Did you know that YouTube visitors watch more than 500 million hours of video on the site each day? A significant portion of that viewing time is attributable to marketing footage, given that 87% of marketers say they use video content in their campaigns. Companies of all sizes and industries rely on copywriters to create effective scripts for their marketing videos, and you can cash in on this major trend. Breaking into any new content type involves a learning curve. It may take longer than you think it should to write your first video script, but keep working at polishing your skills and scriptwriting will get easier over time. Once you’ve completed your first video project, don’t forget to add your new credentials to your professional profile! Here are a few tips to help you as you begin writing a corporate video script:
Verify the details with the client.
Before starting any new freelance project, you should always verify that you have all the information you need. Look over the info you’ve been given to identify any gaps. At the very least, you’ll need the following info:
- Video length (Generally, 150 words equals one minute of video)
- Intended audience
- Type of video (Explainer video, corporate training video, commercial, etc.)
- Intended distribution method (Will it be distributed online or on TV?)
- Purpose of video
- Intended action for viewers
It’s critical to have a firm grasp on the last two items. Always ask what the company wants to get out of the video. What do they want viewers to do after seeing the video? Should viewers be encouraged to sign up for a service? Check out a new product? Contribute to a charitable campaign? An effective video will only fulfill one main purpose.
Another detail you should hammer out with the client concerns the visual imagery. The client might not yet know which specific images the company plans to pair with the script, but you should at least know whether the script will be:
- Read by a visible actor
- Read as a voiceover narration
- For an animated video
If the client doesn’t yet know all the details regarding the visual imagery, you should make notes about what you’re envisioning as you write the script. Pass along those notes to your client so the script will mesh well with the visuals.
Create the story.
Writing a script isn’t quite the same as writing an eBook, white paper, or blog. In video marketing, an emotionally compelling story is the most important aspect. Yes, your videos will likely be informative and/or entertaining, but they should primarily tap into the emotions of the viewing audience. An emotional audience feels compelled to take action, such as by buying the company’s product or making a charitable contribution. You’ll likely need to do a little background research on the topic. As you do so, consider the main emotions you encounter in the existing literature on the topic.
Based on your research and the info given to you by the client, identify the main emotion for your video. Do you want your audience to feel…
The primary emotion you identify should be aligned with the company’s brand voice. For instance, if the client is a charitable organization, you might tap into feelings of sadness and guilt (i.e., those difficult-to-watch ASPCA commercials that depict animals in need of help). Or, if your client is an athletic shoe company, you could tap into feelings of pride (i.e., that Nike ad that tells viewers “Life isn’t about finding your limits. It’s about realizing you have none.”) Once you know what emotion you want to trigger, you can craft the story around it.
Write the outline.
The next step is to write a rough outline for the script. Keep the length of the video in mind. As you write the outline, try to think about which sections you could drop if the script runs too long—without compromising the main message and its emotional triggers. Unlike writing an eBook or blog post, your outline subheads won’t make it into the actual video, so don’t worry about polishing the wording. Here’s a sample outline for a fictitious training video on workplace safety, with “fear” as the main emotion.
- Open with story of Steph Mill’s tragic fall from scaffolding
- Discuss repeat surgeries/lingering disabilities
- Financial burden for family members
- Statistics on falls in construction sites
- Message: It really can happen to you
- Essential safety measures workers need to take every day
- Check personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Supervisor walk-through (use phrase “competent person” – as per OSHA)
- Confidential reporting of unsafe conditions
- Close with reminder of Steph Mill’s tragic story
- Urge viewers to take action by reporting unsafe conditions
Notice that this fictitious video opens with an emotionally compelling story, rather than with the safety steps all workers should take. Always put the most emotionally compelling material first, as it draws viewers into the video.
Write the script.
Once you have an outline to work with, writing the script is essentially a matter of filling in the blanks. As you’re writing, however, you may find that you need to rearrange the order of information to make the script flow more smoothly. If this happens, you may find yourself struggling to stuff essential info into the script before it ends. One fix for this is to use brief pop-up messages, if the client has told you the main method of distribution is online. It’s not unusual to see written copy on the screen while you’re watching an online video, particularly if it’s an animated video. Just try not to overuse this tactic and keep the visible copy very short.
Flip the script.
After you’ve written the script, set it aside for a while and work on other projects. Then, go back to the script and reread it with fresh eyes. Put yourself into the mind of the intended audience. Does the video make sense? Will it be effective at compelling viewers to take the intended action? Consider the script’s:
- Tone (Does it make sense for your main emotion?)
- Emotional impact (Will it resonate with the audience?)
- Language (Is it appropriate for the age range of your audience?)
- Sentence length (Short is better for videos.)
- Flow (Does the story follow a logical progression?)
- Call to action (Will viewers feel compelled to take the specified action?)
You may need to revise the script multiple times before it’s ready to submit to the client.
Read it out loud.
You’re not quite done with the script after you’ve revised it. You should also read it out loud a few times. You’ll likely find that copy that looks fine on the screen doesn’t always flow smoothly from the tongue. Revise your sentences and word choice so that the script is as natural as possible. One easy way to do this is by replacing complex words with their simpler cousins. For instance, remove “superfluous” and replace it with “unneeded.” After you make these edits, you’ll be ready to submit the script to your client, along with your notes on suggested visual imagery, if appropriate.
Did you know you can find script writing gigs on the curated job board at Writers Work? You can get access to these, along with many other freelance writing jobs, when you become a member of our dynamic writing community. Get started today with our special discount on lifetime memberships!