As video continues to grow as a marketing tool, often eclipsing text and images in terms of its power and effectiveness, there has been a rush to embrace it. But video isn’t like print or other marketing content. It’s its own animal, requiring dedicated focus by printers and their clients looking to capitalize on its power.

This struck me recently as one of my clients planned to launch a video series as part of a larger content marketing update. I was in the process of reworking a series of sell sheets, and it was requested that I speed up the process so the marketing team could read the sell sheets as video scripts to be shot the following week. Read sell sheets as video scripts? Was it really this simple? I had just had an experience that told me no.

Not too long before, I had the “brilliant” idea of turning educational blog posts into augmented reality holotwins (holographic images of real people who appear to be standing in the room with you as seen through your mobile phone). Not everyone learns the same way. Some people learn best through reading. Others through listening, or through visuals. My thought was to take the content of the blogs and present it via AR holotwins to make it easier for visual and auditory learners to absorb the material. In creating a prototype, however, I learned very quickly just how poorly even the most conversationally written blog post reads as a video script.

KISS: Keep It Shorter, Stupid

Once I listened to my own words read back to me from my cellphone screen, I found that the detail and nuance that make a great print article or blog translate terribly into video. Text that would be considered “conversational” in a blog post sounds clunky and awkward. Even relatively short sentences were too long, and while reading the text at a normal speaking pace sounded natural to me as the speaker, it was difficult for me, in the role of video watcher, to understand. As for the length? My own 700-word blog post lost me after the third or fourth paragraph. In a video, it was boooooring.

After watching, editing, retaking, then rewatching, editing, and retaking the video multiple times, I ended up shortening it to a 1:30 minute video with the following changes:

  • The 700-word blog post was cut down to 200 words, or about as much as would fit into the 1:30 minute space.
  • What I anticipated would be a holotwin version of the entire post turned into a teaser instead, giving enough highlight to grab interest and then sending viewers back to the website or the original blog post for more information.
  • Long sentences were cut into much shorter ones.
  • All passive verbs were turned into active ones.
  • Much of the detail was removed, including shortening company names and tightening examples, to hit only the highlights.
  • I read the script at a pace that felt unnaturally slow. To make it sound right, I had to read at a pace so slow that it felt uncomfortable, but when I listened to it back, it sounded right.

In the end, the result was a script that finally read smoothly and sounded like natural speech, but that would have seemed ridiculous and unprofessional if published in print.

Think Like a Postcard

Walking through this process reminded me of the changes I’ve seen in other types of marketing copy over the years. Whether it’s a blog post, a postcard, or sales letter, the copy is getting shorter, with more bullet points and white space, and with more information being communicated visually than in text. Hence the power of infographics (and the fact that today’s sales sheets look more like infographics than they do catalog pages). Earlier this year, in its direct mail predictions for 2022, Who’s Mailing What noted that the word count for marketing copy has declined 62% over the past 20 years. That came as no surprise.

As marketers, when we finally get someone’s attention, it’s tempting to try to put all of the information in front of them at once. “Houston! We’ve landed! Give them all we’ve got!” But that’s a temptation we need to resist. That includes in scripts written for marketing video. Unless potential buyers are researching a very complex product (and sometimes not even then), they want information in bite-sized pieces. This is why we have multichannel drip campaigns. Give them all the information—just not all at once.

So when it comes to marketing video, don’t treat it like a speech or a spoken white paper. Research scriptwriting for the type of video you want to produce (educational, testimonial, promotional). In most cases, you’ll want to keep it short and sweet. Focus on the main points. Send viewers elsewhere for details. Record test runs and watch them back and tweak based on what you see. Remember, the video is only the very top of your funnel. Let the rest of your marketing communications finish telling the story.