Off Script but On Message: YMCA Uses Documentary Stories to Raise and Recruit
Eleanor Beck Producer at Cognitive Films
Never is trust more essential than in producing a documentary-style marketing film like the three we’ve completed for the YMCA of Greater Williamson County.
Imagine turning over your budget to a production company, giving them free reign to talk to whoever they want, and film whatever they find. That’s what we did on many occasions for the YMCA.
“They listen and ensure that they have a good understanding of what the customer wants, are responsive, flexible, super creative and produce professional, quality videos.” – Lucy Regimbal, YMCA
But good trust is not blind trust. Here’s why it worked.
Setting expectations and understanding goals.
Our first meeting with the team happened to be in person, which was fantastic. They brought together all the stakeholders for the project and we got to ask them questions. We got to interview the higher-ups about big picture goals, and the boots-on-the-ground staff on they will actually use the video. We left with a really clear picture of what the content for the video needed to be, but also the best way to tailor it to their specific audience.
Meetings are great, but so much can get lost in translation. That great idea that got tossed around, did it stick? After meetings like that, the follow up is really important. We created and distributed a document laying out all the important points we heard in that meeting and made sure everyone was on the same page about what would and would not be covered in the video- including both content and visuals.
Communication During Execution.
Production during this project had the potential to be stressful. Staff needs to be corralled for interviews. Managers need to be aware that a film crew will be there. There’s always one or two subjects- in this case, children, who *cannot* be on film and releases may need to get signed.
To handle all these moving pieces, we created a master schedule and a site-specific schedule and then personally distributed it to the managers of every shoot-location.
We made sure they knew when we would be there, a contact person for CF’s team, and what our objectives would be. We asked, and listened, to their concerns.
And then we executed. We know cameras have the potential to be disruptive and make people nervous- we always behave with professionalism while remaining approachable.
So, what was the result?
In the end, all the trust-building had a huge payoff. We got candid, emotional, engaged interviews with genuinely enthusiastic staff. We filmed adorably spontaneous moments of kids being kids and YMCA team members in their element. Moments like those (check out 1:35 of the camp video) don’t happen if you don’t have the trust of your client.
All 3 videos exceeded our expectations, some brought tears to people’s eyes, and people couldn’t wait to share
Each of the videos had a different purpose so I hate to risk oversimplifying the impact each made, but here are some words from our client about our most recent production, the Board Recruitment video:
“It evoked the emotion and connection we needed to assist with our Fundraising efforts. At this specific event, we raised more money this year than past years.
After seeing the New Hire Orientation video a common comment [from current staff]- “I want to work for the Y”. Oh yeah! I already do!”
We continue to work with Cognitive Films because they listen, they “get us”, are easy to work with, are flexible, produce great work with us and because we like them.