How to Combine Explanation and Storytelling in Your Video Script

February 6, 2014

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Gary Lipkowitz


You’re a smart cookie. You’re a talented marketer and a pretty good copywriter, so you understand how to identify who your audience is, how to speak their language, target and refine your messaging, and so on.

You’re also on the internet, so you’re familiar with the noise around the value of storytelling. You’ve already made the connection between the importance of developing a persona as a storytelling aid. Plus, you’ve combed every inch of the web when it comes to business videos, so you’re very familiar with what’s out there.

Bottom line: Every Other Marketer, Ever says the same thing, over and over:

  1. Get to know your audience.
  2. Zero in your message.
  3. Create a persona to tell your story.
  4. Then, magically, write your script!

As though it’s that easy.

If you’re like us, it’s frustrating to get to step 4 without any real guidance. Well, never fear, we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find a guide for how to write an explainer video script that effectively uses storytelling.

And as an ode to Every Other Marketer, Ever, we’re going to start off with step 4, give you a more detailed response, and then we’ll add some other steps so you don’t have to rely on magic:

Step #4: Write Your Script

To get started, refer to the outline you probably already have. Fill in the blanks with the following:

  • Demonstrate the problem.
  • Incorporate your persona, as it will help you tell your story and therefore be shareable and/or memorable.
  • Choose an audience pain point which illustrates the problem.
  • Call the viewer to action.

This is where magic actually happens. Combining the problem and persona and getting the story “on its feet.” Below, we’ll break down the how-to of script writing to get to its core.

Let’s use an example from

The video demonstrates the problem (dog owner packing bags to travel while stressing over her dog care options) and the persona (Debra genuinely cares for her dog), and the talking dog angle might qualify as being shareable and, therefore, more memorable.

Get your story on its feet

  • Setting: Where should your story take place? At home? At the kennel? At the airport? Where is the magnitude or urgency of the pain point at its highest?
  • Characters: Who should tell the story? The good guy? The bad guy? The victim? Some combination of the above?
  • Narrative Style: Should the characters speak to each other like they’re in a TV show? This enhances storytelling, but is often slower. Should there be a narrator, talking about the characters from a top view? This allows you to be more efficient and precise, but often at the expense of identification with the characters.
  • Structure: Should you start at the beginning? This is the most simple. Or should you start at the end, showing the good (or bad) outcome and tracing back to the start? This shifts focus toward the “how” and away from the result.
  • Metaphor: The video uses a fairly straight representation of the problem. Debra is Debra, and the dog is the dog. But sometimes metaphor can help bring difficult concepts to life. Metaphors help us understand new concepts by attaching them to concepts that we already know. A little boy using a leaky bucket to bring water back from a well can illustrate poor cost control or a faulty process.

One of the earliest famous explainer videos was Common Craft’s introduction to Dropbox.

Cloud storage is an everyday thing now, but it wasn’t back then. Common Craft used a metaphor, equating Dropbox to a “magic pocket” that always contains your wallet or keys, even if you left them in your other pants. This reduced a seemingly complex, new concept into something simple and everyday.

Now, make it visual

Everything we’ve discussed so far has been conceptual, but video is a visual medium. You’ll need to be specific in your script about what happens on the screen at what time.

The best advice here is the simplest: don’t get stuck in your thoughts. Grab a stack of scratch paper and start sketching out basic scenes. What should you draw? Characters, settings, props, icons, arrows to indicate movement, etc. The goal is to lure the visual expression out of your mind’s eye and into your real one.

Don’t worry if you can’t draw well. This is just an opportunity to get some ideas down on paper, and nothing is sadder than “drawer’s block.” To take the pressure off, keep reminding yourself that this isn’t the storyboarding process. This is just you fleshing out your script ideas so they can be better shared with reviewers (and professional storyboard artists).

As you progress, you’ll begin to get a better sense of how your video will come together. You may find yourself adjusting some dialogue or narration to better match your planned visuals or timing. This give-and-take is a part of the creative process, and you should take it as positive feedback with regards to your burgeoning scriptwriting skills.

When things start really going well, you’ll find yourself deliberately creating rich media moments, in which non-verbal movement or effects can “carry the tune,” instead of simply wallpapering your words.

Don’t forget to add a call-to-action

If you’ve done a good job, the viewers won’t want the story to end. So while they’re jazzed up and motivated, give them a way to stay involved. Be specific. What do you want them to do? Encapsulate this into one (and only one) clear, simple call to action.

The call-to-action you choose will vary depending on the purpose of your video, but these are a few to get you started:

  • If you’re tired of (name your problem), we’re here to help. Give us a call (or email or signup) today.
  • We want help you break through the (challenge) you’re facing. Contact us today!
  • Still have questions? Check out (another piece of content that talks about your product in more detail) to find out more information.
  • Does (your product) actually work? Ask these companies: (insert quick testimonials or logos of companies using the product).

Notice that “Buy Now!” is not on the list. This is not advertising. The rapport and credibility you’ve built were based upon your understanding of the problem, the quality of your solution, and your sharing of knowledge. Stick with it, and good things will follow.

Keep it short

You’ll want to be wary of your video’s length, since peoples’ attention spans are short. If you’re writing an explainer video, shorter tends to be better because it captivates attention and makes you simplify and condense your work into small, digestible bits. It’s good to aim for 1 to 2 minutes, or about 1 to 2 pages of script.

Tying It All Together

The bulk of this post was about the mechanics of preparing your content and writing your script. We even discussed some of the mechanics of creativity, or at least tools for unsticking yourself. Those tips will get you to a quality deliverable.

Integrating that script content with an engaging story will help your video be even more effective. With a good story engaging them, audiences will be less likely to put up walls, roll their eyes, or tune you out. They’ll identify more with your product, and hopefully become loyal customers and referrers.

What does your scriptwriting process look like? What are some of your favorite business videos that tell a great story?

February 6, 2014

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Gary Lipkowitz


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