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The Big Picture: Scripting for Success

Once upon a time, a writer sat down in front of her computer with the goal of creating a powerful…no…meaningful…no…inspirational…informative…? Ah!  An excellent script.

No. An award-winning script!

How does one script for success?  It depends on how you define success. If you are writing a book, you may define success as finishing the manuscript, getting published, or winning a prestigious literary award.

In the world of video marketing, a script’s success is defined as meeting a very specific program objective (see the article on Content Development).  If at the end of the program your objective has been met, you have scripted for success.

The objective not only serves as a guidepost for success, it functions as checkpoint for content and drives the outline of your program.   Once you set the objective, you can create a basic outline that will help you organize the content and flesh out the script.  Even if you plan to hire a marketing or video production firm to help you with the project, this is a valuable and key exercise that will move you in the “write” direction.

A basic video outline consists of, not surprising, the beginning, middle, and end.  You will add more details as you develop the script, but this will give your video story-structure, which will help engage and hold audience attention.  Everyone loves a good story. Even in marketing.

For example, it your objective is to compel the audience to volunteer or donate to your cause, your basic outline might look like this:

I.         Beginning – Corporate mission statement and purpose
II.         Middle – Real stories, how we impact the world
III.         End – A call to action, why and how to get involved

As you begin to flesh out the outline and story visually, your outline might develop with notes on how you will convey the information, such as:

I.         Beginning – Corporate mission statement and purpose
  1. Interview with founder
  2. Archive photos and videos
  3. Timeline and successes
II.         Middle – Real stories, how we impact the world
  1. Heartwarming stories of lives changed
  2. Graphics and statistics, how many suffer / impacted
  3. Testimonials with clients or those served
III.         End – A call to action, why and how to get involved
  1. Interview with other volunteer(s)
  2. Describe the unmet need, what if the organization didn’t exist?
  3. Provide contact information and ask for help

With the objective and basic outline in place, you are ready to write.  Look at the outline and then ask yourself: What is our story?  Write the first rough draft. Don’t worry about typos.  Let the words flow naturally and tell the story as authentically as possible.  Save editing for the second draft.

If you happen to stumble over a writer’s block along the way, return to the outline and drill down the content. Try conducting mock interviews with your customers or employees.  What would you ask them and what would you like people to say about your product or service?  Write the responses or sample interview sound bites.  All of this material will help craft the final draft.

If you find writing is not your forte, you can always enlist the help of a professional writer to help polish the final words but having your outline and thoughts in ink will provide the backbone of your story and help advance the “big picture” that will develop into a successful script.


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This is article two in my content development series entitled, The Big Picture.  In the first article I suggested three critical questions that can help you to define and understand your audience in order to craft targeted, effective video content.  Now that you have a good understanding of your audience, it’s time to pull out your keyboard and start pecking away your first draft script.  Or is it?  Novice or not, before putting pen to page, first consider the raw tools of the trade: the elements of production.  At a top level, that is sight, sound, and motion.

Sight Sound Motion

Before I ever begin to write, I start to form the big picture: how the program  will look, sound, and feel.  What is the message and what are the various production elements that can help convey that content in a dynamic and memorable way?  Of course, in the end, the specific elements will be somewhat dictated by the script content itself (and of course budget), but considering the production elements can help broaden the creative process in how you bring substance to the screen. The perfect mix of sight, sound, and motion all come together to form the big picture. But each of these elements also plays a critical and independent role, so dissecting them is a worthwhile endeavor.

Sight, what will be seen. 

Give some thought to how the program will look. As the old saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat. Fact is, there are even more ways to tell a vision. Will you incorporate on-camera interviews; use a host or moderator; incorporate actors; voice-over talent; photographs; tell the story completely with animated graphics; or use a combination of styles to create your own unique look?  Consider examples of videos that you like. What captures you about the way they are built?  Great. Now break the mold.  Use unique sets, environments, lighting, and composition to bring a fresh view.

Sound, like a plan. 

Never underestimate the power of audio.  Movies have it right.  The music and sound tracks are one of, if not the most important production elements responsible for how your program will feel.  Just try editing a serious piece of content with the circus music.  Or, put elevator music under a marketing video. You’ll immediately hear the obvious difference.  In planning your script, make notes about how you want the audience to feel throughout the program. Later when you’re selecting music tracks, use these key words to guide you in customizing the perfect music bed for your content to rest comfortably.

Motion, what moves you. 

What goes up must come down. What it comes down to on the screen is emotion. Motion evokes emotion. The way the program is edited is the motion behind the emotional footprint the program leaves on its viewer.  The pace and duration of the images and the use of transitions (dissolves or cuts, for example) all affect the motion of the program.  You can have a thirty-minute program that drags on and feels like an hour, or you can have the same length program that feels like its only fifteen minutes.  That’s the difference been “real time” and “feel time.”  No matter the content or the length, with the shortening attention span of today’s audience, you never want a program to feel like it drags on.  Before writing, think about how you will keep the pace – the motion – moving in order to bring your audience along for the entire ride.

Preplanning the sight, sound, and motion of your program prior to scripting is all part of The Big Picture in crafting engaging content.