In this blog, I’ve collected examples of how medical research charities have used video to promote their research on social media.
There’s plenty of reasons why videos are good for social media. The public love video and that means so do marketers. Social media posts with video get more engagement and shares than those with text. And for charities, videos – particular self-filmed – are a great way to share stories and connect with supporters, as Nikki Bell makes clear in her article on the subject.
I think there’s a strong argument for using video in relation to science and research too. For a lot of people, science is an abstract idea. They might have studied it in school years ago, but since then don’t have any involvement in it. The word may conjure up images of white guys in lab coats playing with test tubes, or ‘mad professors’ making monsters in their underground lairs. Or, less dramatically, it might just leave people feeling a bit cold.
But a video with real people doing science brings it to life in a completely different way. Think of why supporters love going on lab tours. They get to see the research they’re supporting in person. Video is another way to show them the difference they’re making.
‘Video’ means different things to different people, and can include any of the following formats:
- ‘documentary’ or ‘interview’ style – someone talking to camera (or to an interviewer out of shot), with cut-away footage
- Self-shoot – either a true ‘selfie’, with the subject looking directly at a phone camera, or filmed with a camera on a tripod
- Animated slide shows – images and videos (often stock) overlaid with text, created using something like wave.video
- ‘Audiograms’ for promoting podcasts and other audio with video, created with something like Headliner or Audiogram
Clearly some of these formats are easier to achieve than others. You can pay a lot of money to have a professionally produced video made. You can also make a video on your smartphone for free. The effect they’ll have may be different, but neither is automatically ‘better’ than the other.
Different types of content by charities
Below I’ve gathered a few examples of how charities have promoted their research using video. I’ve focussed on promoting research on social media, particularly Twitter because that’s where I hang out a lot. But there are also a few other examples from YouTube as well.
Explaining a research project or theme
Other examples include:
- A self-filmed video of research funded by DEBRA UK explaining his research project
- An interview with a research fellow funded by MQ
- This tweet from Wellcome Trust about a research project, using some striking braining scanning equipment
- A scientist supported by Diabetes UK shares an update on her research
Talking more broadly about research
Videos can also be a useful way to answer common questions and talk about a broad research topic.
Parkinson’s UK shared the video below answering the question “When will there be a cure for Parkinson’s?”
- A video from Asthma UK about asthma and air pollution
- Alzheimer’s Research UK talk about their research into vascular dementia
- Wellcome Trust set out the reasons why they’re focusing on mental health research
Insight into life inside the lab
As mentioned earlier, a video can be great way to show what science is really like, giving a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of medical research.
Cancer Research Demystified is a YouTube channel that does what it says on the tin. Run by two scientists, their aim is to tell people with cancer about what research means, and how they can get involved. An example of this is below:
- A researcher supported by Alzheimer’s Research UK shared this brilliant video about how dementia research is continuing during the coronavirus outbreak when all the laboratories are shut down
- Understanding Animal Research shared this quick video about how a scientist should handle mice correctly to reduce distress, which also works to demystify research involving animals
Updating on some news, recent discovery
People get a lot of their news from social media, and video can be great way to share the latest updates. Cancer Research UK do this really well with their short ‘slideshow’ style videos about a recent news story, such as the one below:
- I loved this video from MS Society, self-filmed by their Head of Biomedical Research, announced 13 new research projects into multiple sclerosis, with a few details on a couple of them. (Also listen out for a subtle fundraising ask.)
- This ‘slide-show’ style video from the British Heart Foundation has some eye-catching imagery to draw attention to a new discovery.
- Diabetes UK use this animation to share news of a breakthrough about how a diet could help to control Type 2 diabetes.
- During my time at Breast Cancer Now I interviewed a couple of researchers about the results of a major clinical trial, and how the charity had contributed towards it.
Reporting from a conference
I’ve written before about how charities can report from conferences, and yet again, video is a great way of doing this. Organisations like eCancer get experts and speakers on camera to talk about presentations at the conferences. Charities can do the same.
Diabetes UK share some breaking news from a conference in this video below:
And MND Association whet the appetite of their audience in this video about an upcoming conference.
Bringing beneficiaries and scientists together
Some of the videos I love the best are when charities bring people from different worlds together. It’s a great opportunity to show the difference that research makes and make it more tangible.
A powerful example of this is a video Worldwide Cancer Research filmed of a meeting between a person with ovarian cancer and the inventor of a drug they’ve benefited from:
- Children with Cancer UK had a lot of fun having kids explain the scientists’ work
- A researcher funded by Blood Cancer UK (previously Bloodwise) took a child with leukaemia on a virtual lab tour
Other great uses
- “Audiograms” are a nice way to promote podcasts with video, like this lovely example from Breast Cancer Now
- How can Alzheimer’s Research UK promote their science image competition? By stitching together the finalists’ entries into a breath-taking slideshow, of course.
Links to other resources
Video is a popular topic among charities. I’ve collected a few articles which delve further into the subject. These are mostly focussed on longer-form videos and films, but many of the tips are still relevant for short-form videos for social media.
- CharityComms published this round-up of their 2019 conference on video for charities
- Another CharityComms blog with video tips, geared more towards longer films
- ‘Film Kit’ (from CharityComms again) is an extensive guide to film-making in charities, with an emphasis on ethics and representation in films
- Andrew from Campaign Film sets out three important aspects of an emotionally engaging video: setting, characters, and message
- Nikki Bell shares some tips on filming videos for supporters on a smartphone