The Storymercial: Fishing for Donor Support and Partnerships

As mentioned in earlier posts, the Institutional KS Project supported WorldFish in their exploration of videos as a way to convey short and sharp messages about research that shows impact on the ground. The “storymercial” experience has recently been presented at the Share Fair by two colleagues, Florine Lim and Silvia Renn from the WorldFish Center.

Here is the story of the  “storymercial”:

Story telling is the oldest form of sharing information. Videos appeal to the senses. We hope the storymercial encourages greater interest in our work.”
Helen Leitch, WorldFish

As its name implies, the “storymercial” tells a story (http://www.worldfishcenter.org/v2/rehabilitate%20livelihoods.html), in this case centering on an Indonesian community’s efforts to cope with the devastating tsunami of December 2004. In explaining how WorldFish works with partners to rehabilitate livelihoods following natural disasters, it promotes an idea about people-centered development. In just two minutes, it makes that message quite clear: research can help communities diversify their livelihood options, with a view to making local economies more resilient.

A few lines accompanying the video provide context: “Half the world’s poor live in coastal areas. These areas are often already under threat due to poorly planned development but challenges are made worse with natural disasters and climate change causing more floods and extreme weather events such as hurricanes.” And for those interested in further details of WorldFish’s work with partners to rehabilitate livelihoods following natural disasters, a four-page PDF brief titled Waves of change can be downloaded..

When you click on the video button on the WorldFish website, you are presented with a YouTube screen. “Fish for life: rehabilitating lives after disasters” begins with scenes of crashing waves and trees being hammered by high winds in the Aceh region of Sumatra. Ibrahim Makam, the chief of a small fishing village, cuts to the chase: “The wave was over 20 meters high. My 200 palm trees over there were all gone.”

The video is a mix of village scenes, translated interviews, voice-over narration, local singing, dance, and rhythmical handclapping and percussion. These are punctuated by just a few written titles to introduce key options for diversifying livelihoods: crab harvesting, lobster farming, mangrove rehabilitation, and aquaculture.

“WorldFish has widened our perspectives and helped to stabilize our economy,” Makam says in the concluding scene of the video. “But success also depends on our own efforts.”

Between early September and late October, the YouTube site had counted over 370 viewings of the video (which doesn’t include hits by visitors to the WorldFish website). Helen Leitch, WorldFish Center’s Director of Business Development and Communications, headed the KS pilot project. Why did she opt to communicate the WorldFish message via a video? “Story telling is the oldest form of sharing information,” she says. “Videos appeal to the senses. We hope the storymercial encourages greater interest in our work.”

Leitch notes that most of WorldFish’s public awareness materials have traditionally been text-based, but that in an era of information overload, other communication channels are needed. Besides the two-minute version, WorldFish has also produced a 90-second clip which will be made available to television stations and other outlets in the region. Meanwhile, Leitch and colleagues are carrying out a survey of partners and donors to obtain feedback on the video. Among those surveyed are the organizations that funded the video: the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Caritas Internationalis, Force of Nature Aid Foundation, Ford Foundation, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States Agency for International Development, and the CGIAR.

Practical advice

WorldFish has recorded its experience in producing “Fish for Life” as a set of guidelines in the KS toolkit (http://www.kstoolkit.org/How_to_Produce_a_Storymercial).
The guidelines are organized in step-by-step fashion under six headings: Is your project newsworthy?; introduction to making a storymercial; guide script; pre-production; production; and post-production.

Here are a few examples of the advice given for making an effective storymercial:

  • “Using one example instead of five will keep the video from being monotonous and boring. Show critical aspects of your project that are most visually pleasing and convey the overall philosophy of your organization.”
  • “Using a professional film producer maximizes the chance that the film will be picked up by CNN, BBC or incorporated into a documentary for TV.”
  • “A video is not a report; it must connect with people, be relatable and entice the audience to keep watching…. Include the most dynamic and knowledgeable staff and the most visually compelling settings.”
  • “A short video (1 to 3 minutes) can take from 1 to 3 days to film, depending on location and weather. Shooting must be planned for the most effective use of time and lighting in the day.”


4 Comments to “The Storymercial: Fishing for Donor Support and Partnerships”

  1. Laura B. says:

    The WordFish project sounds like a good idea, many coastal communities live in extreme poverty and in situations with a lack of infraestrure

  2. Good morning – Great post!

  3. Hello from China! I completely agree that storymercials are a great communication tool.

    Since 2002, I’ve produced corporate videos for internal communications, which facilitates staff’s understanding of an org’s operations and equip them to indirectly promote the org’s mission.

    Videos also helped the launch of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports in 2005 esp as the Assessment was a relatively complex concept then.

    All the best with your storymercials! Let me know if I can help… :)

    Christine Jalleh
    former Corporate Communications Manager
    The WorldFish Center

  4. Great read. Thanks for the info!

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