Companies like written plans, and they probably will want to know about your background, similar projects you have completed, and your estimated budget. You may decide to cast a wide net by sending video production proposals to as many corporations as you can. Rather than reinventing the wheel each time, prepare a proposal template even before you have a prospective client. Any formatted text document, such as a Google Doc or Microsoft Word document, will work. Your proposal can be formatted as a letter or an email.
To make the most effective video possible, it's important to know the purpose of the video, the intended audience, how the video will be viewed, the deadline, and the budget. Some companies will tell you their budgets outright, and you can promise to give them the best bang for their bucks. In most cases, you'll need to estimate the costs, and your estimate should come from a clear understanding of all the production elements that will make up the finished video. To get to that point, you'll need to work with your client to flesh out what it envisions appearing on the viewers' monitors, what its internal resources are (such as existing written documents, photos, and video clips), and if it can commit staff and facilities for the shoot.
Objectives and Audience for the Video. Create a section in your proposal where you state the problem that the video is intended to solve or the reason the client wants a video. You may want to label this section "Objectives" rather than "Problem"; nonetheless, in most cases, you are there to solve the client's problem whether it wants to admit that or not. Its problem might be stimulating sales of a new product or too many accidents on the job. Cognitive objectives are what you want the viewers to learn, but behavioral objectives-desired actions-give you clear goals to attain. Examples of behavioral objectives are "demonstrate the benefits of this shoe to store managers" or "train employees on the safe use of the forklift."
Your next session can include audience demographics, methods by which the video will be shown, and a timeline for completion. The budget comes later-hopefully, after you have had a chance to assess what the client wants and how much time you'll need for preproduction, filming, and postproduction.
In your proposal, include a section to specify the functions that the client will be responsible for, such as supplying locations and on-camera staff. It may seem obvious to you, but the client may think you have a studio and a pool of actors. Other client-provided resources could be a scriptwriter or a content specialist to supply you with information so you can write the script. Make sure the client provides a single person to approve the script and other deliverables, such as graphics and a rough edit. It's probably wise to make sure the client has the final say on talent selection so the actors look the part of the corporate culture.
The Acme Advantage (Substitute Your Company Name Here). Here is the fun part of your proposal template; it's one you can complete right now: Why should the client hire you? What are the benefits of working with your company?
Focus on benefits rather than features. Your equipment and years of experience are less important than what you bring to the project that is unique and clever. If the client wants a company event filmed or a same-day edit, you can state your experience with those tasks. Tell the client about a video that you produced that is similar to the one it wants. If you have nothing to show, go out and produce a prototype video for a similar product or service. You can mention a client of yours in a similar industry, saying, for example, "We produced a video on automobile safety and will use some of those concepts for your forklift safety video."
This is a good time to discuss logistics, such as your willingness to meet at the client's offices, to perform a preproduction site survey of the filming location, and to be available on call 24/7. If your client wants you to work with its employees on camera, you can state your experience filming with nonprofessional talent. The proposal can include brief examples of your other corporate productions, your awards, and letters from happy customers.
Corporate Creativity. That may seem like an oxymoron, but the people you will be working with in corporations are the marketing staff members, PR people, graphic designers, and writers. They value creativity, and they expect innovation from video producers. Spend some time coming up with novel ideas and innovative approaches to using AV media in their company.
As part of your proposal, you can suggest frameworks for presenting the material in a dynamic and captivating way. Perhaps you can suggest that, in one scene, actors are hired to dramatize the hardships of not having the client's product. You could introduce the concept of filming a host in front of a greenscreen with a virtual background. You could show an example of how motion graphics with data revealed in layers could substitute for a spreadsheet. Your creative use of media can enliven the content and motivate the audience. And if the video fulfills its goals, it can get you called back for subsequent video productions.
Stu Sweetow (sweetow at avconsultants.com) is the author of the recently published book Corporate Video Production. He runs Oakland, Calif.-based video production company Audio Visual Consultants. He taught video production at UC Berkeley Extension, was associate editor of Wedding and Event Videography, and was a contributing editor to Camcorder & Computer Video magazine.