Using video to engage a hard-to-reach audience

Teenagers are a notoriously difficult-to-reach audience for marketers. Conducting research and creating a campaign that communicates on their level are key. Video is proven to work, but the content must be highly relevant to achieve engagement.

Formulaic videos will not work,” said Thom Airs, head videographer at Fortitude. 

They need to be fun, direct, relevant to the audience and grab attention straight away.”

Oxford United in the Community recently commissioned Fortitude to produce a recruitment video for its National Citizen Service (NCS) programmes. The charity needed to specifically engage with 16- to 17-year-olds and use the video to drive inquiries and sign-ups to the summer programmes. 

The video produced is the charity’s best performing film to date, achieving more than 1,500 YouTube views in a matter of days and numerous enrolments onto the programmes. 

The video has the wow factor and has been central to the success of our recruitment campaign,” said Aled Newton, NCS Programme Manager at Oxford United in the Community.

High impact

To make sure the video resonated with the narrow target market the look and feel of the film was important. Visual and special effects were applied to the production to help it stand out and connect with the audience. 

The difference an eye-catching background and a colourful hoodie can make is quite remarkable,” said Aled. Add visual and special effects into the mix and we achieved a very attractive, modern, video that has retained our viewers’ attention throughout. The special touches and techniques Fortitude added to the video and the advice they gave us on how to behave and communicate was invaluable. It made a massive difference to the final outcome.”

Communicating detail

A major challenge was the amount of information that had to be included in the film. It meant the video was long and the need to maintain engagement was even greater. 

It was clear from the outset there was a lot to convey, and we had to find a way to balance that against notoriously short online attention spans,” said Thom, who produced the video. 

To help the team remember all that information, and to keep both the finished video and filming time as efficient and streamlined as possible, we used an autocue mounted over the camera lens. This is great way to deliver tight, concise messaging while giving the appearance of a welcoming, informal delivery. 

The accompanying challenge was keeping the audience interested throughout. To help do this we deployed several audio and visual techniques including a low-level soundtrack, moving backdrops, superimposed imagery, sound effects and video testimonials from previous participants. 

The overall colours of the video were also tweaked for a modern, vibrant look, like the audience is so used to on YouTube.” 

Aled added: The video is 12 minutes long, so we needed to make sure the script had no waffle. Every second had to be informative and count. Social media is huge for young people, and by developing a video we were able to share it on all our platforms and reach our target audiences immediately.” 


Planning is key to a successful video. Before filming we hosted a workshop with Aled to develop a storyboard and script to make sure we were prepared for filming and the video hit home.

The planning process Fortitude guided us through was extensive and thorough,” said Aled. It ensured my colleagues, and I were fully aware of what to expect on the day of filming, meaning there were no last-minute concerns that the video we were investing in was not going to be appropriate for our audience.

It was a two-way process. We were able to reflect our ideas of what we wanted the video to look like and the Fortitude team guided us and honed it all down onto a story board.”

Virtual recruitment tool 

Oxford United in the Community distributed the film to a selection of secondary schools across Oxfordshire and it was broadcast to students during special assemblies. 

It formed part of the plan to overcome COVID-19 restrictions to deliver the recruitment campaign without physical visits to schools. 

Video is a great way to engage with students remotely,” said Aled. It saved us time and it told the story is such a compelling way. The time saved meant we could dedicate more hours to delivering social impact. Additionally, we could share the video online and via social media. 

The longevity of our video was important too. Young people can refer to it multiple times if they are interested in signing up and the content will remain relevant until we start delivering programmes in the summer.”

High engagement

Within days of the video going live, it had established itself as the most popular film on the charity’s YouTube channel.

Aled said: On average, we’d expect to attract 100 to 150 views for each video we post. We surpassed 1,500 views within days and that is just on YouTube.

A key factor is because it stands out. But also, we identified and implemented the correct tone, so it appeals to the younger generation.

Fortitude advised us our target audience identify better with visuals with a modern, vibrant look. The video generated huge interest and made a big difference to our recruitment. It really accelerated the rate of sign-ups.”

Chris Lowes, Head of Oxford United in the Community, said: Our reward over investment on the video has been phenomenal. It has helped us secure a strong number of recruits in record time.

Everyone who has watched the video has been mesmerised. The EFL Trust who oversee the NCS programmes at all the football club charities in the UK said it was one of the best recruitment videos they have seen. We are delighted with the video and the response it has achieved.”


Aled and his colleague James Gilmore presented on the film. It was their first experience behind the camera. 

I’m used to doing presentations every week,” said Aled. But being in front of a camera is completely different – I had to adopt a TV presenter role rather than think about speaking to people physically. 

It was a new thing that might seem scary or daunting, but I got comfortable with it and Thom was brilliant in helping with that. We used an auto-cue off his phone by using a script to make it professional – that assisted me and James feeling comfortable in front of the camera.

I’d definitely recommend video to any business or charity looking to promote a product, event or service. It made a huge difference to our campaign and we had a lot of fun filming too.” 

To learn more about our video services visit here or get in touch here.

For further information about Oxford United in the Community and NCS visit here.

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