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We spend a lot of time sitting down with clients discussing how we can best tell their stories using video. And while it's true that every organization is unique in how they'd like their story told, there are a series of questions that are universally useful for those looking to produce a video. Here's a comprehensive list of the essential video production questions you should answer before your next shoot.

1. What's the purpose of the video?
2. Who is your target audience?
3. What are my key messages?
4. What is your ideal timeline?
5. What is your project budget?
6. Is your video part of a strategy or campaign?
7. How will you measure results & ROI?
8. What emotion are we trying to evoke?
9. What specific visuals should be captured?
10. Who will speak on behalf of the organization?
11. What questions should I ask the interview subjects?
12. Should I script the answers to the questions?
13. What happens if they don't get the answer right the first time?
14. Should I correct someone if they say the wrong thing?
15. Who needs to approve the final video?
16. Where will the video be shot?
17. How will the final video be hosted, distributed, and repackaged?
18. Bonus Question
19. Conclusion

1. What is the purpose of the video? 

So often, we speak with companies who want to "create a video to put on their website." Sure, producing a video for your website is essential because videos can communicate the most amount of information in the shortest amount of time. But investing in a video isn't just about checking a box. Not only could this approach result in a confusing message, but it makes measuring success really difficult. 

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Create a well-thought-out vision for your video that's written down and successfully answers the question "What exactly are we trying to achieve by producing this video?" 

Example: We want to produce a video that communicates our organization's values and lends a sense of credibility to the work that we do.

2. Who is your target audience?

We talk a lot about audience because, well, it's really important! A lot of organizations get caught up in who they are, and what they are all about. Those things are really crucial – but they have to be communicated in a way that resonates with the audience they're trying to reach. 

 Answering this question first will help in the analysis of other considerations. If you’re producing a video targeting expecting mothers, that information helps to set the tone for messaging, visuals, and music selection. But a B2B audience would be totally different. If you’re producing a video targeting mechanical engineers looking for tools and gadgets, the creative direction of the video will purposely take a 180-degree turn. Know who you want to be watching your video and make that your starting point.

We create buyer personas – those are, fictional, generalized representations of ideal customers – before we ever begin the video production process for our clients.

Ask questions such as:

  • What are the watcher's pain points?
  • Is my buyer persona a decision maker, influencer, or neither? 
  • What is my persona's motivation for watching this video?

These types of questions will help you better understand what type of video to create and how to craft your message in a way that resonates with your target audience.

3. What are my key messages?

In order to ask the right question during the video interviews, it's essential to start with some research and understanding of what you’re trying to communicate.

Many companies try to say everything in one video and end up failing to say anything valuable at all. You have to determine what it is you’re really trying to say and figure out the most important aspects of the message that must be communicated to successfully pass on the information to your target audience.

Behind every good video is a strategy. Showing up one day with a camera in one hand and microphone in the other probably won’t set you up to produce an amazing video. Our human brains can only process so many items of information at one time.

We've found the easiest way to avoid information overload is to come up with 3 key messages that you want to communicate in your video. Write them down and run every interview question through the filter of these questions. 

Will this interview question help you successfully communicate about one of your key messages? Hone in on those messages and make sure they’re clear, concise, and conducive to educating, inspiring, or influencing your audience.

4. What is your ideal timeline?

Every internal video team or video production company has a standard timeline for video turnaround. However, if you need your video done sooner, there are ways to accomplish that goal. By simplifying the scope of the project you can get a faster turnaround time. Conversely, if you have a really complex and in-depth vision in mind, it might take some time to make that vision come to life.

It's important to communicate your ideal timeline with your video team while you are in the planning phase. This will help avoid missed deadlines as you move forward with the project.

It would be great if it only took 30 seconds to produce a 30-second video. But, alas, it doesn’t quite work that way.

5. What's your project budget?

Just like the video timeline, the simplicity or complexity of your video project will affect the final budget. If you have a specific budget in mind, be sure to communicate that with your video team. 

Yes, producing a video can be expensive. However, not all video is created equal. The important thing to remember is time, people, and production gear tend to drive production costs. If you want to produce that underwater, high-flying, 5 different locations video, it can be done, just be prepared to spend more. Likewise, maybe a few, shorter, high-level videos on your landing pages are the perfect use of video for you. Lowering use of those resources helps to keep costs down.

Ultimately, the cost of your video directly reflects the number of professionals that are needed to help execute the vision. Check out this handy guide to help you identify which type of video team will best fit within your budget.

The cost really depends on the project. If your story is best told using multiple cameras, an audio technician, and a field producer over multiple shoot dates, it will likely cost  more. If the best way to tell your story can be captured with one camera during one half-day shoot, the budget will likely be a little less.

6. Is your video part of a strategy or campaign?

If you are planning this video as part of a bigger initiative or strategy, make sure to communicate that with your video team. With a solid understanding of the larger vision, a smart video company can help you maximize your efforts for efficiency.

By creating a clear blueprint of the information you are trying to capture, you can often extend your video shoot time by just a few hours to get more bang for your buck. (And who doesn't want that?!)

7. How will you measure results and ROI?

Are you looking to drive video views? Product demos? Sales? Donations? Each metrics requires a different video strategy. Identifying how you will measure the effectiveness of your video can help better shape the vision of the video to match your bottom line goals.

As with so many of our marketing efforts, we need ROI and analytics to help defend and enforce the tools we’re using to drive business and awareness. Get your whole team to think through what it would take to make the video a success. Maybe it’s leads generated, views on YouTube or dollars donated. Or all of the above! Not only does clarification on this help your video production team aim to meet that same goal, it also gets buy-in from your internal team when it works. Plus, it makes you look good!

The success of a video can be measured a number of ways. If your organization is looking simply for more exposure, views or social media shares might be what you're after. If you want more leads, you may want to add a call-to-action button at the end of your video that leads to a page where the viewer can fill out a form in exchange for more content or a preliminary service (an eBook, a free consultation/assessment, etc.). 

We recommend using SMART goals, which are goals that are: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results-focused
  • Time-bound

Setting smart goals ahead of time will not only provide a framework for ROI but will give direction to the project throughout the execution process, too. 

8. What emotion are we trying to evoke?

Once you've determined who the audience is, the next step is to decide what you want that audience to feel after they're done watching. The reason people engage with content is because it makes them feel something, which is the job of the person creating the video and its messaging. 

When that specific audience is watching your video on your website, through an email campaign, or at an event, what do you want their action to be after the video fades to black? Whether you want someone digging into their pockets for a tissue and checkbook or feeling motivated to click the “buy now” button, that overriding feeling you want to create needs to be reflected in the messaging, the visuals, and the overall tone.

According to a study by OkDork (a popular marketing blog) which looked at the 10,000 most shared pieces of online content, the most common emotions evoked were:

  • Awe (25%)
  • Laughter (17%)
  • Amusement (15%) 
  • Joy (14%)
  • Anger (6%)
  • Empathy (6%) 
  • Surprise (2%)
  • Sadness (1%)
  • Other (15%)

Having your video shared online won't necessarily be your ultimate goal, but the study does illustrate that different kinds of emotions resonate with people on different levels. Keep this in mind as you create your video storyboard.

9. What specific visuals should be captured?

Though identifying specific shots and visuals to capture comes a bit later in the pre-production process, it’s important to consider any key events, scenarios, or people that would need to be scheduled during the video shoot.

For instance, if your manufacturing facility is busiest right before the holidays, it may be wise to schedule the video shoot during that time to show the breadth of your work.

Likewise, if you’re producing a video that has a hard deadline, make sure to plan MORE TIME than you think is needed. Remember, producing a video often comes with more planning, logistics, time budgeting, and reviewing than anticipated.

10. Who will speak on behalf of the organization?

It's the tendency of many companies to automatically turn to the C-suite when characters and spokespeople are needed for a company video. Not only is this not always best – we actually recommend you look elsewhere. A CEO speaking into the lens can really feel stuffy, as they often get caught up in trying to communicate too much for the amount of time your video runs.

You want to capture the heart and soul of your organization, which can usually be better communicated by those who are "in the trenches" and can speak to witnessing the ways in which your organization's offerings have actually helped improve someone's life.

Your CEO may give the audience the "wow factor," but if you're in the business of generating revenue, the "trust factor" is really what you're after.

Remember that your speaker doesn't necessarily need to be from your company. Often times a well-spoken client or paid on-camera talent might be the best choice for your video content.

11. What questions should I ask the interview subjects?

An important part of the video production process is creating your interview questions. If you are working with a video producer, lean on them to help you create interview questions. If you are creating the video on your own, take some time to craft a handful of questions for your subject.

Unless you are making a full-length documentary, you don’t a list of 20 questions, because realistically you don’t need that much from that person. Come up with five, sharp, open-ended questions for your subject.

Be sure to avoid closed ended questions and listen for opportunities to ask follow-up questions. In fact, you’ll find that some of your best answers may come from the follow-up questions.

12. Should I script the answers to the questions?

Once you have your questions, share them with the interview subjects. Ask them to consider answers, and to not memorize them. You want to encourage a thoughtful answer, not a memorized and robotic answer.

We have learned through the years that people not only provide more thoughtful answers when seeing questions in advance, but they are also less likely to leave out critical pieces of information!

Since you don’t know how they’ll respond to your scripted questions, follow-up questions provide an opportunity to get reactions from the subject that you wouldn’t get if they had seen those questions in advance.

13. What happens if they don't get the answer right the first time?

Most of your video interviews will not be live, so if the interview subject misspeaks or stumbles, always provide them the opportunity to try again. Often it’s useful to ask the question again so the subject can respond to the answer naturally. 

If your interview subjects are struggling to get comfortable, try asking some warm up questions. Being on camera is hard for some people. A good video producer will be able to help the interviewee forget that they are in front of the camera and make them feel more like they are talking to a friend.

14. Should I correct someone if they say the wrong thing?

Once you've asked the question, let the interviewer finish their train of thought. People are often too quick to jump in during the response and step on the sound bite. It's only natural to react to the words we hear, and that's terrific — even preferred — just try really hard to not speak!

After the interviewer has finished the question, then feel free to talk about what you'd like them to do differently and then try another take.

15. Who needs to approve the final video?

Before you get started with a video project, it's important to know who will be the key stakeholders involved in reviews and revisions. If your company has lots of layers of approval, it might be helpful to add a few extra days to your project timeline to make sure you don't get behind.

If possible, try to elect a primary point person who will be responsible for all the edits. Streamlining this process can help minimize confusion about which revisions are most important.

16. Where will the video be shot?

Shoot locations often depend on the story you are telling. Many of our shoots are on location, from your company headquarters, to industrial factories and beautiful outdoor scenes. On the other hand, your shoot may require studio space where things like a green screen or white backgrounds can be used.

Many organizations have limited options of where their video can be shot – especially if the goal is to communicate company culture. But with that said, keep a few things in mind as you decide where to shoot your video

  • Be careful with noise. Even something as subtle as the buzz of a fan can be picked up and can ruin a sound bite. 

  • When it comes to backgrounds – keep it simple. A busy background is more of a distraction, and your characters should be the focus of the story anyway.

  • Err on the side of more space than less. Most video shoots require a video producer, a shooter, multiple characters, a camera, lights and audio equipment. All of these things can crowd a room quicker than you may think – so avoid tight-quartered conference rooms and offices.

The overarching advice we give to clients is, choose a location that represents your organization most accurately, but try to keep it simple!

17. How will the final video be hosted, distributed, and repackaged?

How your video will eventually be used should be in the back of your mind during the planning process. Are you going to host it on YouTube and want to link it to another video at the completion of the piece? You'll want to tell the audience that either through the audio or graphics within the piece. 

  • If your video is specifically for an event, you have a captured and interested audience.
  • If you are planning to launch on social media, your GOAL is to capture and pique interest in your audience. Try producing and publishing a shorter, high-energy “teaser” of the full video on social media to link to the full video on your website.

  • If you are creating a video for an email campaign, you'll have to use a hosting platform that allows for embed codes to be seamlessly copied and pasted into your organization's emails.

Take full advantage of the video and whatever platform you are using, but make sure you’re ready to think through the strategy of how they’ll be produced and edited differently.

What you don't want is for your video investment to be partly wasted because you didn't plan how it was going to be used ahead of time.  

Bonus Tip: Don't ask "How long should we make the video?"

Sure, you don't want to bore your audience with a 20-minute video about your culture, and you want more than an 8-second micro-video if the goal is to communicate why it is your organization's work is important. But setting a specific runtime for your video ahead of time is not the right approach. 

Let the content of the video drive the length of the video. The bottom line is, if your content is good, people will stick around and watch. If it's not, they won't!

Conclusion

Every video project is different. But these universal video production questions should give you a framework for both what you want your video to look like and what you want it to achieve. 

By taking these steps before hiring a video production company, you’re sure to save time, decrease confusion, and create a video you and your team can be proud of. If you have more questions or you are not sure how to get started, consult your video production team to help think through these strategies, come up with key takeaways, and set plans to produce your video.

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