How to Write a Really Useful Video Brief

Blue Sky Film & Media Blog Post

A good video brief will ensure your video project gets off to a positive start. In the long run, it can save you time and money, and help your producers to deliver the video you want as smoothly as possible.

1. Define Your Audience and Purpose

This may seem blatantly obvious, but the first thing to be absolutely clear about when commissioning video is the nature of your audience and what you are trying to achieve. Surprisingly, it’s quite common for organisations to have not defined this fully when they embark on a video project.

You can be provisional about many other elements in your brief, but a well defined audience and purpose will set the compass points that will keep your video on track.

2. Show Flexibility

Here at Blue Sky, clients often come to us with rather fixed ideas about the format of their video. “We want it to be 2 minutes in length”, “We want an animated sequence”, “We would like to use voice-over” are the sorts of things we regularly hear.

All these requests may be perfectly good ideas, but you will need to review them with your video production team. Through experience, they may well suggest a better approach given your aims. If you share your ideas in your brief, but show a readiness to be flexible in collaborative discussions, you will will get the best results.

3. Decide Your Key Messages

Avoid War and Peace

Obviously, you will need to state the key messages that you wish to communicate in your video, but it’s worth remembering that ‘a really useful video brief’ – doesn’t mean long and complicated. We’re not talking about generating numerous sides of closely typed A4 that will keep you late at the office.

Nor is it a good idea to paste into your brief extensive extracts from your five-year development plan or annual review. Documents like these are meant to be comprehensive, but video is generally a short form medium, so you will have to be selective and succinct in your messaging. Think about it – what you have read so far in this blog post would take over two minutes to voice comfortably in a video – and this is less than one side of A4.

Remember – A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Of course, where the moving image is used without speech, then a lot of ideas can be covered very quickly – the old adage ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is as true as ever, so if you want to communicate a lot in a short amount of time, it’s a good idea to think about what might be shown through just imagery and music.

Experienced video producers will know what is best voiced and what is best left to imagery alone, so expect to be adaptable about this. But if you have any ideas on where imagery might carry the messages – then it’s a good starting point to list them in your brief.

For example – in a 6 second sequence of imagery, you could convincingly imply that your staff are happy, your customers are happy, and that you operate in a safe and attractive working environment, without ever having anyone actually say this.

Avoid ‘Back of a Fag Packet’ Brevity

On the other hand, too little information can also be a problem, so avoid vague descriptions when identifying your messages. Stating that one of your key messages is ‘health’ or ‘The Government’ will not be enough to enable your production team to develop a treatment or script for your video.

If you are too brief or vague then your producers are going to have to spend more time exploring your messaging with you before they can get on with actually making your video.

Good video producers are more than happy to do this, but scant briefs can cause unnecessary delays, confusion and false starts for your team.

An effective approach is to think what you would SAY to someone if you were put on the spot to sum up the position or offering of your organisation rather than what you would write in a report. This will bring you closer to matching your thoughts to the time constraints of video.

4. Be Transparent About Your Budget – Yes,really

Some budget holders believe that it’s better not to reveal your budget, because if you do suppliers will just massage their proposal figures up to your maximum budget and you won’t get the best deal. This may occasionally prove true with inexperienced or sloppy suppliers, but this tactic is soon exposed with a bit of close questioning on process, expertise and technology. On the other hand, there are many compelling benefits in being transparent about your budget.

Avoid ‘Stab in the Dark’ Proposals

Imagine going into an estate agents to buy a four-bedroom house, but you decide not to reveal your budget. How would negotiations unfold?

Firstly, a lot of time would be wasted while you were shown properties that were either beyond your means – or below your expectations. Just as with house buying, when it comes to video production the possibilities are endless and a 2-minute video can cost anything from £500 to £20,000 upwards depending on a host of production choices.

Not revealing your budget can result in unrealistic and unaffordable proposals landing on your desk or conversely – proposals that aren’t ambitious enough. When this happens, you will have missed the opportunity to gather the most meaningful proposals because production companies are forced to guess your budget.

If you give an indication of spend, an experienced video production company will produce a realistic achievable proposal with a range of carefully explained options at the upper, middle and lower end of your budget. This puts you fully in control of how to get best value for your money.

Compare Apples with Apples

When a video brief goes out to several companies without any indication of budget, they are likely to assume different budget levels, so you end up comparing apples with pears.

Just because one company pitches at £2000 and another at at £6000, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one company is more expensive than the other. It can merely be that one guessed you had a smaller budget than the other.

To test the ingenuity, efficiency and expertise of your potential producers, tell them your budget and then see the different ways that they respond to the same constraints. From this you get to compare apples with apples, and gain a true insight into the strengths of each video production company.

5. Nail Your Facts and Figures

Include any hard facts that absolutely must be expressed in your video. Again – be very selective about these and keep them as succinct as possible. These might include things like the number of people that work for you, the percentage sales growth achieved by your company or the number of people turning to your charity for support. Double check your facts and get them approved by senior management.

Knowing about vital facts early on means they will be integrated smoothly and intelligently into your video right from the start, rather than squeezed in as an after thought.

6. Find the Feeling

Although most people claim to be rational in their decisions, the vast majority of psychological research suggests that this is far from the truth.

Numerous neuromarketing studies prove that your audience will largely be driven by an emotional response in their decision making, even if they profess to be totally logical and rational.

With this in mind, it’s important you give some thought to how you want your audience to feel when they watch your video. Responses can be many and varied including – pride, joy, sympathy, confidence, desire, urgency, intrigue, hope – to name just a few.

The effect of imagery, music and voice in video is incredibly powerful in evoking emotion in your audience, so think carefully about the emotional impact you want to achieve.

7. Screening Your Video – How? When? Where?

There are lots of possibilities when it comes to how, when and where your video will be seen and these choices can affect the best approach to take in the filming and editing of your video. So it’s important for your production company to be aware of any specific plans you have for the release of your video. By sharing your thoughts on this, an experienced video producer will also be able to suggest valuable screening and distribution tactics you may not even have thought of.

For example, a video that is played at a conference to a live audience of hundreds of people, will need more powerful music than might have been chosen for just personal viewing on a mobile device.

Similarly, a video destined for distribution on a variety of social media platforms, as well as your website, could be best released in a few different versions of varying length. This might be a six second teaser for Instagram, a 30 second version for Twitter and the full length 2-minute version for your website. Again, knowing this intention from the outset can shape the production process to the best effect.

8. Some Practical Points for Stress-free production

  • Agree a deadline for the final delivery of your video
  • Identify any key dates that are fixed in the diary. e.g dates for special events, availability of key speakers or VIPs, limited access to venues
  • Check out Health & Safety – will there be any specific health and safety issues affecting the filming venues?
  • Decide which experts from your team should be present during the shoot. This won’t apply in every case, but sometimes it can be vital to ensure accuracy in your video content.
  • Before you submit your brief to potential producers, make sure you get approval and consensus from all the key people in your team – including the boss!

And finally

Ultimately, a successful video production project comes down to being clear about what you want to achieve through your video combined with open collaborative discussions with your production company.

A good video production brief will support these two principles, ensuring you end up with the right video production company, the right video and a rewarding return on your investment.

If you’d like more advice in preparing your video brief, then please contact us –

Blue Sky Film & Media

01242 506422