Developing awareness with storytelling videos

Storytelling videos are an excellent way to deliver your mission, develop awareness and make an impact not possible through other formats.

About the time I wrote my post about an NTEN webinar that I participated in on how your organization can use video to tell stories, I was part of a group pulled together to provide advice to Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region on how to enhance its awareness. Understanding the power of video and how it increasingly was becoming a key tool in a social profit’s communications toolbox, I looked for opportunities to suggest video to help the agency.

The group advised focusing on young women (18 – 25 years old) because research conducted by the agency showed they had the lowest level of awareness of the agency and its unique role in Waterloo Region yet 25% of the women they helped in 2011 were in that same age group. (See news release announcing campaign.)

Introducing Prince Charming & Prince Harming

One of the ideas that came out of the advisory group was to play off the idea that many girls are fascinated by our Princess culture and may grow up looking for their Prince Charming. While they may believe they have found their Prince, once he has charmed them they may discover that he is controlling and/or abusive and really Prince Harming.

I can’t take credit for Prince Charming/Prince Harming. Paula Barrett deserves the credit. I actually wasn’t keen on the idea at first but when I saw how strongly it was resonating, I ran as hard and fast with the concept as possible when I was hired to develop the advice into an awareness campaign.

Now the question was how to use video to ask: Is your Prince Charming turning into Prince Harming?

He’s a real Prince Charming…

I recognized that we needed a short, impact-full video that told a story that would resonate with young women. Working with a script writer, we developed a concept that saw a group of young women on a typical night out while one is preoccupied by texts from her “Prince Charming.”


Over the month of November, which is Woman Abuse Awareness Month, the video was viewed more than 1500 times. Young women who volunteered as actresses and who saw the video, let us know that we had told a story that is common and important.

Why Prince Charming?

We recognized that music plays an important part in the lives of young women so we chose to commission a song by Danielle Robert, a local singer-songwriter and Laurier student. She brilliantly captured the story of a woman wooed by Prince Harming who discovers he is actually Prince Charming.


Danielle’s song appealed to young women who received our key messages through the story in her song who otherwise may have missed them.

This video is a companion to the texting dramatization where Danielle is seen playing in the background. In this one, Danielle and her song are prominent and shots from the texting dramatizations help to tell the story and share the emotions it evokes.

PhotoVoice: Signs of Abuse

We considered how we could tell the stories of women who used the agency’s shelters and other services but we were concerned about how we could do so without putting anyone at risk of renewed abuse. We brought in Dwight Storring who has expertise in digital storytelling who recommended a photovoice project. Our idea was to get a group of young women to take photographs that related to the signs of abuse without being literal depictions. The women would share with their peers by describing (off camera) how their photos related to a sign of abuse.


We were not seeking women with any direct experience of abuse or violence but true to the statistics, we had some involved. By sharing their perspectives and their stories, all four women bravely helped enhance awareness of what are the signs that you may be in or at risk of being in an abusive relationship.

Here’s a related post by Dwight on how trust is key to digital storytelling.

Moving Beyond Violence: Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region

We also wanted to use video to share with women what they could do if they saw signs that their relationship is or could be abusive–and how Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region could help. The video–as with the others–needed to also reach family, friends and other influential people who may know a woman in an abusive relationship.

Rather than a straight forward, typical agency video, we chose to share information about the agency and its unique role in helping women by weaving in images of actors playing a mother and child going through a typical story of going through the process of getting help.


This video, the texting dramatization and music video all benefitted from the visual storytelling skills of Duncan Finnigan of the Multicultural Cinema Club.

A quick look at results

We’re still collecting and analyzing results but we’re happy with number of views. We’re particularly pleased that Facebook stats show that we reached young women living in Waterloo Region.

For a look at the campaign’s online home, see .

While I’m confident that I’ve used the tips I shared about using videos to tell an organizations stories, I’ll let you be the judge. Please share your comments and questions below.