Traditionally, public policy viewpoints are written in essay form. However, many laypeople cannot easily access, or do not have expertise or patience to read long documents. YouTube videos can modernize German-American relations, especially among the younger generation. Easily-digestible videos have several advantages over essays. One, these videos are more likely to be watched, than essays are likely to be read. Two, the public video platform often invites comments and discussion, especially if comments can be made anonymously. Three, videos can educate target audiences, keep them interested in political issues, and possibly convince them of different viewpoints.
What are easily-digestible videos?
YouTube videos should have the following properties:
- For the purposes of transatlantic relations, videos should be based on a topic that is of interest to both Americans and Germans. I have outlined common topic ideas in the following sections
- Dynamic visuals
- A clear and energetic voice, if narrated by the video creator
- Content should be released consistently over a long period of time. In my experience, once a week to once a month is acceptable.
Topic idea 1: Educational videos
Target audience: People who are interested in politics and transatlantic relations, but can also speak English.
Main effect: They may be educated about the process and may change their viewpoint. They also tend to leave comments about their viewpoints.
Topic idea 2: current headlines and analysis of political events
Typical video content: This type of video is usually a “talking head” video. The video creator will film himself talking about a current event and offer his analysis of that event. The title of the video is usually reminiscent of a newspaper headline.
Target audience: People who are interested in the personality of the person presenting his views.
Main effect: Viewers will learn more about a current event and share the video with their like-minded friends.
Topic idea 3: subtitled video clips of TV shows that talk about important political issues
Typical video content: TV talk shows, debate shows, or satirical shows, but are subtitled by the video-maker in the appropriate language.
Target audience: Americans who cannot speak German but are interested in German news, or the converse, Germans who cannot speak English but are interested in American news.
Main effect: Viewers understand the nuances of the various views of political issues. For example, in my video, viewers may start with the viewpoint that the “burka is good” or “burka is bad.” After watching the subtitled video clip, they understand that Germans feel that is important to see the faces of and shake hands with people, which the burka prevents. But they also understand that Germans want to allow people to live as they want, as long as no one else gets hurt.
Topic idea 4: Reporting on local events
Typical video content: Video footage is typically the highlights from a local political event. In my example video, I filmed the various people at a pro- and anti-Trump protest that occurred near a local grocery store. Then I did a German voice-over and double subtitled my words.
Target audience: Germans who are curious about in grassroots events in America, or Americans who are curious about grassroots events in Germany; Americans who are learning German.
Main effect: Viewers have a better understanding of the impact of political events on the day-to-day lives of normal people.
Conclusion and caveats
However, there are some drawbacks to the YouTube video platform. One, creating watchable videos has a long learning curve. Technically, it can be tricky to record good quality audio and video. Legally, you also have to navigate and learn to avoid copyright issues. But the biggest hurdle is content creation itself. Which topics does the public find interesting? How do you present that content in an engaging way? How much should you stick to the facts, and how much should you inject your own political commentary? Which political comments are appropriate to say, and which comments will get you in trouble? Two, the discussion accompanying the videos are often the opposite of polite. However, overall, these easily-digestible videos can greatly expand the audience of transatlantic relations, and at relatively low cost. It would be of great benefit for the transatlantic agenda to implement this communication tool.