The Video Production and Video Marketing Blog

7 Tips: Make Your Academic Overview Video Dollars Go Farthest (with videos)

Posted by Whit Wales


Schools invest in comprehensive “overview” videos as a way to connect more powerfully with their prospective applicants and alumni. But while every school needs an effective overview video, every school also needs their dollars to go as far as possible. Here are 7 experience-based tips to help you maximize the impact of the investment you make in your overview video.

1. Investment is ROI, Not Budget

If you’re able to inspire a number of applicants or significant alumni to contribute, the ROI for your video is very powerful. If you can create an emotional connection with the viewer, or you’re able to distribute content about some critical aspect of your mission that applicants may not have taken the time to view or understand, the impact of your video can be enormous.

That impact can only occur within the framework of quality.

Here's an example of what we mean by quality - the overview video we created for Sacred Heart University. :


If the quality level of your video isn’t high, what message are you communicating to applicants and/or alumni about the state of your school?

By starting with quality, you create and foster the powerful connections that reflect the very best about your school.

This is why it’s critical to think about your investment in terms of ROI, and not simply in terms of budget alone.

2. Multi-purpose Your Interviews and B-roll

Marketing to today’s applicant requires a constant stream of content across multiple media. As you’re going through the process of creating an overview video, you have the opportunity to create additional video content within the same filming framework.

If you’re interviewing the president, you can also film material for a shorter narrative piece that lives on the school’s home page. Interviewing professors? You can also film material for short identity pieces that can live on micro-sites related to the professor’s programs. You can post a series of 15 second Instagram clips to point your prospective applicants or alums to your site, to an important event, or to  your overview video.

Similarly, as you film visuals of the school, make sure you film content that will allow you to create stand-alone video montages or short micro-blog video pieces relating to a particular time of year, or a special event that’s taking place while the video crew is on campus.

Here is a brief piece we created while filming winter scenes for Middlesex School's overview:

You get the idea - multi-purposing your interviews and B-roll will allow you to get far greater use out of your video resources.


3. Pre-production is Critical to a Good Outcome and a Stretched Budget

Your school should have a clear sense of the top six to ten take-aways you want to give viewers in your overview video. Once these are in place, your production team will be able to craft an idealized narrative that will guide them through the filming process and the editing process.

Your team will work with you to attach specific people to speak to each of those values. Your team will also create a filming schedule that allows them to capture the visuals that reflect those values.

Creating an overview video is a complex process, and this pre-production work gives your film crew a clearly defined road map for capturing all material needed during your budgeted shoot days. It will also make the editing process much more efficient and therefore less costly.


4. Build a Full-Season Library by Capturing the Full Experience, Not Just a Single-Season Snapshot

Don't be a single season school. Part of the power of your overview video is giving the experience of your campus at different times of year – fall, winter, spring.

In terms of your admissions cycle and development planning, you may not have the luxury of a full-year filming before you have a final product. If this is the case, you can think about your final product as different versions. 

Begin with whatever season is before you, and then have a video crew come back during the different seasons for half a day of filming, to add this footage to your overview video, thereby completing the full-season experience.

This allows you to enhance your video, not re-create it.

(Consider asking your video production company to use a drone to capture aerial video of your campus. An eaerial view provides a much grander view of so many aspects of your campus - sports fields, quad, bbuildings, etc. )

5. Begin to Plan Your Video Library

An overview video is necessary, but it’s just one part of a larger trend.  A YouTube study found that: 
  • 98% of 18- to 34-year-olds reported using their smartphone on a daily basis to consume video content
  • YouTube reaches almost 50% of the 18 – 34 year old population, more than Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
Clearly, if you want to connect with young adults video is the medium. It's best to develop and overall video strategy, not just create an overview video as a one-off.

As you create your overview, you can also begin (or continue) work on that strategy.  What are the academic and extracurricular programs that most need to be showcased? What would you like your video library contain in one year? Three years? Five years?

It’s a good idea to ask your production team to work with you, as they can help you:

  • Understand the development of realistic goals and timeline
  • Understand how to maximize the resources you can create within your budget and extended time period

Most importantly, your production team should be able to recognize the long term implications of any choices you make in the short term and how they will impact your long term goals.


6. Consciously Represent Diversity

Your overview video presents applicants with the opportunity to understand the experience your school offers. Part of accomplishing this is to represent a range of gender, race, age, interests, majors, etc. when choosing people who will appear in the video.How will representing diversity make your dollars go farther?

Obviously, you will want to show the range of students and experiences in your community. But very often schools think first and foremost of talents and skill sets. When diversity is overlooked, your video crew will need to be brought backwhich will add to your cost. Including a range of personal and cultural backgrounds from the beginning will avoid the expense of additional filming days.


7. Plan for the Longevity of Your Video

To the best of your ability,you’ll also want to film those who are committed to your community,because the longevity of your video depends on those that appear in it remaining with your organization.

You don’t want to film someone who is retiring, or who is a year away from retiring. You don’t want to film someone who’s been there for just a year, because they may not be there next year.

Instead, you want your video to show applicants the people they’re most likely meet when they come to your school - for some time to come.

Done correctly, your school’s overview video will create an emotional connection with your viewer - whether that’s a prospective applicant or an alumni prospect.

Moreover, when you’re working with the right video production team, an overview video may also provide each member of your community - whether student, faculty or administration - the opportunity to further reflect upon and act more clearly in relation to your institution’s mission statement.

This clarity and reaffirmation - over and above the value of the video itself - surely inspires internally as well as externally. And, while the value of that inspiration may be difficult to quantify, it is a community sentiment to be cherished as priceless on any campus.

If you' like to discuss your school's video needs, please don't hesitate to contact us. We have a depth of experience that allows us to provide guidance and advice, not just production. And, you can see more of our academic video work here.


whit-150x150Whit Wales is a graduate of Phillips Exeter and Amherst College. While raising his four children, Whit worked at Cushing Academy for 20 years as associate director of college counseling and chairperson of the performing arts department. He remains extraordinarily interested in education and the unique and distinctive characteristics of each academic community in general and especially with those with which he has had the pleasure of working.




Topics: Academic Video