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

 

If you’re outsourcing a video project, you need 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.

Whether you’re 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.

What is a video production brief? 

The video production brief is a document created to get internal buy-in and agreement on what is required before approaching external suppliers.

A video production brief is provided to production companies that are bidding on a new video project for that brand. It can also be used as a project outline for new projects with ongoing video production suppliers. In the latter case, it would typically be provided prior to a kick-off meeting or supplied to production companies servicing a remote client.

Why is a video production brief important? 

If you don’t know exactly what you want your video to achieve then you shouldn’t expect your video production company to know either.

A project brief is standard tool used in all forms of marketing. If you are developing creative for an ad you would normally 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. And on it goes…

Corporate video has quickly evolved from television commercials and corporate overview videos. Today, video can and does touch every 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 cost of production has dropped so quickly that any business can produce promotional video – a lot of it experimental and most of it rather ineffective.

Blaming your lack of success on YouTube or on ‘all the hype around video’ however, misses the point.

We’re now working our way through 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 likely true for most 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 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 goals, 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 we are (hopefully) 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.

{Personal interjection… I have created hundreds of business videos – for small businesses and fortune five hundred companies. I have never shot a video where basic, fundamental, business positioning and messaging issues were not debated all the way through the shoot. I suppose all businesses are living entities, always figuring out who they are and who they serve throughout their existence.)

Guidelines for your Video Production Brief. 

The following should be included in the video production brief that 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:

1. Company background

How are you situated in your market? How is your company perceived by your customers? (talk to a couple customers… 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? How do you want the market to perceive you?  These questions provide important context that helps your production company understand why video might be helpful in promoting your business. This should be the easiest part of the process. Often it’s the most challenging.

2. Focus of your video project

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 or your product (if your company is not ‘the product’) in the marketplace – price, technology, service, selection, experience, convenience, novelty, utility, safety, reliability, 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 a bad idea.

3. Key Messages

It’s a good idea to communicate some of the key messages at this stage of pre-production because it will give everyone an idea of what it is you are trying to achieve. A final set of messages will be created in collaboration with the video production team or marketing team but you should be able to communicate top level ideas at this early stages.

4. Required Content

You may have some ideas as to what you think should be included in the video: a product walk through, testing or client feedback footage, research or reference materials, b-roll footage from other shoots, news clips, etc. Whatever existing content you have access to may be relevant or it may not, but it’s good to make everyone involved aware of the content you have access to and the content you think is valuable and relevant for the video.

5. 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? What specifically do you like or dislike about other videos you’ve seen? This is all good contextual information to share. As well it also helps manage expectations for both parties as to the style and scope of the video that you are considering. {I just got off my third preliminary video conference with a remote client to discover that they: 1. Have a very small budget and want me to stick to that budget; 2. Want to create the storyboard themselves and; 3. Have shown me a very high-end video production from a competitor that they would like to emulate. What would you give the chance for success on this project?… I went with ‘zero’ and passed on this project.}

6. Target audience

Exactly who is it you are trying to reach and why? What are their unique attributes? Have you built personas 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 exactly 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 now possible to build more tactical video solutions for each unique 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. (I.e. Will the viewer of your video be able to clearly be able to hear the audio in your video?)

7. Business Goals

What are the specific business goals (desired outcomes) 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. (Answering – ‘well, of course we want everything we do to ultimately drive sales’ doesn’t help anyone.)

8. Preferences (biases) 

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.

Having said that, it’s important to listen to new ideas as well. That’s why you engage a video production company. Communicating your likes, biases, influences and preferences is the best way to move forward cooperatively.

9. 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.

If you’re going to ask for creative treatments to be submitted upfront then you should pay for these. No business should ever be asked to work for free (lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc never work for free.)  The bad karma just isn’t worth it.

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

10. Distribution Plan

Do you have a plan in place to get people to watch your video once it’s created. If so, you should share this. If not, you should find a way to maximize your investment.

11. Emotional Impact

{I should have put this one first.} How do you want the viewer to feel at the end of watching your video? A video with a strong emotional impact will have the greatest chance for success.

 

Conclusion

So why isn’t a creative brief standard practice? Everyone is busy and it takes time to do. It’s easier just to call a video company and talk right? Get them to ask you questions and you’ll answer them.  A video production brief requires careful thought and input from key stakeholders in your company. And sometimes companies are looking for new ideas or answers to questions that they can’t answer themselves.  All that said, the time taken to fully define the requirements and context of your video project will always lead to better business results.

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