Video production is an unknown field for most clients. So, naturally, you’ll have a hard time objectively judging the effectiveness of the script, and understanding which elements in the video production quote are essential, and which can be dispensed with to save money without compromising the message.

However, there are a few simple things you can do to manage the video brief so that you get outcomes that you can understand and evaluate, at a budget you can live with.

Describe the target for your video

You already know your industry – what attracts customers or investors, and what makes them wary. And you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and those of your main competitors. So you’ve got most of the brief in your head already! The trick is to get that information to the writer and director of your video.

So, first, you need to describe your potential customers or investors in terms of age, background, financial status, needs, fears, hot buttons and cold buttons. Three or four lines should do it. And those few lines will enable the writer and director to determine the best tone of voice for the video production, and a visual style which will be relevant and interesting.

Set communications objectives

Next, you need to prepare a set of communications objectives for your video. Communications objectives are essential. They are the very purpose of your video production. They give you an objective yardstick to evaluate the script and the resulting video.

You can ask yourself “How well does this script achieve my stated communications objectives?

If you can’t tell the video script writer what the video’s communication objectives are, you will have to rely on the writer’s understanding of your industry, your company, your target audience, your competitors, and your products or services. Which can be a big ask.

If the early draft of the script doesn’t adequately achieve the communications objectives, you can intervene there and then, and avoid the fantastic waste of proceeding to production of a video which won’t do the right job.

How to write communications objectives

  • List your strengths and weaknesses
  • List your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
  • List your market’s hot buttons

You then compare the lists, and merge them into a list of your particular strengths which a) can be promoted against your competitors’ weaknesses, and b) which align with customers’ or investors’ hot buttons.

Put the most significant and unique strengths at the top.

This list is now your video communication objectives. Give the list to the script writer and director. If the resulting script communicates what’s in the list clearly and persuasively, good. If not, bad. Tell ’em to re-write it so it does.

I nearly forgot. Keep it short. eight to ten items that can be covered in five or six minutes. Short is better. Three two minute videos will work way better online than one six minute video. And you’ll score extra SEO points for having multiple videos.

Make a list of likes and dislikes

Hemingway called the act of creative writing “Facing the white bull that is paper with no words on it.” And so with video production. It starts with a blank page which the writer/director can fill in any of a million different ways.

You know your organisation’s personality, and how it likes to present itself in the marketplace. The video director probably isn’t aware of some of these intangible things. So the chance of the director reading your mind and perfectly meeting your unexpressed wishes for the look, feel, style and tone of voice of the video are slim.

You can fix this by spending half an hour online, looking at videos in your industry sector and outside it. Note the URLs of the ones you like and the ones you don’t like, and supply the URLs so the script writer and director can look at them.

It will save time and money in production. It will eliminate guesswork. And will give the writer/director a set of creative guidelines, so she or he can spend less time worrying about style and more time concentrating on substance: achieving the communications objectives.

Figure out a budget

Video production is a piece of string. A kid with a video camera and some editing software can make a video for you. James Cameron can make a video for you. If you think the videos will be different, wait till you see the invoices.

You wouldn’t commission an architect without a budget. Or a machine tool company. You wouldn’t allow an employee to buy equipment for your company without knowing in advance a) how much you would like to spend and b) how much you are prepared to spend.

The same principal should apply to video production. It is unfair to not specify a budget, or at least, a budget range for the video producers to work with.

We are always surprised when otherwise careful and sensible clients ask us to tell them how much we think they should spend.

We discuss what they would like the video to cover, and their communications objectives, and then they say, “OK. How much will it cost?”

If we gave the right answer, “Between $10,000 and a couple of million,” it would sound like we were taking the piss. But it’s true. Advertisers can spend three or four million on a 30 second commercial. Compared to which, a million for a five minute video seems reasonable.

On the other hand, if we cut every corner we know, and threw together a quick and dirty production, maybe we could complete some kind of a video covering their requirements for a few thousand. But neither they nor we would be happy with the result.

And it certainly wouldn’t reflect well on their business.

So if you can figure out what you are prepared to invest in the video, against expected returns, then both the scriptwriter and the director can work to deliver the most juice possible for your money.

And if you don’t have a specific figure in mind, there are ways of arriving at a budget:

How to ball-park a budget

Look at your annual marketing spend and identify what activities the video will replace or enhance, and what percentage of the budget is reasonable for an asset that will give you three or more years of use. Then ballpark a figure.

1. Work it out like an accountant

Say you spend $100,000 annually on marketing and publicity. Then $20-25,000 wouldn’t be unreasonable for a set of videos, knowing you can use them at sales and investor presentations, put edited segments on your website, make and run video ads, mail it the videos out on memory sticks, insert sections into technical presentations, use them at trade shows, and send out video news releases to the media.

If they could replace $10,000 of other marketing materials each year, over three years video would save you $5k.

2. Work it out like an investor

Another way of budgeting is to look at the potential returns, and estimate how much you would be prepared to spend to increase the probability of generating those returns.

Companies that need a video to raise capital of, say, $10-100 million need to look very smart and very together. In which case they should consider at least a powerful $50k ‘knock their socks off’ video as a great investment.

And it’s an investment that keeps on paying, because it can be produced in different language versions to raise capital in China, Korea, Japan or Germany.

It can be updated each year.

It can be cheaply re-purposed to do a number of different jobs after the capital-raising – to bolster existing investor confidence, or to make a valuable opener for meetings with potential joint venture partners, strategic customers, stakeholders and government authorities.

3. Use your instinct and business nous

Another way to figure out at least a speculative budget is to use gut feel to establish a range.

Ask yourself “If they came back and told me $5k, would I be happy?” And, “If they came back and told me $100k, how would I feel?”

Then mentally juggle the two figures closer together to arrive at a budget range that, in your mind, ranges from “that’s reasonable” to “It better be bloody good.”

The production team can then show you examples of their work which fall within that range. That way, you can have reasonable expectations, and they can work to meet and exceed your expectations.

And in conclusion I’d just like to say…

Over the years, we’ve produced videos costing from $5,000 to $200,000. But no matter how big or small the job, we use a briefing form which we developed over years of experience and hundreds of productions, to elicit the answers we need to come back to you with a professional, creative, business-based proposal.

If your production company doesn’t supply a video briefing form which covers your communication objectives, how do you know they know what they’re doing?

A proper, structured briefing form will make your objectives clear, and keep your video production focused and on track.

And writers and directors will thank you for it. Because top professionals appreciate the creative freedom they get from a pre-determined budget and a good, tight, communications brief.