Video marketing for nonprofits with Taylor Shanklin

Episode aired Jan. 13, 2021: Video Marketing

Taylor Shanklin of Firefly Partners is an expert on using video to connect with an audience. As she says, it doesn’t have to be polished but it does have to be authentic. In this episode Taylor discusses

  • why video is worth 100 coffee conversations
  • what equipment and apps you should have to help polish your videos  
  • what to prepare in advance before recording and
  • how and why video helps you build better relationships with the audience.  

Below you can listen, watch or read this podcast episode.

Ephraim: Welcome to this edition of the Your Weekly Dose of Nonprofit Podcast, the podcast that delivers actionable items you can implement at your organization right away. I’m your host, Ephraim Gopin of 1832 Communications. Today I’m really happy to have with us a nonprofit marketing, digital and communications expert, Taylor Shanklin. Taylor, how you doing today?

Taylor: I’m gravy today.  How are you?

Ephraim: I’m doing okay, thanks. Let’s introduce you to our listeners, watchers and readers.

Taylor Shanklin is a speaker, podcast host and marketing innovator in the nonprofit sector. In her nonprofit career, she’s helped hundreds of organizations scale their online marketing and fundraising programs, as well as tell their story better through strategic branding work. She served organizations like Alzheimer’s Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Susan G. Komen and National Hemophilia Foundation to name a few. Taylor is the Vice President of Growth at Firefly Partners, an agency that helps organizations amplify their impact through digital strategy, awesome websites and compelling campaigns.

She’s also the founder and host of the SOAR Podcast, a podcast dedicated to helping people live and work happier by tapping into focus and passion to achieve liftoff. Taylor lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, two kids and their growth mindset approach to living.

What’s A Video Worth?

In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss video marketing. Let’s dive right in. Taylor, if a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth?

Taylor: A video is worth a hundred coffee conversations and I’ll explain that. What I mean by that is video helps your audience really get to know you. It helps them to better understand who you are, what you’re about. I can say that too similarly to podcasts. I think opportunities for content where people can really… they can hear you, they can listen to your voice, they can listen to different people who are impacted by your organization, that goes even deeper in terms of just starting to develop the relationship than words or then imagery.

What To Prepare Before Recording

Ephraim: Fantastic and I love that better than 100 coffee conversations. That’s excellent. Today’s actionable item: No matter the type of video, please tell us three things the nonprofit must prepare in advance before clicking record?

Taylor: Alright. So I had to think a lot about these three things because there’s a lot but I want to narrow it down. The first thing that I think is the most important is to know the point of the video. What’s the video supposed to get across? Why are you creating this video? Why are you sharing what you’re sharing? If you like, what do you want your viewers to walk away knowing or thinking or understanding? So it’s important to know the point of your video. Start to jot down some notes if it’s going to be a video where you’re talking, where it’s like you in front of a camera or you’re interviewing someone or that kind of a video. I would through this process jot down notes, talking points. If it’s going to be a video that is more like a storytelling video, where you’re going to be cutting different scenes together, then you want to start to kind of actually create the storyline and so I think the point of the video and what you’re trying to get your audience to get out of it is one of the most important things before you start just cutting a video.

The second thing is to know the length of your video. That’s very important because if you just start talking and then you go on and on and on for like 10 or 15 minutes but you wanted it to be a two-minute video, that’s going to be hard to cut down. Sometimes it’s good to just get a lot of b-roll and then choose how to cut it. But if you’re just starting out, I think it’s important to know about how long do I want this to be? Is this a 30-second clip, is it 90 seconds, is it a 5-minute video? How long am I gonna go in front of the camera? Have a general idea of that. It’ll help with your your edits overall.

And then the last one is as much as possible, good lighting and sound is important. This is something that I’ve learned over the last few years as I’ve just started doing more video in my own content marketing is investing in at least a headset or something like that, that connects into your phone or your computer or whatever you’re using. I use for podcasting and for when I’m doing videos in my computer, I use a Yeti blue mic. They’re 100 bucks. You can buy them on Amazon. So it doesn’t have to be super expensive. 

Then for lighting I use just a 30-dollar ring light that I purchased also on Amazon and it’s really portable and I can take it around anywhere and it just makes that lighting a lot better. Now I say that third point with the caveat: Some people know me and know that I do walking and talking videos. The lighting is not pro. The sound is not always pro. Sometimes I’ve got wind in the background. I think that’s a bit of a caveat. I would still try to not be walking by like a train and cutting a video or something like that. Like something really really noisy. So be aware of the environment when you’re walking talking and don’t do every video that way because you’re not going to always want something that is you know, kind of funny with the sound or the lighting. But I do think trickling in those kinds of videos along with other videos where it’s you talking, are you cutting scenes about an event, maybe that you did or something like that, it’s good to mix things up. So if you’re going to be sitting down and talking to the camera, good lighting, good sound can make a huge difference.

Connecting With The Audience

Ephraim: Excellent answer. What are some of the ways that video helps nonprofits strengthen their relationships with donors, funders, volunteers, supporters and followers?

Taylor: Well, going back to that video is like 100 coffee conversations, it really helps to bring the viewer and the audience better into the story. I talk a lot about authenticity and the importance of authenticity in this day and age, to cut through the noise. There’s a lot of noise, there’s a lot of ads flashed before us constantly, all the time, right? You can’t scroll through Facebook or Instagram or anything really on your phone without seeing a bunch of ads and so video really helps to show real people doing real things. And I think that cuts through the noise. It creates a better connection. Video is also a really good opportunity to actually show the work that you’re doing and again, that leans into authenticity, right? If you’re showing a video of… this is our organization out building houses, this is our organization walking dogs, this is our organization helping kids in the hospital who are there for cancer treatment. It shows the work. It’s one of the most authentic ways in which you can communicate what you’re doing to cut through the noise.

Keeping It Real

Ephraim: Excellent. So before you mentioned this and now I’ll let you expand on it. You were recently filming a video outside about an upcoming conference you’re running and you’re interrupted by a bear. True story. You didn’t start recording a new video, you didn’t edit out the intrusion. Do you get better feedback when your videos are polished and edited or when you’re keeping it real?  

Taylor: I actually get better feedback when I’m keeping it real. Honestly. The bear story was interesting. I’ve never had that happen before. I was walking along the trail. I live in downtown Asheville and there’s a walking trail that goes right behind our condo building. I go out walking out every day and there was a black bear that crossed. Now I did pause and stop and make sure that I wasn’t in danger. But I also turned my camera around and was like, I’m gonna get this bear and then I kept my distance and stuff and then I pieced it together.

But I started going out on a limb I would say three to four years ago with a video and doing things like that, that are very kind of quick to the point and authentic. And I’ve certainly noticed that I get more interesting commentary and engagement and feedback on things like that. I think it’s real easy to be boring and one of my biggest takeaways for this interview for people thinking about video, wanting to video is video is an opportunity to not be boring. People don’t like boring stuff. When I’m cutting a video and I walk by a bear and I still get to finish talking about whatever nonprofit conference I was talking about, it just is this level of interest that makes people stop and pay attention and listen. And so that’s all a lot too of why I do the walking and talking videos. Just like the motion, the energy. I have found that people tend to enjoy that and it often tends to inspire people to try it too. Again, it just keeps that level of authenticity.  

Getting Started With Video

Ephraim: Fantastic. So some nonprofits may not have staff who know much about video marketing. You taught yourself how to make videos. What have you learned along the way that could be helpful for someone just starting out?

Taylor: The first tip is don’t point the camera below your face, so that it’s looking up your nose. That was one of the first things that I learned and I was lucky I had a friend who produces videos who told me… he was like, stop having the camera look up your nose! Okay, thanks. So that’s tip number one. I’m just being funny.

But there’s things that I’ve learned. There’s a lot of apps that make it easy and very affordable to produce video content. Now you can get very sophisticated with post-production Adobe tools, things like that. But you can also create some pretty professional looking things on your own with some simpler desktop apps and some apps that are on your phone. One of my favorite video editing tools that I use is called Filmora. It’s by a company called Wondershare. I was playing around with the more sophisticated Adobe tools for awhile and I finally got to the point where I was like, I just need to be good enough but I don’t want to actually be a video production company kind of a person. I need to find something that’s easier, because it was a huge learning curve. Filmora I found helps me make stuff that looks good. It’s easy to cut and the learning curve was a lot easier, less steep. 

And then there are tools on your phone too. I’ve tried a bunch of different video apps. Video Shop is a pretty decent one for cutting stuff on your phone. But the one that I like the most now is called Kinemaster. I think I pay the premium version. It’s maybe 30 dollars a year, something like that. But you can actually really do cuts of your video that you’ve shot on your phone very easily and you can add effects very easily. So I’ve just learned to try different tools until you find the one that is easiest for you. But again, you don’t have to spend a lot of money and you don’t have to be some super technical expert on this stuff to create good stuff that’s going to get people engaged.

Let’s Learn More About Taylor

Ephraim: Fantastic. Let’s move on to the lightning round and learn more about you. What got you started on your nonprofit career path?  

Taylor: Well I technically got started when I was 10 years old at the grocery store with my mother. I’ll explain. I used to get very very involved in my elementary school’s annual Bike-a-Thon fundraiser and it got to the point where my mom didn’t want to take me anywhere anymore because I asked everyone that I saw for money. I would just walk up to anyone and ask them for money and so when I really think about it, I got it started unbeknownst to me when I was like 10 years old. But actually I got started back in 2007 when I started working at a nonprofit software company. 

Ephraim: Fantastic. So given all your years in the nonprofit world and we’ll start already from age 10, if there was one thing in the nonprofit world you could shake up, what would it be?

Taylor: It’s just to let go of the fear to invest in trying new things. That’s one of the things that I think nonprofits are generally crippled by the most, is it’s a fear to invest in trying new things, like video. A fear to invest in the infrastructure and the operation to do things more efficiently and to do things more innovative. So I would just say, let go of that fear and take more cues from the for-profit marketing world.

Ephraim: That’s a good one. I like that. You are the founder and host of the SOAR Podcast at  What do you like most about podcasting?

Taylor: I first off just like bringing new ways of thinking to people’s earbuds I think. I’m very curious. I like to kind of think about things in a different way and a new light and I like to learn. So I learn a ton by interviewing other people. There’s always some new interesting thing that I learned from my guests who I interview and I like that. I can then share that with the world and other people can learn about it too.  

Ephraim: Excellent. Instagram, love it or hate it and why?

Taylor: Meh, I don’t know. You know, this is… can I have a love-hate relationship with it? I mean not to go too into the weeds on this. I think it’s kind of fun and it helps me stay connected to people all over the place and at the same time I sort of feel like it’s ruining people and creating a lot of issues for people, particularly younger people who… I just have real concerns with the long-term effect of the social media on people’s psyches. So I don’t know.

Ephraim: It’s all good. It could be both love it and hate it. Hobby you have that most people don’t know about?  

Taylor: I love to sing. So if we ever see people in person again or go to conferences again together, we should go do some karaoke because it’s one of my favorite things to do in the world. I love it.

Ephraim: Okay, I did not know this about you but yes, we’re doing karaoke. Last question. Let’s turn the tables. You get to ask me a surprise question. I don’t know what’s coming. Go ahead.

Taylor: So I am curious and this is something I like to ask other people a lot. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now in this moment in time, like you could just go travel through time to somewhere else in the world, where would it be?

Ephraim: I could think of three destinations, actually four to be perfectly honest. I live abroad, so all my nieces and nephews and family is in the U.S. and Canada. So Toronto would be one destination. A) I love the city B) I’ve got two siblings and lots of nieces and nephews there and a couple of very good friends I’d like to see.

Boston’s my favorite city in North America and I love love downtown Boston just strolling around. Also Boston sports. I’m a big sports freak so I’d love to go there.

Vegas is my second favorite city, we’ll call it, behind Boston and not necessarily because of the obvious that everybody talks about Vegas but more of the I can just… I can just be there for 48 hours and nobody notices me and nobody cares and I can just do my thing and I love that.

If I had to go to one place that I would say would be a happy place, it would be New London, Connecticut where I grew up from age 5 to 11. A lot of childhood memories of a community that… it’s still there. It’s a city right on the Atlantic Ocean. It was it was very old when I got there to start with and now it’s even older. So for me it’s just going back, a little bit of nostalgia. Not too many people left there that I can actually see that are still alive unfortunately that I knew 30 years ago, 30 plus years ago but it would be a happy… it’s just a happy place to go. I get to see the house I grew up, the park I used to play in, the beach we used to go to. Nostalgia. So if I had to go to one place out of those four, really it’d be a tough choice but New London would be one of those places right now that would just make me very happy to drive around.  

Taylor: It sounds nice. I also like that you said the thing about Vegas in a different light and it’s true. You can go there and you can be totally anonymous and just walk around and do your thing. No one cares. It’s an interesting place in that way.

Ephraim: I like it for just for that reason, besides all the lights and everything else about Vegas which is awesome. I can be anonymous and I actually appreciate that a lot when I’m traveling. So yeah, Vegas will be one of those places I want to get back to.

Taylor: The last time I was in Vegas, we had a lot of fun at karaoke. Just saying. You put Vegas and karaoke together and that’s my happy place.

Ephraim: I love it. I absolutely love  it. That’s fantastic. Taylor, thank you very much for appearing on the podcast. You can connect with Taylor on LinkedIn. She’s also got a great podcast which you should listen to on  Taylor, thanks very much. Have a great day.

Taylor: Hey, thanks for having me. It was fun.

Ephraim: Pleasure. Bye.