I never considered myself a script writer. Never ever. A blogger, content strategy consultant, entrepreneur, marketing leader, and business educator – yes, but video script creator? Little did I know that this would become one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and one of my biggest passions.
It all started with one chance connection. Andrew, the founder at Demo Duck, came across some business guides that I had written and asked if I had ever dabbled with explainer-script writing.
The rest was history. There was a learning curve. There were eye-opening moments. There were frustrating moments. There were patterns that emerged.
That’s why I wrote this blog post for a previous version of myself – to empower fellow-marketing leaders with the script-writing lessons I wish I knew, before I did it myself. My hope is that the following tips will serve as a template for companies looking to produce their first explainer videos – to accelerate through the learning curve faster. Here goes:
Lesson #1: Start with your audience, always
It’s harder than it seems to explain your business’s value proposition in under 60 seconds. Why? You have to condense everything that your company does in to a few hundred words of text. And then, you need to trim it down again.
The process of writing explainer video scripts is one driven by tradeoffs. By choosing to mention something, you’re likely omitting something else. This balancing act was one of the biggest challenges that I struggled with at first. In fact, this process was so challenging for me that I often didn’t know where to begin. You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to write that first sentence.
What I did, to overcome this challenge, was to put myself into the shoes of my audience – as I do with all of my writing. I imagined their frame of reference and perspectives – what questions they are likely to have and what would inspire them to buy. I thought about the words that were most likely to ‘stick’ with what they cared about most.
What inspired me was this explainer video from Crazy Egg – I knew that Demo Duck achieved tremendous success with it, so I studied it for the ‘perfect’ opener: something that instantly connected with Crazy Egg’s target audience of marketers, conversion optimization experts and designers.
Here’s what the video taught me:
- The ‘art’ of getting started is to just start
- It’s important to lead with an understanding of your audience’s pain points — to make that instant connection
- The rest of the video should explain why your company appeals to that core need.
Once I had this solid frame of reference, ‘first sentences’ became easier and easier to write. Now, I spend more time researching than I do scriptwriting — to strike the right balance between empathy and logic.
Lesson #2: Make it more conversational
I spent years trying to ‘undo’ my decades of writing education. The challenge I was facing? My writing was way too formal — especially for an online audience. Knowing this pain point about my ‘style,’ I started reading the scripts I was writing out loud.
Holy cakepops, did they sound awkward.
When you’re writing for a website explainer video, your language needs to be conversational — even if you’re writing about an extremely complex, technical topic. As you can imagine, this balance is challenging to strike.
To practice, I watched as many videos as I could. One example that helped me significantly was this video that Demo Duck created for UrbanSitter:
In addition to studying the language of this video, I took the following steps:
- I read everything that I was writing out loud, while I was writing it.
- I thought about how everything I was writing would correspond to hypothetical visual themes (read: I used my imagination).
- I took every long sentence that I wrote and made them super, super short — picking transition words to make the flow more natural.
When writing scripts for explainer videos, I always imagine that I’m giving a presentation or that I’m teaching a class. I explain things as I would ‘in the moment’ or naturally. It’s this process that has helped me dramatically improve my writing.
Lesson #3: Invite more brains to the process
At this point, I’ve written hundreds of whitepapers and thousands of blog posts. By now, I’m used to client requests revisions — it’s a part of the writing process.
But something stung when I got my first revision request for an explainer video script. I felt like I had ‘hit the nail on the head’ and pretty bummed that the client didn’t agree. But then I took a step back and realized — an explainer video is, essentially, a work of art. People perceive concepts differently, and it’s so important to round up a range of perspectives because each one will add value to the end result.
Feedback is a good thing. Revisions are better — it’s definitely important to keep the process streamlined, but after one or two feedback rounds, a script can become exponentially better.
Explainer videos are educational tools, and everyone learns differently. The goal is to appeal to a broad but clearly defined audience — so it’s important to collect perspectives from inside and outside of your organization accordingly.
I want to write explainer video scripts forever — and am committed to learning as much as I can about the topic. If you’re a marketer, video producer, or writer, I’d love to hear your perspectives and most valuable words of wisdom on the topic. What have you learned from your experiences?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.