about your viewers. Viewers watching your video don’t want to hear solely about your mission and vision—your video should invite them into the story. Help them see how they fit in and how it feels to be part of your community.

Mistake 3: Failing to define what you want the viewer to do. Failing to keep your viewer—and what you want them to do—front and center will dilute the power of your video. The video is an invitation to take the next step, so the last thing you want is a video that makes your community feel closed or uninviting. To stoke curiosity and excitement, invite your viewers to engage more deeply with you, and use your video to tell them how they can do that.

Mistake 4: Focusing on the features. The answer to the question of what’s distinctive about your school cannot rest on a set of features. For example, if you’re the only school with a state-of-the-art science lab, you won’t be for long. So don’t spend precious video time emphasizing features—they are not what differentiates your school from others in your area. Instead, your video should focus on what those features mean for students, whether that’s deeper learning, or a stronger sense of community, or something else.

Mistake 5: Failing to make a campus tour a compelling story. If your video takes folks around campus showing them landmarks, athletic facilities, and new buildings, you don’t have a compelling video. Instead, tell them why landmarks mean something, what the field results in for athletes, and why you do the things you do. If you don’t explain the “why” of your campus, you leave viewers to come to conclusions on their own.

Mistake 6: Forgetting the emotion. Your video needn’t make people cry, but evoking emotion will create a sense of connection with your school. Many school videos fail to connect emotionally because they focus on facts rather than tell a story. Your video should create a visceral sense of what it feels like to be part of your community.

Mistake 7: Losing sight of what makes your viewers tick. Whatever will most inspire viewers is probably linked to a value you share with them. Ideally, your values tap into how your viewers see themselves. Dig deep to uncover the crossover between the emotion your viewers want to feel and the values your school holds dear. When you and the viewers of your video are aligned in your values, your school only gets stronger and stronger.

Mistake 8: Sharing your values inauthentically. Brands—including schools—are stronger when they are authentic. They don’t make promises they can’t keep, and they don’t pretend to be something they’re not. That means your school video should share the honest truth of who you are. If your school deeply values diversity, equity, and inclusion, for example, resist the urge to cast your video with a student of every race and ethnicity, which might come across as inauthentic. Instead, feature school personnel explaining the steps the school has taken or is taking to be more inclusive and welcoming.

Mistake 9: Poor production value. Your video can be the single most powerful tool in your toolbox, and your production value should match it. A well-produced video will stoke emotion, connection, and commitment to your school.

Mistake 10: Not having a plan for your video. Will your video be used in small meetings, larger events, social media, or some other way? Be clear about its use so your video meets the real need. A captive audience at an event might be moved by a five-minute video, but an individual receiving it via email probably won’t stick around. Being clear about how and when your audience will view your video ensures you can shape the right message, tone, length, and style.

Your school effort deserves the expertise, production values, and skill that will engage viewers. If you avoid these pitfalls, your video will surely be a success.

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