Client Testimonials: Video or Not? – April 2010

A great testimonial is the trump card for winning business. Clients telling others what you do is like gold in the bank. Traditionally, companies have relied on written testimonials. With the popularization of YouTube and other social media outlets, the bar has been raised to include video. And that can be a problem if you don’t watch out. Too many are bland as boiled water.

My client CompuCom, a large IT company, recently engaged me to produce a short testimonial video, featuring one of their clients LifeGift. You can see it by clicking on this link at YouTube.

What adds additional interest to this project is that before my project, Intel produced a darn good testimonial video, which you can see by clicking here. In this case, CompuCom was the client speaking about Intel’s work. They did a bang up job. My challenge was to see if I could do a little better. Nice to have those bars raised for one and all!

It just wouldn’t be social media if I didn’t add that you are invited to tell me which one better holds your interest…the Intel with CompuCom or the CompuCom with Intel…email me at are five pointers for creating a similar project…frankly, these tips are just as valid for almost any quality communication as they are in the video genre. It’s just that in video, flaws are often more glaring; and the costs of error high.

1. Have a Story to Tell
Too often, a litany of benefits, features, or “me” statements blow up all credibility by boring the client to death. You have to have a story that captures interest and takes the viewer on a journey. We think the CompuCom/LifeGift video does a pretty good job of that. It’s not always how much money you throw at a project that gets the desired result. Even with superb production quality, a video that doesn’t tell a “story” falls flat and wastes money. You see this all the time: It looks good, but you can’t remember a thing about it. Of course, it is even worse when it looks bad and also is flat on story.

2. Make it Brief
You have to tell your story as quickly as possible. The CompuCom video is several minutes, edited out of several hours of interviews. Ruthless editing is a requirement…there was so much more I would have loved to include; but with what there is here, we got the main ideas across. I had to let it go.

3. Capture Star Power and Authenticity
Unlike professional actors who are trained to work in front of a camera, individuals in a corporate video are likely to be uncomfortable in front of a camera. It can be an awkward and even nerve wracking experience for them–and everyone involved. In an effort to put on a brave front, “talent,” meaning the people on camera, will have a tendency to stiffen and stifle their authenticity. To capture their genuine personalities, you have to truly listen to them–and know how to bring out their truth, what is real and meaningful for them.

4. High Production Quality
We all have Flip cameras which are great for blogs or snippets of this or that. For this, dump it. You DO NOT want to skimp on production quality. In the CompuCom video, the production team was the best. They captured the lighting of the subjects in just the way I wanted. The faces looked just like they did in person, as real human beings. The background was just the kind of soft effect I wanted, maintaining focus on the content and facial expressions. Yet, at the same time, it was aesthetically pleasing. And notice, if you watch the video, the content ended up being so strong that we didn’t need a lot of filler or fancy animations to jazz it up. The people just told their stories. The production choices supported them.

5. Let the Truth Unfold
Although before we began filming, I had a general idea of what the folks in the video would be talking about. As to what specific details, once the cameras were rolling, who knew what would pop up? Initially, my LodeStar client imagined one person on the film. Deeper into the planning, we decided the overall result would be better with more people involved. Rich detail flowed out as the cameras rolled. Answering my questions, which were asked with wholehearted listening, the folks on camera revealed rich details, more interesting than I dared to imagine. The point here, though, is that what they said, was the truth, their truth, told in their way and in their words. That’s what makes it work so well. No script or forced directions could have captured that genuine quality. It is a joy to watch and trust in the process.

A caveat: This is truly one area where hiring professionals makes a difference in outcome. With Flip cameras and simple editing software, capturing video has never been easier; so doing it yourself seems within reach. And there is a place for Flips, but not here.

Before you head down a thorny path, investing wasted dollars and time, think through what seems like an innocent enough idea – creating in-house videos that look as inexpensive as they were to make – and end up being something your clients dismiss.

It’s a fact. In today’s media-savvy world, a well-executed video, unlike the two-dimensional quote, has more texture. With context, pictures, sounds, and human faces, a well-produced film speaks volumes, touching prospects on a variety of emotional and intellectual levels. The result? More credibility. More clients. More revenue.

*Please note: There are Federal Trade Commission rules about the use of testimonials. For the most part, these rules are to ensure disclosure, honesty, and integrity.