A video script is a blueprint. Its purpose is to communicate to everyone involved in the production exactly what’s to be done and how. A B2B marketing video is a combination of a television advertisement and a documentary. If you put those two genres together, what you get is an ‘advertorial’. I have tons of experience writing advertorials for trade magazines, but writing sight and sound is a different discipline. I’ve learned a lot about this ‘discipline’ and I learn more every day.
Scriptwriting is a process. I write the story first. That requires research which I’ve already conducted for another process – one I call ‘The Board’. I described it in detail in my last post.
In developing The Board, I record preliminary phone interviews with appropriate people (clients, employees, subject matter experts, third party providers). These recordings supply raw information for the story, and often give us soundbites that are insightful, and some end up in the final script. In addition, the interviews reveal the ‘natural performers’ in the group. The people we’ll rely on to humanize and enliven the video.
Then we have the phone interviews transcribed. Once in text format, I can do word or phrase searches and quickly locate topics in the interview segments. Using this approach, I can search and review the interview transcript in one window while writing the script in another. I can easily condense, rearrange, and assemble the segments to provide the most logical and interesting flow.
Writing for electronic media is not the same as writing for print. Those who write for print enjoy some advantages. For example, a reader can reread a sentence. If a sentence isn’t understood in a video, however, the meaning is lost. Chapter headings, paragraphs, subheads, etc. guide the reader of written stories.
Writing for the Ear
When we read, we see words in groups. This helps us grasp the meaning. When we listen, information is delivered one word at a time. To make sense out of a sentence we must retain the first words in memory while adding all subsequent words, until the thought is complete. If the sentence is too complex, meaning is missed or confused.
The overriding consideration in scriptwriting is clarity. This includes making it easy for a voice over narrator to read, and making it easy for an audience to understand. Through proper phrasing and word emphasis, a skilled narrator can add meaning and help to ensure understanding.
Video scripts are usually divided into audio and video columns, with visual descriptions in the left video column. The shot-by-shot two-column relationship of audio to video functions like two running time lines.
The Board (Outline)
The Board serves as my outline, which is crucial to a successful script. When you strip away the dazzle from an entertaining video, you’re left with structure and content. The Board or outline supplies the structure and describes the content.
If the scenes written on the page don’t match the resources in the budget, the script is a set-up for disaster. The production overview assures that the script is doable, and that it maximizes the producer’s resources. Will you need to shoot live action footage? Will professional talent or corporate personnel be used? Will you need to buy stock footage? List and price all of the components (already pinned to The Board) so you know how much the video will cost. Otherwise it’s extremely easy to run over budget.
What kinds of locations are available to the production? Corporate offices, board rooms, shooting stage, stores, plants, or public spaces? Scenes must be written around what’s available.
What specific information must be communicated? Product features, benefits, ROI, competitive positioning, value proposition, testimonials, etc. This is the what, not the how. Inventory and assess existing content that you may have on the shelf. Are there existing audio, graphical (brand elements, charts, images, still photos), statistical (ROI studies, productivity metrics), or video assets that can be repurposed?
This is the device used to tell the story – the how. Develop a creative concept that will hook the audience, deliver the content, and fit the budget.
Examples of Concepts:
- An on-camera host walking us through the story.
- A game show with corporate contestants.
- Field reporters covering an event.
- A comedic parody.
- A dramatized vignette of a case study.
In addition to the preliminary interviews conducted in the research stage, interviews are shot to serve as a significant component of the video. Even though ‘talking heads’ can be boring, the credibility of an authority, or the authenticity of a person directly involved in the story, is more compelling than a narrator presenting the same information. Don’t allow the interview to drone on – select the best sound bite snippets.
Once viewers see what someone looks like during an interview, maintain interest by cutting in B-roll (related supplementary) footage to give them something new to look at.
B-roll footage consists of shots of people, objects or places referred to in the basic interview footage (aka the A-roll). Don’t let the B-roll footage distract from what’s being said. Just give people something relevant to watch while they’re listening to the interview.
For testimonials, I write imaginary sound bites of what we hope the person will say. Testimonials often are a by-product of the preliminary research phone interviews. People make statements that are better than any testimonial I can dream up. The trick is to get them to repeat them on camera in a natural, heartfelt way. Prepared bullet-points can help guide and focus the subject during the actual taping.
Relating Sight and Sound
Correlate audio and video in your script because viewers are accustomed to having what they see on the screen relate to what they hear in the form of dialogue or narration. If viewers see one thing and hear another, they’re confused.
If you can clearly see what’s happening on the screen, don’t repeat it in the audio (“see Dick run”). Deliver different, but related information simultaneously via the eyes and ears. That’s a highly effective capability that only video can deliver. By conveying related information through both channels at the same time, you can compress the time needed to deliver marketing messages about your complex B2B products and services.
A compelling and concise video marketing script for complex B2B products and services requires structure.
KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)
It’s critical to keep your script to a manageable length. Creating a concise script depends on using short sentences and simple language. Less is more. Five minutes is our absolute limit for B2B marketing videos… and we try to keep them closer to three minutes in length.
Start with Your Elevator Pitch
If a viewer only watches the first minute of your video, what’s the key message you want them to receive? Start with a clear and compelling elevator pitch. Crafting a great pitch isn’t easy, but once you’ve nailed it, people will remember who you are and what makes you unique. Resist the urge to create a video script that builds to reveal the core marketing message at the end.
Tell a Story
Humans are hard-wired to pay attention to stories, to remember them, and to retell them. Make sure yours identifies a business problem and presents your solution.
Support Your Core Message
Explain in clear terms (but at a high level) how your company delivers benefits to your customers. Support your marketing message with third party statistics from analysts or other credible sources, and/or customer success story metrics. Repeat the core message and company name at least three times (beginning, middle and end) during the video. Repetition helps the viewer remember.
End Your Script with a Call to Action
Tell them exactly what you want them to do at the end of the video. Repeat your elevator pitch and value proposition, and tell them what to do next. Give them a reason to raise their hands and ask for more information (and self-identify as a qualified lead).
Edit and Rewrite
Less is more! Now comes the iterative process where we whittle away the script until all that remains is a polished gem. The more you can dispense with before production begins, the tighter, more compelling (and cheaper to produce) your final video will be.
I read the script aloud – first to myself, and then to a colleague. I delete anything that isn’t essential and rewrite any of the following:
- sentences that are too long
- tongue-twisting or awkward phrases
- phrases that could be taken two ways.
Any sentence that is descriptive in nature should be reviewed. It likely should be transformed into a visual. Don’t rely on the sound track to tell the story. The basic ideas should be obvious from the visuals.
“B2B marketers share a common problem: attention. Prospects are busy, and they’re overloaded with information.” Larry Moskowitz, CEO, Lumentus
In video production, the goal is not to just unload information on viewers. To be successful you must engage your audience and clearly communicate selected information. Viewers can absorb only a limited amount of information at a time. If a script is packed with too many facts, or if the information is not clearly presented, the viewer becomes confused and will click away.
Not only is the amount of information important, but also the rate at which it’s presented. Give the viewer a chance to process each idea before moving on to the next. If you move too rapidly, you’ll lose your audience; too slowly, and you’ll bore them. Eliminate long, slow scenes and even long fast-moving scenes. Either will tire an audience. Keep their interest by varying pace throughout.
Writing a compelling B2B video marketing script is hard work; but it’s worth the effort. Marketing videos with a well planned out and concise message produce outstanding results.
The written word can only do so much to convey your ideas for a visual medium. Storyboards show drafts of the visuals to be used, and they save a lot of time, trouble and money in the overall production. Our next post is a guest blog by Joe Watson, a graphic artist, marketing strategist and storyboard creator.