Key messages – Part 2: How to make a (good) promotional film
September 15, 2017
This is Part 2 of the How To Make A (Good) Promotional Film. Missed Part 1? New instalments will be released every Friday. Click here to have them emailed straight to your inbox the moment they go live.
Key messages – knowing their place
I know that I told you in Part 1 not to get distracted by your key messages. However, now that you’ve switched your mindset to thinking about stories, we’re allowed to return to key messages.
The reality is, promotional films are meant to promote. If you’re investing in a film to promote you, it needs to do that job. However, there is a big difference between key messages being in the film, and key messages being the film.
Let’s look at a simple example
Jack owns Jack Innovations Ltd. They make a really innovative product. The key messages he wants to get across about it are:
- They are the number one company in the market
- Their product is cheap
- It has a 10-year guarantee
- They have cool offices, impressive staff, and matching t-shirts
Narrative one: Key messages, no story
“Hi I’m Jack from Jack’s Innovation ltd. We are THE number one innovation company. Our products are the CHEAPEST on the market. AND they come with a 10-year guarantee. You can’t ask for better than that. Let me tell you what else makes us great…. We have really cool offices, really impressive people, and we all wear these amazing matching t-shirts… etc”
Is Jack telling a story? No.
So how could we get across Jack’s key messages in a story?
Narrative two: Key messages IN a story
“Hi, I’m Lucy from Important Client Inc. We are really busy and important. But we had a problem. We were missing a key innovation. Without it, everything was going wrong and everyone was very sad. Then we met Jack from Jack’s Innovation Ltd. Their innovation was EXACTLY what we needed! It doesn’t just do the job but it’s cheap too. We really trusted the company after meeting all their lovely team (in their great matching t-shirts). And to top it all, it comes with a 10-year guarantee. Now we can get on with doing our important job without worrying, and everyone is happier!”
I’ll admit, it’s still fairly sales-y, but this second narrative is still much more engaging, because Lucy is telling a story. There’s a beginning (we do cool things but we had a problem), a middle (we met these guys and they could help) and an end (now we can get on with everything and everyone is happy).
In this context it might sound still quite boring, but imagine Lucy runs The National Gallery, or the largest UK printer, or a big gas turbine manufacturer. And the problem that she faces is an electricity bill over £1 million pounds, enormous carbon emissions, or a dangerous risk to their operations.
When she talks about how Jack Innovations helped them, other important companies like hers who are dealing with similar problems, are going to listen.
Side note: Don’t make the story seem all about you
The above example highlights another point – it is much more powerful to get someone else to talk about how great you are, than to say it yourself. Put frankly, when Jack talks about Jack’s Innovation Ltd he sounds arrogant and false. Whereas, when Lucy talks about them, she sounds genuine and we believe her.
The more important or influential Lucy’s position or company (and the more genuine she sounds) the more impressive the message. Which brings us back to Part 1 of this series – What’s the story? Is the story Jack banging on about how great he is, or is a better story Lucy talking about how much she needed his innovation?
Here are my top tips for getting your key messages into your film (without ruining it):
- Know your key messages
- Stick to three, or a maximum of five, key messages
- Pick one message that is the most important, and let that be the main theme of the story you tell
- Integrate your messages into your story – don’t let them be your story
- Find creative ways of showing your messages, rather than just telling
Planning key messages into your story
If your film is led by a voice over or captions, then you integrate your key messages into the script. With a good copywriter, this is easily done. Just remember that first and foremost you should be telling a story.
If your film is led by interviews, then you need to plan interview questions that highlight your key messages. Write out the key elements that you need each interviewee to cover. Then turns those into questions.
You want them to say:
Our company is designing a solution to tackle carbon emissions
So you ask (in as many variants as you need of):
What issue is your company tackling; what challenges are you working on; what does your company do; what’s your vision?
We’re going to talk later about interviews in more detail. But first, Part 3 – Audio and visual: two stories
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