Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

How to Write Effective Copy for a Website or Video

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Photo by Dan Hodgett

You want potential customers to buy from you and you want existing customers to come back for more. If you want to reach your target audience, you need to speak to them in terms they will understand. I’ve seen far too many websites and watched too many corporate videos that either use a lot of vague language or technical jargon. This often leaves a potential customer confused and they leave the website, or finish watching the video, without learning any answers to their questions. If you want to communicate effectively with your target market, the copy on your website and the script for your video needs to be…

  1. CONVERSATIONAL – Write as if you were meeting with your audience one-on-one.
  2. CLEAR – Avoid vague terminology that doesn’t specifically state your core values, mission, identity and services. Avoid generic, cliched words, like “synergy.”
  3. CONCISE – When someone visits a website, he/she doesn’t want to read a book. They will scan the content. They won’t read everything thoroughly. Hit the highlights. When you are writing a script for your video, write sparingly. Let the visuals do the talking for you.
  4. COMPREHENSIBLE – Make sure the benefits of your company’s services are well-defined. Tell potential customers why doing business with you will be a valuable experience for them. If you work for an accounting firm and you perform business valuations, don’t simply tell your audience that you can do business valuations. Tell them how that service affects them. Tell them why it’s important that they use a business valuation service. Tell them when they would need it.

When someone first lands on your website or watches your video, he/she should be able to grasp the basic information about your business quickly. Remember, there’s nothing more valuable than time. If you can hook a potential customer with engaging content, he or she will spend more time with your brand. And the more time they spend with you, the more likely they will be to buy from you.

What’s the Point and Why Am I Reading?

Monday, May 24th, 2010

I started this blog in the summer of 2005 as an outlet to express my love of films and filmmaking. It soon evolved into an extension of my production company. However, in the time that I have been posting on this blog, I don’t think I have ever explained why I write and to whom I’m writing. In short, the purpose of this blog is to give you, the reader, some insight into the world of video production and how video can be used to its potential. My target audience consists of three groups:

  1. THE VIDEO ENTHUSIAST -For this individual, I write articles that teach some basics about the craft of cinematography, direction, editing, production management, etc. I also post articles pertaining to particular types of cameras and other equipment and offer tips and tricks as to how one can best utilize the tools at his or her disposal. Some of these articles can be more technical in nature.
  2. THE VIDEO PROFESSIONAL – This individual earns a living through work in video production, perhaps as freelancer or business owner. For this demographic, I write articles that focus on the day-to-day aspects of being a professional. Subjects may include: how to improve your workflow, how to be more organized, how to prepare for a shoot, how to earn new business, how to market yourself, how to maintain healthy client relations, how to pitch to potential clients, etc.
  3. THE CLIENT – The third audience group consists of people who work on the client side of the equation. Over the years I have worked with clients who have had very little experience working with a video production company. I have also worked with clients who are seasoned pros and know exactly what to expect on a video shoot. And I have worked with clients who fall in between both extremes. To this particular audience I write articles to help both the client and the production company maintain a healthy working relationship. I want to help the client understand what it’s like working with a video production company. I want to give them a few creative ideas that they might use as inspiration in their own marketing efforts. I want to help them know how to prepare for a video production, how they can get the most “bang” for their buck, and how the whole process can run smoothly and efficiently.

Sometimes, in the course of writing these articles for each of these groups, I might offer a few tips that are solely based on my experiences. I understand that each individual and each situation is different. So, my advice might not apply to everyone. But that’s okay. Hopefully you can mine some little nugget of information that is applicable to projects that you are working on, and help answer certain questions you may have. I also realize that everyone has their own style when working on a video project and their own unique approach to the process. And that’s okay too. The beauty of working in video is that is a very fluid and collaborative art form. So, when I speak to clients, or video professionals, or video hobbyists, I am not asking that you change your habits. I’m not asking that you adhere to a certain standard. The goal of any advice I may give is simply to help you (the hobbyist, professional, or client) avoid potential problems and create the best video possible. And isn’t that what we’re all striving for? I know that’s what I try to give to each of my clients.

I thought it was important to briefly outline the purpose of this blog, so that all of my readers can get a clearer picture of my motivations. Thanks so much for taking some time out of your day to read my blog and I hope the information contained within can help you improve your craft, your business, and your marketing efforts.

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The Video Has Way Too Much Information

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Clients come in all shapes and sizes. For some of our video projects, we simply shoot and then turn over all raw footage to the client so they can edit it themselves. Some businesses we work with have their own in-house marketing team. They create the concept, write the script, and hire us to produce the final piece. Other clients will lean on our expertise to conceptualize, write, shoot, and edit their marketing videos. Every client is different. They have different needs, different expectations, different ideas, and different ways of doing things. Your job as a video producer/director is to listen to their needs, respect their opinions, and advise them when they need guidance throughout the production process.

A friend of mine recently sent me an email asking for my advice on a particular situation. She is currently working on a video and her client has some great ideas, but there is one problem: the client is trying to put too much into the video.

I’ve been in creative meetings when the client throws a lot of information at me. But that’s not a bad thing. When you first get started on conceptualizing and writing a video, you want as much information as possible. The biggest challenge comes when you have to narrow your focus and sculpt that information into usable material for the final script. If you’re having trouble convincing your client to reduce the amount of info that he/she wants in the video, here’s some advice:

  1. Listen and Take Notes – during those creative meetings, pay attention to everything they say and take notes as you go. The act of physically writing down your client’s ideas tells them that you value their input. By engaging them in this way, you will earn their respect and trust and they will be more receptive to your creative suggestions.
  2. After getting all the information, it’s time to trim the fat. Ask your client a few follow-up questions. These questions will encourage your client to narrow his or her focus and concentrate on those elements of their business that are most important: a) How do you want the public to perceive you?
    b) Using one sentence, how would you describe your company’s identity/mission?
    c) What is your mission statement?
    d) What are three key selling points for your business?
    e) What objections do people have when it comes to making a purchase? i.e. what prevents them from buying from you?
  3. Explain the process – As politely as you can, explain the process of creating a video. Emphasize the importance of creating a video with a strong, central theme and a simple message. Bombarding the viewer with too much information will only confuse the audience and will result in more questions being asked than being answered.
  4. Make Comparisons – Show the client samples from your reel and walk them through the case study of each project. Show them through these videos how a simple approach is usually the best approach. You might also ask your client to think of their favorite commercials or favorite long-format videos. Walk through those videos and ask your client, “What makes these videos so memorable? Why do you like them? Why are they successful?” Usually, it’s because the director boiled everything down to a simple concept that an audience could easily digest.

And remind your client of that adage, “The simplest solution is the best solution.”

Great Writing Means Knowing What to Leave Out

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

typewriterThe biggest challenge in writing the script for a sales or promotional video is not knowing what to include, but knowing what to leave out. I’m wrapping up work this week on a script for a 90-second sales video and so this particular topic has been on my mind.

The initial creative session with the client involves a lot of fact-finding. This may include tours of their facility and interviews with key personnel. It also includes sorting through a ton of  information. Usually the client will have brochures, articles, statistics, research results, etc. all pertaining to their particular product. They will also have ideas regarding what they want to say in the video and how they want to say it.

The problem is that there’s no time to include every statistic and little-known-fact into your final video – even if the running time is upwards of 10 minutes. It’s the job of the writer and the director to sit down with the client and trim everything down into simple concepts. This is why it’s so vitally important that you find out who will ultimately see the finished video. Writers and directors have to speak to the audience. Different demographics respond differently to certain keywords and images.

Basically the script must do the following:

  • Identify the viewer’s problem
  • Empathize with that problem
  • Show why the product is the best solution to that problem
  • Alleviate the fear that prevents the customer from buying the product

The client for this 90-second script I’ve been working on has a great product, and they have an abundance of supporting information. But understanding who would eventually see this video helped me tremendously when I had to decide what material to include and what to omit. Do the research. Absorb the information. Then simplify everything into key points that will motivate the viewer to act.

The Ultimate Filmmaker Web Resource

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I came across this site today, thanks to the FreshDV blog. It’s called FilmmakerIQ and it has an exhaustive list of tutorials, reviews, insights, etc. on everything pertaining to films and filmmaking. There’s a great DIY section on how to achieve certain effects while keeping production costs low. The site has resources available for any filmmaker, regardless of the stage of production you’re in. I will definitely add this to my Delicious bookmarks.

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