Research News Live

Five techniques for visual storytelling

Mike Stevens explains how researchers can bring insights to life, using some of the latest (and often free) software platforms.

1. Give your respondents a starring role
OK, this one’s not new or radical. We’ve used video in qualitative debriefs for years. It’s just a lot easier, faster and cheaper these days.

Software platforms like Living Lens, Voxpopme and Big Sofa were all built specifically to help researchers work with video. Recordings of depth interviews, focus groups or video open-ends from online surveys can all be uploaded; the audio is then transcribed – automatically or by humans – so the video becomes searchable; relevant clips can then be selected, combined into showreels and used to illustrate your insights.

What used to take days of expert, manual curation and editing can now be done in a couple of hours. And it doesn’t stop there. Artificial intelligence (AI) can now analyse the visual content of each frame. Before long, you’ll be able to search for clips based on objects, brands or scenes as well as the words people say.

Got no budget for these specialist tools? Then check out Microsoft Stream. It has many of the same features for transcribing, clipping and combining video. If your company’s an Office 365 subscriber, you probably already have access to it for free.

2. Unleash your inner Tarantino
Who needs real respondents to make a cracking film? Notyou. If you’ve got a story to tell, you can tell it with video.

Take inspiration from the social videos you can access on Instagram and LinkedIn. Assume people will watch with the sound turned down. Plan for one headline per clip and sketch out your storyboard in Word and/or Powerpoint.

Then – if you have a budget – head to Storyblocks or iStockphoto to buy footage or animations to bring your story to life. And you can build your film with an online videomaker like Biteable, Moovly or If you don’t want to spend money, you can get free clips from Pexels Video, Pixabay or Videvo.

You can then cobble together a simple film using PowerPoint, Keynote or Google Slides. Apple Macs come with iMovie installed, which gives you more options for audio, visual effects and transitions.

3. Build a website
Not everything works as a video. Sometimes you need to share content in different formats.

For bigger pieces of research – segmentations, U&A studies, ethnographies – you might want to consider building a simple website.

You can hire a developer or an agency if you want, but you really don’t need to go to all that expense. You will still need to spend some money – you’ll want to buy a domain name and pay for hosting – but it doesn’t need to be more than $15-20 a month.

There are lots of simple, no-code options for building websites these days: try Squarespace, Wix or Wocode.

4. Make a smartphone app
CX platform Medallia has a smartphone app called ‘Voices’. It serves up choice comments each week from its Voice-of-Customer programmes to thousands of C-Suite users. If they can get senior audiences accessing insights this way, why can’t you?

OK, they spent a lot of money developing their tech. But you don’t need to. Like the drag-and-drop website builders, you can make your own apps without ever needing to learn a line of code.

Glideapp allows you to build a web app for free. Use a Google Sheet for your data, images or video, tweak the design, then share it with a link.

If you want a proper native app for Android or iPhone, try Appinstitute or Apps Builder. If you can design a slide in PowerPoint, you can build an app with these tools.

5. Teach your insights as online course
OK, this one’s a little out there. And I’ll be honest: I’ve not actually delivered a research project in this format. But it’s potentially a cool way to do convey insights if you have the right sort of content and the right audience.

Modern e-learning platforms combine video, slide content and re-caps. You can break down a 60 minute debrief into much smaller sections, which helps people digest what you’re saying. And you can drip feed your ‘course’ by sending daily emails that unlock new lessons.

There are lots of Learning Management Systems you could use for this. If really you don’t have any money, Thinkific offers a free tier with some basic features; but you’ll want to go onto a paid plan if you’re aiming to do this properly. Teachable and Podia are also good alternatives.

Author: Mike Stevens, Founder of and What next strategy & planning

This article also appears in the August-October 2019 edition of AMSRS publication, Research News – Impactful Insights. Check out the rest of the articles in this edition.

Photo by New Data Services on Unsplash

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