Green Impact just completed its first video, a sustainability video project for University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).  There is so much talk these days about how to engage employees around sustainability and embed greener practices into employees’ personal and professional lives.  Putting these ideas into practice is still an art and not a science.  One thing I am sure about is that the trend toward communicating a sustainability message via video is going to continue to grow.

UCSF’s key vehicle for communicating best practices and highlighting successes currently is its Sustainability Website (we write the content for the Sustainability Stories section).  When it came time to create a video to be part of the new employee orientation at UCSF, sustainability manager Gail Lee realized it was an opportunity to create a short video that not only oriented new employees about UCSF’s commitment to sustainability, but also inspired faculty, staff and students to be greener at work and support UCSF’s culture shift toward green being an integral part of “advancing health worldwide”.

Suddenly I was faced with the opportunity, and challenge, to write a script that created a compelling story that would inspire and empower UCSF employees.  In three minutes.

Check out the video below and read on for five tips for creating a winning sustainability video.

Five tips for creating a winning sustainability video

After writing the script, hiring actors and gathering volunteers to support the effort, as well as hire a video production team, I offer the following five tips:

  • Tie the key message back to core values
  • Engage thought leaders to model new behaviors
  • Being funny is harder than it looks
  • It is going to be more work than you realize
  • Stay consistent with your core brand

Tie the key message back to core values

UCSF’s mission is “advancing health worldwide”.  Within this mission, the chancellor has identified five key priorities:  patients, discovery, education, people and business.  We landed on a key message that would speak to faculty, staff and students at UCSF–that the health of UCSF patients is linked to the health of the planet.  And that collectively, UCSF’s 20,000+ employees can make a difference.

In order to resonate with our key audience, we crafted a script that built on UCSF’s core values and LiveGreen sustainability brand as well as connected to a range of important values to our target audience, including health, cleaner air, cost savings and reducing UCSF’s carbon footprint.

Engage thought leaders to model new behaviors

After we capture the audience’s attention with a fictional scenario in the emergency room, including the hero Dr. McGreeny, we aim to inspire the audience to take action and do their part.  Rather than preaching to folks, we engaged high-level thought leaders from the key schools at UCSF, ranging from the Medical School, Medical Center, School of Pharmacy, School of Nursing and Dental School to show what green actions they personally take.  This is a key strategy for beginning to build a LiveGreen culture where sustainable actions are the norm.

We felt it was critical to show that sustainability is a top priority for both the campus and medical center by including senior-level management in the video, as well as showing actual administrators, faculty and researchers modeling greener behaviors.

Being funny is harder than it looks

Our intention was to create an initial scenario that captured attention and was humorous, playing off of House and Gray’s Anatomy characters. While Tina Fey might make humor look easy on 30 Rock, pulling it off was hard.  We had to balance wanting to be memorable and engaging with the need to avoid being seen as trivial. At the end of the day, some of the “funny” lines were cut. Partly to get to the punchline sooner and partly because they just fell a tad flat.

It is going to be more work than you realize

Hiring a make-up person, creating props, casting actors, scheduling rehearsal, scouting locations, obtaining the proper permission to shoot on location and feeding the crew are all details that need to be attended to and tough for a beginner to properly budget time and resources for.  I got creative about engaging UCSF volunteers and friends to chip in their talent and time to make the project fly.

We worked with Digit Video to help direct, shoot and edit the video as well as handle the special effects.  I wanted to more actively involved in the editing process than we had the budget for–if you want to be more hands-on during the editing process, be sure to negotiate this upfront.

Stay consistent with your core brand

UCSF has developed a clear look and brand for its sustainability program, known as LivingGreen.  As part of this program, UCSF has created several prompts to support core strategic objectives, including reducing energy use and water conservation.  We integrated these images into the video to strengthen the core brand.  We also used words throughout the second part of the video to link back to UCSF’s core strategic objectives:   sustainable food, zero waste, carbon neutral, toxics reduction and water conservation.

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