Create a video documentary for the top of the funnel

1. Define your target audience, goals, and a broad idea for your documentary.

Identify your reasons for creating a documentary, such as boosting brand awareness or driving traffic to your website. Consider the interests and motivations of your audience, and use popular brand themes to guide the brainstorming process: A unique way your product has been used: For example, a dental adhesive company saved a lion who needed emergency dental surgery. Compelling customer stories related to your products: Listen to Patagonia customers talk about how long their clothes have lasted. A charity, social movement, or issue your brand is passionate about, like Stella Artois and National Geographic’s Our Dream of Water. A behind-the-scenes look at your company or production process, like Intel’s “Behind the Brains” docuseries

2. Choose producers and collaborators to work with by meeting with production teams and reviewing their past projects.

To guide the ideation, production, and editing processes, most brands work with a production agency or freelancers who specialize in documentary work. To find collaborators: Search for local or documentary-specific production companies. Present your ideas to your candidates and ask what they can contribute. View samples of their documentary work. Choose collaborators who best fit your vision, needs, and budget.

3. Select documentary subjects to interview for the film. Choose subjects who support your storyline idea.

With the help of your collaborators, look for documentary subjects who have unique insights or perspectives. Search for subjects based on your topic: Customer testimonials or stories: Ask your customer-facing teams for recommendations, find positive brand mentions with a tool like Mention, or ask customers to submit their stories by email. Philanthropic or humanitarian topics: Reach out to charities or organizations you work with to see if they have recommendations for people to feature. Reach out to your documentary subjects and present your idea. Tell them how much time they can expect to commit to the project.

4. Storyboard the footage, schedule shoots, and scout out locations.

In most cases, your production team will handle the production phase, which involves shooting and editing scenes. In pre-production, work with your collaborators to: Plan out the visuals with a storyboard. Choose visuals that will help the viewer feel immersed in the story. Scout out locations that are relevant to the documentary topic and integrate well into the setting. Set a timeline for project completion and determine the film length that fits your goals. Documentaries that are under 10 minutes can be shared more easily on social media. Meanwhile, longer documentaries that delve deeper into a topic can be shared on social media via a link. Provide guidelines for video content that fit your brand image and voice.

5. Have your documentary subjects sign a consent form and then film the interview. Ask your documentary subjects relevant questions on camera.

Work with your collaborators to come up with questions for your interview subjects. The questions should be open-ended but relevant to your topic. In most cases, have your interviewee speak directly to the camera while answering questions. For example, this Starbucks documentary features an environmentalist who speaks directly to the camera. He talks about his experience discussing important issues with Starbucks customers. Make sure your on-screen subjects sign a consent form that grants you permission to record the subject, edit the footage, and distribute the video online and on social media. Be sure to have your legal team look over the form.

6. Edit the footage to form a cohesive storyline and add supplemental information like subtitles and music.

Oversee this process, or edit in-house if your team has a video editor: Review all your footage, and assemble it into a storyline. This part will take oversight, multiple revisions, and time. It may also require additional footage or narration. Add on-screen text, like captions, to identify speakers and the timeline of events. Add music that fits the tone of your film. Make sure the music is properly licensed with the right permissions. Color grade the film to get the right look for the footage.

7. Use a trailer, press release, or YouTube Premiere to promote your documentary.

Some ways to promote and distribute your film: Create a 30-second teaser or 2-minute trailer to share on social media channels. To generate leads, encourage people to sign up for your email list to be notified of the film’s release. And, to increase social engagement, ask subscribers to follow your account for updates. Host an in-person or virtual film premiere and invite industry guests, local community members, influencers, or other guests to the event. Write and send a press release to promote your film. Use YouTube’s Premiere feature to schedule the release of your film and build anticipation. Encourage followers to share the premiere video or subscribe to your channel. Create and release promotional content, such as graphics and still images from the film, to share on social media.

8. Host your video on a video hosting site. Embed your documentary on your website and upload it to social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn.

YouTube or Vimeo are recommended for hosting videos. Choose a place on your website to embed the video, or embed it on a separate landing page with a lead generation form. For example, Patagonia dedicates a Stories page to its documentary content. Upload to social media with a CTA, like Watch the full-length video or Donate to X humanitarian cause. Use hashtags in the caption to optimize for discovery. H.264 compression and the highest resolution supported are recommended for most social media videos. Follow video best practices for social media platforms: Facebook: Upload natively, 240-minute maximum. Specs are MP4 or MOV format, under 4 GB, and 16:9 aspect ratio. LinkedIn: Upload natively if the video is under 10 minutes. Specs are MP4 format, under 5 GB, and 1:2.4 or 2.4:1 aspect ratio.  Twitter: Upload a trailer that’s under 140 seconds with a link to watch the full video on your video host platform. Specs are MP4 for web, MOV for mobile, under 1 GB, and 1:1 or 1:2 aspect ratio. Instagram: Upload a trailer or teaser to your feed, and put a link in your bio to the full-length video. Specs are MP4 or MOV format, under 30 MB, and under 120 seconds.

9. Track engagement and conversion metrics, and monitor online conversation about your documentary with a tool like Hootsuite or Mention.

Look at your social media, website, and video host analytics. For engagement-based goals, look at watch time, views, shares, and likes. For conversion-based goals, look at website traffic, click-throughs, and clicks. See what people are saying about the film. Use a social listening tool like Hootsuite or Mention, and search the name of your film.