How many words does a video paint?

“The only thing shorter than a Tweet or a post is a picture.” 

                                                                                    Detavio Samuels


                                                                             La Giaconda, Leonardo da Vinci

People remember (or learn) only a 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear and 30% of what they see, but 50% of what they hear and see – or so they say. This alone could be a good reason to use videos to spread public health messages. I mean, people will remember so much more than if you give them a leaflet to read, right? Well, maybe.

Apparently these figures are a distortion (Thalheimer, 2015). What’s useful to know, though, is that people from 5 years to working-age adults learn a whole range of subjects better when they’re presented by multi-media, computer-based systems than by the traditional lecture-type lesson (Najjar, 1996).

But you’re not trying to teach a class, you’re trying to change the world. You want to reach people with reliable health messages get them to understand about public health and, maybe, to change. Will multimedia be good for that too?

Why bother using multimedia?

According to the Pew Research Centre, nearly 8 out of 10 online adults visits video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo. There will be an audience to hear and see your message.

YouTube & Vimeo logos

Also, if you want people to share your message with their friends and families, YouTube offers you the biggest social media platform after Facebook. Heather Mansfield says in her book, Social Media for Social Good, that more than a billion videos are watched on YouTube every day (Mansfield, 2012). It’s great for reaching some groups who’d be unlikely to subscribe to your newsletter too, such as younger adults or black and Hispanic people (Anderson, 2015) in the US. Both YouTube and Vimeo have buttons to make it easy to share videos by email or social media. They also both give you a code to embed in your blog or newsletter that allows readers to play your video directly from your website.

Sharing buttons

So, when you’re trying to spread health messages and get people to change their behaviour, it’s worth giving multimedia a go, but how?

  1. Tell A Story

You can share almost anything – some footage of an event, interviews or people talking about health issues, or even a slideshow of some of your work, with a sprinkling of useful statistics in between. Remember, though, that people relate to stories. So, make sure that your video tells a story. That way is likely that people will watch till the end and share it among their network.

Miguel Santana’s video of his holiday in Tokyo has been viewed over 75,000 times and is a masterclass in video story telling.

  1. Make it purposeful

Don’t just post any footage on your website or sharing sites, like YouTube, Vimeo Handwashing + caption 2and Vine. Make sure that what you post tells people something in a way that makes them want to watch. Jarrod Wright writes about using images with purpose, that is, your video needs to show stuff that’s relevant to the story you’re telling and to the people you’re telling it to

In an interview on, Donna Moritz talks about how to create and use images for social marketing via your website. Although her tips are really about using static images, they apply well to videos, too.

Here are her top 5 ways for using imagery for the greatest impact:

  1. Sharing tips- much like you would in a blog or e-newsletter. These can be easier to follow and have more impact with good visuals.IKKEA logo
  2. A “How to” – think flatpack instructions, but without any pieces missing from the
  3. Quotes – from experts or well-known people on your topic, or maybe just an inspirational quote that relates to your message

     “For he who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”

                                                                                                             Owen Arthur

  4. Checklists – these are the most ‘liked’ and shared posts on social media, so including these in your videoblog could help spread your message.
  5. Why infographics - borderlessInfographics – these are a good way to present data in visual stories and are often more accessible than the kinds of graphs that statisticians have traditionally produced. The CDC even promotes using infographics –


These are pretty much the same principles you’d use when writing a blog.

Moritz also talks about “the art of the tease” – using your image to get people to click through for further info, e.g. to your blog or website, or alternatively, click to share. With a compelling image you might achieve both. You can include your web address at the end of your video, or make a call to action, as in this video.

It needn’t cost a lot of money

At minimum you need a video recording device and some film editing software. The most expensive thing will probably be your time. You can pick up a pocket camcorder quite cheaply, but you probably already have a mobile phone or tablet, which will do the job just as well. Even professionals are now filming on mobile devices to make whole programmes, as well as videos to upload to their websites.

  1. Speak to people’s lives

The success of the “This Girl Can” campaign recently shows how effective a video message can be when people relate to it, at least in terms of gaining an audience and creating a buzz. It has had nearly 13 and half million views, in just over 6 months, and nearly 35,000 YouTube likes. It was based on research about what stops women doing sport and features average women in the film – sweating, wobbling and all the other things that ordinary women do when they move. See it here:

Or the short version here, on YouTube:

Using video to spread your message and connect your community can be effective. What do you think might be the downside?

Additional Sources

Anderson, M. (2015). 5 facts about online video, for YouTube’s 10th birthday. Facttank – News in Numbers. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from

Mansfield, H. (2012). Social Media for Social Good, A how-to guide for nonprofits. New York: McGraw Hill.

Najjar, L. J. (1996). Multimedia information and learning. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia5(2), 129–150. Retrieved from

Thalheimer, W. (2015). Mythical Retention Data & The Corrupted Cone. Will at Work Learning. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from


7 thoughts on “How many words does a video paint?

  1. Hi Sandra, I liked how you began your post with an interesting quote. It made me want to read more. Also, centering the quote and image was a smart placement choice. I really enjoyed the ‘This Is Public Health’ video. Sometimes I get blank stares when I tell people I am studying public health. This video would be perfect to share. I find it interesting people don’t know how to define public health yet it is all around us. It is an awareness and education issue because we are so used to associating health with medicine. Your videos illustrate your content well and show the variety of topics included under the umbrella of public health. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Sandra, I really liked the opening image of the Mona Lisa – classy and intriguing – I think it could count as a “tease.” And, I like that you questioned the notion that images and video are so much more powerful than text. Sometimes I worry that it is a dumbing down of society to expect that people can’t/won’t absorb information from text – and that we must communicate via tweets or infographics. You did a great job with a nice checklist of ways to make video engaging and accessible. And, I like how you talked about using youtube and vimeo (with nice accompanying images) to reach people who otherwise could not be reached. Very nice summary of readings and other materials from the week as well.
    I, personally, LOVED the “What is public health?” video (in fact, I may use it as a resource with my high school students who are learning about public health – thank you!), and the “This Girl Can” video was very fun and uplifting and actually made me want to get up and do some exercise.
    Interestingly, i did not much like the holiday in Tokyo video. Although the images were quite beautiful, I was annoyed with the narrator and her voice and the telling with authority about an Asian city from an outsider’s perspective – and especially the fake sexy walking through cherry blossoms. How is this a masterclass in storytelling? Am I just totally off base?
    I also found the environmental video pretty depressing and a little boring.
    Maybe I am so critical because I am tired and a bit cranky (because I have to leave San Francisco and go back to Atlanta this week)? Or maybe it’s just a “to each her own” situation:-).

    • Liana, I get what you mean about the Tokyo video, but if you can look past the (really quite irritating, “fake sexy walking”) and the Lost in Translation type vibe, you’ll see it’s beautifully composed, not just full of beautiful images and the images themselves are what tell the story. You don’t really need to listen to the narrator. That’s why I called it a masterclass – plus, it’s being touted as one by people who know a lot more about this than me.

      I hope you weren’t too depressed my environmental video. You can always just watch yours again, if you need a lift!

      On Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 5:06 AM, Innovations in Health Communications wrote:


  3. I really like the “This Girl Can” video. It hits all the same beats as any running shoe or sports drink ad, but the message is a lot more universal. And it’s fun without be overly inspirational (like some Olympics ads can be). Excellent use of music.

    It also reminds me of one of my favorite running shirts: “This *is* my race pace”. Meaning, I’m out here, that’s all I need, don’t judge.

  4. Hi Sandra, lots of great tips in this post! I too, loved the public health video. It really connects public health (what many people may think of as a concept) to things we see and do everyday. And that’s an important impression to make, because that alone can help to ensure continued funding and support of projects affecting public health. I appreciate all the references to support your statements. The use of quotes and checklists are additional ways I will definitely try to incorporate into my future posts. What I thought about the infographics is that they are also easy to pin, and can be further shared. The last video on This Girl Can really illustrates the effectiveness of authenticity in storytelling, a point highlighted in week 2 of this course. Seeing and hearing the video will help make this message much more memorable than simply reading a story about women of all shapes and sizes engaging in sports. Well done!

  5. Enjoyed a diverse video collection which represent excellent examples of using video tool for purpose of telling a story, serving a purpose and motivation.

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