Wednesday, May 19

Telling Stories: Why The WaterAid Video Works

"To understand a man, you've got to walk a mile in his shoes, whether they fit or not." — Proverb

Remember the proverb or any of its variations? The creative talents behind the WaterAid "White Collar Water Crisis" on YouTube did. Since the spot was first uploaded this morning, it gained 1,000 views in an hour. There is a better-than-average chance at viral success.

More importantly than exposure, the spot does something else. It pulls us along to learn more about the message and the international nonprofit behind it.

WaterAid's "White Collar Water Crisis" Relates To Its Audience.

The video works. It doesn't share the scores of tragic images WaterAid has collected over the years. It doesn't beat people over the head with an insurmountable challenge that leaves them feeling powerless. It doesn't rely on shock value like sex and vegetables to generate publicity. Instead, the spot simply helps us imagine a world where we don't have access to a single basic comfort that most of us take for granted.

While there are dozens of ways to communicate the WaterAid message, this spot is one of the best of them because it applies the art of metaphoric storytelling. Sure, it might make a few people uncomfortable, but it does so tastefully without laying blame or aiming to make anyone feel guilty like so many other causes attempt to do.

Right on. Sometimes guilt messages might be warranted for the short term. But if you hope to build a sustainable message, one that people will most likely share, it's critical to invite them to become part of the cause not drive them away in shame.

In the short span of 60 seconds, the WaterAid video become a great teaching tool. It demonstrates the difference between making a story fit a medium and writing a story for a medium. And when a story is made to fit a medium — whether it is a blog post, PowerPoint presentation, video, etc. — it tends to stick.

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