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Turn Your Executive Summary Into a Compelling Video

From Clear Thinking Communications and Susan Parker
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Article: Turn Your Executive Summary Into a Compelling Video

Editor’s note: Like many of you, I’m always looking for new ways to present good reports to key audiences. Recently, I came across a fantastic, short video produced by Atlantic Philanthropies that brought an executive summary to life. Atlantic staff created this video in a matter of a few hours. They shared with me how they did it:

It was a gripping and complex story. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth in South Africa were discovering a new-found power while still battling long entrenched homophobia.

The 60-page case study, commissioned by Atlantic Philanthropies, presented a nuanced picture of a group of people whose voices are rarely heard. Atlantic staff knew the report, “Out of the Box: Queer Youth in South Africa,” had valuable insights. They wanted to publicize it as far and wide as possible. A written report wasn’t enough.

For Atlantic, broadly disseminating what it is learning has a particular urgency.

According to Elizabeth Cahill, senior web strategist at Atlantic Philanthropies, “Since Atlantic is a limited life foundation [its remaining $2.5 billion endowment will be distributed via grants by the end of 2016, winding up all of its work by 2020], part of our mandate is to share our lessons learned. We believe those lessons will be a big part of our legacy and that they will help others in our fields as well.”

In addition to publicizing the written report, Cahill wanted to produce a short slide show or video that would grab the attention of Atlantic’s audiences. While Atlantic has a Sony Vegas video editing program the technical aspects of creating a video--such as putting in transitions (the way in which two video shots are joined together)--can be complicated and time consuming.

“As we thought about ways to present this report, I happened to log onto our video channel at YouTube one day and lo and behold I saw a free trial for Stupeflix,” Cahill said.

The beauty of Stupeflix and other, similar programs is that they have built-in templates that make it simple for people to quickly pull together a video, Cahill said. All one needs to create a video is compelling text, photos or other images.

In Stupeflix, for example, users choose from a drop down menu of several templates, plug in their text, photos or video clips and add music from a list of options provided by the program. The program also handles transitions and other tasks that normally take hours to complete.

After testing out the free trial of Stupeflix and comparing it with other programs, Cahill signed up for the $299 a year service (note: While Stupeflix worked for Atlantic, it may not be the right program for all nonprofits. For a list of video editing services, go to

Using the ready-made program, Cahill and her colleague Tricia Rosensohn created a 3 minute video that gives viewers a captivating summary of the key findings in the case study.

“We know that not everyone is going to sit down and read the report,” Cahill said. “We wanted to distill the key lessons so that people could walk away with what they needed and dive in deeper if they want. It’s a great way to get a larger audience.”

Cahill said she was impressed by this type of video program.

“It allowed us to pull together a video much faster than traditional video tools,” she said. “It’s really easy if you know how to edit text and crop images.”

Cahill said it took them about 4 to 6 hours to create the video executive summary, including the time to learn to use the program.

From her experience, Cahill learned several lessons that she will keep in mind when creating future videos and that may be helpful to others:

  • Choose reports that have easy-to-distill findings and strong images available. Not every report is a good candidate for a video executive summary.  Atlantic’s “Out of the Box” case study lent itself to this approach in part because it had stunning photographs that Cahill could use for the video.  Reports without easily accessible images or clear findings can still be turned into a video but they will be more time-consuming to complete. Cahill is working on another video where the images are not easily available. She estimates it will take her about 15 hours to complete. For some reports, a podcast with an interview of the author might be a better approach to add a multi-media component, Cahill said.

  • Release the video executive summary at the same time as the larger report for maximum impact. Because of timing issues, Atlantic did not release the video executive summary until about two weeks after the announcement of the longer report. While the longer report has garnered more than 6000 downloads, the video executive summary has had 150 views on YouTube. That figure isn’t bad, but Cahill said she’s sure it would have been much higher if Atlantic had released it simultaneously with the longer report.

  • Take advantage of YouTube’s call to action feature. Non-profit organizations with a YouTube channel can add a “call to action,” which allows them to add a hyperlink that will bring viewers to the full report that the video summarizes.

Cahill is happy with Atlantic’s experiment with this tool and says she will continue to use it on reports that lend themselves to video executive summaries.

“If you look at the ‘Out of the Box’ video it seems like it took a lot of work, but it really didn’t,” she said. “Most of the work is in getting the story right. The program lets you focus on the story rather than the technology, which is what good technology, does.”


We specialize in writing case studies, lessons learned reports and issue briefs as well as creating web content. If you have a project that you think might be a good fit, please contact us to discuss how we might collaborate. You can reach us at or (802) 748-3070


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