The benefits of creating a charity film series and five top tips
Your charity may have a stand-out logo, a beautiful website and a fantastic tagline. You may also have an award-winning archive of campaign films. But does your charity still struggle to really communicate the total sum of the work you do to the public, and your real-life impact?
A film series can be a great way to grab the attention of mainstream audiences, build authenticity, foster in-depth understanding, and encourage engagement over time. All while helping the public gain a fuller picture of the work you do. Here we discuss four reasons to create a charity series, and how you can approach this.
It can help you demonstrate scope
A series has the potential to demonstrate the multifaceted nature and wide scope of the work you do. It allows you to delve below the surface and explore stories in detail. A single episode can have a clearer question/focus and narrative, creating a stronger connection with the audience.
For example, The Dog House is a Channel 4 series which takes you behind the scenes of Wood Green Animal Charity and follows the process of rehoming dogs. It is a great example of how episodes build a connection through the focused narratives, allowing the viewers to get to know the different dogs and their unique issues such as Dave the three-legged Labrador, and to understand the range of ways the charity supports them. The Guardian called it “feelgood TV at its fluffiest”, and its prime time spot and three series so far proves that the right concept can be commercially viable for broadcasters, and has in turn helped the charity to home many more dogs and to create widespread awareness of their work.
Content in installments encourages the audience to keep watching and come back from more. A sustained stream of content and engagement means people build a connection with your work and people, enhanced by the series’ branding. This in turn accrues trust, recognition and encourages long-term support.
The Welly Vision series we created with RSPCA Assured for their website and YouTube channel which explores the animal welfare issues in farming is a great example of how a series can build trust and recognition over time. Finding a great brand ambassador such as Kate Quilton, with aligned values, and who suited this exploratory content was also integral to this, and the series has succeeded in gaining more than a million views online.
A series allows you to document progress over time – to revisit and reflect, and understand longer-term impact. This enables you to communicate the bigger picture, and explain more complex issues which cannot be conveyed in a single moment in time.
Greenpeace Inside – Mission: Saving the Planet is a new five-part documentary series created for Sky Originals / Now TV which will be released later this year. The series follows the charity on their month-long journey to Antarctica and delves into lesser-known territory including their legal campaigns, scientific work and political lobbying, with exclusive access to archive footage spanning their 50 years of work. The series will be a fantastic opportunity to highlight their achievements over time, the evolution of challenges and reflect a real sense of journey.
Our unwinding time is precious, and a series makes use of this. It’s less time investment than a film. It’s a softer approach to building recognition and support for your cause amongst both mainstream and niche audiences, through an open-door approach rather than an ask. People are learning without much effort and because they want to – they’re interested.
This is especially true on platforms like WaterBear, dedicated to socially and environmentally focused video where the audience are already invested in this type of content. The platform recently teamed up with charity IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) to create the Not a Pet series, which examines the illegal wildlife pet trade of endangered animals, allowing audiences to learn via bite-sized episodes.
Build a concept
In order to create a charity series, you need a strong concept which entices viewers and gives them a window into the work you do. Points your concept should address:
Which stories will take an audience on a journey?
How will you connect with your audience emotionally and break down the corporate barrier?
How can you demonstrate real transformation and impact?
Which element of your work is difficult to condense and would benefit from revisiting over time?
How can you encourage people to watch the next episode?
What tone should you adopt?
Be brave, be authentic, and be human. Don’t be afraid to expose the challenges and imperfections. This is an opportunity to show something real, not just brand messaging.
Choose your platform
You need to choose the right platform. Is your series commercially viable for TV or better suited to streaming services such as Netflix, Now TV or video platforms like YouTube? This will depend on many factors such as your concept, budget, contacts, target audience. For example, videos of a length of ten minutes are most popular on YouTube, and niche environmental concepts may best suit the more socially invested audiences found on WaterBear. Depending on the route you choose, there may also be funding, collaboration or sponsorship opportunities to consider.
Find your production team
You need a production team with the right experience. If you are investing in a YouTube series, does your production company have a proven track record of creating a winning format with a high number of views? If you’re considering the TV route, TV channels will only accept pitches from experienced production companies. Choose a production company that’s right for you – can you work well together? Do you have shared values? Do they have the right charity insight, and do they listen and understand your charity?
And remember: A charity series is an effective PR move and will help to boost wider recognition, understanding and interest of your work. It lays solid foundations as part of a wider strategy, so when you ask the public to support your cause, change behaviour or donate, they really understand why. With the right approach and team, you can create something which people want, and earn support and loyalty on a much more intrinsic level.
Published by CharityComms, May 2022