Skip directly to content

Video for Change: Distribution is Key


Photo courtesy of the National Archives, UK

by Martha Dodge

Video is more important to non-profit organizations (NGO) than ever before. Reuters recently reported that YouTube, now owned by Google, streams 4 billion videos a day. This means that 60 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.


To compete in this media saturated environment, I often preach that NGOs should be a channel, continually pumping out information, telling stories about who they are and what they do. But creating content is only half the battle. A video is useless if it isn’t seen or isn’t seen by the right people. And this is especially true when talking about video for social or environmental change.


So, how do we cut through the noise, rise to the top and ensure our videos make a difference? The answer is strategic distribution!


Any filmmaker will tell you, distribution is a very proactive process. You are hunting for the places to showcase your story. While YouTube and social media can be a part of a distribution strategy, they shouldn’t solely be relied upon. There are so many other ways to creatively reach people.


As I move forward with this blog, a major focus will be investigating what methods of video distribution are most valuable to NGOs, finding what is working, what obstacles exist and how we can create greater impact.


In the meantime, here are 10 basic elements to consider when devising your next video distribution strategy.


1. Purpose – First and foremost know the purpose of your video. A clear purpose will be a driving factor in how you construct your distribution. Some questions to ask yourself: Why are you making this video? What are your objectives? Basically what do you need this video to do for you, how do you need it to instigate change?

2. Story – Storytelling is key! A well-told story will help you gain a larger audience and the video will be much easier to distribute. Having a professional help you tell your story is always a great way to potentially open up distribution channels.

3. Audience - Define who your audience is and be specific. Many times people assume that their videos need to be seen by “everyone.” But is this the most strategic choice? Not every video needs a general audience. Sometimes a video can be more effective if used to target key people like policymakers, donors, government officials, health workers, etc…

4. Platforms - Know before going in that when you distribute a video, you will be working to ensure it has the longest life possible. Instead of just relying on YouTube, think about all the other channels of distribution where your video may fit. Consider journalism organizations, bloggers, conferences, major events, community gatherings, protests, etc., or other platforms like TV, radio, internet, mobile media, community screenings, podcasts, film festivals, etc…

5. Build Relationships - Start networking before you begin making the video. I can’t stress this enough. By sharing your video idea with others, you will be automatically building an audience and priming them for your video’s release.

6. Timing – Decide when to release the video. Could it coincide with a major anniversary, a conference or summit? Are there meetings on Capitol Hill or congressional bills about to be passed that pertain to your video. These could all be key times to tell your story.

7. Be Creative – Video distribution can be fun and much like activism, incorporates the same principles.  So think of yourself as an advocate for the video. What are some creative ways to get people’s attention, get them to watch? The answer is only limited by your imagination.

8. Use Activism – Make sure you are clear about what exactly you are asking people to do after seeing your video. Do you want them to learn more, donate or take action? Whatever it is, make it simple for them to do.

9. Repurpose the Media – Repurposing can be a great way for a NGO to save money while maximizing the channels of impact. For example, you can take the audio portion of the video and turn it into a podcast. Or you can take photo stills from the video and use them on different platforms.

10. One Size Does Not Fit All - Not all distribution strategies are created equal. What works for one video may not work for another. Cater the distribution strategy to the specific purpose, story and intended audience of the video. Keep track of how the video is used and create a feedback loop. Distribution is an organic process and being able to remain flexible and change gears when necessary will help you in the end.


Martha Dodge is currently the Project Lead for NGO Outreach and Media Training for the GoodSpeaks Project. She also works as a independent video filmmaker. See her website:

Post new comment