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School Ties: How to Prepare for and Produce Online Promo Video for Schools

DigiNovations Executive Producer Whit Wales discusses how to prepare for and produce videos for academic clients that capture the mission and message of the school, and to build a single-video project into a comprehensive video program that effectively promotes and positions the school.

The Concept, The Task: “Make People Want to Come”

"As is most often the case--certainly in education--is that people say, ‘We want a video and we want it to be three to five minutes,’ and then it kind of just tapers off right there,” Wales says. “‘You’re the expert. What do you think? What do you got?’ And that was very much the case here.

When Middlesex School first approached DigiNovations to produce a single video that would prepare accepted students for the experience that awaited them there (and possibly be used to attract new applicants as well), the conversation--at least from the school’s end--was just that open-ended. “‘Well, we just want you to come film for a day,’ they said, ‘and make people want to come to Middlesex.’ The concept was easy enough,” Wales continues, “but I think what is most challenging for educational institutions is then translating the concept into the reality of executing scenarios, pulling students out of class and determining faculty who are going to appear in the video. I think what most schools think is, ‘Oh, well, you’re gonna take care of this. I don’t have to worry about it.’”

And as in most client scenarios, they shouldn’t have to worry about it--after all, they’re hiring you to worry about it. “But you have to be thoughtful,” Wales says. “You have to understand your relationship as a co-producer of the project. And to their credit--to [director of admissions] Doug Price’s credit, once he understood that this would require him to think about the students, the appropriate faculty, the appropriate message, he really did get to work and we had a very rich dialogue about that. Everyone who’s involved in this community and industry understands that the more pre-production, the more preparation you have about the environment you’re going into, the better predictor you’ll have of good results.”


Do Your Homework

“I’m not a fisherman,” Wales says, “but I like to think you always want to cast upstream when you have the opportunity. So even before going in to visit with Doug Price, I went to the website to really look at what the mission of the school was and is. I went to research what ambiance existed at the school or at least what they were trying to communicate.”


What Wales found there was not precisely the look and feel of the school itself--that would come with actual visits and on-campus interactions--but the image it had constructed of itself online, and the elements of school life and curriculum that it most wanted to portray to outsiders looking in. “Part of what Middlesex touts is a real encouragement of students to discover themselves in co-curricular activities. Be it the arts, be it athletics, be it leadership positions at the school--one isn’t respected over another.”

And after his initial interviews he saw how some of those ideas were reflected in the students themselves, giving him another key point to highlight in the work he would produce for the scool. “Even within the community of the students themselves, it was really inspiring to see just how supportive and respectful each of the students were about what the other was doing. We were very lucky in that these are students who are very outgoing, they’re engaged, they’re passionate, they’re happy, they have a sense of why they’re at the school. They want to be there. So that really made it very easy to guide and encourage their commitment in the dialogue.”


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In the conclusion of this two-part series on producing online video for schools, examined through the lens of DigiNovations' ongoing work with Middlesex School, we'll look at strategies and measures you can take to build and advance both your relationship with the school, and develop the project into a diversified and more nuanced promotional and positioning program than a single video can provide.