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Writing the Perfect Explainer Video Script in 2018

The key to the perfect explainer video script is basically the key to any perfect script: make it attention grabbing and concise. This can be a hard balance to strike, especially if you have big ideas. And we understand that you want to make your Shawshank Redemption, but what do you do if you only have a minute to contain it?

Never fear, for brevity is the soul of wit, as Shakespeare would say. If you plan meticulously enough the final project will always look good, and here at Wyzowl we know a thing or two about writing quality content. We’re willing to share some of these secrets with you, and if you pay attention, you’ll be cracking out miniature masterpieces in no time. So here are some tips on how to write the perfect explainer video script:

Plan it out

In order to distill your explainer video down to its bare essentials, you have to know what it is that you’re distilling. This means researching your topic area as meticulously as possible, knowing who your audience are, understanding client needs (if it’s a client you’re working for) and asking yourself whether your script is appropriate for an explainer video.

An explainer video should make a maximum of four key points, and be coherent enough to get the headlines across. You do not have to be detailed at this stage. The trick, of course, is making sure you get your key points whilst at the same time remembering to tell a “story”. Keeping the traditional structure of a story in mind helps with this:

  1. Setup
  2. Problem
  3. Solution

You might even add a fourth category to this list. Let’s call it “Product Visibility” and say that this is where whatever the promoted brand is gets placed. Make sure to put in contact numbers, websites, emails and anything else you think might be relevant. And make sure it’s eye-catching! No one wants to read the final frame of your ad like a newspaper.

Keep your eye on the clock

If you’re writing for a client, you should always be conscious of time. Because time quite literally equals money when it comes to the explainer video market! There’s also the issue of viewer and facing up to the reality that people’s attention spans really suck after a certain amount of time. So what should you be aware of, and how do you make sure you don’t go over your allotted time?

Well, according to our 2018 research, the average cost for a 60 second explainer video is £5,700. That means that for every second you go over on your client’s video, you’re costing them an extra £95. That’s a lot of money by anyone’s estimate, and that’s not even as expensive as it gets. Some 60 second explainer videos are as costly as £50,000! And imagine your client’s consternation at having to pay £900 per second of extra video because you couldn’t trim your script.

You should also be aware that after one minute of video content, a person’s attention has already peaked. After a minute, concentration falls away sharply and your message will get lost amid a drone of yawns, eyes darting toward phone screens, idle chatter and smells coming from the kitchen. Just look at this nifty graph below:

engagement vs video length

Finally, assuming that you won’t be animating/ filming the script yourself (or perhaps you will, who am I to judge?) you should keep in mind the monumental task illustrators, animators, producers, actors, sound engineers, cinematographers, editors, and directors have translating your vision into reality. A good rule of thumb is that for every 60 seconds of video you have roughly 130 words of dialogue to play with. That isn’t much, but as a good writer your ideas should be malleable enough that you can make these limitations work.

Make it eye catching

Whether you’re writing for a corporate client or whether you’re writing for an ambitious, youthful start-up, your video should always be eye-catching, one way or another. What form “eye-catching” takes will ultimately be between you and the client, but your script should never ever be boring.

Some questions you should ask yourself: Who is the audience for my video? Who is the client for my video? Does the client have any specifications for my video? If so, can you work them around your story? How would you describe what your client does in less than 150 words? Is my script filmable?

This might sound as though there are too many constraints on the explainer video process to make something sufficiently eye-catching. Wrong! Just check out this Wyzowl video for Supportful explaining the otherwise complex topic of “Crowdfunding”. Tell me you aren’t engaged:

Informative, right? But also entertaining. Notice that by scripting for animation, the video engages its audience by making its message colourful and fun. Notice that by replacing people characters with elephants, the otherwise serious message of the video is imbued with a sort of kind heartedness. And notice, finally, that the narrative follows the traditional simple structure of your classic story: 1) Setup 2) Problem 3) Solution. Easy, isn’t it?

Our script document

Enough theory and best practice; let’s take a peek behind the curtain!

We’ve created over 2,000 explainer videos using the simple, yet punchy, document below. As you can see, it’s split into two halves – voiceover, and action on screen. We write these two parts of the script in tandem, using the word count of the voiceover to estimate the length of the video, and ensuring that there’s enough (but not too much) happening in our basic, written description of the action on screen.

Wyzowl script document

We use Google Docs so that everyone who wants to collaborate on the project – our own team, and the clients themselves – can do so.

It’s a simple document, but a winning one!

Some final thoughts

Writing the perfect explainer video script is ultimately about distilling important information from a client/ customer down, and turning it into a story which engages the empathy of an audience. It really is that simple! You want to associate whatever the product or service is in your video with what’s known in the biz as a “value proposition” (or, to the uninitiated, the moral of the story).

The value proposition should never be explicit, as your audience will feel like they’re being beaten over the head with sentimentality and may react accordingly. Rather, embed your moral within the story itself. This is what makes for a good story, and what’s more, it’ll make it easier for whomever has to go on and film/ illustrate/ animate your amazing script.

You should also keep in mind that everything which goes into your script should be as explicit as possible for the people who have to make it a reality. Want your characters to be elephants? Say so in the script. Want the backdrop, colour of the set or perhaps an object in a certain scene to have symbolic significance? You need to specify that it’s there in the first place.

And finally, be kind to the illustrators/ animators/ filmmakers turning your script into video. There’ll be things they’re comfortable doing and things they’re uncomfortable doing, and understanding that the video making process is a collaboration of like-minded, creative individuals will go a long way toward creating really engaging content. Now go write!

James Conor-Patterson

James Conor-Patterson

James is a copywriter and content creator who specialises in blogging. He writes on everything from online marketing to photography, but dabbles in fiction, non-fiction and poetry in his free time. His work has been featured or is forthcoming in The Irish Times, New Statesman, The Guardian and The Stinging Fly. In 2017 he received an ACES Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

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