How Workers’ Party aces Day 1 of hustings with a 6-minute video
On a day that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s brother joined the opposition and the People’s Action Party (PAP) held the first of its virtual press conferences to introduce new candidates, The Workers’ Party (WP) was winning the internet with a six-minute video – yes that’s at least three times longer than what conventional wisdom dictates.
We go to the polls on July 10 and, already, the 2020 General Election is heading for the history books. There wouldn’t be any rallies due to Covid-19, so political parties have to be creative with how to reach out to voters. Some would say a particular party had a head start with some national broadcasts.
A record number of 12 opposition parties could also be vying for seats. It’s a foregone conclusion that PAP will win the election, which means the playing field for the opposition is really crowded and it’d be a challenge for them to get their messaging to stick in people’s mind.
Dr Tan Cheng Bock’s announcement this morning that Lee Hsien Yang has joined his Progress Singapore Party provided the shock factor and got people talking. But it was WP’s “Make Your Vote Count” video that got people engaged and saying nice things. Only four hours after it was posted, it’d already garnered more than 71,000 views with 4,000 reactions and over 300 comments on Facebook.
At its heart, the WP video is a corporate brand video. It tells us what they stand for, who they are, what they do, how they do it and why they do it. Unlike run-of-the-mill corporate videos, the WP one has managed to keep viewers engaged despite its length, lack of snazzy graphics or evocative insert footage. It all boils down to good old storytelling.
For companies that are still trying to nail their corporate video, here are some things you can learn from this political party.
1. Dish up the unexpected
People smarter than me said that you have only 10 seconds to catch a person’s attention in a video. Most corporate videos spend those precious seconds with the most important person in the company reiterating the mission statement. And we’ve become used to this format.
In the WP video, Pritam Singh started by saying “not everything is black and white”. The ensuing footage played with brightness and darkness to give a very concrete illustration of the party’s unique proposition. He continued: “What we hope to achieve is to create contrast, a balance so that you can see the road ahead.” And we are hooked, as he invites us on a journey.
Another delight came in how well the candidates spoke. Given how we’re accustomed to the rather dismal quality of public speaking among local politicians, it was a welcome surprise to hear talking heads who can speak clearly and confidently from the opposition (who used to be ridiculed in the past for candidates who paled in comparison with the incumbent).
2. Be authentic
Authenticity is one of those buzzwords that are talked about all the time but no one can pin it down. Too much “authenticity” can come across as fake and too little makes you look elitist.
The party wanted to show that they understand issues on the ground and that they are “one of us”. Instead of long explanations of how they grew up, the candidates reminisced about memories of playing along the corridor of a three-room flat and visiting a grandma at her drinks stall, evoking images of the working class.
The language throughout was relatable and easy to understand. There were no motherhood statements stuffed with big words that don’t mean anything. There were tangible messages with lots of verbs in the active voice: “They must scrutinise policies, tax plans and budgets very closely. Fight for the aspirations of Singaporeans and fearlessly voice the concerns of their constituents.”
And it’s not just about the words they say, but the way they say it. You can almost hear the earnestness in Lee Li Lian’s voice as she talked about why she joined the party or the passion in Nicole Seah’s eyes as she described her encounter with a man that she thought was going to attack them with an umbrella – until he opened it to show them that it’s a WP umbrella.
3. Keep the suspense
The No. 1 mistake of most corporate videos is that everything is flat. There are no peaks or dips in the story and no variation in the pacing of the edit. So it’s basically what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) and there’s no reason to stay on til the end as you’re not expecting a pay off anyway.
In the WP video, you actually don’t know the names of the talking heads until the very end. It may be a bit frustrating for some but it kept others hanging on to the end as they wanted to know who these people were.
The scripting cleverly sandwiched the what-they-do part between the interesting stories and anecdotes. For corporate videos, this essential section is usually also the most boring. That’s why it’s important not to end the video at this section but to give it a lift, which was what Seah’s animated recounting of the umbrella accident did.
Finally, one key ingredient in keeping the suspense was actually the backing track. Many corporate videos opt for the happy clappy jingles that are found under the “corporate” tag of the music sites. That’s the fastest way to losing your viewer’s attention because all the videos sound the same.
The WP video opens with a soundtrack that is more Netflix film than corporate video, and with the music largely in the minor key, it drives tension and suspense. Throughout the video, strings rise and fall, frenzied at some points and lush at others (some may find it over the top). The final crescendo and the sudden drop to silence for Singh to say his name worked well here, but would probably be too dramatic for corporate brands to emulate.
And yes, please continue to keep to two minutes for a video (unless you’re WP).