How to Use Online Videos | Historic Preservation | Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

How to Use Online Videos to Share Your Historic Preservation Message

How to Use Online Videos | Historic Preservation | Wisconsin Historical Society

Your historic preservation group has the opportunity to reach a vast audience of potential supporters via online communications. But you'll need a persuasive message to reach your key audience. Online videos can be a compelling way to share that message. Your group can take advantage of a video-hosting site to share your videos online, where they might be viewed by hundreds or even thousands of potential supporters. As you create and post your videos online, make certain you protect your group's original content and respect others' intellectual property rights.

You can use online videos to share your historic preservation message in many different ways. Some ideas, examples, and production tools are described below.

Share Your Activities

One obvious way that your preservation group can use video to share its message is to document your group's activities. Here are two Wisconsin examples:

Integrate Member-Created Content

Your group can also integrate member- or viewer-produced videos into your website. Transition Milwaukee, a consortium of Milwaukee groups dedicated to increasing self-reliance and developing sustainable communities, invites its members to create content for the group's common website. This content includes member-created videos that complement event announcements and blog posts. The videos serve different purposes. Some present purely educational content, some document an organizational event, and others communicate a mission-specific message.

Launch an Online Issue Campaign

Your group could launch an online video campaign as an engaging alternative to a conventional public service announcement. Unlike television and radio spots, web-based video can be shared with friends and supporters across the globe quickly. A viral video is one that gets passed along through the internet via social media and email to a massive worldwide audience. Follow these tips to increase the chances that your video campaign will go viral:

  • Create compelling content. If you would like to see your video reach a wide audience, your subject matter must be interesting and communicated in a very short period of time. It is not necessary for your videos to display the high-end production values of televised public service announcements. Just make sure that your online videos identify your key points and all of your video elements support those points.
  • Build your fan base. Once you've created a video people want to see, capitalize on your efforts by promoting it. Provide an opportunity for your new fans to subscribe to your site or email communications so they will be alerted when your next stroke of brilliance hits YouTube. Circulate your video to bloggers you have identified as potential supporters. Viral videos often build on previous successes.
  • Help viewers find your video. Make certain your audience can find your video on the web using search engine optimization (SEO). You can do this by making your video's title and keyword tags reflect its content. You can find out who is viewing your video and see other viewing metrics with YouTube Insight. Use this information to modify your keyword tags.

Tell a Story

If you want to get a little creative, you can use video to tell a story about your preservation campaign. You can select from many free and low-cost web-based tools (such as those listed below in the Learn More section) to help you create a compelling video presentation from raw images and amateur movie clips. With these tools, you can add any combination of text, photographs and video clips, clip art, and narration and music to create a complete story, like a short documentary movie. For ideas and inspiration to help you tell your story, check out the Center for Digital Storytelling or search the web for the term "digital story."

Most of the free web-based presentation tools offer templates, video-editing software, and user-friendly features so beginners can get started quickly. When you are selecting a video presentation tool, consider the final format options for your video; for example, Flash-based videos may not be supported by mobile devices. You might also consider any restrictions on where the video may be hosted, and whether the tool allows you to include a watermark or other branding visuals in your video.

The Preservation Alliance of La Crosse (PAL) found a simple but effective way to use video to tell a story. The PAL posted a video of a historic cabin being dismantled in preparation for relocation. The volunteer who created the three-minute video produced a time-lapse effect using a series of still photographs. This video did not even need narration to tell its story. Instead, the video is accompanied by old-time fiddle music.

The PAL uploaded the video to YouTube and included directions to YouTube in the source code of the PAL website. Although this video is hosted by YouTube, users who click on the video from the PAL website are not redirected to YouTube's site because the video is embedded on PAL's website.

Stream or Record a Meeting

The most utilitarian application of web-based video is to stream or record a virtual meeting. You might want to find out if public meetings are broadcast online or on a local access television in your area. For example, the City of Milwaukee has the capability to stream committee meetings on the web. HMI took advantage of this technology when the organization became engaged in a proposal to alter the local landmarks ordinance.

HMI distributed an email announcement about the historic preservation commission's upcoming meeting where the ordinance changes would be discussed. The email announcement included a link that the recipients could click on to watch the meeting in real time through online video streaming. For those who could not attend the meeting in person or view the meeting online as it was happening, HMI posted a video of the meeting on its website.

Learn More

Find more how-to articles about historic preservation advocacy.

Many of the free video presentation tools available on the web are targeted to educators. If you search the web for free tools for teachers, you will find an endless supply of possibilities. Here is a sampling of some popular programs: