Publish & distribute video

Once you've made your video you need to make sure it's seen. This section will take you through how to prepare your video for both online and offline distribution, how to license it, where you can publish it and how to distribute your video online and offline.

Production and distribution need to work hand-in-hand. The type of film you make, its length, subject matter and style, will influence how you distribute it. The type of distribution you are planning can also affect how you make your film.

To create an effective plan for distributing video, first read the Planning your Video section on this site (Read more). The more clearly you have defined your audience, messages and campaign goals, the more effective your video will be.

Publicise your video

Remember that you will need to promote your video after you have decided how to distribute it. From email campaigns to posters, you can work your way around Message in-a-box to make your promotional plan. Think of it as a mini-campaign and do a simple promotional plan to decide what to do.

Bigger does not necessarily mean better. As in all communications, the important issue is quality rather than quantity. Making sure your message seen and heard by the right people is more important than reaching absolutely everyone.

Video via internet

The opportunities for sharing your videos have never been greater, but because millions of videos are uploaded online each day, with content ranging from dog tricks to documentation of human rights abuses, your video will be a drop in an ocean of media unless you have a strategic distribution plan.

To use internet distribution strategies, which can be extremely effective, you will need some technical understanding of how to create videos that stream or download easily. Find out more about how to do that in our Tools for Video Publishing, where we show you step-by-step how to compress and embed videos in a range of ways (Read more).

If you think your audience won't have enough internet access to watch video online, you might need to think again. In Africa, for example, internet access has increased tenfold in recent years, and the internet is predicted to become an increasingly powerful tool for people communicating in developing countries, including rural areas. Nevertheless, less than 10% of the population of Africa and less than 20% in Asia currently have internet access. See internet world statistics for more details.

Where on the internet you chose to upload your video and how you promote it will have an impact on all aspects of your work, from your rights with regards to your video to the audiences and communities you can reach online, to their ability to download and distribute your media offline. Ensure that your video is on a site that meets your needs and will help you reach your short- and long-term goals.

Tips for video dissemination & publicity:

Disseminate the same video on multiple online platforms. This is especially important now that sites such as YouTube are being blocked in many countries.

  • Post a comment alongside a famous or notorious video on YouTube as a way of directing traffic to your video.

  • Link to your video from as many blogs and websites as possible. You'll be able to track on YouTube which websites are directing people to your video.

  • Set up an RSS feed of your content and have this feeding directly to your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that your followers from these networks can see your work.

  • In situations where video sharing platforms are blocked you can spread video between mobile phones, free of charge, using Bluetooth connections.

Video via DVD

Due to censorship restrictions and security issues, to poor internet access, or for other reasons, you may still choose to distribute your short or longer videos via DVD, either giving DVDs to people or organising screenings. One key benefit of screenings is that they are face-to-face, and can be a very effective way to build strong relationships and support between viewers, especially if you are viewing difficult or sensitive material. You can also use the events for fund-raising, to recruit volunteers, and to further other campaign goals.

Hybrid distribution – a bet both ways

Often, the best form of distribution, if the resources are available, is a hybrid of both online (internet) and offline (physical) distribution, ensuring that all of your key audiences get your messages.

News items can be posted on websites, with regular updates on a situation or topic. Short films can be posted on YouTube and on your own sites, redistributed and linked to. A video containing in-depth background or analysis might be more suited to a compilation with a particular theme, so that it sits alongside other videos that explore the same topic from different angles. It may be better to distribute a feature-length documentary on DVD, as audiences may be more likely to watch a longer-format movie on their television than on a computer, and downloading large files from the internet may be impractical for them.

Note: Be keenly aware of privacy and security issues when publishing. Be sure to read the Video Security section (Read more). Also, look at WITNESS's Things to Keep in Mind When Uploading Videos.

Making a strategic distribution plan

Strategic distribution of your video is the key to achieving positive change.

Videos can be distributed through:

  • Private screenings

  • Screenings at key events and public meetings

  • Conferences, hearings, or briefings

  • Using rapidly developing online distribution tools.

Many successful campaigns use different video strategies simultaneously, so that one approach builds on another. For example, your video, in identical versions or in versions edited to suit each audience, might be released to:

  • Television stations

  • Grassroots networks, via screenings

  • Online social networks

  • Private meetings with decision-makers, along with written reports and other advocacy tools

You can consider the possibilities for these hybrid online/offline strategies while analysing the makeup of your audiences, what action you are seeking from them and what distribution methods are best to reach them.

Important questions

  • What are the time constraints within which your video would be most useful?

  • How will your audience view your video? Does your audience have access to the internet?

  • If so, what are the best online tools and spaces to reach them?

  • Will it be useful to develop accompanying materials such as a briefing pack, action kit, fact sheet or screening manual to go with the video at screenings, for example on a multi-media DVD and/or in print? If so, what information would they contain? See our Print section (Read more) and Offline distribution (Read more) for ideas and support.

  • Who will your allies be in getting the video to your intended audiences both nationally and internationally (researchers, NGOs, action networks, media organisations, etc.)?

  • Are there important groups within your existing audience who have the connections to reach your larger intended audiences?

  • How can you involve these groups from an early stage in your video advocacy process in order to secure their commitment?

  • What online spaces, such as blogs, social networks, online forums, and video sharing sites, as well as your own website and email list, can you use to reach your intended audiences?

  • How much do you need to develop a presence in each of these spaces?

  • What level of mainstream media exposure are you looking for with this campaign?

  • What concerns exist in terms of the current and potential representations of your subject matter in the mainstream mass media?

Publishing checklist

Once your video is online it will take on a life of its own. Ensure that your video is on a site where you can append information you want your audience to know: what the video is about, why it is important, who made it, how can they learn more and, if it is calling for an action, what actions they can take. If your video will be seen elsewhere; for example, embedded on another site or downloaded for offline distribution, make sure the essential information is available within the video itself.

Information you should include:

Title – give your video a clear, informative title (and subtitle if necessary). Attach a license and select a range of keywords that apply to it. This metadata is important to help your video come up in online searches.

  • Author – use an individual's or an organisation's name.

  • Date – make sure people know when the video was made.

  • Description – a succinct description which will help people to understand what they will be watching if they click to download or play. Syndication tools like RSS will only display the first few lines of your description, so write the text so that the first sentence can stand alone.

  • Keywords – a well-thought-out selection of keywords will help people find your video.

  • License – assign a license to your work so people know how they can use it.

  • Contact – make sure that viewers can reach you if they want to make contact.

  • Further information – provide links to the organisation that produced the video, and also sources of further information on the subjects raised in the video.

  • Image – select a 'thumbnail' image that will accompany information about your video - this can be a still from the video or a graphic of the title.

  • Additional Resources – this kind of 'information about information' is known as metadata. The network has developed a technical standard for this information - the process is documented here.