From my hard-learned experience, chances are high that a video project will get bogged down with reshoots, re-edits, and lots of finger-pointing when it’s not anchored with a plan. A great way for you and your video team (whether that is in-house or agency) to figure out what that plan should be, is to work through a creative brief.
A creative brief can come in different forms and include a variety of elements. They are important because they provide you and your stakeholders with a detailed explanation for the reasoning and background for using video to pursue your business goal. Acting as a business plan and blueprint, the creative brief ensures that core concepts remain on point as the project progresses toward completion.
I have been creating marketing videos for more than 10 years. Past customers have included real estate agents, enterprise companies, political campaigns, electric vehicle startups, financial advisors, dentists, attorneys, digital marketers, business coaches … and the list goes on.
Most businesses are adding video into their marketing mix. Almost 90 percent of digital marketers are already using video as part of their online marketing strategies, according to Vidyard’s 2018 Video in Business Benchmark Report. They are producing product videos, demo videos, explainer videos, webinars, how-to, and the list goes on.
What goes into writing a creative brief for a video project?
So you may be wondering: What goes into a creative brief?
Here are 13 questions you can answer that will guide you through how to write a perfect creative brief for your marketing videos. Don’t want to write them down? We’ve included a template for downloading that you can use or modify to make the creative brief that works best for you.
1. What’s your goal?
It all starts here. Many folks will suggest you start with a target audience, but I believe you can’t know the “who” until you answer this question about the “what.” Are you trying to sell more widgets? Do you want to increase brand awareness? Want to drive ticket sales? Launch a new product? What is your business objective? Be really clear about this, as it will drive other decisions.
2. Who is the buyer (the person who can fulfill your goal)?
Now you identify the target audience. If your goal is to drive more widget sales; who is the person (buyer persona) that’s going to buy those widgets? A B2B company selling into a manufacturing company may create videos that target the workers on the assembly line, as well as videos that target the CEO and executive staff. Know your audience and the genuine problem you can solve for them, or opportunity you can create for them.
3. What is the deadline?
The next three questions are all connected. I like to start with the deadline. When does the video need to go live? Knowing this will drive your budget and the quality you want to achieve (and the quality you are going to get given time constraints). Remember this old cliché: “Good, fast, cheap. Pick any two.”
4. What’s the budget?
Video production is expensive, whether you are hiring an outside agency or using internal resources. Outside agencies can cost a few thousand to several million dollars, and that’s not counting distribution (if you’ll use paid channels) or promotion. You’re going to pay for internal resources, too, through the time they put into the project for shooting and editing the video. Also, both agency or in-house teams may have miscellaneous costs that include renting video gear, travel, and any motion graphic templates, audio soundtracks, or stock images/video.
5. What are your expectations?
Save yourself pain, and make sure you and your boss are in sync about what to expect, creatively, and financially. Do you want a video made by the hottest video production shop in town? Then be prepared to pay for it. When we reached out to different agencies about creating two videos for an internal kickoff project, one agency suggested we needed a budget of $125,000 minimum and another suggested we needed a minimum of $25,000. We received quotes ranging from a couple of grand to six figures, and everything in between.
6. How will the video be deployed?
Will the video be embedded on your website, used in an email campaign, or shown at a tradeshow? Will the video be hosted by you, YouTube, or another third-party (we currently use Vidyard for our videos at Act-On). Answering these questions will tell you what formats you may need the final video to be rendered in (you may want a DVD for a tradeshow, for example).
Consider your goal and target audience as you answer this question, specifically as you consider where the video would be hosted. You will need to think about what would happen if the video went viral and you had a million views overnight. Does your website’s server or a third-party vendor support that much traffic? And if they do, does your current rate plan cover those costs or will you have to pay for each additional view over a certain threshold? I had a client who had a prepaid annual plan with a third-party hosting platform; one of the videos went viral-ish from a few views to a few thousand daily – and they started getting dinged for that success.
Do you already have videos that can be repurposed? This could include screencast videos from product demonstrations or background b-roll that was shot for a previous project. This could also include locations where you may be able to shoot the video such as a warehouse, office building, or the CEO’s beach house.
If you are thinking about doing the video in-house, do you have the appropriate gear? This includes the cameras, microphones, and lighting used in production, as well as the editing software and computer horsepower needed in postproduction. Also, do you have staff willing to fill in as extras for whatever you’re filming? And, if so, have you already had them sign a media release?
8. What’s the context and/or emotional goal for the project or event?
Understanding the emotional pitch for the video will help in selecting your soundtrack. Will it be a happy video, a fast-action video, or a dramatic video? Knowing this will help later in choosing the right music.
There can be any number of issues your team may need to consider or be sensitive to when creating your marketing video, it’s good to get some of those written down now to avoid painting yourself into a corner later on. Here’s where you think about tone, also. Keep your brand in mind, and be careful about creating videos with a look or tone that differs from your brand image.
9. Who on staff can you count on?
Do you have someone on staff who already knows how to use the editing software, or will you need to learn as you go? Do you have any employees who are “good” or “great” on camera? Or who could do voiceover? At Act-On, in addition to my videography background, we also have talented copywriters and graphic designers who can lend their skills to a video project.
10. Who are the decision-makers to consult throughout the project?
Who needs to be included in the decision-making process? This could include the leadership chain in marketing, as well as executives in the C-suite, HR, or Legal. Depending on your video, you may also want to consult subject matter experts from the product marketing team or the engineering team to make sure that what you are saying is true and makes sense. Back when I was a journalist, we also encouraged folks from throughout the newspaper to weigh in on a project to make sure we were being sensitive to all backgrounds, races, and cultures. That funny video you think will be viral may, in fact, be so for all the wrong reasons.
11. Are there any videos that you like or that you think would achieve a similar goal?
A great way to help inspire your future video projects is to see what others are doing, whether they are in the same industry or in one completely opposite from you. This is especially helpful when you – or your CMO – are expecting a certain look and feel and you need to convey that to your in-house or contracted agency. It is very difficult for people to describe in words what they want from a visual product (video or any other kind of image), so it will be helpful to point to videos (or create a look book) that communicate what you’re after visually. This is another place where you need to manage expectations well.
12. Who will manage the project from start to finish?
Finally, who is going to be the point person on this project? This is especially important when you are contracting the video to an outside agency. You will want one point of contact (and perhaps a backup) for the agency to reach out to when they need a piece of information; and conversely, you should limit the number of people who give specific direction to the agency.
13. Any other constraints?
Are you planning on interviewing a customer for a case study or testimonial video? You will need to check their calendars to schedule a shoot. (And a short rehearsal may be called for as well.) The same is true for folks on your team. Are there holidays on the horizon where people may be hard to reach, or when facilities may close? Those are just a few of the constraints that may affect your project.