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Dustin McManus

Published on

July 26, 2018


digital, marketing

Unless you’ve been fast asleep at the wheel like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle, you know that video is trending massively upward in today’s marketing landscape. Nearly nine out of 10 online marketers rely on video in some form, making it one of the most widely-used tools in the industry today. That’s because video represents such a dynamic, compelling means of capturing an audience’s attention. One-third of online activity is spent watching video, with more than 500 million hours of video watched on YouTube alone every day. If those figures aren’t staggering enough, chew on this: within a single month, more video content is uploaded online than the major U.S. television networks have produced in the past 30 years.

While video may currently be the reigning high priestess, content in its most granular form remains king. A successful marketing video is foundationally dependent upon a well-written, captivating script. You can have all the bells and whistles in the world adorning your video, but if the words on the page are sub-par, your video-making efforts will be for naught. Before you even put your writer’s hat on and break out your preferred screenwriting software program, you need to establish these three important tenets for your marketing video:

  1. Your target audience
  2. Your overall narrative or message
  3. Your marketing goal(s) for the video (i.e. awareness, sales, outreach, etc.)

From there, you can begin crafting your script. Here’s where you can’t let the old-school Hollywood mentality fool you. The director does not wield absolute power and influence over a video; as the script writer, you are the initial visionary for the entire production. A writer creates exactly what is seen, heard and meant to be felt in a video. Without this essential cornerstone, valuable information like setting, action, POV, dialogue and character traits wouldn’t exist. Many of these components will be dictated by the three tenets listed above. For example, you wouldn’t want a humorous video commending your CEO’s humanitarian efforts with the goal of convincing prospective customers to buy a newly-launched product. The script is the blueprint that defines how the finished product will come to fruition.

With that said, here are five screenwriting best practices to help your marketing video become a viral hit rather than a complete flop.

1. Keep it short, sweet and to-the-point

One-fifth of viewers close out of videos in under 10 seconds. That means not only does it behoove you to keep your videos on the shorter side (two to four minutes is generally a good benchmark), but that you hook your audience from the jump in order to keep them invested. Within those initial seconds of pressing play, a viewer should either have a clear understanding of the point and message of your video or be captivated enough to stick around and find out. When writing, start big and then gradually whittle it down until you’re left with a tightened version that packs the most punch in an easily digestible amount of time.

2. Tone is key

Establishing the right tone for your video will determine its ultimate success. This begins with identifying and understanding who your audience is, and then writing a script and characters that they can relate to. Whether you go informational, nostalgic, humorous, etc., the tone reinforces the narrative and story you’re trying to tell, will color your approach to dialogue and serve as the window into your audience’s hearts and minds.

3. Stage a table read

Once you’ve put the finishing touches on your script, it’s important you actually read it out loud before shooting. This will help you determine if the script flows in a manner that makes sense to your narrative and will ensure that your dialogue sounds like genuine human conversations, rather than awkwardly stilted drivel that doesn’t resemble how a real person speaks at all.

4. Show, don’t tell

People are savvy and know when they’re being sold a product. You can establish a trusting relationship with your audience by harnessing the power of video to show them exactly what your brand or product is about and how it’s helped or served real people. Place more emphasis on the visual cues that can tell your story, rather than flat out shoving it down your audience’s throat. It’s a much more powerful approach than simply stating the specs of a product or the offerings of a service. This method allows you to directly speak to them as individuals (without talking down to them) rather than some nebulous collective.

5. Wrap it up with a CTA

Always end your marketing video with a clear call to action. Viewers should come away from watching your video with an idea of how to best engage with your brand next. Think of it as the teaser for an upcoming sequel—essentially, the last act should be an invitation for future engagement down the line.

By heeding to these screenwriting best practices, you can walk off set confident that once “cut!” is yelled, your marketing video will not only add business value but will be seen as a certified fresh creation.

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