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6 min read

How to Make an Emotional Video

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The Dos and Don'ts of Emotional Video

Content marketers have recognized and embraced the value of “video storytelling” in the digital marketing world. Newer Communications professionals are busy trying to figure out how to rearrange their budgets to make room for video storytelling, as well as sell the idea as a necessary investment to their executive leaders. At the request of marketing directors everywhere, organizations have gotten busy hunting, gathering and culling their great “stories”. (What defines a “great, sharable story” is another discussion.) 

Even if one has amazing stories to share with the world, they can fall expensively flat if they are not presented in a compelling and emotionally engaging way. In fact, I believe the only way video storytelling can have any positive impact is if it elicits an emotional response.

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Let’s assume your organization has a bevy of great stories that you truly believe would nurture a special connection with your audience. (If you don't know how to identify your best stories, let me suggest this webinar.) And let’s assume you’ve committed to investing in the most emotional digital tool available: video. How can you make sure you don’t undermine your efforts with poor production decisions?

For the video production novice, here is a breakdown of some dos and don’ts when it comes to nurturing emotional impact: 

1. DON’T Make a Commercial

There is a tremendous appetite for genuine communication. People are tired of being “pitched”. The minute a message “smells” like a commercial, people tune out. Resist the urge to talk about yourself. No one likes to be in a relationship with someone when it is “all about them”.

2. DO Establish a Relatable Character as Quickly as Possible

If you can trigger an emotional response within the first few moments, there is a greater chance that your audience will stay with your message long enough for you to build the story. You must be compelling.

3. DON’T Use Professional Voice Overs

Professional voice talent, third-party endorsements or “senior leaders” are not the best way to deliver an emotional message. “Corporate speak” copy or teleprompter messages almost always come across as contrived.

4. DO Use First-Person Narratives to Share Stories

If you are demonstrating customer satisfaction, put your customers on camera. If you are recruiting, have employees say why it’s a great place to work. If you are a nonprofit, have someone you helped describe the experience and what it meant to them. If possible, use the “direct address” approach where your subjects speak directly to the camera.

5. DON’T Interrupt with Titles, Stats or Talking Heads

Just like when you’re watching a great movie, and someone near makes a loud noise to wreck the moment, the same thing can happen in a video story. Resist the urge to clutter it up and let the story speak for itself. Catholic Charities was courageous and let the story of Karl, one of their residents, speak for itself uninterrupted in this Dorothy Day Center video we produced with them.

6. DO Present the Story as Purely and Simply as Possible

Remember, powerful visuals usually reveal more emotion than any words can. Don't over complicate your story with fancy transitions or graphics. A good story can stand alone.

7. DON’T Show More Than is Absolutely Necessary

Wide shots and medium shots should be used judiciously for establishing enough context for the viewer to understand what is going on. As soon as that is accomplished, make the scene more intimate.

8. DO Use Close-Ups and Extreme Close-Ups

Video has the wonderful capability of being a magnifying and isolation tool. Bring your viewer in as close as you dare to focus attention on the important details, and nothing else. Check out how intimate these moments are with kindergarteners in this video for Eden Prairie Schools. 

Creative Elements that Influence Emotions

When creating an emotional video it's important to understand how all the different creative elements will influence the overall feel of your video. By utilizing these elements, you can take an average video and turn it into something spectacular.


Understanding how color affects the way we mentally process video can go a long way in helping you create a video that conveys emotion. Each color on the color wheel affects our mood and emotion in a different way, for example, the color red can make us feel stressed out, the color blue conveys feelings of sadness and gold and orange convey warmth and happiness. Harnessing the power of these colors in your video can drastically change how we react to a scene or shot. Check out this snippet on color and video from the Pixar in a Box lesson from Khan Academy.


Choosing the right music is another way to influence emotion in videos, but striking the perfect balance can be difficult. The best music should be present, but not overwhelming. It should help you understand what's happening without being overtly obvious. When selecting music, it's important to consider how it changes the tone and feel of your shots.

A relatively somber interview can be transformed with light and upbeat music, whereas using music that is too happy can feel tonally off-putting in a somber piece. 

Music can also help communicate a shift in a video. By changing music, you can show that the story is changing, that there is some kind of tension or that the story is resolving.

The Subject of Your Video (The Talent)

Carefully choosing the subject of your video is important. Emotion (or lack thereof) will show through with the best subjects. Consumers have very good judgment when it comes to video, they can feel passion, identify with pain, and hone in a salesy business owner. It's important to choose an interview subject that is genuinely emotional about your product, service or results. 

Mine your company stories for people who are passionate and emotional about your product or service. Interview your customer service team, talk to sales, find people who will be the best ambassadors for your company.

The Script

We find that the most emotional scripts come from the best stories, not from a perfectly crafted video script template. By asking the right questions and getting the best answers you can create an emotional script that is sure to be a tear jerker for anyone watching.

Using Emotional Video to Drive Action

Invoking emotions with a video is a worthy accomplishment, but using that same emotion to drive viewers to action is another story altogether. It's important to match the emotions in your videos with the buyer journey and utilize emotion in the best way possible.

When trying to drive awareness, viewers are looking to be inspired to action, it's important to focus on positive and uplifting emotions like these:

  • Happiness/Joy/Delight
  • Hope/Excitement/Anticipation
  • Pleasure/Amusement
  • Surprise
  • Love/Affection

When trying to drive conversions, it's important to move beyond inspiration into deeper emotions, like these:

  • Desire for Control
  • Poverty of Time
  • Desire for the latest and greatest
  • Self-Achievement
  • Economy of Time
  • Make me Better

By applying these production techniques to your next video, you’ll have a greater chance of making that desired emotional connection with your audience.

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