Nine questions to answer before you commission a video producer

Video interview set up
Photo credit: Sam McGhee/Unsplash

Before you approach a video producer, it’s vital to be clear on your requirements.

The scoping stage of the process is important and, done well, will save you time and money – and potentially a lot of stress too.

In my view, there are nine questions you need to answer, to help you define the scope of any video project:

  1. Why do you need a video?
  2. Who is your target audience?
  3. What is the call-to-action?
  4. What type of video do you need?
  5. What platform will your video be aired on?
  6. What is your budget?
  7. Who is doing what?
  8. When is the deadline?
  9. How will you measure success?

THE WHY: Why do you need a video?

The first thing you need to consider is whether video is truly the best medium to communicate your message. 

Don’t just make a video for the sake of it – as it may be that a blog post, email or infographic would suffice. Be clear on how it will fit into your marketing or content strategy. 

A video can be expensive to produce, more so if it becomes a fire-and-forget missile – one that launches with intent but has little real potency. Consider carefully whether it is likely to be viewed and responded to in the way in which you intend. 

‘All too often, brands commit the deadly sin of creating content for themselves, not the viewer.’ Pratik Dholakiya, Convince & Convert.

THE AUDIENCE: Who is the target audience?

It is important to identify your intended audience at the outset. Ask yourself: who are you trying to reach with your video?

This will help you to visualise the kind of response you are likely to receive. It will also determine the style and direction of the video, when it comes drafting your creative brief.

Social media algorithms can influence who has the potential to watch and react to your videos online. But you shouldn’t be put off by this – rather, it should spur you on to commission highly-engaging, ‘must share’ videos. A good video will cut through and make an impact on your audience.

You also need to be aware that audiences ‘evolve’ over time. Andre van Loon, writing for We are Social, puts it this way: ‘We should never forget that target audiences are not static. As people change their attitudes and behaviour, so even a targeted campaign that works once may not work the next time round.’

THE CTA: What is the call-to-action?

Having defined your target audience, it is time to consider your call-to-action. In other words, how would you like viewers of your video to respond, once they have seen it?

Even if your call-to-action is as simple as encouraging a viewer who has engaged with the video on social media to share it with their friends, you ought to have a specific outcome in mind. This will make it easier to analyse viewer responses, and report to stakeholders on the success of the project.

Here are some examples of responses you may intend your viewers to make:

  • Signing up to an email list (generating leads)
  • Making a purchase or donation
  • Attending an event
  • Sharing the video with their friends/networks (brand awareness)
  • Committing to support (e.g. being a champion or advocate for your cause, or joining your organisation)
  • Raising their opinion of you as a thought leader (brand strength)

TOP TIP: Keep your CTA wording simple, clear and precise – so that viewers are in no doubt as to what response is required.

THE STYLE: What type of video do you need?

Next, you need to consider what type (or style) of video would be best suited to your project. There are several different styles of video and each has its own merits. Which one would resonate most with your target audience? 

Here’s a list of the most common styles, along with a short description of each one:

  • Animation – this format can be used to engage and inform your audience by presenting facts and figures, or simple narratives, in a fun and creative way
  • Case study – tell a story of how a person’s life has been changed for the better by your product or organisation
  • Dramatised – give viewers a clear understanding of the message you want to get across, by using actors to define and shape the narrative
  • Instructional – walk viewers step-by-step through a process or practice 
  • Interview – present viewers with a more ‘in-depth’ experience, learning about a topic, event, product or cause from a key proponent
  • Live video – bring viewers into a real-time broadcast, allowing them to engage and contribute to a topic of discussion as it happens
  • Promo – showcase a brand, product or event to your viewers
  • Virtual Reality (VR) – enable viewers to interact with a three-dimensional image or environment in a seemingly real way, through which they can be informed, educated and inspired
  • Vlog (video log) – invite viewers to join you on a journey of personality-led video updates
  • Vox pops – give viewers a snapshot of public opinion, or canvas the views of delegates at an event, by asking them for answers to specific questions ‘on the spot’
  • 360° – a video format where a view in every direction is recorded at the same time, allowing viewers to have control over the viewing direction

It is advisable to do some research on the types of videos that inspire or appeal to you and, more importantly, will appeal to your target audience.

Be savvy though – video formats, lengths, and narrative structures that worked yesterday may not work now or in the future, such is the speed at which audiences, products and technology evolve. Keep sharp when it comes to the changing nature of digital and audience expectations.

Making the choice of what type of video you need can be done in consultation with your video producer. However, you can save time when drafting your creative brief, if you have already narrowed down the list of styles to the ones you believe would be most suitable.

TOP TIP: During your research, when you come across a video that you like the look of, make a note of the video producer’s name, as they may be just the person you’re looking for. But don’t call them up just yet – there are a few more questions to answer first!

THE PLATFORM: Where will the video be viewed?

It is important to consider what channels your video will be presented on, as the length and format of your video could be determined by whether it will be viewed mainly through online channels, or at external (offline) venues.

Two things you may need to think about for videos aired primarily via online channels (e.g. social media platforms or corporate websites) are: 

  • Attention-grabbing – your video needs to grab the viewer’s attention in the first few seconds to prevent them turning their attention to something else
  • Subtitles – increasingly, people watch videos on a mobile device, without the sound turned on, so using subtitles (or pull-captions) can be very helpful to get your message across.

If your video is being aired primarily via offline channels (e.g. arenas, halls or places of worship), you should consider: 

  • Length – if people are seated, looking up at a big screen, you can usually get away with airing slightly longer videos, without losing the attention of your audience
  • Pre-roll – include a few seconds of pre-roll (a static title screen, introductory ident or a sequence that isn’t integral to the overall message of the video) to help set the scene before the main narrative kicks in.

THE BUDGET: How much is it going to cost?

You need to know what budget you have available for your video, and what the costs are likely to be for the style and length of video you require. Remember to include any costs incurred during your research phase and for the promotion of the video, once it’s ready to be launched – not just the fee for your video producer.

A good video will take the viewer on a positive journey beyond its final frames, so be sure to budget for the whole journey.

THE ROLES: Who is doing what?

Knowing who is responsible for what on any project is essential – and a video project is no different. It can help avoid confusion and delays, and will go a long way towards fostering a good relationship with your video producer. 

Understand who the key contributors (or stakeholders) are; those who will put together and sign off the creative brief, as well as the final video. 

TOP TIP: Think carefully about the number of stakeholders involved in the project. Appointing a single person to sign off on key stages can be useful in resolving disputes and speeding up the decision-making process; however, it can also create a bottleneck, if everything is dependent on one person.

Finally, it’s a good idea to nominate someone to lead on ‘closing the circle’ i.e. looking at lessons learned from the project, once the video project has run its course.

THE DEADLINE: When does the video need to be ready?

It is best to set the deadline date as far in advance of your go-live date as you can. Agree this date with your video producer as part of the project schedule.

Don’t forget to factor in time to test the final video in either its online, or offline, setting.

THE METRICS: How will you measure success?

It is not enough to simply get good (or bad) feedback about your video from your friends or colleagues (unless they were your intended audience). A ‘back-slapping’ metric can prove unreliable as a measure of success, even if it feels good for a short time. 

Instead, set quantifiable targets, based on your call-to-action. If you want more sign-ups, for example, how many do you expect? If it’s increased sales you’re after, by how many new customers or by what turnover value? Be specific, not vague.

Most metrics can be tracked through analytics applications (e.g. number of clicks through to a landing page, or number of subscribers generated). The results of such analysis will show how well you’re doing against the targets you’ve set for the project.

Finally, it’s important to set a defined period of time within which you will monitor your metrics. It could be over a quarter, a financial year, or until a particular event takes place or milestone is reached. 

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This is an extract from my eBook How to commission better videos, which also includes guides on how to form a good creative brief, negotiating the (sometimes perilous) contract process, and a three-step plan to evaluating every project.

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