How To

The 3 Most Important Elements When You are Storytelling with Video

When we look at the most successful petitions on — the ones that have had the most impact — they all have one thing in common: they tell a great story.

Storytelling is key when you are trying to create change. People are more likely to take action when they feel emotionally connected to a cause and storytelling is the best way to make that connection.

But how do you create an emotionally compelling story?  

Recently, we joined Adobe in hosting a content workshop about using video storytelling to create change with Adobe Voice. The workshop was led by Christina Frenzel,’s senior producer and an award winning filmmaker, who helps petition starters tell their own stories to create change every day.

She identified the three elements of emotionally resonant storytelling as structure, character, and stakes. To demonstrate these elements, she had us watch the first few minutes of the Disney Pixar film Up.

See if you can identify the structure, character, and stakes:

  1. Structure
    Classic story structure follows the journey of someone who wants something badly, but has trouble getting it.

    Example: In Up, Ellie and Carl want to get to Paradise Falls, but life gets in the way of that.

  2. Character
    Great stories have characters that evoke empathy — that the viewers understand and relate to. An easy way to create empathy is to show characters seeking solutions against the odds, instead of falling victim to them.

    Example: We develop empathy for Carl and Ellie as they save for their trip to Paradise Falls.

  3. Stakes
    Characters can’t just want something badly. The viewer needs to have a sense of what will happen if they don’t get it; that’s what we call stakes. Raising the stakes throughout the story makes people feel more connected to the characters.

    Example: The stakes in the clip from Up get raised as we see the couple age and it becomes less likely that they will ever make it to Paradise Falls.

That’s all well and good, but how does this relate to making change again?

As Christina pointed out during the workshop, 70% of petitions that achieved victory used media in their campaigns.

One of the most powerful types of media is video. Once a medium only available to people with training and expensive tools, video is now a media we can all create easily, quickly, and for free with Adobe Voice.

Before you start producing videos with the app, make sure you lay out a script that has structure, character, and stakes by answering these questions in simple sentences.

  1. What do I want my viewers to feel when watching this video?

  2. Who is the main character in your video?  

  3. What do they want?

  4. How are they trying to get it?

  5. What’s in their way?

  6. And what will happen if they don’t succeed?

Focusing on the emotion of story will help you produce an inspiring video, like these, which were created by people who attended the workshop:

SF Seattle

Save San Francisco’s Trees

Want to give Adobe Voice a try? Visit this website or download the mobile app in the App Store.

Have more questions about crafting stories or promoting your petition with media? Check out our petition guide.

Written by
Mallory A. Russell
February 3, 2016 6:06 pm