As a freelance copywriter and scriptwriter, I work on lots of video content for business. This ranges from larger agencies and their big brand clients to start-ups and small businesses. Budget sizes and scope aside, video content is only effective if it’s well thought through and that all starts with getting the script just right.
Here are a few script tips for your business. Whether you’re outsourcing or writing in-house, these tips should help you get the most from video for your brand.
1. Clarify the brief
Number one is get a decent brief together first. Of course scripts go through a few iterations, but if you get to the point when you’re working with an editor or animator and decide the story isn’t quite right, corrections are going to get costly and you may end up in an editorial muddle.
It doesn’t have to be a complex document to begin with, just answer these questions:
Why are you making the video?
What does it need achieve?
Who are you talking to?
What are the core messages?
Where and how will it be shown?
And once you’ve done that….it’s time to:
2. Consider the medium again, is this the best way to tell your story ?
As tempting as it might be, ‘a video version of our about us page’ or other marketing material isn’t going to work. What is your film doing that web copy can’t, or a brochure? Perhaps you want to use it for a launch or in a pitch, alongside other marketing collateral.
Effective videos engage the audience, getting a specific point across quickly. Not only do they know their audience, they get the most from the medium by talking directly to them.
Unroll.me does this elegantly and simply.
It works because it addresses its users pain point (time spent managing email subscriptions) and its USP (Unroll deals with that for you) across with humour and a light touch in under a minute.
Bonus: it’s user focused, and the tone feels like it’s come from ordinary people not the brand. Yet the brief ‘we’ messaging is confident and professional. It’s scriptwriting that seems unscripted. But that’s another skill for another day.
3. Get to the point quickly
A common mistake in draft scripts by non writers is burying complicated or core info too far down. Your audience want to know what’s they’re getting within the first ten seconds. Make them count.
This Spotify promo - is a great example. Music discovery is at the heart of its offering, so the video smartly leaves out a voice over in favour of strong visuals and captions that cleverly weave actions in a few words like “It’s never been this easy, to share, to play, all your favorite music”.
4. Show don’t tell (or think about visuals and style)
Another important factor to nail down early is what you want to video to look like. Are you working with footage? Filming with actors? Or using infographics and animation? Remember, anything you mention needs to be illustrated. Are there technical processes to break down? Info-based videos on social media sometimes use a mix of voice over and captions, so they work with or without sound on and consider that most viewers will be watching on a mobile device.
Tech Insider’s How Deep is Ocean is a fantastic example of how to break down complicated info, full of facts in a conversational way. The words enhance what’s shown on screen as they should.
5. Less is more
Ok, so that’s true of any type of copy, or writing really. But make sure you don’t try and say too much or you risk saying nothing. Put another way, make one point per sentence and keep those sentences short.
As a general rule, sentences should contain fewer than 20 words. Average reading speeds vary, but a trained actor or voice over artist will be quicker than an inexperienced person (but really, pay a professional). Whoever you use, if they get out of breath mid way through a sentence - it’s too long.
6. Read it aloud and time it
Following on from wordy sentence culling, the best way to test a script is to read it aloud. Scripts are generally around 180 words per minute, so you can use that for timing. Reading aloud is the only way to make sure your script flows, makes sense and that the word choice fits the medium.
Once you’ve done that, try recording it, even if it’s just on your phone. A guide track can really help the pacing, especially when your editor has some footage so you can quickly see what does and doesn’t work.
7. Build to a strong ending
Don’t make the mistake of starting strong, but fizzling out. Your video’s ending is the perfect place for a call to action or memorable tagline. Either way, it should be a one-liner summary of the key take-away you want your audience to take.
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Or this brilliant Millennial-focused Internet Explorer video. It pokes fun at old-skool perceptions of the Microsoft brand, and brings it back to being relevant to a new generation.
“You grew up, so did we…..reconnect with the new Internet Explorer”.
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