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How to level up your school's video skills

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By Jay Cooper
Oct 31, 2023 10:36:23 AM

Video is certainly the medium that grabs people’s attention, but many schools aren’t grasping just how powerful a role it can play in their school communications mix. From showing your principal’s personality to spotlighting teaching moments to posting short videos on your social media channels, school districts need to up their video game. This is precisely why Jake Sturgis, CEO and founder of Captivate Media, led a recent SchoolNow Academy webinar series, showing how to optimize your school video efforts.

Jake’s webinar spanned the types of video stories, production techniques and tips, formatting for social media, and the use of AI in school video production. 

We’ve pulled some gems from Jake’s webinar and outlined them here, but if you want to view the complete webinar, check out this recording of How to Level Up Your School’s Video Skills.


7 types of school video stories

Jake outlined the different types of ‘stories’ to tell about your school. There are countless stories that abound in every district, each kind having its own objective:

  1. Origin story: How something came about (e.g., new program or new curriculum)
  2. Impact story: How a school or program has made an impact on a specific person 
  3. Teaching story: It's what schools do, right? Impart some knowledge.
  4. Value story: Show why a school or a person embraces certain values being l
  5. Vision story: One that shares a greater vision (e.g., new strategic plan, major changes)
  6. Why story: A motivating piece that explains why your district is doing certain things
  7. Objections story: Video that helps bring to light shared objections your school community may have on a certain topic

Video production process

Jake breaks down video production into three chunks: pre-production, production, and post-production.

JS: I encourage people to start small so if you are on that side of things where you're just trying things out and you're just trying to get comfortable. Don't feel like you need to be the next Stephen Spielberg and create this really long, really polished video. Then just keep scaffolding and keep building from there. Maybe it's a montage you start with photos and video and put things together and then start working in some interviews or more complex pieces.

Pre-production tips – the planning stage

  • Confirm your audience. District wide? Specific school? Parents? Community?
  • What's the message? Be clear.
  • What’s the call-to-action. What do you want people to do (e.g., call one of your schools, book a tour, visit a website, vote for tax levy).
  • Consider who the ‘messengers’ are for your production. Try to get personable, animated people who can convey emotion.
  • When using scripting, utilize a 2-column list of what is being read (audio) in one column and visuals in the second column.

Production tips – gathering video content

  • Video cameras, DSLRs, and phones are quite common and in most cases suitable for school videos.
  • Use full HD.
  • When using a phone, dial in the settings that help you organize things like exposure, file size, and storage. 
  • Use a tripod whenever possible.

  • Film in landscape.
  • Keep interviewees well out in front of the background for good depth of field
  • Use the rule-of-thirds when cropping your frame. 
  • Avoid harsh light (e.g., bright sunny outdoors). 
  • Get a variety of B-roll or cover video shots.
  • Use a mix of wide, medium, and close-up shots.


  • Use interview techniques to make people feel at ease, and to make it more conversational.
  • Ask the subject to include the question as they answer.
  • Don’t be afraid to ‘direct’ people to tell them what you need to do.
  • Be aware of background noise. Bad audio can ruin a production, so b
  • Try to film indoors whenever possible to limit noise
  • If you’re far away from your subject, use a microphone.

Post-production tips - putting it all together

  • iMovie, FinalCut Pro, Premiere Pro, and Rush are all recommended editing software options.
  • Construct A-roll or main footage (script, interviews, voice-over) using it as the foundation
  • Layer over your B-roll.
  • If using music, avoid songs with lyrics.
  • Use captions and translations to make videos accessible to people with disabilities and multicultural audiences.

AI and school videos

Jake showed how AI (Artificial Intelligence) can be a great help to school communicators primarily in the pre-production phase of generating script outlines or ideas for school videos. He listed some software tools (available free and in paid plans) that some schools and organizations can use to ‘level up’ their video productions:

For everything from creating avatars for your principal to creating fresh content and providing some inspiration for video production, AI could be a useful tool. Jake demonstrated using ChatGPT to create a script for a 60-second video for a new curriculum at a fictional high school but warned that with such automation comes the need for human oversight and control to protect against potential bias, attribution, and privacy violations.

Tips for school communicators

JS: Use your creativity, your knowledge of your district, and your people to create content and help shape your stories in a way that's going to resonate with them. You don't want it to look super generic (i.e., the risk of AI-generated content). Avoid overdoing the talking heads. Sure, there are times when you have to show who’s talking but use B-roll and other production techniques to keep your video interesting. 

For social media, those first three or so seconds of your video are critical to pop and help it stand out. The secret to social is connecting to people through emotion. If you make them cry or laugh, it will be more impactful, memorable, and shareable. Film and edit vertical videos, and keep in mind framing for adding captions or other graphics. 

More Jake: Jake Sturgis is the featured presenter in How to Level Up Your School’s Video Skills. View the full webinar video here.


Topics: Communication Social media Public relations

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About the author

Marketing director and content strategist for SchoolNow, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at jay@schoolnow.com.