How to Create a Video Production Brief



Video is growing faster than any other component of the marketing mix and yet businesses continue to struggle to develop marketing videos that have a measurable impact on sales.

This post explains why preparing a video production brief is necessary and provides guidelines as to what should be included in your next video production brief.

Whether you are creating video in-house or hiring a production company to develop your next video you need to be able to communicate the context and goals of your video project.

 

Why is a video production brief important. 

A project brief is standard tool used in marketing. If you are developing creative for an ad you would provide your agency with a creative brief. If you were developing a new product design you would provide your design house with a project brief. If you were developing a new website you would provide your developer with a design brief. A search marketing brief is now becoming standard practice on SEO engagements. So why not video?

Corporate video has quickly evolved from television commercials and corporate overview videos. Today, video can and does touch ever aspect of marketing from mass media to tactical, hyper-targeted marketing programs. Like social media, the adoption of online video has evolved much faster as a consumer tool than as a corporate tool. With new advances in technology the means of production have dropped to such an extent that now any business can, and does produce video – a lot of it experimental and most of it quite ineffective. Blaming your lack of success on YouTube or on ‘all the hype around video’ however, misses the point.

We’re in what the Gartner Group refers to as the ‘Trough of Disillusionment.’ “We’re tired of the hype around video, quite frankly we haven’t seen the results and we don’t think video is really going to help us.” That statement is probably true for many companies today. Video for the sake of doing video is a waste of money. Video without a plan is a waste of money. Creating videos because your competition is doing so, or because ‘your website is getting boring’ is also a bad idea. Like those companies a few years back that chose to develop a ‘web presence’ and built digital brochures, most companies today fail to tie strategic targets, and more important, accountability into the video production process.

Gartner-Hype-Cycle

Video isn’t going away – quite the contrary. Video is unsurpassed as a tool of both engagement and persuasion. As the chart above illustrates we’re at the point now where (hopefully) we are moving beyond hype and statistics (who cares how much video is uploaded or consumed every hour), through the trough of disillusionment (” I can’t understand why the 20 minute video that my intern shot of me talking isn’t getting any traction”) and into a period that ties business results with video production. How do you achieve this synergy? Focus. Focus on objectives, focus on your audience and their business problems and most importantly, focus on (measuring) results.

The process of creating a video production brief causes you to answer tough questions about your business (“do we really want to say that…”) and it serves as a document to help you engage and shortlist prospective video production companies.

 

Guidelines for your Video Production Brief. 

The following should be included in the brief you hand off to the team responsible for creating your next video project. If you can’t provide all of the following categories of information to your production team (with some detail) then you may not be ready to start your project:

 

Company background

How are you situated in your market? How is your company perceived by your customers? (Ask a couple of them… you may be surprised by what you hear.) What are your key brand attributes? Why are you different? Where do you want to be in one year? These questions are all important context that helps your production company understand why video might be helpful in promoting your company. This should be the easiest part of the process. Often it’s not.

Focus of Video

Do you want to promote a product, a service, your customer support, your entire company, or something else. (You can’t promote them all at once.) You need to be able to provide sufficient detail about exactly what it is you are promoting. What problems do you solve for your customer? Is your solution unique? How do you differentiate yourself in the marketplace – price, technology, service, selection, experience, etc? You’re not looking at business outcomes here – you are determining the specifics of the subject matter in the video. No one but you knows the answers to these questions. Making your video production team guess at (or worse, make up) your key areas of focus is never a good idea.

Competition

Who is your competition? Do they use video to market themselves? Is it effective? How and why should your video be different (or similar) to their video.

Target audience

Exactly who is it you are trying to reach and why. What are their unique attributes. Have you built persona’s for your key audience. (I.e Sally is a 28 year old product marketing manager for a high tech firm who is married with no children…. etc.). This is one of the most difficult questions for businesses to answer- not because they don’t know who their audience is but because they are concerned about having too narrow a focus. Fortunately the cost of video production is considerably lower than it was just five years ago so it’s possible to build more tactical video solutions for each audience.

Where is your audience? (This question is new…and very important.) How do you best reach your prospects and customers in a multi-channel universe. Will your customer be accessing your video on a desktop PC, mobile device, in-store, via broadcast network or some other means? Each channel has unique demands and the video created should be tailored to that channel.

Business Goals

What are the specific business goals that you want the video to drive? Views, downloads, traffic, referrals, awareness, clicks, inquiries, shares, links, ‘likes’, calls, sales, etc? You have to be able to identify specific goals otherwise you will never know if your investment was worthwhile. Knowing this will help your video production company to determine the best approach to creating your video.

Preferences

A great place to start is to show a prospective video production company a reference video and say “I think this video works really well, here’s why…” The video you show may not be the best approach but it may be the best way to communicate your preferences, biases and opinions to your prospective production house. Video has a lot of moving parts and there are many ways to highlight your understanding of your audience’s business problem. Having a reference video that you have seen and like as a starting point can be a great way to move forward.

Timelines and budget

When will the project start and when is the completed video required? Have you allocated a budget for the project? If you have it’s a good idea to communicate the budget and ask the video production companies exactly what they can deliver for that budget. The alternative is hiding the budget and asking everyone to guess at your budget. This forces the video production company to make assumptions about the number of shooting days, locations, actors, number of cameras, type of equipment, amount of motion graphics and all of the other variables that go into the creation of a video. The only way to get a useful comparison is to ask production companies to provide detailed treatments and estimates based on these assumptions.

It would also be helpful to share your decision criteria and selection process with prospective production houses.

Conclusion

Creating the above brief may seem like a daunting task. For busy marketers a quick email or phone call may seem like the more expedient approach but the time taken to fully define the requirements and context of the job will almost certainly lead to better business results.

 

{ Note: Distribution and promotion of your video is a separate (but important) activity and beyond the scope of this post.}

 

Note: This post is also found in the Top Ten Posts for this blog.

 

8 thoughts on “How to Create a Video Production Brief

  1. Great article! I can’t say the last time I read so much valuable information all in one place. You’ve done a great job on this.

  2. Great read. But I would like to point out that there are too many incidents where companies would just take production companies’ detailed treatment (sometimes even concepts) and use it for themselves to ask for cheaper quotes and bids from other production houses.
    Production companies most likely would not survive if they charge for concept and treatment fees for every invitation for proposal + quote that they receive, no matter how good or bad they are.

    If you are the marketing / corp comms executive, who are tasked to engage a video production company for a corporate video, one easy way to outshine yourself would be to present the best idea (from one company) that your boss would like, and engage the lowest quote from another video production company. This matter is inevitable, especially for medium to small companies or sometimes even MNCs, who doesn’t want to spend a bomb on creative agencies’ services.
    I see this as a two-way vicious cycle, and I’m guessing that in the very near future, small independent production companies will disappear, and be bought over by corporate companies to be in house video specialists (which already has been happening).

    Because ultimately, it’s the people/talent who matters.

    • Kai, charging for ideas has always been a challenge in creative services. Most businesses think ‘creative’ is something that you throw in for free. That will always be a problem. Ideas are what matter – but they are ephemeral and hard to quantify.

      With respect to your comment, the video production brief is intended to help the business think through their needs before approaching a video production company. The more they think through what they are trying to achieve the better the results will be.

      To your point – should production companies offer ideas for free based on a brief? No, I don’t believe they should and that’s not the purpose of the brief. The purpose of the brief is to give the video production company something to respond to.

      Companies might respond with a budget, a budget and a basic idea for a treatment, a budget and a creative treatment or something else. You can’t control what people are willing to give away.

      If you’re good at what you do, you should have the confidence to say ‘ look at our work – if you’d like something like that then pay us what it’s worth, but we’re not giving away the most important part of the video process for free’.

      There will always be circumstances where companies do a lot of upfront work to land a job – but the reward should be huge compared to the effort / cost of doing that upfront work. (I.e. an ad agency pitching to be AOR or a defence contractor bidding on a new jet)

      And with regard to businesses taking work in-house – yep, that is definitely happening.

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