Digital content production guidelines - Content types and approaches
Stories and Storytelling
Regardless of the approach and the format, the story should have an emphasis on positivity and emotion, in line with our tone of voice. Stories should demonstrate the agency of individuals and communities as active participants in the development process – from an individual to global level. Frame the story in a manner which emphasises long-term sustainable progress, and avoid any appearance of charity or helplessness.
Why stories matter
Storytelling builds connections among people, and between people and ideas. Stories convey the culture, history, and values that unite people. The best way to connect with people is by telling real stories. These stories show how the European Union is creating opportunities and improving lives, in a way that people identify with, remember and act upon.
When identifying stories to share, consider which stories demonstrate the most significant change on individuals or communities. This approach can help determine key questions to identify what the change is, how it came about, and when it occurred. It prompts a more sophisticated consideration of the issue that the classic “issue, action, impact” approach alone.
Storytelling approach – journalistic or narrative
- The narrative approach is a classic storytelling format. There is a main character, who has an objective and a challenge to overcome before reaching their destination.
- The journalistic approach is based on a narrative that moves from human stories to illustrate the broader picture of the project and impact.
Format – written, photo, video
Stories can be presented in different formats, according to the material available. Photo stories, video micro narratives, or classic written stories are all supported formats. The audio-visual material should always be good quality.
Examples of good stories
These stories have a positive vibe – even if the topic is serious, very good pictures, good quotes and display the persons as actors:
- Do: Be positive - inspire the audience by emphasising positivity and agency of individuals.
- Do: Be human - focus on people and the impact our work has on real lives.
- Do : Use active voice - active voice helps create succinct, reader-friendly sentences.
- Do: Be authentic - present a realistic picture of challenges faced.
- Do: Be relevant - capture attention by highlighting shared aspirations.
- Do: Be strategic - tell stories which help convey a broader message.
- Do: Be concise – don’t overload the audience with unnecessary information. Use simple, straightforward sentences.
- Don’t: Sensationalise - don’t suggest that a situation or person is helpless.
- Don’t: Over simplify - don’t suggest the story or situation has a single, inevitable conclusion.
- Don’t: Use jargon - the audience is interested in the story, not the acronyms. If you need to use acronyms, spell them out in the first instance, even if you are sure readers know what they mean.
- Don’t: Present yourself as a saviour - the hero of the story is the person it focuses on, not the donor or organisation.
Before submitting your story, run through the following checklist:
- Priorities and purpose: Consider whether this story contributes to the wider EU communication priorities and objectives. What is the purpose of the story – what do you want the audience to think, feel or do after reading?
- Clear Writing: Write your story in a clear way. Everybody should understand it.
- Personal story: Include quotes from the “hero” and other actors (e.g. teachers, family members, business partners etc).
- Great photo(s): Strong images (see guidelines below) are essential to illustrate a written story or a series as a photo story.
- Minimum 3 photos/video(s) of 150 KB minimum
- One of the photo must be minimum 1920 x 420 pixels for the website page banner and should look good as a landscape picture
- Include full captions/descriptions for the photos
- Background information/context: Please provide basic project information (avoiding jargon) either woven into the body of the story or as a supporting fact box.
- Search Engine Optimisation: Search engines are the most common way people find content. Ensure your story is visible in searches by giving it a meaningful title, with body text which is clear, concise and well structured.
- Accessibility: Our content should be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. The photos should have captions and a high enough contrast. The writing style should be accessible: use lists and a good heading structure.
Why information matters
As an expert in our field, our audiences expects clear, friendly and concise information. Our audience trust us to provide them with information about our work, policies and impact in a way that is both accessible and engaging, without losing our authority or watering down the messages we need to convey. So, it is important to be transparent and truthful in what we are doing.
Sharing information does not mean bombarding our audiences with technical jargon or overly complex policy explanations. On the contrary, using clear and simple language is appreciated by experts and layman alike and will have more positive impact on people, as they are more likely to remember and act on the information communicated.
Information should not focus on the traditional donor-recipient relationship, or prioritise input over output. Instead, it should focus on values underlying the action, the approach taken, and the impact achieved.
Informative content does not mean boring. Keep it short, break the text, use bullet points and add creative and inspiring visuals. Visual content is one of the most effective ways to communicate information and ensure that messages are retained.
Examples of good content
Before creating your informative content, make sure you have:
- Checked and verified all statistics and sources to ensure reliability of content.
- Adapted content to relevant platform, product and audience.
- Prepared a detailed brief for creatives to transform content into final product.
Information needed for the projects
- Introduction, objectives and results
- Minimum 3 photos
- Total Budget
- EU contribution
- Implementing organisation
- Funding instrument
Inspiring content helps demonstrate that positively changing the world is not an insurmountable task, but something that is achievable.
Supporting policy messages
- Inspiring content reinforces policy messages by reminding people that positive progress is possible. It helps emphasise our mission and work in a positive, outcome-focused way, which accentuates the attainability of life- and world-changing results.
- Inspiring content can take different forms. It can be a quote from a well know person or a project beneficiary or actor, it can be a social media copy (for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) or a strong campaign message.
Examples of good content
Before creating your inspiring content, make sure you have:
- A few strong facts and figures on the project that will be interesting for people
- The authorisation from the person you quote
- Imagination and originality
Social media content
Social media consumers are overloaded with content vying for their attention. Getting your point across and inspiring action means creating social content that cuts through the noise.
Know your audience
- All audiences are on social media, but if you try to talk to everyone you will end up reaching no one. Knowing which audience you are targeting, with which message, and on which platform, is vital to ensure your achieve what you set out to.
Know your channel
- Each social media channel is different. Tailor your content to the specific channel you are posting it on to ensure it capitalises on the distinct features and styles of each.
- Our commitment to values is one of our defining characteristics. Emphasise these principles through values-led statements when drafting copies. The explanation and call to action should follow.
Engage your audience
- Two-way communication is what social media is all about – use it as such to engage your audience. Craft your content and copy so as to inspire action and engagement.
- Professional yet human: Use language that includes the reader directly, speak to them one on one so they feel included in the actions we’re doing. It’s called social, not antisocial media.
- Complete yet concise:
- When writing titles and descriptions for social media, give the audience just enough information to make them want to watch the rest of the video or the info behind the link.
- Consider the image as part of your message. Don’t try to say everything with words.
- Always be closing. Cut through the noise with communication that gets the point across and inspires action.
- Sincere yet positive: Be sincere about the situations we’re dealing with but try to be hopeful about the progress and way forward.