Video Storytelling in a Post-COVID World

02.12.2020 Content Strategy
Eoin Dowdall
Creative Director

When COVID-19 spread across the globe in early 2020, no one could have predicted the life-altering effects that it would wreak. With the world brought to a halt, suddenly normal became abnormal. Being out in public was suddenly seen as a taboo. Certain events became illegal almost overnight. And meeting up with loved ones had to be done through the medium of a video call. But the effects of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown run deeper than the way that people have to act.

With industries having to adapt to new regulations, there has been a change in the very fundamentals of how certain aspects of the working world now operate. In terms of the media industry, this goes as far as changing how storytelling itself now works.

One of the core aspects of the industry has had to change the way that it is both generated by companies and consumed by audiences. Due to this, the way brands tell stories through video has also changed. One obvious example is the manner in which there has been a shift in interview technique from studio locations to remotely hosted conversations via Zoom or similar platforms. This is a trend that we foresee continuing well into 2021.

Storytelling is perhaps the most vital element of a successful video campaign. It sounds simple enough. We all tell stories all the time. Yet there are some stories that manage to connect with the target audience on a deeper level. This is what separates a good story from a great one.

What is Storytelling in Film?

Storytelling is a skill adopted by many but mastered by few.

Telling a truly captivating story through video can be difficult. You can have all the budget, crew and equipment in the world, but without the right story behind it all your campaign won’t go anywhere. It is also important to remember that it won’t appeal to everyone. This is why moulding your story around the target audience is key in video production.

Structuring our work around a great story is something that we take pride in and it has seen tangible results in our previous video campaigns. In terms of the story structure itself, this can typically be broken down into the four Ps: Purpose, Plot, People and Place.

What do you want your audience to take away from the experience? In what manner do you want to convey your message? How will you make your audience relate to the characters in your video? Where is best for the plot to unfold and on what platform should it be displayed?

At its most basic, these are the questions that, if answered correctly, will help lead to a successful video campaign. These unshakable foundations of storytelling in video have not in fact been warped by the effects of COVID-19. Nor will they likely ever be. Instead, the changes have come through the technique of the storyteller and the experience of the viewer.

How COVID-19 has affected storytelling

The need for empathy

Due to the effects that Coronavirus has had on the way that everyone lives, plunging society into an unfamiliar way of life, there has been an increased need for a more personable touch when it comes to video campaigns. It makes sense that in these confusing times that stories of reassurance and togetherness are resonating most with the general public.

There has been a shift in what people want. Before, aspirational adverts and video campaigns denoting improvement or self-betterment were likely to see positive results from audiences. During this strange modern era, we have seen a shift towards a desire for video adverts to show a sense empathy.

Figures have shown that video campaigns with a more simplified theme of sticking together and helping one another have seen far greater results. Due to this, video campaigns showing great wealth or flashy lifestyles are more likely to fail.

People also don’t want to be simply reminded of the situation that they are in. Brands that are jumping on the bandwagon, referring to the Coronavirus situation but not differentiating themselves from the crowd, are seeing less success.

This outlines just how important it is to listen to the needs of your target audience. Simply basing your story around a general idea won’t see the same levels of success. This is a prime example of a lack of purpose in a video marketing campaign. Simply throwing glitzy footage in the face of your viewer won’t connect with them in a way that sees results improve.

A greater need for authenticity

Modesty and honesty were important features of video storytelling long before COVID occurred. Making your brand more relatable ultimately makes it more appealing. This is what connects your brand to the customer when you are telling the story. And essentially it is this that will make people create connections between your brand and certain emotions. If told correctly, a great story can achieve these connections.

However, there is a difference between recognising your audience’s emotional connections and attempting to exploit them. This is where authenticity plays a part in video storytelling. It builds a level of trust with the audience and this is an invaluable element of video in a time rife with confusion and uncertainty.

Research from Kantar shows that video campaigns during the Coronavirus pandemic that emphasise a brand’s bid to help the fight and lend a hand to those who need it have seen far greater results than those offering hope for the future. An attempt to depict your brand as the light at the end of the tunnel is less likely to prove successful. Instead, people are getting behind companies whose campaigns admit that the situation is far from over, encouraging unity in fighting through the situation.

The success of Heinz’s video campaign epitomises this. The campaign centred around the brand’s efforts to provide children in need with breakfasts during lockdown. With high levels of brand memorability and long-term return potential, it is seen as one of the most successful video campaigns during lockdown.

Born from a greater desire for community across the world, COVID has changed perspectives on what a story should contain. It is a change in the opinion of the general populous, which ultimately effects the audience of your story. Whether this is a feature of storytelling that will die off when infections cease is difficult to say. However, in the current climate it is a consideration that should be instilled into your video content strategy.

A shift in visual language

Even before the COVID pandemic swept across the planet, a shift in how video is made had begun. The shift towards higher use of mobile devices has helped determine this. An increase in time spent watching videos on phones during lockdown has seen a tactical shift in visual language. But first of all, it is important to outline what ‘visual language’ is exactly.

Visual language acts like a brand tone of voice for each video campaign that you create. Whilst every video will adhere to brand guidelines, each campaign should have a personalised video language. This can vary from how the videos are shot to the colour palette used. Visual language ensures continuity and helps hone in on the purpose of your campaign. The visual language used when storytelling will be focussed around the target audience in question.

Because of the shift towards more mobile-focussed video consumption, campaigns have seen a greater focus on intimacy. That is, more of a one-to-one experience when it comes to video campaigns. Because the viewer is literally holding the story in their hands it becomes more personal. This is another indication of the effectiveness of authenticity when storytelling. Ultimately, this has led to an increase in remote shooting, less large form pieces and campaigns becoming more targeted during 2020.

This alteration of general preference regarding visual language can be considered a change in ‘place’ in the context of the four Ps. The shift from television screen and laptops towards more handheld device usage has changed how best to tell a story. There has also been a shift in ‘place’ regarding the setting.

A shift in setting

With individuals bound to their homes for much of 2020, what can be deemed relatable has changed. Studios have made way for households. Professional film kit for personal devices. Intriguingly different for comforting familiarity. Characters wear face masks and keep their distance.

This sway in favour of more remote video storytelling favours those looking to market videos on a budget. However, this isn’t to say that it is a simple task. In fact, this was a trend before COVID which has gained momentum during the pandemic.

Video conference call

Whether interviews, training videos or documentaries, the use of the home as a setting again adds an element of authenticity to a story. It brings the subjects of the story and the brand itself down to the level of the customer. This appeals to the change in audience psychology. If their favourite brands are seen to be in the same situation that they are in, then they are more likely to sympathise and therefore engage. Again, this reiterates both the importance of researching your audience and choosing a suitable location in which to set your story.

A greater sense of immediacy

With everyone confined to their homes for longer periods of time, watching videos has become more popular. Studies suggest that 80% of consumers have consumed more content since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak. Due to this, companies are looking to get more content out there. And fast.

The quicker your content is available, the more relevant it is. This is where factors such as remote production and a streamlined process come in handy. We pride ourselves on our ability to turn campaigns around quickly and effectively. Specialising in remote video production, this is


Storytelling is an art that ebbs and flows with changes in society. Fundamentally there has been no change to the format behind each good story. Rather, the change has come in how the elements of the format have reacted. There is still a requirement for the four Ps to be considered, but what should be taken into consideration with each of the four elements has changed.

Overall, video storytelling in a post-COVID world has seen a preference for more down-to-earth, empathetic uses of video. No longer can people be wowed by big budgets and flashy commercials. Instead, modesty and honesty have taken preference.

When predicting what will happen in 2021, it is difficult to say whether all of these trends will continue. However, more authentic video storytelling will likely become the norm. The theme began to emerge before coronavirus struck, as technologies advanced and remote shooting became more popular.

Other than authenticity being here to stay, there is nothing to suggest that things won’t veer back towards ‘the norm’. But whilst conditions remain as they are, the above changes in storytelling post-COVID must be considered for your videos to achieve their purpose.


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