8 Ways To Tackle Sensitive Topics in A Public Awareness Film

Public awareness films, by nature, usually carry a serious health message and the wrong balance of content can very quickly lead to a film feeling fear-inducing and/or “depressing’’ by those watching them.

While most people acknowledge and appreciate that these films do save lives and improve outcomes for people, there’s a fine line between producing compelling – and repelling – content. Go too far the other way and people will avoid viewing them at all, simply because they can be uncomfortable to watch.

It’s important that your medical message engages people effectively, no matter how tough the subject, so your films need to be handled with care. There’s a lot to think about to strike the right balance and it can easily leave you feeling overwhelmed with what to include and how best to tackle it.

Tackle delicate subjects with the right tone

While you may have a delicate subject to tackle, you have to focus primarily on the main objective of the video – what is it that you want people to take away from this?

It could be that you want to encourage people to check themselves and/or see a doctor if they are concerned, or maybe to reinforce the fact cancer can often be treatable if detected early enough.

However, if the tone of the video is overly worrying from the start, this can have an adverse effect and cause people to disengage with the content altogether. It’s only human nature to shut ourselves off from things that cause us stress or anxiety.

That’s why, even with the darkest subject, it’s important to introduce an encouraging and positive tone – while balancing that with sensitivity to the topic you are covering.

Here are some examples of how we’ve approached this for our clients – tackling Mental Health as a topic, ‘Journeys’ – supporting people to recover their lives – both filmed for KMPT – Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust – and Attending Radiology at MTW – a film to help patients feel more at ease before entering the radiology department at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.

Working with an experienced film crew pays dividends

A film crew that’s well versed in producing content like this will be aware of this and help guide you in the right direction to avoid the pitfalls, while still achieving your goals and getting your message across clearly. At Healthcare Films By Wildwood we support our clients with as much of the film-making process as they desire, including scripting and even finding the right actors to connect with your audience if needed.  That way we can ensure your public awareness video will be received positively from script to screen.

Finding the right balance of content is critical

Public awareness films obviously have an important role to play, but to be effective they must be balanced.  They must convey all the facts clearly, yet remain comforting and reassuring throughout. A few ways this can be achieved are by:

  1. having a clear script that is informative but also warm and welcoming
  2. using calming aesthetics like soft lighting and gentle music
  3. encouraging viewers to take the right action in a compelling way. For example – to seek medical advice even if they’re unsure whether their symptoms match. Tricky topics like this need to be addressed in the right way so that patients won’t feel as though they’re wasting anyone’s time by coming forward
  4. reiterating critical information like symptoms so viewers are really clear what to look out for and whether symptoms could be a variety of things, not just the worst case scenario
  5. avoiding any extreme statistics that may put patients off seeking further advice
  6. adding animation/diagrams and subtitles/captions can make it easier for viewers to follow, engage with and recall your content
  7. featuring people with a sense of authority to voice/present in the video. Ideally this would be a medical professional who is deemed ‘camera-ready’, someone who is well versed in presenting to camera, for example an individual who has received media training. It’s important to remember, viewers may already be nervous, or feeling unwell, so featuring real staff members adds authenticity to your film, and gives patients a sense of comforting authority.
  8. A clear call to action – what are the best next steps they should be taking?

We know there’s a lot to consider when it comes to organising your public awareness film and it can feel like a bit of a headache, but hiring an experienced team can help to take the pressure off. At Healthcare Films by Wildwood, we work closely with private healthcare and NHS teams to ensure that their messages are received positively, even when the message is difficult to view.  If you’re producing a public awareness film and you’d like ideas on planning your project, then book a FREE 30-minute call with our team at Wildwood– we’re here to help.

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