You need your marketing videos to sell. That means you need a persuasive video script.
All videos start in the script because it sets the foundation for the entire video production process.The script will also determine whether your video will sell or not. This stage is where you nail down your messaging. If your message is unclear, your video won’t land those conversions.
So, how do you go from a blank page to a persuasive video script? How do you write a video script at all?
This post breaks down the features and content of a persuasive, production-ready script in about 3400 comprehensive words.
Let’s get started.
How To Write a Video Script: Features
A lot of people think writing a video script means writing the words you say. But, writing a script with only dialogue is like putting one shoe on. You’re not ready to go out. You need one more shoe.
In a video script, the other shoe is the visuals. My mentor — pro scriptwriter, copywriter and video marketing consultant–Chuck Gibson put it best when he said,
He’s taught me a lot about scriptwriting secrets. The first being…
A video script must have both audio and visual elements.
Chuck tells me, “In non-visual writing, words have to do all the work. But when you have visuals, you should put as much weight as possible on them. Imagine herding sheep from a fenced area. You don’t use the fence to move the sheep, but it helps you move them efficiently.”
Audio Elements of a Script
Dialogue: This is everything that’s spoken. The dialogue can come from a character or an actor on screen. It can also come from narrated voice over. If you’re making a silent video, the onscreen text is your dialogue.
Music: Intro, background or closing music falls into this category. You don’t need to pick the track, but a description like “Upbeat” or “jazzy” will do. The music helps set the tone of your video and invoke emotions.
Sound Effects: Ever see “SFX”? That means it’s a sound effect. Sound effects add to your message like music. They can create a more realistic experience or help evoke a reaction.
No matter what style video you script, you need these features in your visual column:
Scene headings: This signals the start of a new scene. Think movie scenes here. Scene one someone is inside of a room…stuff happens. Now, they are at home. That’s a new scene.
Scene descriptions: These are a written description of your scenes. Imagine you’re describing what you see in real time. Write that.
If you’re familiar with film or TV series scripts, you’ve see these headings as:
INT/EXT. [LOCATION] – [DAY/NIGHT]
- INT. means interior. Let’s say I want to show someone inside of a restaurant during the day. My heading will be: INT. Restaurant-DAY
- EXT. means exterior. Maybe I’m making a car commercial and I want to look in on someone driving. My heading can be: EXT. CAR-DAY
Character descriptions: This is a detailed summary of what your character looks likes, their personality, or a snapshot into who they are.
A script is jam-packed with information. But, how much detail do you need to include in a script?
The “Right” Amount of Detail
“Film is a collaborative effort.”CHUCK GIBSON
As the scriptwriter, you “see” the screen as you write the script. Once you hand off your script though, your vision is subject to interpretation.
If you’re making a live action video, an entire production team is going to work on your video. There could be actors. The footage will be edited by someone. Animated videos involve animators. Voice over artists get involved too.
Basically, a lot of people can work on your video. Because of that, your script needs enough detail for everyone to understand the goal, message, tone and look of a video. But, not so much detail that you throttle their creativity.
I asked Chuck what were some script writing don’ts. “Specific instructions on camera angles, lighting, music and delivery of lines or gestures are considered amateur scriptwriting.” was his answer.
A script is a guide for everyone to work with. It is not law. Avoid telling people how to do their job because no one likes to be micromanaged. Include enough detail to make your concept clear and format the script correctly. Without the right format, your script is bound to confuse people.
Even if you’re writing, producing and editing your own video. Your script is still a guide that will guide you through production and post-production.
So, how do you know if the format is right?
The Right Way to Format your Video Script
Formatting is serious business in the film industry. You can kiss your chances of making it to the screen goodbye if the formatting is wrong.
But, you’re making a marketing video, so you can use whatever format you want.That being said, the AV script format will make your life easier (at least the scriptwriting part).
The AV Script For Commerical Videos
An AV script–also called a two-column script–looks like a table with two columns. One for visuals and one for audio. If you use scriptwriting software like Celtx, there is a third column, but it’s still an AV script format.
Formatting The Visual Column
Start your script with a scene heading and a scene description of your opening scene. Your first box in the visual column might look like this.
- Scene heading to open this new scene.
- Scene description so we know what’s going on
- Character description so we have an idea of what the character looks like. You only need this description when you introduce the character for the first time.
Remember–you only need a new scene heading when you introduce a new scene. For example, let’s say your opening scene is in a restaurant. Your actor or character will do normal restaurant stuff for 3 boxes. But, then they should be in an office afterward. This is when you need a new scene heading.
Skipping the Scene Headings is Like Driving Without GPS
Both are likely to be the adventure you never wanted. Scene headings make it easy for a director to plan production because they know how many different scenes should be in the video. With no scene headings (or headings that aren’t formatted correctly), the director needs to spend more time looking through your script or coming back to you for clarity.
And wasted time in production means higher costs.
After The Scene Heading Comes The Scene Description
Not every box in your visual column will have a scene heading, but they will (or should) have a scene description.
Otherwise, how will anyone know what’s going on visually? They wouldn’t. So, detail what someone would see if they were watching your video at that exact moment in time….
with the right verb tense.
The Verb Tenses of a Scene Description
The verb tense you use matters. Scene descriptions use the present simpel tense (I live here). Why do you need this specific tense? Because scene descriptions are written to give the reader an account of what’s going on. In real time. Almost like the reader is watching the scene.
Your script should have a new scene description every time there is a visual change. Keep doing this until you’ve finished your script.
Formatting The Audio Column
The audio column contains all of the dialogue, music and sound effects. Everything we hear. And just like the visual column, the formatting matters so people (or you) can follow the script in production and in editing.
What Labels To Use
Narrator VO: If you have a voice over, use this as a heading over all voice over dialogue.
[Character name]: If you have a character or actor speaking, use their name as a heading.
For example, if my character’s name is Marlon, I would write:
No one recognizes your brand.
Music: for a description of the music type.
SFX: Write this for any sound effects you need to include.
Scriptwriting Software Is Your Friend
Formatting a script correctly takes up a decent chunk of time. You can either practice until formatting becomes second nature…
Or use a scriptwriting tool. It will do the heavy lifting for you. To date, I’ve used Highland 2 and Celtx. For AV scripts, I recommend Celtx. Celtx is the only software I’ve found that offers the AV format within their program. Other programs format screenplays only. If they have an AV script template, it’s a word document you download.
Celtx uses a multi-column approach so you have video in column 1, audio in column 2 and images in column 3. I only use the image column if I reference a very specific image, like a logo or picture of someone.
Write The Audio and Visuals Together
Ideally, you write both the audio and visuals at the same time because they are one scene. It’s a video, you can’t have one without the other.
When I first started writing scripts, I wrote only the dialogue. Later, I went back and added the visual description. And that’s why my videos were amateur.
Chuck taught me that my approach to script writing was wrong. It will get the job done, but the video won’t be anything special. So after learning that harsh truth, I changed my habits. But, it was hard to write both audio and visual at the same time.
“How would I know what I see if I don’t know what I hear?”
I had to shift my whole approach. I needed to come at scriptwriting from an entire visual experience rather than it’s features separately.
A video starts with “big idea”.Chuck Gibson
I admit–I’m still tempted to write a few lines of dialogue and then fill in the visuals. This is not good practice though and probably why my Chuck rated one of my scripts a 2/10. He knows.
Now that we’ve talked about the mechanics of scriptwriting, it’s time for the juicy stuff. How to write a persuasive script that will convert.
How To Write a Video Script: The Content
Before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), spend some time planning.
Going into scriptwriting and video production with half a plan (or no plan) is a recipe for wasted time and money. Worse, you’ll have a video with an unclear message. And that will definitely NOT convert.
So, before you do anything, answer the basics.
Who is your target audience?
Imagine your ideal viewer and describe them. It’s hard to talk to your audience when you don’t know who they are. Give them a name if you have to.
What problem does your target audience have?
The customer journey starts with a problem.
Donald Miller (creator of Storybrand) said in this interview that nobody starts listening to you until you talk about a problem. And he’s right.
People don’t care about your business until you can solve a problem for them. Then, all eyes are on you. This sounds harsh, but it makes sense if you think about your own shopping habits. When you go into a store, you’re surrounded by hundreds (if not thousands) of products. But, you don’t buy anything you don’t need or at least want. No matter how cool they look.
What is your product or service?
This is pretty straightforward. Know what you offer. This will help you drill down what value you can highlight and in what context.
Why do people need or want this product or service?
Always tie your product or service back to your customers’ needs. They have a problem, your product or service solves it. How does it solve their problem?
Don’t list out a bunch of features unless you can tie it to a benefit. The features are probably great, but why do they matter to me? How is it valuable to me?
It is all about me as a customer. Let’s say I’m shopping for a notebook (my favorite) and I see two advertisements.
Advertisement 1: “200 pages in our notebooks”. A useful and logical feature. I can write a lot on 200 pages.
Advertisement 2: “Get through your entire semester of organic chem with one notebook.” That hit the spot.For anyone who has ever taken organic chem, you know you have to be organized and great at taking notes if you hope to pass.
And what a hassle it is to need 𝙩𝙬𝙤 notebooks for one class. Especially when you have a few chapters left. I hate this.
So, 200 pages is a nice feature. Knowing I only need one notebook for my entire semester–I’ll take that option please.
Now, I’m hooked and primed to buy.
Which objections or questions could the audience have about using your product or service?
It’s normal for customers to have concerns about buying a product or service. Knowing what those are upfront can help you write a persuasive script. If you address customers’ concerns before they raise them, they will be less resistant to buying.
Price, ease of use, how useful something will be, and how soon someone will see results are common concerns.
Where will people see your video?
This is key. Where is your video going? Your homepage, social media, a blog post? Your script needs to take this into consideration for purpose, length and the call to action.
I asked Chuck for his take on this since he is a seasoned video marketing consultant. He said that every social media platform has its own personality. What works on Twitter won’t work on Facebook. There are different expectations for videos on each platform.
But, making a different video for each platform separately is a time-consuming and costly endeavor.
Chuck continued on the subject with, “When you’re wearing a marketing hat and you happen to be doing videos, you’re going to recommend solutions that will benefit the person you’re doing the videos for so that they can get the most marketing mileage out of what you’re doing.That’s not exactly a purest form of video making, but it is the right way to do it when your marketer.”
Getting the most use out of a single video comes down to understanding your target audience on each platform and their level of awareness.
Writing for Different Levels of Awareness
Your target audience might be the same on various platforms, but they might be at different stages of awareness. This will affect how you write your video script.
Customers are either some level of unaware, problem-aware, solution-aware, product-aware or aware. Ask for low-risk investments from customers closer to the unaware level.
This video gives a solid overview of the levels.
Although,the pain points for someone at the problem-aware and solution-aware levels will be the same, the focus of your video may be different.
Chuck compared this to fishing. “You need to use a certain kind of bait for the specific fish otherwise you’re going to get a deluded response, and that’s what the big idea of video is all about. If you do try to use the same video on everybody, what you can do often is find clever ways to have the same basic video with parts of it retrofitted in an editing session. This will give you different versions so that your headline–or even your music track– in your intro can be different so you can customize it.”
What style video are you making?
The style you use determines the visuals you can reference in your script. This also gives you an idea of what visuals are reasonable. Writing a rocket into your animated video script is easier than in live action footage.
What’s your budget and timeline?
Budget is a huge consideration in video production. And you have to think of the budget when you write a video script.
Going back to my rocket example. If I’m writing a live-action video script, I won’t call for a rocket. Finding and filming a rocket are not practical on a low budget. And if I’m writing a video script for an animated video, I know more complex scenes require complex animations. That won’t be cheap.
Your timeline is a factor to think about for the same reason. The longer and more complex a script is, the longer production will take.
What action do you want customers to take after watching your video?
You’re scripting a problem-solution video. Your customers have a problem and you have the solution. Now, what action do you want them to take so they can access your solution?
Always end a video with a call to action. Make it reasonable for your distribution platform and for your customers’ level of awareness.
Low Risk Call to Actions for Video Scripts
- Schedule a call
- Contact you
- Free trial
- Downloading a free guide
- Visit a website
Once a customer is more familiar with you and your business, you can ask for higher-risk actions.
Putting it All Together
Now, take that information and format it into a problem-solution-benefit formula.
- Open with a problem, and make sure people feel that problem.
- Introduce you and your solution
- Explain how your product/service will make our lives better.
- End with a CTA and you’ve got yourself a video that sells.
But, it’s not the format that makes a video persuasive. If you want your video to convert (like crazy), you need a story.
Storytelling in Video Scripts
Stories sell! That’s why marketers and copywriters keep talking about the importance of storytelling.
People like stories because they help us contextualise our world and relate to experiences. In another Donald Miller interview, he said something interesting.
He quoted a study that said our minds wander off task at least 30% of our waking time. (read more about that study here). Essentially, we’re daydreaming or thinking about anything other than the task at hand.
But, he follows this up by saying we can and do focus on books, TV shows or movies. We focus on stories for hours at a time. Stories capture our attention and compel emotions. That’s exactly what you need to do in your video script.
Good marketing comes down to understanding your target audience and their story. You can do this by telling your customer’s story.
What is their story? It’s their journey.
Your Customer’s Journey
The most well-known story is the hero’s journey. Some ordinary person faces conflict. They have to solve some problem even though they’re not ready. This hero then meets a guide who helps them. Together, the hero overcomes their struggle. Victory is theirs and they are forever changed.
Your customer is a hero on a journey. They have a problem in their life or business. You are their guide. With your help, they overcome their obstacles and achieve victory. Then, their life is changed forever.
That is a story of success. Customers love these stories because they want to be successful. And they especially love their own story of success.
Seeing this story is persuasive because it appeals to someone’s emotions. Not logic. So, telling a customer’s story is the most important thing to do in your video script. You can mess up the format, but you can’t mess up the story.
Video scripts are more than “words on paper”. They include audio and visual elements and you need both for a compelling message.
- Use a two column (A/V script) format. One column is for all of your visuals and the other is for your audio.
- Use scene headers to establish new scenes. Write scene descriptions that narrate what we see.
- In your audio column, label the type of audio we hear (VO, character, music or sound effect).
- Do your planning before you write a video script. And don’t cut corners because if the messaging is off in your script, your video won’t be effective.
- Use storytelling principles to tell your customer’s story and write a reasonable call to action at the end. When you’re done, promote your video and watch your leads come in.