Monday, May 29, 2017

Copywriting for Your Video: The Secret's in the Script

Video is the way to go. You’ll hear that from an increasing number of web developers and social media consultants these days. Uploading your marketing or informational videos to your website, YouTube and other channels can boost your online presence and create excitement about your company. And these days it’s easier than ever. I was in video production back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and creating even a short clip required a roomful of expensive editing facilities. Today you just point your iPhone in front of your face, talk/record, and post the result. Voila! Instant marketing — for better and for worse.

Video hasn’t killed the copywriting star. Why? Because more often than not, the effectiveness of a marketing video hinges on the words coming out of the presenter’s mouth. Some business owners with the gift of gab might have a magical ability to say all the perfect things in the right order in exactly X number of seconds. The rest of you, however, will find yourselves uhh-ing and umm-ing your way through multiple frustrating takes — including, in the worst case scenario, the final one. Posting such a video can do more harm than good.

So what’s the answer? Most video producers will tell you that it’s a script — a prepared marketing statement spoken directly to the camera and/or recorded as voice-over narrative. Video scriptwriters typically handle this task by creating a two-column document, with a list of shots on one side and the corresponding spoken text on the other. This not only keeps you from sounding like a doofus when you address your audience, but it also gives the director and editor a clear written blueprint for the entire video, saving time (and therefore money) in post-production.

Do you want to appear on camera or not? The great advantage of the voice-over narrative is that it allows you to record the whole thing at your leisure without having a camera pointed at your face; the editor will simply insert the completed audio wherever it needs to go in the finished product. And since you’re not on camera while you’re delivering your spiel, you don’t have to memorize anything. This is a big deal, believe me, unless you have a TelePrompter or cue cards standing by (and even then, your eyes may betray the fact that you’re reading). 

In some cases it may be worth it to hire a professional actor to serve as the face of your company, at least on video. On the other hand, if you are already known as that face, you’ll need to find a way to deliver the text yourself. A skilled copywriter will often help an on-camera novice by scripting a series of shorter speeches taken as multiple shots, as opposed to long monologues. Believe me, I’ve seen a LOT of time and money wasted because some poor non-actor was forced to nail a demanding speech in a single take.

So while it’s fantastic that video technology is cheaper and easier to work with than ever before, remember that to some extent, you still get what you pay for. And paying for a professionally-written script can make all the difference between a glorified home video and a genuinely effective marketing presentation.