Children shed light for Dr Shelley James on the need for simple, new, and context-sensitive content about health and wellbeing during lockdown

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

How often have you been creating content that you are convinced is brilliant yet found that it fell on deaf ears? On a panel with a group of 11-, 12-, and 13-year-olds who reviewed these 30-second edumercials or educational infomercials created with Dr. Shelley James on the impact of light, these children shared meaningful insights on what this topic meant to them. 

The agenda was to share with these children explainer videos on the impact of light on their well-being, that everyone needs to go outside for light at least 60 minutes a day, and that sunlight is 1,000 times more powerful than even the brightest bulb inside. These are just some facts that Dr. Shelley James is sharing in her series with a character that she’s created called Luna Golightly. In the process of trying to animate these characters and explaining to children the impact of light, there have been several iterations. It began with animated characters, but the cost of having it designed by a studio was prohibitive. 

Storification with Lumen5

Photo from Lumen5

The solution was to use Lumen5, a platform that could create these 30-second videos in less than six minutes. In fact, the video platform itself will make you a one-minute video in less than six seconds. This has made possible the creation of stories that children should hear and hopefully be willing to watch and learn from, such as videos on myopia, the need to go outside to help your eyes, why vegetables look different outside than they do in the kitchen (which has to do with the quality of light), how the brain functions while you sleep, and more interesting facts. It turns out that if you turn out the lights two hours before you want to go to bed, then you will get better sleep. The structure for these 30-second videos is that each frame will only have eight words and will be shown for five seconds and that three elements will be discussed in each episode. That is the situation, the issue, and the solution, and this comes from the storification part of the SPEAK|pr program.

The feedback from the children upon watching these videos was that one, they liked the music, which was upbeat. Another was that they thought 30 seconds was about right, but the text moved too quickly for them. One suggestion was that although the text and images are great, they have to match one another. These children intuitively picked up on everything and had helpful feedback. They said they didn’t have the time to both read and process the information, so there were a handful lessons from them. 

Personalisation, Engagement, and Amplification

Photo from Searchability

When it comes to engagement in the SPEAK|pr program, this is about creating content that is simple to understand, new, and relevant, and these young people were saying that this new information about light met those three criteria. This also relates to the dual coding theory, how images, and moving images especially, benefit from the picture superiority effect. In other words, if there are pictures on the screen and text, the mind will look at the pictures and interpret those. The text, if it’s not aligned with the image, will simply be a distraction, and the brain will use up some brain power to try and understand why it’s there. 

Under personalisation, which is the second part of SPEAK|pr, there is the need to make the avatar or audience the hero. In each of these videos, the children in the videos were around the same age as the ones watching the videos. It’s important that when creating content, you consider who will be listening or watching or reading your content. 

During lockdown many people, both children and adults, are suffering from this enforced enclosure and these children all agreed that they hated being indoors. And so, these videos were created to encourage these children and their families to go outside, and the amplification part of SPEAK|pr is about creating engaging content that people would want to share it. The children said it was simple, new, fresh, and relevant, but when asked if they would share these videos online, they all said that they would not share the videos. Instead, they would tell their friends and family about the need to go outside. This is an interesting point, because actually, it just wouldn’t be cool to send out information that’s basically telling other people what’s good for them. The children said that if this was seen at school, then everyone would watch it. If they were to see it on social media, they might like it, but they probably wouldn’t share it, so that makes a difference to the distribution strategy. What they would share would be posted related to Black Lives Matter, Greta Thunberg, environmental issues, and the like.

There were a lot of lessons learned from this one-hour session with this young group of people. Above all, it goes to show how intuitive people are when it comes to looking at content. These are school kids using Zoom, watching videos on YouTube, and giving immediate and accurate feedback. It’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying about the content more than really thinking about the people that will receive the content. A message that came back resoundingly from all of the children was that they needed the information to be simple and in bite-size pieces. This makes one think about how often loaded press releases are sent out, one that are filled to the brim with facts and figures, how clients stand in front of people and tell them hours of information. But in reality, most audiences are doing companies a service by listening. 

Listen to your audience

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The SPEAK|pr program talks about the three audience groups: the staff, the partners, and the clients on the grounds that staff have to listen, since they are paid. Partners have a vested interest in listening, but external partners like clients don’t really have to listen. So, without taking into account what they want to listen to and how they want to listen to it in what format, then you will lose this audience.

When issuing information to these groups, what is being done to ensure that it’s simple, new, context-sensitive, and that it’s actually helping them accomplish their goals? Because in SPEAK|pr, personalisation is about making the individual the hero, not the company or the organisation. Talking with these young people today about their struggles and about how sunlight can be good for them, anyone could see their sense of enthusiasm, hope, and direction about what they could do differently.

For all those that have products and services to offer, the goal is always for the customers, partners, and staff to feel as though they can have better future if they participate and work with the company. So, always keep in mind who it is that you’re sending this to, and if you get the chance, have them in a focus group. Also, if you are able to get outside for at least 60 minutes, do so and encourage all of your family members and friends to do the same because that direct sunlight outside may just be the best thing that you can do for yourself and others during these COVID times.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

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