How to write a video brief: 5 mistakes to avoid
You know you want to create a video to support your marketing. You want your audience to hear you loud and clear. But before making a video, and especially if you’re outsourcing creative talents, you’ll need to be crystal clear on your vision and goals.
That’s where writing a video brief, comes in.
A video brief helps everybody get on the same page, so you don’t lose time or money.
As a creative, I meticulously read the video brief to spark ideas and understand the client’s wishes and direction. As a result I am familiar with what a creative needs to know to develop a compelling proposal.
As the saying goes: “The great enemy of communication is the illusion of it.”
The last thing you want is your ideas and goals to get lost in translation. It can be tricky to translate clearly on paper what you want your video to be without being misinterpreted.
Great video ads come from confident and focused video briefs.
So how can you write a video brief so clearly that you end up with a video you love and one that serves your business goals?
First, what is a creative video brief?
A video brief is a creative compass. Your creative talents are given a direction.
You give the creatives the guidelines of your brand, what you want the video to be and why you want to make a video in the first place. It guides the whole creative team from pre-production to post-production.
Here are five mistakes to avoid so you don’t end up with a video that lingers in your drawer or a dark corner of your computer:
- Overload the video with too many messages
- Only talk about demographics
- Sound like your competition
- Get inspiration from the competition
- No distribution plan before production
1. Overload the video with too many messages
When you overburden one video with lots of different messages, you put a lot of pressure on just one video.
Instead, you want your message to be like that catchy song that is impossible to get out of your head.
When we receive too much information, we stop paying attention. And it is impossible to recall what it was about. If you don’t remember anything, was the communication effective?
"If you say three things, you don’t say anything.” James Carville
If you want your video to have an impact, focus on one key message.
What is the most critical thing you hope the audience remembers after watching this video?
To find out, you have to prioritise which information you need to convey first and foremost.
Get to the heart of this information and summarize it in one simple sentence.
It is called the single-minded proposition. It gives a strong focus to the video.
It will also help you decide what belongs in the video or not. Every word, graphic and visual in the video has to support this one key information.
Having one core idea will make your message stick.
If you’re not clear about your message, you’ll receive confusing and insipid proposals. When the video brief is detailed and clear, the job of the creative team is a lot stronger and easier. And you’ll have a more persuasive video in the end.
One key information = A sticky message
2. Only talk about demographics
I often read a vague description of the target audience, such as: “women in their 30s”, "the company's actual customers”, or “professionals”. Although it is valuable to have this information, these words describe only one aspect of your customers.
They are too general and fail to paint an adequate picture of your target.
If the creatives can’t get a sense of who your target audience is, they will fail to engage that audience with their work.
So what else can you tell about your audience?
Ask yourself these four questions:
- What are their pains?
- What are their desires?
- Which vocabulary do they use to describe their problem?
- What event would trigger them to buy your solution?
When you have these answers, you’ll have a better picture of your target customers.
This information will help the creatives to find an emotional hook for the video. And as you know, we sell with emotions.
If we only look at demographics, we stay on the surface. Your audience is more than just their gender, age, or occupation. They are more than cardboard cutouts. They have feelings. When you evoke their emotions, you pull them in.
To engage with them, we need to know what they feel before coming across your solution and after experiencing it. This emotional arch will inspire the core narrative of the video.
The next two mistakes are about not standing out from the competition. Which is fatal for any business, when you need to be memorable.
3. Have the same voice as your competitors
If you’re not making a conscious choice about how you want to talk and which words to use, you’ll blend.
It’s like showing up to a party dressed like everyone else. How can you stand out? How can people remember you?
Sharing your message through video is an opportunity to show your brand’s personality, attitude and voice. I strongly suggest having your verbal identity and tone in place before making a video.
What do you say or don’t say? Which sentence or word perfectly represents your brand? Otherwise, you’ll end up with a script that is interchangeable with another business.
I see in a lot of briefs, various versions of “we would like the video to have some humour”.
Humour cannot make up for a lack of voice and personality. Don’t try to be funny or quirky because it is trendy. Figure out what your brand’s voice is to get attention.
When you think of your friends they each have a way of talking. They have unique expressions and favourite words. It’s a part of their personality and it characterises them.
It’s the same for businesses. It’s a way to stand out and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Just like your friends, it makes you memorable.
4. Look at your competitors for inspiration
If you refer to what your competitors do, you will end up with a similar video. And once again you won’t be able to stand out. For example, it seems that every SaaS company has the same animated look for their videos.
Besides, such references can limit creativity. So where can you find inspiration to be original and creative?
Look at other industries for inspiration.
When Steve Jobs searched for ideas to provide the most superior customer experience, he didn’t turn to other tech companies. In fact, he studied 5-star hotels to get inspiration for Apple stores.
Another example is Pierre Hermé, a famous French pastry chef. He looked at jewellery stores to design his "haute-pâtisserie" bakeries. It was intriguing, unique, and helped build a strong brand identity.
Inspiration is everywhere. Gianfranco Ferré was inspired by a Greek column, to design the famous Palladium dress for a 1992 Dior collection.
Think outside of the box to build a unique brand. How can you do the same with the creative direction of your video? Where else can you get creative insights?
Finally, let’s talk about the distribution of your video(s), which is the crux of your video strategy.
5. No distribution plan before video production
Would you try eating soup with a fork? No. It’s the same when it comes to video. Making a video without a distribution plan is pointless.
It's a lot of effort that will get you nowhere. It’s a waste of time, money and energy.
Before calling action on set, it’s wise to figure out how many videos you want to make, for which platforms, how long and the possible cut-downs. Cut-downs shouldn’t be an afterthought.
You should know before production what your cut-downs are.
How are you going to shoot them: angle, number of shots, narrative... During the shoot, the team can dedicate time to capturing these specific shots.
Six-second cutdowns are videos in their own right. They are impactful because they were thought out beforehand.
Successful 6-second commercials convey their message with strong narrative and visuals. That’s the result you get when it is planned.
We can’t make something in post-production that we didn’t shoot. Just because a video is short in length doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve the same attention as longer video formats.
The 6 or 15-second unskippable Youtube videos are powerful tools to get people to engage and buy into your brand.
To recap: before production, decide how many videos, platforms and cut-downs you need.
Also in your distribution plan be specific about which message each video should convey. Sometimes founders and marketers are too vague when creating a brief.
A clear brief tells the creative filmmakers who your brand is, what the video is for and where you want to use it. A clear brief will bring you better proposals that suit your brand and business goals.