Video Story Project Assures Baby Boomers Going to College During the Great Recession
From 2008-2015, the Plus 50 Initiative helped thousands of students at more than 100 community colleges around the United States get people ages 50 and up back to work. The Initiative was organized by the American Association of Community Colleges, located in Washington, D.C. Steppingstone LLC provided communications strategy, media relations, writing, editing, and video support services for the life of the initiative.
A seminal turning point came in 2009, when the initiative re-tooled to better help baby boomers coping with the devastating economic fallout of the Great Recession and focused on helping plus 50 adults go to college and re-train for new jobs. Organizers soon found that being able to hear from and see other baby boomers going to college to re-train for new jobs aided recruitment efforts and helped get more adult students on campus.
In 2009, we suggested adding a YouTube channel for the initiative, featuring the stories of real plus 50 students from colleges participating in the initiative. At the time, using video content filmed by program participants (instead of a professional video crew) was not as common as it is now.
The Challenge: It was clear we needed to keep this project easy for the participating college staff to manage on-site. We were essentially asking college staff with limited time to serve as our videographers and they had many other obligations and responsibilities – like helping plus 50 students get enrolled in college and supporting them in being successful. We were asking them to do one more thing, essentially.
The easiest to use and least complicated video setup possible was necessary, as the client did not have funds to hire a professional video crew to travel the country and go to college locations to film. We needed a portable and inexpensive solution for collecting video footage from the initiative’s grantee sites. We explained to participating colleges why this project was important, what we planned to do with the student and staff stories we collected, and promoted videos as they were completed in the internal e-newsletter distributed to participating colleges. We provided footage back to the colleges if they requested as well, giving them an asset they could us if they wanted to.
The Solution: Two small flip video cameras were purchased with small tabletop stands that held the cameras upright and still for filming. A set of directions for filming with interview questions were written. The directions included photos we took on a table in our office that illustrated how to set up the camera on a stand and record footage. A printed photo release for the interview subjects was also included for signature. Directions were designed to keep this project as simple as possible, so it would not be a burden to the local college staffs.
The camera with stand and directions were mailed to a college that expressed interest. Then the camera and the footage were returned a couple of weeks later after the interviews were completed. The footage was downloaded and the batteries checked, and then the camera would be sent out again to another college.
We often received both staff and student interviews, allowing us to highlight different perspectives from the same college. Staff talked about support services available for plus 50 students on campus and about the workforce development programs offered. Students talked about how it felt to go to college as a non-traditionally-aged student, about what they liked about their coursework, how the Plus 50 Initiative assisted them, and their hopes for the future. A few interviews with staff were taped at a conference in Washington, D.C.
We tried to let the real stories of the students and staff shine through when editing the video footage that came back to us on the cameras, and more than 70 videos were created and are featured on the program’s YouTube channel. Given our videographers were often people who had never used a video camera before and had limited time for such a project, the videos we created for the channel came out beautifully. Students and staff reported that seeing and hearing from other plus 50 students was a major motivator in helping them go to college. College staff also appreciated that they could hear from others around the country doing similar work and get their tips for working with adult students.
Below are videos we created for the Plus 50 Completion Strategy Project. We were able to incorporate the program’s branding into the diamond design and color choices. The staff interviews offer tips for other colleges expanding work with plus 50 adults.
The interviews below were done earlier in the project. We carried over branding from print materials for the videos. One nice aspect of this framing style is that in many cases, the images look like the interviewer just talked to the student in the hallway while in between classes, giving the viewer more of a feel for the student experience. In some of the videos, you feel like you are sitting across from someone at their desk or talking to them in a hallway in between sessions. See the YouTube channel.
Note: One thing this project illustrates is that we can see a need and articulate a way to meet it. While we are not a full-service video production company, we can do basic video editing and help a client come up with a solution that works for the goal in mind. We do a tremendous amount of work with nonprofit organizations and trade associations, and our creativity and commitment to helping them succeed shine through in a project like this one.
We are Steppingstone LLC, an independent practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact us to discuss your project, review our portfolio, sign up for our e-newsletter).