Creating the Perfect Testimonial Video

Creating the Perfect Testimonial Video

At Manley Films & Media, we don’t throw the word “perfect” around lightly. Especially when it comes to creating one of the most powerful video types around – one that demands authenticity of story, strong interviewing and editing skills, and a commitment to honesty. The client testimonial is the mothership of business videos. Get this one wrong, and you could sink the entire fleet.

The testimonial video hands the microphone to someone outside of an organization. This someone is trusted to deliver a powerful message, one that the business approves yet must also appear to regard objectively. The delivery of a customer testimony should demonstrate they are an insider who can aptly relay a positive experience with the business, while remaining very much a member of the customer universe.

Authenticity is critical to storytelling of any kind. It’s the underlying tone of the entire piece – conveyed not only with precise language but with facial expressions, gestures, pauses, deep breathing, and other subtle cues that tell a viewer, “This is a real human being retelling a real experience that impacted them.” As the most complex part of a testimonial, authenticity demands careful interviewing of a subject about their experience to elicit a retelling of the client experience in language that potential clients will find meaningful. We love the way this student expresses, in his own words, how it felt to realize he was “throwing his life away” and what happened when he made a change. The story he tells is his own and speaks to his own personal values, but it is a story that would not have been possible without the schooling he received at UEI College:

Expert interviewing is an undersold skill in video production. The best interviews are conducted by directors, like our own Jim Manley who has a journalism background, 28 Emmy Awards and 2 New York Film Festival medals. Jim and the entire Manley team understand how to elicit small, poignant details from oftentimes reluctant interviewees. We frequently interview people who want to tell their stories because they have a genuine appreciation for the business that helped them. However, on set, with lights and cameras, makeup and witnesses, it can be an overwhelming and unnerving experience that makes it difficult to find the right words. That’s where the director really shines by creating a rapport from the moment the interviewee arrives on set, chatting them up in an informal way, and easing them into the interview. The best interviews are all about the banter, not rehearsed lines or scripts, but casual conversation that slowly unveils the real story with emotion and clarity. Here are a few examples:

Like interviewing, the editing of a testimonial is the part that our clients won’t see except in the final result, where it will be readily apparent if handled hastily or without regard for authenticity. The footage may be a goldmine of positivity, but poorly edited footage can underwhelm a viewer and devalue the interviewee’s enthusiasm. In the hands of a skilled editor, like our DP Rich Beissel, even the toughest interviews with the most reluctant of interviewees can be edited to relay a truly valuable story. Rich also knows when to cut to b-roll that helps build the story, such as shots of the interviewee and the business owner working together, or footage of the business performing their work. A less than perfect interview, with the right editing, can deliver authenticity that tells the viewer “No matter how much I am struggling to say these words, I truly believe it’s important that I say them.”

You can’t make a client testimonial without addressing the topic of honesty. Clearly, we don’t go seeking unhappy clients to interview. Every business is going to have its raving fans and its harsh critics. We look for those who have had a positive experience with the business to the extent that they feel compelled to share it with others. Getting to the real truth, the gold nugget of an individual’s experience, is the capstone moment in the interview. The reason that it works best to have a skilled interviewer conducting is that they know how to probe for these nuggets, a statement that will surprise, delight and validate. Honesty in testimonials happens when the interviewer removes his own pre-conceived ideas, asks non-leading questions, and opens the door for the most reluctant of subjects to feel comfortable revealing personal details in their own words. It’s the moment that gives the story life and while it can be hard to get there, once the word are spoken, everyone on set recognizes it.

The best interviews are all about the banter, not rehearsed lines or scripts, but casual conversation that slowly unveils the real story with emotion and clarity.

So what happens when the person delivering the testimonial is a seasoned public speaker who is perfectly at ease on camera? I wish I could tell you it’s the easiest interview ever, but it’s not always so. The “celebrity” endorsement can be at risk for a lack of authenticity just as an unknown person can. Who do you trust more: a famous spokesperson who has a reputation to uphold, or an unknown, humble human who had to muster the courage to speak? Both can be credible; it all depends on the delivery.

There is no doubt that a well-known and respected individual can add credibility, but a seasoned production team knows the difference between working with a person of popularity and the lesser known individual. In both scenarios, we work to put the person at ease – in the case of a celebrity, assuring them that we respect their position in the world and are responsible to help them uphold their reputation. For the unknown person, it’s assuring them that we respect their position in the world, and that we won’t exploit them for personal gain. In all cases, we push for that authenticating moment of connection that humanizes the person — famous or not — like this mother who was given back her vision at Southwestern Eye Center:

We’re all merely human beings at the core. We all tell our stories in our own words, and hope people listen and understand. As storytellers, we have an obligation to probe for truth. The perfect testimonial is one that presents a human face and affirms a core belief of business: that the loyalty of a customer is the best testament of all. The perfect testimonial leaves no doubt that a business has the spirit and soul of the people it serves. Long live the testimonial and the brave people who make it possible, and may it never lose its revered place in the world of business.

View our favorite testimonial of all time:

Why Video is the Undisputed Champ of Marketing Versatility

Why Video is the Undisputed Champ of Marketing Versatility

I am in my third decade working in marketing. That means I’ve been through the turn of many tides and trends in the business of promoting businesses. In the 90s I was a writer and self-taught web developer introducing brave early adopters to web marketing. I built dozens of webpages that began as “your brochure on the world wide web” (those are cringe-worthy words today) in a world that still viewed “casting the widest net possible” as a viable strategy. I wrote and designed email newsletters and spent late hours breaking code on web sites so I could learn how to fix it and make it better. I juggled emerging options with traditional marketing while guiding clients through difficult decisions and transitions in their marketing approaches.

 

The days of being a Swiss Army knife marketer are behind me – I’d guess those days are behind everyone who works in marketing, simply because they don’t make Swiss Army knives with that many tools. Marketing is so vast that everyone declaring themselves a marketer is forced to specialize, or at least narrow their focus to a spectrum of skills in order to serve clients responsibly.

After an entire career built on creating marketing messaging in the midst of unprecedented change in information science, I’m declaring with great confidence that there is one content type that rises above the others. There is one type that has grown to embrace versatility, economy, intelligence and speed. One that supersedes all others in quickly getting the message out, specifically targeting its audience, evoking engagement and response. Unlike the traditional marketing of bygone days, it’s entirely measurable. And frequently credited for making overnight successes (or failures) out of unsuspecting businesses.

For all it’s good and bad results, video content reigns supreme and here is why.

  1. Video is versatile. It thrives on any distribution platform, is consumable in every environment from desktop to mobile. It can be long form documentary or a micro-short six-second blip. It can be repackaged, repurposed, and republished to fit the content need of the day.
  2. Video is easier than ever to obtain. You can call us today and have a video to review tomorrow. That’s one benefit of using a seasoned professional production company. Most of our clients opt for long-term video production because it fits their budget, addresses their needs for powerful messaging that generates immediate response, offers measurable results, and doesn’t take a lot of work on their part.
  3. Video has lasting impact, but it doesn’t have to be evergreen. One video shoot can spin off multiple videos with different messaging and calls to action. Working with a production crew who knows how to plan for the long-term helps. In our experience, being an integrated part of our client’s marketing team ensures that we’re also thinking about the next video a client needs as well as ways to improve upon a video’s performance.
  4. Video stimulates emotional, intellectual and visual senses. Video is evocative and speaks on many levels. Humans are hardwired to act when they see and hear something that grabs their interest. Video provides many ways to engage viewers on different levels.
  5. Video is the perfect tool for outreach to audiences on every social network, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Easy to share and instantly engaging, video is the closest thing to a face-to-face introduction that a company can get next to being there in person to deliver a message to an audience.

Let’s place these five reasons to use video in the context of today’s typical viewer: Viewers have the ability to filter the messages they see and block ads altogether. This happens in a world where the average viewer is hit with over 5,000 brand messages daily. Where viewers see your message, how viewers respond, and scripting those responses are key considerations for everyone with a marketing budget.

It is the power of video and the response of viewers that is driving the marketing industry to align on definitions of performance measures like engagement, which takes many shapes depending on its sharing platform. Video may be easier than ever to use, but it isn’t uncomplicated.

It is the most powerful tool for communication that exists today, with some of the most startling and exciting developments in tools and techniques (robot drones, anyone?) Paired with the affordability and accessibility of video, we have a hard time coming up with any type of business that wouldn’t want to rely on video as their bread and butter marketing strategy.

Ready to budget for adding video content? We’ve got you covered. Download our budgeting worksheet and Video ROI eBook.

What You May Be Missing About Your Video Audience

What You May Be Missing About Your Video Audience

If you are an active part of the social sharing culture, whether business, personal, or both, you already know that video and images get far more attention than text alone. Social media is language at a new level – it’s a cultural shift in the methods we use to communicate (with visuals) and sort information (with hashtags) that we want and need. And it’s evolving very, very quickly.

AOL (now owned by Verizon) researched what drives people in different parts of the world to engage with social media and found that people wanted social media content for these reasons:

  • To be in the know
  • For comfort
  • To make connections
  • Entertainment
  • To feel good
  • To find
  • To inspire
  • Be updated socially

All great reasons to reach out to your potential audiences with the number one response-getter: video. (Need 29 reasons? Read this.)

We are always discussing with our clients about the importance of knowing their target audiences on multiple levels. That’s never been more important than it is now. Not only is it important to segment your audience by characteristics such as age, gender, income, interests and geography, but research by Yahoo! (also now owned by Verizon) showed that the nuts and bolts of video production are also drivers of response. This includes techniques such as:

  • Vertical portrait alignment (easier viewing on mobile devices)
  • More calls-to-action (another of our favorite drums to beat)
  • Use of logos and brand alignment (don’t be modest)

People will watch your video content because it fulfills. It fulfills one or more of the personal needs like being in the know or feeling inspired. It accommodates their viewing preference and lifestyle. It acknowledges their place in the world and pushes them to take meaningful actions. It’s about THEM. It’s not really about YOU.

Example: Here’s a video we did for Phoenix Theatre that uses spectacular visuals and energy to promote a new show, tapping into the known drivers for the fans of shows like Hamilton. What you won’t see in the video is the supporting promotional efforts around the Phoenix area, such as billboards and strong social media, but all are key parts of the plan that made this show a runaway success:

In a nutshell, video content in 2016 is way more complex than video content in 2015. More than just creativity is required. The checklist of considerations gets increasingly longer as more companies clamor for attention from viewers on the top four platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The platforms are shaking out and new platforms are emerging (such as 360° video/virtual reality).

It pushes video producers like us to balance on the edge of what’s known and what’s new, gently nudging our clients forward into new territory so they can stay competitive.

Consider yourself nudged.

What Really Gets Your Video Viewed

What Really Gets Your Video Viewed

This is the third in a series of posts we’re writing to help clients and potential clients who are new to using video to promote their businesses. Video is forging new ground every day in the business world, but that doesn’t mean every video is successful. We’re dedicated to educating clients so they can experience earlier success with their video content, and that means accepting a universal truth:

Your video will not go viral
and it will not produce instantaneous results.

There, we said it.

By no means is this a reason to give up on video content. Video marketing is an essential part of a marketing program that can be highly effective in gaining attention, reinforcing your brand, and building a client base. Here are 4 important tips, plus video examples, to keep in mind that will help set realistic expectations as well as help your video production team make the best creative possible to produce realistic results.

1) Don’t just research your audience, get to know them.

You should know your audience better than anyone. Don’t make assumptions about what matters to them. Dig into the past to see what creative you have used that achieved results. Talk to existing customers about why they use your services. Find out what convinced them to choose your business over another. When was the last time a provider of any service asked you the question: “Why did you select US over THEM?” Instead of asking, “Are you pleased with our service,” ask, “What did we do that made you happy?”

 

2) Set a long term desired outcome.

There’s a huge problem with expecting a video to bring a high number of views with hopes of netting a percentage of sales based on sheer volume. It’s not likely to happen that way, as entertainment value quickly dissipates once the video ends and further action is required. People who are only interested in the hook because it’s clever, but aren’t interested in your offering, will throw off your numbers and build a false impression of the video’s efficacy. Set goals for an outcome that is achievable in stages across a full program of video content. One effort, such as a video, isn’t going to move the needle independently. Be sure to properly support it with social media, web content and other marketing tactics that encourage engagement, reinforce your brand and consistently hammer on the thing that makes your business or cause worth remembering: the problem it solves and the value it delivers.

 

3) Be genuine.

There is no replacement for genuine passion. It motivates, surprises, inspires belief and prompts action. Your video should convey with great energy, that you understand what is important to your customers. And you should understand what is important to them, because you’ve spent time getting to know not just their buying habits, but what really makes them happy, just like we discussed earlier. Genuineness is rare in advertising and your audience will know it when they see it. It’s in the voice over, the visuals and the effort that goes into perfecting every shot and every word. It cannot be scripted, but it can be achieved with a video production team that is well-seasoned in setting up opportunities to capture a perfect representation of your true value proposition.

 

4) Be a little daring.

We’ll openly encourage our clients to take risks, because video is a wild new world with plenty of space to experiment. Daring doesn’t mean gimmicky. It could be changing up the music that typically accompanies your commercials to highlight a new offering. Or use of a filming technique, like aerial footage from one of our drones, to offer a different perspective. Instead of a scripted commercial, let our director interview a few of your customers on camera to tease out a surprising and welcome testimonial. Daring is in the details, so don’t underestimate how one unexpected gem — a second or two of a child’s elation, a well-placed emphasis on happiness, a glimpse of the ordinary from a new perspective — can elevate your video content performance.

 


Just like we’ve discussed in our previous posts, HERE’S YOUR AWESOME NEW VIDEO, NOW DON’T SCREW IT UP and IS THIS THING ON? 7 WAYS TO GET YOUR MESSAGE HEARD, in-depth planning, research, audience development and analysis are just as important as the creative itself. Before you start your next, or first, video project, take stock of what’s important to your viewers and how it will compete with all the noise out there: be realistic, be original, be thoughtful, and be daring!

Is This Thing On? 7 Ways To Get Your Message Heard

Is This Thing On? 7 Ways To Get Your Message Heard

For the next few weeks, we’re talking about being ready to use video and doing it right. Last week’s post, Here’s Your Awesome New Video, Now Don’t Screw it Up, discussed what happens when companies spend valuable resources to create fantastic video, but don’t devote resources to promoting the video. This week, we’re talking about another conversation we don’t want to have with our clients, the “We’re promoting our video but it just isn’t working” conversation. Gulp. Here we go.

We’re passionate about our clients because our clients are passionate about their businesses. They love what they do, they care deeply about their missions, and they are driven to succeed. They’re also wary of overspending on marketing, tipping their hand to the competition, or risking a failed campaign.

The reasons that videos sometimes just don’t work are numerous — swallowed up in that ever-exploding universe of algorithms and coding that decides what gets seen by whom and when. There’s a certain amount of risk with every single marketing piece of ANY color – video, blogging, marketing automation, what have you. But no one ever made a mark in the world without risk, and video is actually lower on the risk scale than many other, more expensive tactics that are more difficult to measure, like outdoor advertising.

However, we are a “no excuses” kind of agency. If a video isn’t working out, we want to know why and how to fix it. Here are 7 key points to know that can make or break your video – and it’s all about the message.

1) Know Your Audience.

Profile them. What do they care about? What are their ages? Do they have buying power? Pain points? What’s their intent – to know, to go, to do or to buy? Once you know this you’ve got your call-to-action.

>> Learn more about intent marketing

2) Speak to the Decision Makers.

The first person to find your marketing video may not be the final decision maker, but that person is likely to have access to the decision maker. Give them plenty of ammo to make your sale for you by addressing the business problem you are solving and the value therein.

3) Don’t Copy. Improve.

Way back when I was a copywriter, I was told the most important part of my job title was “copy.” I didn’t become a writer to copy other writers, I argued. I was assured that improving upon the work that others have done is perfectly ethical. So it is with all things digital and creative as the tools evolve. If you find a video that you think is absolutely ideal for your business needs, take a step back and think about how would would improve it and make it truly your own. (In any media, a blatant copy is still unethical).

4) Solve One Problem at a Time.

How many problems can you solve in 60 seconds? Don’t try to sell everything you have to offer in one shot. It’s almost always more effective to create several :30 videos that each illuminate how your business solves a particular problem. Otherwise you risk cramming so much detail into a :60 piece that viewers don’t make a connection.

>> Only have budget to make one video? You need to read this first.

5) Teach, Don’t Sell.

Once you know what problem you are going to solve, teach your target audience something they don’t know about that problem, something that you can solve for them.

6) Quality Matters.

An expensive lot of things can go wrong with video. A perfect script paired with poor quality visuals, shoddy editing, or an inexperienced crew at any point in the process can mean an ineffective delivery of message. And that reflects on your business. If you don’t show your own business in the best possible light how can potential customers believe that you’ll help them shine?

7) Know What you Want to Achieve.

If you are getting views and attention, but not much in the way of click-throughs, conversions, or whatever your most valued metric, the problem could be your call-to-action. Be sure it’s directing people to a clear, logical response. That means you need to be clear on what ONE most important thing you want from your video and set your CTA accordingly.

We work hard to advise our clients on all of these points, but sometimes learning happens by making the mistakes anyway. There are many more ways to get your marketing message heard and prompt a desired action from your target audience. We’d love to hear some of your own success, tips and tricks for engagement. Please share with us!

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