The Benefits of Video Testimonials - and a Little Spontaneity

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I once had a job writing scripts for a daily 90-second radio show for Joe Gibbs, the nice-as-can-be, Hall of Fame coach of the Washington Redskins. He did not enjoy recording it and felt more comfortable reading from a script. I had gotten to know how he spoke so I could add in the "heys" and "for you fans" and more of his favorite sayings. But still I did cringe when my morning alarm would ring and I would hear him stiffly reading my lines.

Except when he didn't. After games, there wouldn't be time for me to write so he would just record it in the lockerroom, speaking off the cuff. It sounded much better, of course. He was excited, a little hoarse perhaps, and his enthusiasm—his record for his first Redskins stint was an amazing 140-65 with three Super Bowl wins—would make it sound more vibrant and engaging.

What reminded me of those days—and the advantages of spontaneity—were a couple articles I read about filming testimonials. One of the best places to gather video testimonials is at your events. Set up a camera and an effective background and think B2B casting call.

People enjoy getting in front of the camera, said TechAssure executive director Garrett Droege in an article on Associations Now. "I thought they would be reluctant." He believes that the key is to try not to script it, "and let the member talk to give genuine footage and conversation"—a la the postgame Coach Gibbs.

There are other advantages to making it known you're filming testimonials at your event, depending on your audience. Many of Droege's members and sponsors are industry thought leaders, and knowing that they will be filmed, either in sessions or testimonials, can be a great enticement to attend. Also, as Bob Coleman told me last week, his male thought leaders have enjoyed the makeup sessions that Bob sometimes provides before they appeared on the air.

As for viewing testimonials vs. reading them, Droege believes that his members "would rather watch a video than read something in print. We found it to be a great way to reach them."

EB Medicine has a Featured Subscriber video testimonial on their homepage. "It's actually an old campaign that we resurfaced," Stephanie Williford, CEO, EB Medicine, said. "A number of years ago, we asked subscribers for video testimonials and offered an extension on their subscription for everyone who submitted a video. We received quite a few, and most were really good. We'll probably do the campaign again to get new videos."

The American Physical Therapy Association spotlights their younger members in two-minute testimonial clips about student membership that has received almost 2,000 YouTube views. This represents longer-term thinking, sometimes tough in a produce-now world. But these promote diversity without shouting it out, look wonderfully unscripted, and showcase some amazing young people in their profession.

However, not everyone believes that going off the cuff is best. Jackie Wallenstein, director of membership, marketing, and communications at the Association of School Business Officials International, prefers to carefully prep members for video recordings. "Questions were prepared, and in some cases, shared with interviewees ahead of time so they had time to think out their answers," she said also in Associations Now. "Interviewees were targeted through discussions with program directors who would be at the meeting."

There is probably a case to make on both sides here. Off-the-cuff interviews can come off much more humanizing and real. But scripted interviews can be more effective if the goal is to address specific topics or offer solutions to targeted problems.

Ask your interviewees what they are most comfortable doing, perhaps encouraging some spontaneity. Even for my Q&As here, I've had people who like winging it and those who prefer when I send the questions. But the end result—videos of your subscribers or members—will still be effective because they are videos, and we love to click on that triangle button.

"By the end of the year, I will have 15 to 20 videos that can highlight different resources, sponsors or member benefits, and that in turn becomes a tool to recruit," said Droege.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…