Stories Worth Sharing: The Making of a Video Testimonial

Written by Paige Dawson

In a recent blog, our video whiz-in-residence Chris Kelley shared some guidelines on harnessing the power of video. Today we’ll take a look at one of the most common and effective ways we help clients leverage video: testimonials.

You can talk about your company and its strengths all day, but an authentic testimonial from one of your clients or customers will be much more powerful in the eyes of a prospect. Video testimonials are the next best thing to word-of-mouth marketing, and when done right they will resonate with the targets you’re trying to reach and spark that all-important emotional connection that can clinch a deal. Why? Because a well-done video testimonial is a story, and people love stories.

If you’re considering video testimonials, here are some tips and considerations to ensure you create a story worth sharing.

When and where

You don’t need a big space or a fancy studio to shoot a professional looking video. An office or small conference room with a clean, simple background will work fine as long as you have good lighting. Or, the magic of green screen technology will enable you to film pretty much anywhere. We use the green screen often to customize backgrounds and give a consistent look and feel for videos that are shot at different times.

If you can, try to shoot a few testimonials in batches to minimize cost. One of our clients films their testimonials at an annual convention where many of their clients are already gathered, so it’s more cost effective for them and more convenient for their participants.

Green screen technology allows us to shoot video virtually anywhere…even the hallway of a hotel.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Creating an effective testimonial takes careful planning and execution, which is why most of our clients leave it to us to handle. Choose your testimonial subjects wisely. Not everyone—even a happy client or customer—has a great story to tell or comes across well on camera, so keep that in mind when selecting participants.

Preparation also includes making sure approvals will go smoothly—you’d hate to spend the time shooting a video only to find out that a participant’s company policy won’t allow it to be used publicly. Secure approvals via email or in writing with a clear explanation of exactly how the video will be used. Set expectations with your participants for everything from wardrobe guidelines to who will be on site during filming and what topics you’ll cover (more on that below).

Content: ditch the script, get specific

There’s a reason why actors and professional broadcasters get paid a lot of money to work from scripts—because it’s very difficult for most ‘normal’ folks to pull off successfully. We never give testimonial participants scripts or even prepared talking points in advance. For us, the most impactful content comes from a natural conversation in the form of a Q & A or informal interview, so we only provide participants a basic list of questions or topic areas prior to shoot day.

Your goal with a video testimonial is to create an authentic narrative. This is where having a skilled and well-prepared interviewer comes in—they will know how to guide the conversation naturally and even have the participant restate something if they stumble over a word, etc. You need to strike a balance between being respectful of your participant’s time while also filming enough footage to put together a compelling, coherent finished product. For us, that typically requires no more than 30 minutes with each participant.

Back to preparation…craft your questions in a way that will help to elicit the kind of content you want. Specific examples of how your company has helped the interviewee’s organization are always better than generic praise, so make sure your questions are well planned and customized for each participant. When we conduct interviews, we always have a firm handle on the participant’s story and our specific goals for finished content.

A great way help build the emotional connection is to find out what the participant was struggling with before they found you. What challenges were they facing? What specific problems did they need to address? How did your company help them? Prospects will be likely to identify with the participant’s frustrations and look to you as a potential solution.

Here’s an example of the emotional power of video in a testimonial we created for one of our awesome clients, EMERGICON:

Post production: keep it short and sweet

We see about 2 minutes as the sweet spot length for most testimonial videos. Edit ruthlessly and be sure that every second of footage contributes to the story you’re trying to tell. When in doubt…take it out!

If you have an exceptionally compelling client or customer with a lot of great content, break their story up into segments. And don’t skimp on graphics. You’ve spent the time to do all of the preparing, filming and editing, so make sure the entire visual package is a proper representation of your brand.

Finally…don’t forget a thank you note to your client or customer for taking the time to be profiled in a video. A handwritten note on your company stationery is our recommendation, but a small gift or charity donation is appropriate, too.

Ready to get started on video testimonials for your company? Contact us today.

About Paige Dawson

With expertise in marketing, business strategy and public relations, as well as ‘in the trenches’ experience as a business owner, Paige Dawson brings a unique blend of talent to clients. As president and founder of MPD Ventures Company, Paige works with executives and entrepreneurs throughout the country to develop key messages, marketing strategies and measurable campaigns, driven by client business goals. She has extensive experience providing counsel for professional service firms, technology companies, associations and nonprofits.