Atlantic Council drives public policy discourse using video clip moments
A think tank that thinks like a media company, the Atlantic Council has increased its public profile by broadening its audience well beyond Washington
Leveraging big names and live streams to reach millions
The Atlantic Council regularly hosts high-profile speakers who discuss practical policy solutions to the world’s greatest problems.
With the help of Snapstream, the Atlantic Council’s digital, social, and clip-focused approach to its events has propelled the DC-based think tank to reach millions of people. This has helped expand the organization’s impact on critical international affairs topics like the Russian war in Ukraine, while also advancing the brand and stature of the Atlantic Council. This in turn opens up doors for increasing fundraising and sponsorship opportunities to grow.
SnapStream became an important part of the Atlantic Council’s social media presence in 2019, and the organization has continued to share videos of its events ever since. The Atlantic Council uses the cloud-based product to better leverage their live streamed events by creating moments of the most compelling parts and pushing them out on social media as short video clips—live and in real-time while the event is still taking place. It's live tweeting what speakers say while providing proof.
While full videos of Atlantic Council events might only be watched by the most diehard foreign policy wonks, clips the organization posts on social often receive tens or hundreds of thousands of views as audiences watch, share and comment on them, making the moments their own.
How a Twitter video thread spotlighted the threat of Russia
The Atlantic Council published its first video thread on April 4, 2018 the morning after HR McMaster gave his final speech as President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor. In it, he warned of the growing danger Russia posed to the US and its allies.
In attendance at the live event were leaders of the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—who had just met with Trump earlier that day but were not being hosted to a state dinner or other ceremonial reception. Instead, the Atlantic Council provided a venue for a meal and a speech by the outgoing senior aide to the president.
However, the event occurred quite late in the evening of April 3 and correspondingly did not receive much pickup in the media. The next day, the Atlantic Council's clip thread of McMaster's speech raised the visibility of the event by resurfacing his key quotes that then led back to the Council’s own written editorial coverage of the event.
Numerous media outlets, including USA Today and Foreign Policy, subsequently covered the remarks following the greater visibility the Atlantic Council gained by making moments from the event that could be shared easily online.
Meaningful moments spark conversations of global importance
Ukraine wants German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
The Netherlands has German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
Watch Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (@MinPres) respond to @ak_mack’s question about his government sending tanks to Ukraine.
🇳🇱➡️ https://t.co/RHPWcamhu4#ACFrontPage @georgetownsfs pic.twitter.com/j2Pa8uTMfu
— Atlantic Council (@AtlanticCouncil) January 17, 2023
The Atlantic Council’s top video ever is from this January, featuring Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte discussing Germany sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to help with its war effort. Over 220,000 people watched the video, and it received over 2,400 likes on Twitter. In another moment, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made news declaring that a cyber attack on one NATO country can be considered an attack on all, bringing in more than 112,000 views.
The Atlantic Council aims to spark conversations about the world’s most important issues. Through these video clips made with Snapstream, the news and ideas made in these events now reach way beyond the room of people attending in person. That much wider visibility brings a significant business impact, helping non-profits like Atlantic Council grow by landing more funding, partnerships and contracts with major foundations, corporations, government agencies, and individual philanthropists.
“We want to bring folks together to come up with solutions that are new and interesting and important, and they can be new and interesting and important, but if nobody hears about them, what’s the use? The point is to try to get the information out there in the public sphere as quickly as we can,” says Richard Davidson, director of strategic communications at the Atlantic Council.
Davidson says SnapStream has been crucial to getting videos out quickly and to a large audience. They’re also able to quickly share these videos with journalists who may not have seen the event so they can hopefully be used in their news coverage or cited elsewhere in their work. Davidson says SnapStream’s transcription tool also allows them to quickly share transcripts of these discussions with journalists.
Making moments that matter
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
❝Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities, it went on a brutal offensive against our values, against our right to live freely in our own country, against our national dreams. Just like the same dreams you Americans have.❞ – @ZelenskyyUa pic.twitter.com/TeFXmylOy8— Atlantic Council (@AtlanticCouncil) March 16, 2022
Singer songwriter Dua Lipa
"Wouldn’t it be fitting if Kosovo could take its place within that peaceful union, thrive economically alongside our neighbors, and heal the hurt of conflict? With that vision in mind, I accept this award with gratitude for all the young people of Kosovo." - @DUALIPA #ACawards pic.twitter.com/TCyT1B9Vzp— Atlantic Council (@AtlanticCouncil) November 11, 2021
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
"We have decided that a cyber attack can trigger Article 5...It doesn't matter if an attack is kinetic or cyber, we will assess as allies when it meets the threshold...and it sends a message that we are cyber allies." @jensstoltenberg at #ACFrontPage #NATO2030 pic.twitter.com/vWFs6RQ4xu— Atlantic Council (@AtlanticCouncil) June 7, 2021
An easy-to-use product that has democratized video
“I think having the auto-transcription is really, really useful," says Ashley Semler, a senior producer at the Atlantic Council, about how SnapStream has helped transform the organization's video production workflows. "That’s a big feature. It allows us to do things faster than we would have been able to do them before."
"SnapStream is also user friendly, so it’s easy to train people on it,” Semler added. “Not everyone knows how to use Adobe Premiere or Final Cut to edit videos, and then it takes hours to upload and download. Being able to do things in real time is really amazing."
At the Atlantic Council, SnapStream is used by staff across multiple teams—editorial, video, digital, and even within the organization's research centers. The widespread use of SnapStream means requests for video clips are often answered with an invitation to join the Council's SnapStream instance, freeing up video staff to do more complex and valuable work.
Snapstream CEO Rakesh Agarwal (left) and Jackson Stryon, Atlantic Council Director of Audiovisual Services (right) are pictured in Atlantic Council's control room facility in Washington, DC.
Semler says the pandemic caused the Atlantic Council to need to do all of their events virtually, so they really relied on SnapStream to bring these discussions to their audiences. They built out a new production studio to make their videos as high quality as possible. That Semler joined the Atlantic Council coming from CNN helps demonstrate the degree to which the 60-year-old organization sees itself less as a think tank and more of a modern digital media organization.
“We’ve really upped our production value,” Semler says. “We’re thinking of ways we can expand our audiences and just give people access to some of these events and discussions without being there in person.” In the summer of 2021, the Atlantic Council prepared for the reopening of regular in-person events as the COVID pandemic by building new state-of-the-art studios at its headquarters in downtown Washington, DC. By moving their cameras up front to prioritize online audiences, the Atlantic Council’s public events now more closely emulate TV productions than they do live streamed think tank panels.
Semler says SnapStream has been a major part of the Atlantic Council's increased focus on video production, and people like that they can share just a clip of the conversation that they found interesting instead of sharing an hour-long video of the whole conversation. Because the Atlantic Council’s videos have been doing so well, Semler says they’re going to invest even further in event videos and produce more video content beyond the videos of their events.
“We’re planning to expand our video offerings, and we’re hoping to do more original digital content," Semler says. "We want to keep going with the momentum we already have and make the quality of our events even better in terms of production value and consistently getting high level speakers and having interesting discussions.”