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Video Scriptwriting as Brainstorming Tool-- Finding the "Hook"

Sep 3, 2008
There are two ways to approach writing a script for a video: before you shoot, and after you shoot.

Before you shoot is where the majority of corporate and event videos land; after you shoot usually indicates that you're conducting interviews and won't know what material you'll have until after the interviews.

Let's look at the first, and most traditional, method.

Scriptwriting is the art and craft of extrapolating a creative approach into a working creative plan. A script is more than just the words. It is the blueprint that indicates the structure or flow of your video, what kinds of shots are necessary, what kinds of graphics are appropriate, and what types of music might be used or created.

My first business partner couldn't do wordplay worth a damn, but he actually was an excellent scriptwriter, because he knew how to pace a piece of communications. So whether you think you're a writer or not, let's look at the basics of how you can craft your creative blueprint.

The Creative Plan

Before you begin writing, you must know what your strategy is. Whether you're selling widgets or telling the life story of Uncle Teddy, you must know your beginning, middle and end.

I believe all creative plans follow some essential rules of marketing, and often follow the same basic outline for the script.

Marketing Rules

These hardly ever vary. They are called many things, have sold a lot of books, and been rehashed over and over.

But they work. It's all centered around the person you're trying to sell. It's called the USP, or unique selling proposition. Ya gotta have one!

From the USP comes the ability to do the following:

State a clear benefit.
Offer proof.
Have a unique angle.
Show the solution.
Eliminate objections.
Ask for the sale (or the demo).

In the video script world, this might look like:

Introduction or Premise
Who we are
What we do
Why we're different
What's in it for you
Ask for the sale

Really. That's about it. Remember, this is not a brochure. People's attention spans are short.

Now, let's say you want to create buzz so that MyCO, your new computerized inventory management company (and its new product, "The Docufab 5000"), can look large enough to compete with the big dog in your field-- we'll call them BigCo.

BigCo owns the market, but they're-- big. Slow to innovate, slow to respond to customer requests. They haven't revised their product offering in 5 years.

You want to eat their lunch (or, if you're starting out, any lunch at all), and you have just the product to do it.

You have just enough money to make a video, which you figure you'll show to customers on your laptop, in your trade show booth (a massive 8'x10' with a table), and on your website.

Video Outline

Let's look at the questions to ask yourself.

What outcome do I want from this video?
What unique thing does my company offer?
How does this product embody that unique feature (or philosophy)?
What's in it for the customer?
What hang-ups does the customer have?
How do we move to the next step?

In this case, the next step is being put on the bid list, being asked to make a presentation to upper management, or being asked to make a proposal. This is also the outcome you want.

You are sensitive to the needs of the industry and are a house of ideas, moving fast, developing solutions, adapting your patented technologies to companies large and small.

Your product offers ImageFast, a revolutionary way to reduce scan time and speed document flow over traditional Cat5 wire.

This will offer the customer a direct impact in greater productivity, faster shipping turnaround, less time spent running around looking for manuals, and allow the company to sell and ship more of whatever it is they do. (The hidden bonus is the hero factor-- the person that buys this product will introduce such productivity and profit to the company that he or she will get a raise and a corner office-- of course, this is implied, not stated.)

Now think it through-- you've got a better product than BigCo-- is there anything that would make a potential customer NOT buy what you're selling?

Yes, you're young enough to look like you just came out of high school. Your track record is neither good nor bad-- it's empty. So you get an endorsement from your Uncle Don who's a well known civil engineer (or a past customer, if you're well established). Maybe you grow a beard.

And you offer a guarantee.

The Final Structure

So now, let's look at our final outline:

Document management is slow, and industry leaders are not keeping up with bandwidth demands.
You have a solution that's unique to the industry.
You are MyCo, a company dedicated to R&D and solutions that provide productivity and profit. You never stop innovating.
The Docufab 5000 blows the competition away. You proceed to tell how. (features)
The Docufab 5000 will change your company for the better, is upgradable, etc. (benefits)
Let us demonstrate our system and give you a quote. If you're not 100% satisfied, we'll (fix it, refund your money, whatever...)-- we believe in our product and good old-fashioned customer service.

Okay, now you have to add spice, or the hook-- the unique angle. You're dedicated to productivity, speed, and service. For a fraction of what BigCo might quote for a new system, you will revolutionize the customer's business with profits, productivity, and volume.

All the customer has to do is-- "Do the Math."

That becomes your hook. It's a good one, because it de-emphasizes being big, established, safe, etc. It says, "If I can offer you my unique solution to save you this much money-- will you take a chance on me?"

We're skimming the surface, but at least now you've thought through goal setting and creative planning for almost any video project, at least those that are written before the shooting begins.

Now, HOW to write the words is another story, and one we'll tell soon.

Want to see the video this story was actually based on? Go to http://www.vimeo.com/806538.
About the Author
Brien Lee is President of Brien Lee VideoStory, Inc., a New Jersey based video consulting, writing and production company. He had more than 30 years experience in the creation of audio-visual materials for meetings, DVD, and the web. His website is at http://www.videostory.com.
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