As we near the end of the semester and our class, I thought I would share my own reflections on a topic that we covered previously on my own storytelling experience and journey.
The Republic of Singapore Navy has traditionally produced a commercial every few years or so as part of our recruitment campaign. Whilst the early commercials were largely recruitment-focused, we moved towards producing commercials that sought to inform the general public about what the Navy does (similar to a corporate video). This was in response to a common feedback that while most people knew about the existence of the Navy, they did not quite know exactly what it is that the Navy does. An example of this ‘revamped’ recruitment video is shown below.
When it came for us to produce a new commercial in 2018 however, my team decided that we would take a different approach to telling the Navy’s story. Having already produced two commercials that portrayed the ‘corporate’ image of the Navy, we felt that it was now necessary to tell the stories of the people within the Navy, to add a personal touch to the organization. This, we felt, would allow the viewer to relate to the personal stories that we told and that resonance, in turn, would encourage and motivate the viewer to consider a career with the Navy. We decided to roll out four stories, each representing a specific career scheme within the Navy. The challenge that we subsequently faced was to ensure that the four stories would be accurately representative of the kinds of qualities that we wanted to see in our prospective recruits, and cover a broad enough spectrum of narratives to counter and debunk some of the myths and misconceptions that people might have. We reached out to the larger Navy, casting as wide a net as possible to elicit some of these stories from the ground. We then shortlisted the stories to a more manageable number before conducting further in-depth interviews to get a better sense of the details. From there, we narrowed it down to four stories, and started the process of storyboarding and film production. The process of storyboarding was not easy because of the fact that we had to ‘squeeze’ as much as possible within a 60-second window. We wanted to keep the videos short, so that they could be pushed out on various social media platforms, as well as on traditional media. As we have also learnt in class, people generally have rather short attention spans and short videos are thus often preferred. We thus needed to ensure that the essence of the story could be adequately, and accurately, captured within the 60 second time frame to achieve our intended aims. These were the end products.
All the stories were developed in close consultation with the actual individuals which we also sought to feature in the videos instead of using actors. This required a close partnership between the Navy, the creative agency as well as the film production company so that we could tell their stories in an interesting, engaging way without compromising on the integrity and accuracy of the stories. Authenticity thus served as a guiding principle in the development and production of the stories and this was something that we wanted to convey to the viewers as well (as indicated by the ‘Based on a True story’ line that appears at the start of every video).
This storytelling journey and experience has been an amazing one for me personally. The entire process from start to finish was not easy, and involved many late nights (the Diver shoot was done at 1 a.m. so that we could get the lighting right) and a lot of brainstorming as to how best to tell and present the stories. They were eventually rolled out and positively received on various social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. If I could summarize this entire storytelling process, it would probably be: (1) Be clear about the narratives you want to tell, (2) Be exhaustive in your search for those narratives, (3) Never compromise on authenticity and (4) Lead with the Heart, and not the Mind.
Note: All opinions and perspectives above are mine and do not reflect that of the Navy 🙂