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The written word is one of the most powerful tools of persuasion we possess. As Joseph Conrad famously wrote, "My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel - it is, before all, to make you see." But 120 years on, is the written word still the 21st century’s most powerful form of communication?

In our fast-moving digital age, attention spans are at an all-time low, with some studies showing that an average reader now spends less than 15 seconds on a web page or online article. With people no longer consuming information through text, is the future a post-literate one? This may be a reality sooner than you think. According to Cisco, 2017 has seen video account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic.

The new king of content, video has the power to capture a viewer immediately. It creates a lasting impression and tells a visually engaging story that can reach thousands in a matter of minutes. Think of the world’s all-time most successful viral ad campaigns. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was shared more than 1.2 million times on Facebook in a 4-week period. Or my personal favourite, 3’s #DancePonyDance which saw a moonwalking pony become an instant viral hit, racking up over 5.4 million views in only a few weeks. There is no denying that online users are hungry for video content. Rumour has it that Facebook plans to dramatically ramp up their video engagement with new video programmes backed by multi-million dollar budgets.



Even news channels are increasingly focusing on video content to tell their stories. More often than not these days, news that goes viral is video-led – but whether it is really newsworthy is another story. Check out video of Donald Trump ‘getting lost walking to his limo’ which amassed 275.5k shares on Facebook within a day of being published on Washington Journal.

As PR practitioners evolving with the times, it’s crucial that we reconsider how we are packaging clients' content for greater engagement and impact. Embedding video content into press releases can be a highly effective method of communicating key information that might otherwise be buried in a sea of text. A recent PR Newswire study found that the more visual elements a press release contains, the greater the reach, with video press releases averaging 2.8 times more views than text-only releases.

But how do we ensure press release videos reach the right audiences and more importantly gain traction, shares and those sought-after views? 

Illustrate your story
With video, the possibilities of pitching your story are greatly widened with the power of visuals. From communicating key messages through an animated spokesperson, engaging film reels or infographics, choose the visuals that best describe your campaign and bring it to life.

Keep it short
You have limited time to capture the viewer: 2 minutes, 42 seconds to be exact according to average video viewership statistics. Content must be easily digestible, so make sure it’s creative, fun and quirky, or your consumer will move on to something else that is.

Create compelling content 
The art of video making, which is harder than it looks, is tying your information together into an overarching brand story. Rise above the noise with quality content and real stories that can create an emotional connection and a lasting impression. Don’t forget to insert calls to action and embed links where possible – video is a highly action-driven marketing tool.

Be ready to share
Social media users will post and re-post videos more than text-only content. With journalists looking to satisfy their own web engine figures, giving them shareable content that’s ready to go will do just that. Ensure your content is can be easily shared across the key social networks. For social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, videos must be subtitled for greater message pickup and social sharing.

Track your audience
Don’t waste any time getting acquainted with the assembly of online video tools and analytic platforms that are now available. Learning from your audience’s consumer habits and viewing experience will help you create better content, and lead to greater results. Readership is viewership, after all.

As evidenced by Facebook feeds clogged with endless Donald Trump and cat videos, the power of the written word has been overtaken. It’s time to put your budget into video storytelling.

Read more: Express yourself: The art of storytelling