Every year, when we hit the holiday season and the year comes to a close, marketers look ahead to prepare for what’s coming. In 2020, though, we’re experiencing this process with a little bit of a twist. Try as we might, no one really knows what to expect from the months ahead, and the business landscape looks murky at best.
What does that mean for us right now? While you might think this is a great time to abandon all your plans and go with the flow for 2021, we’d argue that in the midst of uncertainty, planning becomes even more critical. Taking the time now to think through the various scenarios that might unfold in 2021—and how your business would react to them—is especially important.
Even if you choose to forego plans for most of your 2021 endeavors, your digital video strategy deserves some time and attention. Because of the nature of video production, it’s much more effective to think through your content in advance and prepare creative briefs than it would be to wing it as you go. Figuring it out along the way might work for other marketing tactics, but will absolutely not work for video production It’s a sure-fire way to end up delayed, over-budget, and with a video that doesn’t even serve its intended purpose.
We want to save you from that outcome, so we’re going to share our approach to planning your video strategy for 2021. It won’t look quite the same as our recommendations for past years, but we’re confident that these steps will prepare you for whatever the new year has to throw at us.
1. Take inventory
Before you make any real plans for the future, stop and take a look at where you’re at right now. How is your business doing? What’s going well, and what could be improved? How much can you afford to devote to marketing—and to video marketing specifically?
As you reflect, identify goals for 2021. If you don’t feel comfortable creating specific, metric-driven goals given the unpredictable business landscape, at least choose one or two big-picture goals that would push you towards success. If a challenge from this year was that you lost touch with your audience, an appropriate goal might be to communicate with your network on a regular basis. If you have a great following but sales are slow, your goal might be to increase the conversion rate on your website.
Whatever the case may be, don’t move on until you’ve identified at least one goal for the upcoming year. After all, you can’t make meaningful progress until you’ve defined what progress would look like. Have at least one goal in mind? Time to move onto the next step.
2. Align video concepts with your goals
Next, it’s time to brainstorm. If the idea is to create a digital video strategy for the next 12 months, what types of videos would work best to meet your goals? [If you’re not sure what type of video would work best for your goals, check out this resource, where we go into detail about the best video styles for a variety of situations.]
Because 2021 will be a unique year that likely contains much of the same uncertainty as 2020, think big as you’re brainstorming. The more ideas you have on the table, the easier it will be to pivot and pick something else if Plan A doesn’t make sense down the line.
Here are a few sources of inspiration if you get stuck:
- Take a look at what has worked well for you in the past. What does your audience engage with most often?
- Look at your competitors. What have they tried? What worked and what didn’t?
- Think about your own digital habits. When you consume video content online, what catches your attention?
- Consider your distribution methods. How could you incorporate video into a new channel?
- Reflect on your industry. Are there trends or conventions that you could apply?
- Turn to your buyer personas. If you stepped into their shoes, what would you want to see?
When you think you have enough ideas, take a look at the big picture and make sure you’ve covered all your bases. If all of your ideas are variations of the same concept, keep brainstorming. For example, six ideas that reflect variations of a customer testimonial video might be too limiting if that kind of video doesn’t feel right a few months from now.
If that’s the case, play around with tweaking the specifics of the ideas you already have. How would the video change if it were much shorter or much longer? What would be different if you made the video animated or incorporated stock footage? Where could you go if you added another person to the narrative or changed from one point of view to another? By flipping all of your ideas on their heads, you’ll likely end up with more diversity in the concepts you’ve prepared.
When you feel confident that you have several unique ideas to work with, move onto Step 3.
3. Prepare creative briefs
A creative brief is your lifeline for any video project. It can take any format that works for you (document, presentation, spreadsheet, etc.) but it should contain any information that relates to your project. [If you want to use our template, download it here.]
Typically, you’d start a creative brief when a project kicks off, but for 2021, you might want to consider taking a few of your best brainstorming ideas and making preemptive creative briefs now. Why? Filling out a creative brief forces you to think through details like timelines, budgets, messaging, and distribution channels. By going through this process now for a few of your favorite ideas, in a few months when you have more clarity about the landscape you’ll be facing during production, it’ll be easier to evaluate what’s feasible and what isn’t.
Without a creative brief, you’d get to that same time period with a few ideas in mind, but it would be difficult to assess their practicality. Without an estimate for how much your project will cost, who will need to be involved, and how long it will take from start to finish, you might choose an idea that sounds great in your head but doesn’t work with your 2021 resources.
Save yourself from that headache by doing this upfront thinking now, and you’ll have a few full-fledged ideas to choose from when you’re ready to get started.
4. Create your ideal production timeline
This step is the most likely to be derailed by 2021’s uncertainty, so we’ve saved it for the end. With your goals identified, your ideas cataloged, and your creative briefs prepared, you have the basis of a video strategy that you can work with throughout the year even if nothing goes according to plan.
However, you will want to make a rough timeline that represents what you’d create based on the information you have right now. Keep in mind that you may need to pivot from this plan as the year unfolds, but it’s always nice to have a starting point.
We’d recommend beginning by taking a look at your calendar. What key dates does your business need to be aware of? Do you have other priorities throughout the year that would prevent production during certain times? Are there dates that lend themselves to launching a video campaign for your industry or the types of content you’ve outlined in your creative briefs?
Then, go ahead and place the video projects you’ve prepared in a rough timeline that represents the best-case scenario for your digital video strategy. If your budget will only allow for one video, assign a start date or a target launch date. If you’re aiming to finish multiple projects, place them throughout the year at the times that make the most sense. The key here is to essentially assign placeholder timelines to each video project you’d like to accomplish throughout the year, so that if all goes according to plan, you’re ready to jump right in.
If your plans fall through, no worries! Let’s say your business planned to launch a summer video that would bring people into stores, but it turns out that bringing people into your physical store isn’t safe at that time. That’s okay! You can try to modify the details of the video itself to make it more applicable to the landscape, or you could go back to your prepared creative briefs to see if another option might be more appropriate.
If both of those options fail, you can always go back to your full list of brainstormed ideas from Step 2 for a new starting point. However, given all of the prep work you will have done by this point, it’s likely that something you’ve prepared will work even if the circumstances in six months are different than you expected.
Ultimately, planning for 2021 will require all of us to be patient, flexible, and comfortable with the unknown. However, that doesn’t mean you have to go in blind. Using this strategy, you’ll lay the groundwork for future success, even if you can’t quite envision the end result when you get started.