Samantha Luchmun and Steven Linzell

Regional Web Publishing Officer and Digital Communications Officer, Madrid

Part of Digital Diplomacy

15th March 2016

Lights, Video, Action: engaging audiences with visual content

Use of video is increasing across the network of British Embassies and High Commissions around the world – and with good reason. Video can be an effective way of communicating difficult, technical messages. It is more engaging than just publishing a text update. It gives you the chance to use more than 140 characters in a single tweet (it’s amazing how much you can say in a 30 second video clip). And with many smartphones now able to record good quality video, it’s something that even the least technical person can do.

In this blog we take a look at some examples of how colleagues in the FCO’s Europe network are using video to get our messages out to a variety of audiences.

Commissioned video

First up, colleagues at Posts in Central and Eastern Europe focused on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) by showing how it would benefit business. A joint project between multiple Posts, one of the biggest tasks was to agree the content, trying to rationalise a very complex issue for the target audience.

Roxana from the British Embassy in Bucharest said, “It was a great example of close co-operation between the Communications and the Policy teams and it needed to be, because, of all the work, the actual filming was just the tip of the iceberg.”

Filming was undertaken at Post in each of the participating countries with expert testimony aimed directly at local businesses. Some of the filming was done in-house, while some Posts used external video professionals and a production company in Romania edited the final cut.

The final result was promoted on social media channels across Central and Eastern Europe and shown at business and trade events.

Live-stream discussion

Roxana and the team in Bucharest were also involved in a different video project on the same subject. This involved a live-streamed roundtable debate, in partnership with a local media company. Representatives from the UK government, TTIP negotiators, the European Commission, NGOs and the Romanian government, with questions put to the panel from the viewing audience.


Again, the team were troubleshooting all manner of problems, from catering and travel arrangements to internet bandwidth issues and faulty sound systems. “There was so much preparation to do before we got down to the filming. It took a lot of positive energy to see us to the line but when the filming started, all the pain went away. The event got great coverage and we hit our target audience. The format was even copied within the Romanian senate by a prominent MP.”

Cristian Pantazi, editor-in-chief of, described the debate as one of the ‘most consistent fruitful public discussions on TTIP carried out in Romania so far’.

Video blog (vlog)

Posted by British Embassy in Kazakhstan on Thursday, February 11, 2016

Published on the Embassy’s Facebook page and YouTube channel the regular vlogs (video blogs) of the UK’s ambassador to Kazakhstan have attracted the attention of the public and Kazakhstani news agencies.

With an established platform, the embassy communications team were able to promote the global Supporting Syria Conference, an event that was not covered across local media. By talking about Syrian issues in her own words, Ambassador Carolyn Browne put a face and a human side to a difficult political issue, enabling the audience to relate to the vlog.

There was a great reaction, quickly reaching almost 1000 views online, including political experts and other country ambassadors.

Aigerim from the British Embassy Astana said of the experience, “I think we will build on our experience and continue promoting political messages via videos. It’s a great way to reach out to even more people.”


Explaining the complexities of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to a target audience of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) proved a challenge for the Czech Republic team. While the traditional communications strategy focused on case studies and events, the team wanted to find a more creative way of delivering a serious and impactful message.

The main aim of the animation video was to showcase TTIP in a unique way to an audience of SMEs at conferences and events. Even the Czech Ministry of Industry shared the video after they were contacted directly. Its subsequent use on social media channels enabled the video to be shared to a wider audience than originally targeted.

Shot and edited on smartphone

Gonzalo in Spain has embraced the on-the-fly approach and has created his first video shot and edited entirely on his smartphone.

“Of course the video could be better but it’s not bad for a first time. It took me 10 minutes to film and 15 to edit. Next time perhaps I’ll use a microphone and change to a more sophisticated video app. It’s made things a lot easier, and now I’ll be able to shoot a lot more video and show more of our work in the Embassy, or of the Ambassador during his busy day.”

Basic skills still count

Whatever style of video you go for, it’s important to follow the basic principles of communication:

• set clear objectives
• identify your audience
• tailor your message
• and don’t forget to evaluate the impact so that lessons can be learnt for the next project.

We’re looking to increase the skills and capability around the network and Graham Harradine blogged about shooting video on smartphones last summer.

In the meantime, we’ll leave you with some more examples:

• How to explain the Digital single market with a ball of wool? We’ll let our colleagues in Bulgaria show you.

• Or perhaps you’d prefer an animation from our colleagues in Croatia to explain the Digital single market.

• And a stylishly shot case study by our colleagues in the Netherlands on how TTIP would affect small businesses.