Honesty’s Role in Testimonial Videos

3 minute read

Honesty is a subjective term, isn’t it? I have a friend who frequently starts a sentence with, “I’m not gonna lie…”, as though perhaps without that qualifier he often does lie. In this age of trying to learn The Truth, how do we determine who or what’s honest and what’s not? Quite simply, we use our own judgement and experience. We watch, listen, evaluate, and decide for ourselves.

Recently, I had the challenge of helping a client create an “About Us” video. They’re a web company that sells their own products and they don’t have a fancy downtown store, but what they do have are loyal customers who LOVE their products. Let’s say I’m a potential new customer, surfing around looking at this company. What helps me turn the corner – from curious to ready? Maybe I’ll talk to a trusted friend who already loves it? Or maybe listen to a stranger who has a lot in common with me?

Either way, as a potential customer, I’m skeptical. I wonder if everything you are telling me is basically sugar-coated. So how do we create an honest customer testimonial? One that looks and feels genuine?

First, I had to convince the company that we could find a few people who have a genuinely great story, articulate that story well and it resonates with potential customers. After we worked together to “audition” a number of great people, we picked our testimonials based on that same criteria. Since our testimonial people were not local, I recorded a Skype conversation with each of them. That worked well to get an initial feeling for how they look on video.

Second, we all agreed to make these videos about each person. It’s not directly about the company, but rather about why each person chose the products and why they stay loyal. So during the shoot and edit, we carefully focused on creating a genuine story. We didn’t put words in their mouths and we didn’t ask them to do anything that felt forced. We also found a few simple real hobbies for each of them so we had some nice b-roll footage to go with their interview. That part created a fun experience for each person and their friends/families.

I think the difference between a good interview and a genuine, great interview is not black and white. It’s a gray area of making the interviewee feel comfortable before and during the conversation, so the interviewee is ready to share verbally, and consequently the viewer feels comfortable watching.

In the end, as the potential customer, I’m watching them talk about their experience. I’m looking into their eyes, evaluating the way they talk and making my own conclusions. The same thing I would do talking face-to-face. Hopefully, I see myself in part of their story, connect with the experience, and that creates an emotional reason to be ready to take the next step. It’s not manipulative marketing, it’s just listening to an honest, genuine story and helping me to make my choice. Honestly.


steve profile for web

About the Author
Steve Simkins directs and produces videos at North By Northwest. His storytelling ability lies somewhere between LL Cool J and Jerry Lewis. He’s been making videos since he was a wee lad. Steve’s afro is not that big and he is nothing like LL Cool J.


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