What’s Your Story? Using Text-Based Video Marketing (guest post by Amanda Greenhoe of Calvin College)


Recently, my team set out to tailor a marketing piece to a primary audience (donors), while still engaging other facets of our school’s constituents. To do this, we told a story that touches them all.

Great things are happening where I work, at Calvin College. It’s a 4,000-student, Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And whether or not you have heard of it, students here are being prepared to serve around the corner and across the globe. Our grads are humble, not timid. They’re principled, not closed-minded. They’re deep thinkers, not surface skimmers.

That’s why our donors give. So, in order to tell them the story of Calvin’s 2011–12 academic and fiscal year, we needed to tell the story of our students. But while our recently-released year-in-review video is first and foremost a gift of gratitude to our supporters, it reaches beyond its primary audience.

After watching the video, students feel privileged to be here. Prospective students want to check this place out. Emeriti, faculty and staff are reminded of their impact. Parents are reminded of the school’s value. The public takes notice. And it’s all because we told a story.

Now, not all storytelling is a home run. This video was effectively distributed to donors via a thank-you email and mail piece that directed them to view the video online. It also gave a voice to many areas of the college, which fostered institutional buy-in.

Let’s not forget that this video is also successful because of its format. It combines engaging text and well done typography with fun, high-quality animation, which makes it watchable and shareable (and re-watchable and re-shareable!) While text-based videos do not offer the immediate visual connection that a photo of a student can bring, these types of videos will not be rendered outdated due to graduated students or updated buildings. Text-based videos bring a visual variety in a marketing field filled with videos of talking heads and those that rely too heavily on voice-overs.

The freelancer we worked with used Adobe After Effects to animate our script. If you are considering using a text-based video, I recommend writing your script in-house and relying on the animator for graphics and music. By writing the script in-house, we saved valuable resources. In terms of writing style, the script is short and to the point, which is key for this type of video.

For these reasons, members of the Calvin community are sharing this video via social media, and thereby spreading the word about the ways Calvin is inspiring students to live fully and faithfully.

Is it time for your school to do some storytelling? Know your story, know your audiences, and tell your narrative well.

How are you sharing your institution’s story and encouraging your students to contribute? Please share your comments below. All who comment will be entered into a raffle to win a Calvin College t-shirt and a copy of the book Okay for Now by Calvin professor Gary D. Schmidt.

Amanda Greenhoe serves as Coordinator for Development Communications and Marketing at Calvin College and as a freelance copywriter. She worked for a magazine, a newspaper, and a publishing house before finding her home in higher ed. She loves talking all things marketing and communications. Contact her via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, or her blog, Reach and Rally.

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13 Responses to What’s Your Story? Using Text-Based Video Marketing (guest post by Amanda Greenhoe of Calvin College)

  1. Meredith Fennema says:

    And THIS is why I love Calvin College.

  2. [...] the article here: What's Your Story? Using Text-Based Video Marketing (guest post by Share [...]

  3. Alyssa Alt says:

    What a great video about the great things happening at Calvin every day of every year!!! I love the impact text-based videos can have!!

  4. Kathi Vande Guchte says:

    I love learning about the ripples from a single pebble in a still pond.
    Watching this made me think of my parents, Marten/Betty Vande Guchte, who have invested in Calvin – first as students, then as faculty/staff, but consistantly investing financially in Calvin, because they believe what Calvin represents.
    Personally, a memory I have with my dad is being somewhere for lunch downtown GR, and having a former student of his approach him. Usually the student would begin, “Professor Vande Guchte, I don’t know that you remember me, but I took your Speech 100 class (or any other class)…” My dad often not only remembered the former student’s name, but also a speech they’d given. This happened so many times, and I know it impacted the people who learned under my dad’s teaching.

    • Thank you for your sharing that wonderful story about your father. It is experiences like this that inspires many of us to remain as higher education and student affairs professionals because of the impact that we can and do have on the students that we serve. I myself became a student affairs professional because of people that have inspired me like your father has for his students.

  5. Thanks, Amanda, for writing this! I shared it with my small business class and they loved it. Short. Simple. To the point. And it sounds like it was very effective.

  6. Audrey Robb says:

    I’m proud of you for what you are doing at Calvin, Amanda. This video is so encouraging and relevant. I even talked about it with my brother this weekend (Calvin Alum) and we are both loving all of the new videos Alumni Relations/CAF is putting out :)

  7. Terrific work, Amanda. I’ve helped Calvin in the past (on staff and as a contract consultant) with communications, and it’s good to see my alma mater telling its stories forthrightly.

  8. Erin De Wyn says:

    Well said, Amanda! Funny how the written word never goes out of style ;)

  9. Claire Phillippi says:

    Truly love Calvin. This is a good video for this lovely school.

  10. Kalee says:

    Proud to be a Calvin student!

  11. Terese N says:

    Students attending Calvin are lucky to be at such a great school!

  12. Jacqueline Ristola says:

    Impressive. Most impressive.

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