Video script tips for online marketers

The adage ‘Less is more’ applies here. Let visuals establish your protagonist and sustain the narrative arc. By keeping words scant, you’ll deliver a vibrant, compelling message.

A blank page is to a script writer what a blank canvas is to an artist.

Each key stroke might compare to a brush stroke. Like a painter who pulls from his imagination, you might draft a script drawn from what you already have in mind before you ever head out into the field to shoot and grab the elements.

The downside to that approach is that you run the risk of tunnel vision-keeping your eyes peeled for only those “scripted scenes” and overlooking more natural, fun moments you might never have anticipated.

It’s these moments in video marketing that can transform a data- or information-heavy message into compelling, easy-to-understand and profitable content, as seen in this Intermedia and MultiVu Creative Services case study.

To get there, though, you must tell your brand story in a creative way. Start with these five steps to write a script that impresses viewers and converts leads.

Organize your script’s elements

Generally, a simple video script is divided into two columns: the left side for video, the right side for audio.

On the left side, you also create notes for the editor. This will include shot selection, text that should appear on screen, and special effect instructions or transitions.

The right side is where your script appears. It includes everything that your voice-over talent will eventually record.

The more detailed and precise your script, the better for everyone involved.

Identify a likable character, and open with power.

Give your audience someone with whom they might identify. Let your imagination run wild here; your character doesn’t have to be a person.

In a world where viewers can skip your video after five seconds, you want to make sure you snag their attention. Talk to your shooter (or if you shot it yourself, think back).

What was the most visually appealing shot the crew gathered? What about sound? Did one of your interviews provide a sound bite so profound it made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end? Use it.

Write to your sound bites, touch your video, and let it go.

You interviewed people for a reason. Choose the best sound bites-as you would quotes for a print article-and write around those selections.

I suggest you limit the sound bite to eight seconds. Attention spans are limited, so keep your finished product short. Holding sound bites equally accountable will leave room for additional voices.

Writing for video is different from drafting a piece of content. You don’t have to describe every last piece of footage. Instead, let a shot establish a scene. Use words to complement it. Then let your video breathe and afford your viewers time to take in the rich images.

Your narration should advance the story while your video illustrates the narrative arc.

Don’t drown your audio.

At times, silence is golden. Otherwise, if we’re talking about something, we generally like to hear it. Music can help drive a piece, but to blare it at the expense of your natural sound does the story no justice.

I also suggest people shy away from taking one music track and laying it throughout the entire video. Instead, break it up. Cue music where you need it. Kill it where you don’t.

Keep it simple.

You want to keep your words short, direct and to the point. A sentence that contains 44 words is no longer a sentence. It has burgeoned into a paragraph.

As a rule, I challenge folks to limit sentences in their scripts to no more than 15 words. That’s even generous. I worked in a newsroom where the executive producer banned sentences longer than 12 words.

I digress.

Use active voice as opposed to passive voice. The best example is one we may remember from the third grade. Instead of saying, “The ball was thrown by John,” you would say, “John threw the ball.”

Finally, don’t try to cram all of your messaging into a short video. Instead, use your call to action to entice your audience to learn more.

Wes Benter is a senior online community services specialist at ProfNet. Follow him on Twitter @WBenter. A version of this article originally appeared on the Beyond PR blog.

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