The success of a radio or TV advert, presentation, corporate, promotional or online video, starts with the script.
There, I said it.
The voice, of course, is incredibly important, as is the production and quality of the imagery.
Because the script is what people are actually listening to. It is responsible for hooking interest through a high impact and engaging message. It sets the whole tone of the campaign; whether it’s to be funny, serious, corporate, quirky, thought-provoking or anything else.
As a Voice over Artist, working with a wonderful script is a joy. It enables me to get into the character and convey it powerfully and persuasively. It means I can interpret, consider and bring a strong message to life. It saves time, not having to go back and forward with questions and recommendations ending up with multiple revisions.
In my career I have seen thousands of scripts, varying widely in quality. Sometimes, the message is completely confused. The language structure is poor. Sentences are too long. The content is clichéd, uses stereotypes, is dry or dull.
Working with copywriter Elizabeth Hibbert of Word Salon, we have put together 12 top tips on what makes a great script and how to achieve it.
1. Like any advert or marketing campaign, start with your audience. Who are they? What will they base their decision to buy on? What tone will appeal to them? Any advertising copy should start with this. Building the message from the point of view of how your product or service will benefit the customer, is essential for hooking them in.
2. Remember that with a radio script, no visuals accompany it. Listeners are entirely reliant on the message you are telling them. If you leave out crucial details, the audience may miss the point entirely. Sometimes this happens when TV adverts are converted into radio ads. Visually they made sense. When audio only, they lose the core of the message.
3. Humour is great for radio,TV and video, but use it with care. There’s a great temptation to move into stereotypes with radio scripts. Over 60s being portrayed as old and decrepit. Tradespeople being conveyed as cockney-talking van drivers. Your target audience will have a reason to buy from you. But representing them in a patronising or even insulting way will just turn them off.
4. With corporate videos, try to reflect the nature of the company without being dry and dull. Sell the dream! Capture imagination! Play on aspiration, the reason to buy from you or work with you. Don’t make it a corporate brochure simply read out online, you’ll lose people faster than I can say welcome to our corporate video…..zzzzzzzzzzz.
5. Read back over the script yourself – out loud. Can you actually say it? Are there sentences so enormously long and impossible to read in one go that you would have to hire the Guinness World Record holder for holding their breath to read it (like this one)? Use short punchy sentences. Strong statements. Variation in tone and content. Interaction between characters.
6. When you read it out loud – record it and listen to it. Just on your phone will do. Does it flow as well as it does on paper? Will someone hearing it understand the core message? Does it build up nicely and tell a story? Would you be enticed by it?
7. Speak directly to your audience. Use ‘you’ and ‘your’. If someone is listening to the radio in their home or car – you have their attention. Make sure you make the most of it by using the key words that define your product or service.
8. Time it. If the advert or video needs to be a certain length, avoid multiple revisions and edits through timing it and getting it more or less right from the outset. Being way over on time could result in edits changing the entire nature and essence of the story, sending the script back to the drawing board. It it’s a product or service explainer video, consider a short series of videos which are more digestible and tailored to the specific learning needs of the viewer.
9. Speaking of time – remember that less is more. Cramming excessive amounts of content into a 30 second advert will have a negative effect on how well it is received and remembered. The Voice Over Artist will need to speak at an unnatural speed to get all the words in, meaning they can’t use the pauses and expression needed to engage the listener.
10. Have a powerful and memorable call to action. An easily remembered website is best – if the company name isn’t memorable e.g. an acronym, then consider a campaign URL which will tie in with the marketing and stay in the listener’s memory. If it’s a corporate video, finish with a powerful statement as to why the viewer should get in touch, and how to do so.
11. Make sure the script and the music work together. The music is so important to an advert or video, but the words must fit around it seamlessly. Voice over Artists must have sufficient time to read the script and not run into musical sections. Planning for this from the outset will avoid scripts needing to be shortened once you hit production stage.
12. Use a professional freelance scriptwriter or copywriter. In corporate videos, the script has to dazzle if it’s going to have any influence or impact. If the copy is to persuade potential customers to buy your product or service, bring in the specialist skills. A skilled script writer will be able to take your objective, interpret your selling points and convey them with the key words that will make sense, have impact and suit the medium being used. A writer will build excitement, use creativity and work seamlessly with your Voice Over and production professional to produce a sensational script that delivers.
Ultimately, a great script will lay the foundations of a great campaign. You want your message to resonate. You want it to be remembered. Carefully crafted creative and engaging content is essential to achieving this.
Investing in experienced and skilled writers, Voice Over and Production professionals will result in fewer revisions and a wow-factor campaign that delivers response.
Posy Brewer is a Voice Over Artist and Actor with her own broadcast studio with ISDN, Source Connect Pro, SCNow and Skype facilities. Providing voices and voiceovers for TV & Radio Commercials, promos, online and presentation videos, telephone on hold messages, video games, animation, Voice of God and much more.
Elizabeth Hibbert is a freelance copywriter, scriptwriter, blogger and marketing strategist specialising in working with web designers, marketing agencies and small businesses on creating engaging content.