Scriptwriting: How to make the most of video

By Peter Ishii

Scriptwriting: How to make the most of video

If video isn't already a part of your marketing toolkit, get started! Video has exploded online over the last few years. Your audience is used to getting information via video and more and more companies, both B2B and B2C, are realising the opportunities that video can create.

The video medium is unparalleled when it comes to storytelling and explanation, so if you’re looking to share news about your company or a new product or service, or if you’re creating a how-to guide for your products, video shouldn’t be overlooked.

The problem is that creating video has a relatively high cost compared to writing articles or taking pictures, both financially and in terms of time. To do video well, you need equipment and editing software, and knowledge of how to use both of them. You need to set aside time and space to record and edit the video, and if you want to use more complex digital graphics in it, you may even need to bring in an outside agency. Video can have a big impact, but creating a video isn’t a simple process.

When you’re investing so much time and money in a piece of content, you need to start from a solid foundation – a script. With a good script, you’ll know ahead of time who needs to be involved in the video, where you’ll record, what audience you are trying to reach and what resources you’ll need to create the finished product. Without these elements, the video creation process will become much harder than it needs to be.

In this article, I’ll explain why you should create a script for your video, what you need to include in it, and some tips that I’ve come across through my video production experience.

Think about the final distribution first

Before you even begin writing your script, you need to know how it will be distributed. There’s a big difference between a three-minute company presentation video that will sit at the top of your homepage than a 30-second clip that you’ll share on LinkedIn. In the first video, you have plenty of space to tell a story and develop feeling and emotion. With the second, your possibilities are more limited.

Decide on the distribution platform and video length first, and adjust your ambitions accordingly. Trying to squeeze too much information into a short video for social media will give a bad result – instead, establish what you have to work with and what the audience on the distribution platform will be expecting, and go from there.

If you’re producing videos regularly, it will pay off to really get to know the different platforms and keep up to date with new video platforms. It’s likely that stakeholders within the company will want to reach the latest new platforms, so understanding how they work and what content performs best on them will give you a head start.

Be sure of your video’s purpose

Just like any other marketing activity, you need to think through what you want to achieve with your video before you start on a script. You wouldn’t embark on the creation of a new .com without thinking about your personas and customer needs – so don’t create a video without having a clear idea of who and what it’s for.

In our industry, you can generally split up videos into two kinds – instructional or persuasive. An example of an instructional video may be a product introduction, a video guide or something similar. These kinds of videos are fact-based and focus on giving advice to your audience or educating them.

For this type of content, video is superior to other mediums. It’s one thing to produce an instruction manual that shows people how to perform service on your product, but actually showing the process step-by-step in a video is much clearer. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures. In these kinds of videos, the product or solution must be shown and the viewer should see clearly what is going on. This is something you can prepare for during scriptwriting and pre-production.

The other type of video is persuasive. These videos focus more on inspiring a certain emotion in the viewer and promoting your company, rather than simple facts and instructions. A company introduction video could be a good example of this type of video. These videos can be powerful pieces of content, but they can be harder to produce – so think carefully during scriptwriting what emotions you want to inspire and how you want your company to be perceived.

What responsibilities does the scriptwriter have?

In Hollywood movies, the scriptwriter is one component in a larger machine that creates the finished product. The scriptwriter writes the script, but the director decides how it should be delivered, the editor decides how it should be pieced together, the composer decides what music should be used, and so on. However, you’re probably not a Hollywood scriptwriter – you’re a marketer who has been asked to produce a video for a company. In this case, the responsibilities of all these different people lands on you.

This means that you as a scriptwriter have to think more about other elements outside of the words that will be spoken. What kind of camera equipment can you use? What editing software do you have access to? Do you have a budget to get the exact music soundtrack you want, or will you have to find free-to-use music? Who will appear in the video, and how will they perform on-camera? In a B2B company context, your script becomes more than just the text that will be read – it’s also a kind of steering document that describes the circumstances you’re working under and what elements you will use to convey your desired message.

What format will your video have?

For the kinds of videos we’re talking about, there’s generally two ways you can use speech – as a voiceover, or from ‘talking heads’. With a voiceover, a narrator will speak over the top of the images that will be shown in the video. With ‘talking heads’, the speech will come from one or more speakers talking about different things, who may be employees at your company.

The approach you choose creates different possibilities and challenges for you as a scriptwriter. With a voiceover, it’s easy – you write the script, the narrator reads it as you wrote it, and you lay it over the video. With talking heads, it’s more challenging. If your talking heads are three in-house experts talking about your company’s new product, you won’t have direct control over what they actually say. You can prepare topics and themes that they should stick to, but they’ll formulate the words in their own way. To get around this challenge, you could ask them to read from a script – but then there’s a risk that the finished product will seem stiff and unnatural. If you take a talking heads approach, your scriptwriting needs to happen after filming is done – you can review what the talking heads have said, figure out which parts to keep, and decide how to clip them together in a good way.

Your script will be spoken – so write it that way

So you’re happy with your finished script, the rest of your team has reviewed it, and you start filming. Suddenly, the script you wrote sounds odd – maybe it doesn’t flow, or it sounds too formal. What happened? Chances are, you wrote it to be read, not to be spoken. When your video is finished, the audience won’t see it – they’ll hear it. And a text that looks fantastic on screen might sound strange when it’s spoken. As a scriptwriter you need to keep this in mind. Read your script aloud as you go, and ask others to do the same while you listen. You could also record yourself reading the script to see how it sounds when spoken. This will give a much better finished video.

Keep these things in mind when writing your script and you’ll end up with a video that you can be proud of. Just like any other type of content, perfecting your video takes practice. But once you get started, you’ll begin learning the methods that best work for you.

If you want to get more tips and advice on the content creation process, click below to get our content creation guide – it’s full of information on how to get your written content to the next level.

Download guide

And if you’d like to speak to Zooma, or you’re planning a video shoot and need help, you can contact us here.

Peter Ishii
Specialist in generalism. Content generalist with decades of experience in all kinds of content, notably online content.
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