In 2015, a research by Statistic Brain showed that the average human attention span is eight seconds. A recent study shows that people can only pay attention to one screen for an average of 47 seconds. This is a finding by Dr. Gloria Mark, a psychologist and the writer of Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity. Furthermore, her studies shows that not only do people concentrate for less than a minute on any one screen, but when attention is diverted from an active work project, they take about 25 minutes and 26 seconds to refocus on that task.
Source: Statistic Brain
In an age where attention spans are fleeting and we are constantly fed with information overload, a new form of visual storytelling has emerged as a captivating and persuasive medium: video essays. A video essay, much like a written essay, develops an argument around a defined topic, working as an argument, explanation, or discussion. It can cover a wide range of topics from film analysis (like Nerdwriter1), music (check out Polyphonic), literature and book, social phenomenon, historical analysis (like neo), media and pop culture (such as Pop Culture Detective), to science and technology (take a look at Vsauce). Video essayists usually take a central theme or idea, build a structure, then combine visuals, narration, and analysis to create a cohesive and engaging narrative.
Video essays have gained significant popularity in recent years, especially due to the pandemic where demand for content skyrocketed. This growth is inseparable from YouTube as a primary platform for video essays where many creators have amassed substantial followings and viewership. Creativity is one reason for video essays’ popularity as it allows viewers to be exposed to unique perspectives. Visually, the use of editing techniques, animation, as well as the inclusion of film clips and footage captivate viewers’ attention. This, combined with a compelling narrative and storytelling structure such as building suspense, using plot twists, or experimenting with different pacing techniques elevate the overall quality and impact of the video essay. It goes without saying that a great video essay should incorporate research, evidence, and analysis to build a stronger argument.
In addition to being entertaining content, video essay is a great medium of learning because it helps in simplifying complex concepts by breaking them down into easily digestible segments. It also caters to different learning styles where they appeal to visual learners through imagery, auditory learners through narration, and kinesthetic learners through dynamic visuals and animations. This type of content also fosters collaborative learning by serving as discussion starters or prompts for group activities where people can analyze the essay together, encouraging dialogue, critical thinking, and the exchange of ideas. At Praxis, we frequently watch video essays about public relations, marketing, advertising, and other topics, followed by a discussion where we go around the table, sharing our thoughts about what we learned and ask if anyone else learned other things.
Video essays can be a powerful tool in public relations because they allow for creative storytelling, engaging visuals, and persuasive arguments. Here are a few examples on how to utilize video essays for your public relations effort:
- Brand storytelling: video essays can be used to tell compelling stories about a brand, its values, and its impact.
- Thought leadership: video essays can position individuals or organizations as thought leaders in their respective industries.
- Social media engagement: video essays are highly shareable and can generate significant engagement on social media platforms to spark conversations, educate audience, as well as generate brand awareness and engagement on social media channels.
- Influencer partnerships: public relations professionals can collaborate with influential content creators or video essayists to promote their brand or cause. Through this collaboration, brands can tap into the creator’s reach and credibility, amplifying their message and increasing brand visibility.
Source: Sam McGhee on Unsplash
In a world of constant distractions and diminishing attention spans, video essays offer a ray of hope. They have the power to captivate and hold our attention in a way that few other mediums can. By seamlessly blending engaging visuals, compelling storytelling, and thought-provoking analysis, video essays create an immersive experience that keeps us invested from start to finish. As the format continues to evolve along with the digital landscape that it resides in, us public relations practitioners should make use of it and have a willingness to adapt.