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A lot of the scriptwriting advice I’ve found over the years has come from blogs. They all used to have the same basic advice for how to write a video script: use a problem-solution-format, keep the script simple and write like we talk. It’s good advice, but it didn’t help me with things like writing strong visuals or creating a great hook instead of an ok one. Formulaic is how I would describe the information.
But there are a few absolute gems, and these are resources I will still be using for quite some time.
Here is a curated list of the best script writing resources for marketing videos.
Read the (Summarized) Transcript
#1: The Harmon Brothers Course Bundle
I only made it through the Easy Ads that Sell and the 14-Day Script Challenge, but this was a great purchase.
According to the Squatty Potty website, their first video with the unicorn had 170 million social media views. On YouTube alone, Purple Mattress’s video with Goldilocks and the raw egg test has 189 million views. Their website says over 4 billion views, but I’m not sure if that’s all of their videos or just one.
And those views have translated into serious sales. These guys know how to sell.
Things I Like the Courses:
- The course format. It’s a mix of videos and worksheets. All the videos are shorter than 30 minutes. As for the worksheets, I am a huge fan of having a practical application. From my teaching days, I know that people don’t really learn things until they apply them, so I’m always happy to see application activities. The course takes a project-based approach meaning you’ll walk away with something usable.
- They use real examples. It’s much easier to understand things when you see them in practice. They also integrate footage from their brainstorming and research sessions which I find helpful. We can recognise a great ad when we see it. Figuring how to get there is the challenge, so seeing the process unfold was valuable to me.
- The Easy Ads that Sell course gives me a bunch of ad types I can make for my portfolio. I want to get better at editing in Premiere Pro, so I just practice making the ads from the course. I’ll master Premiere some day…some day.
Things I Wish Were Different:
- There is no concept checking throughout the video. The main points are repeated and highlighted, but it’s a one-sided conversation. For most people, this probably doesn’t matter; this is the format most online courses use. But, thanks to CELTA (that’s like the certificate program for teaching English I’ve heard people compare to my master’s degree) I firmly believe the learner should be involved throughout the entire lesson.
- It’s pricey. If these weren’t Harmon Brother’s courses, I wouldn’t have bought it. I actually bought the bundle in early 2021, so I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but it’s currently about $2100. Like I said, I wouldn’t have bought this if it didn’t come from Harmon Brothers. As cliche as it is to say, sometimes you gotta spend money to make money. Aka invest in the education you need to do things better.
#2: The Microscript Rules
I found out about this one late in the year, but better late than never. I was struggling to write a memorable end to a brand value video, so I turned to my mentor. He suggested I check out “The Microscript Rules” by Bill Schley. You can get the full book as a paperback on Amazon or a summarized version as an ebook. I’ve got the ebook version.
The Micro-script Rules breaks down why we all know phrases like “if the glove doesn’t fit you must acquit” or “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. Almost everyone can repeat these soundbite one-liners and we know what they’re associated with. “If the glove doesn’t fit…” OJ simpson immediately comes to mind. Apply that to branding, and you’ve got a powerful tool because the brand with the most repeatable microscript is going to be the one people think of when they’re buying.
In my opinion this is exactly what you need when you’re scripting a brand values video. All marketing videos need some kind of call to action (CTA), but it’s weird to say “learn more here, visit our website, or book a call now” at the end of a branding video. Frankly, they’re out of place. Those types of CTAs belong at the end of selling videos like an ad or an explainer video. But a branding video still needs a memorable ending that raises brand awareness. That’s where The Micro-scripts Rules comes in.
#3: StudioBinder’s Blog and YouTube Channel
StudioBinder is geared toward TV and film production, but they’re still a great resource for marketing video content. In fact, they have two blog posts, one about explainer videos and another about using the AV script, and these were some of the first I found that addressed writing visuals.
My biggest complaint with a lot of script writing content coming from marketers and writers is that they gloss over the visual aspect. Visuals in a marketing video don’t need to be fancy or complex. They need to be functional. But how do you know what’s functional–without being painfully obvious– for your message? Or when painfully obvious is the right approach? With practice, guidance, and exposure.
So, StudioBinder’s TV and film production foundation is a major strength because TV and film are visual storytelling media. Things as obvious as people and objects to less obvious things like camera angles, lighting and colors play a huge role in telling a story. I admit it’s easy to fall through a rabbit hole. I’ve spent hours watching videos on lighting–most of which was not useful to scripting marketing videos.
Aside from their explainer video and AV script content, I’ve found their content on Mise-en-Scene, camera angles, and script breakdowns to be the most relevant to marketing video scripts. Mise-en scene is basically how everything in a scene comes together. Even though mise-en scene and camera angles are production elements, knowing about them helps me brainstorm about how to best show my message as I write scene descriptions.
The script analysis has helped me see examples of what can and cannot be written for scene descriptions and ultimately how they come out on screen.
#4: Building a StoryBrand-Clarifying Your Message so Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
StoryBrand is another good resource because it focuses on crafting a clear message with a formula! Who doesn’t love a tried and true formula?
I particularly like it’s straight-forward, no nonsense approach. It’s got that friendly tone of “this is what you need” paired with a reality check of “no, you really don’t need that”. For copywriters, a lot of the content looks or should look familiar, but it never hurts to go back to the basics.
I find the storybrand formula great for the planning and editing stages. All good writing starts with a strong outline. Even though I know this, I admit, I don’t always write out an outline and I should. Handwriting an outline before I try writing the first draft is one of my 2022 goals.
Anyway, back to the formula. It’s great for that initial planning because you’ll stay focused. And it’s great for editing because you can refer back to your core message. Anything that doesn’t support that core message has to go. No mercy.
Alright, to summarize, my top 4 recommendations for scriptwriting resources are:
- The Harmon Brothers Course Bundle or at least the 14-day script challenge.
- The Microscript Rules
- Studio Binder
- Storybrand by Donald Miller