My latest listen was “Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less”. Given what I do, my ear perked up when author Joe Pulizzi provided, in my opinion, a pretty good definition for Testimonials.  He writes “A testimonial is, figuratively speaking, a quote from the horses, that is the customers, mouth. Boasting is unseemly when we do it ourselves, but when praise comes from a trustworthy source, a client or customer, it acquires a credibility that helps overcome skepticism and purchasing hesitation.”

Like most do-it-yourself books, I think he oversimplifies and he makes it seem easy.  But, wonder of wonder, its misleading.  He also doesn’t make a distinction between the huge difference in effectiveness that exists between the two types of testimonials: text vs video.

You could argue that something is better than nothing. And I would agree. If you can’t capture a video testimonial, properly, use text.  I would also agree when he suggests using the RECOMMENDATION feature on LinkedIn. Just because words of praise appear on a web site, doesn’t make them real.  Given the professional nature of LinkedIn and the fact that a Recommendation is tied to the person that gave it, it seems like it would be less susceptible to tampering or foolery.  And LinkedIn gives a prospect a very easy way to message a client and ask about the actual experience.

I am surprised that he didn’t refer the power of video testimonials.  Video, done properly, not only captures emotion that text can’t, it can share that emotion (enthusiasm, excitement, satisfaction) for the rest of time.  I call it the power of a personal appearance 24/7.

But what’s properly? The power is only present if the testimonial is authentic.  And what is authentic?  Dictionary.com says “representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified”.  It is not delivering something prepared or from a teleprompter. There is an epidemic of this approach. Do companies really believe that prospects can’t tell? Seriously, if your client can’t talk about the experience you provided from memory, how memorable was it?

And authenticity also means that the person talking has to be comfortable and relaxed.  There’s a joke that goes: “What’s the quickest way to shut someone up? Put a video camera in their face.”  Great video needs a great interviewer to enable the person on camera to confidently talk from the heart about their experience with you. A great interviewer knows the backstory. A great interviewer has done the research to know the problem the client was facing, the solution that was provided and the outcome of applying the solution as well as the business owner themselves.  With this knowledge, they can be CONVERSATIONAL.

Don’t think the person being interviewed can tell if you’ve done your homework?  You’d be wrong. I like to reference Brian Linehan, the host of City Lights on CityTV in Toronto, who regularly shocked his guests with the questions he would ask.  Not the asinine, skeleton in the closest questions of today’s tabloid journalism.  He would regularly drop the jaw of a guest who, aghast and agaw, would say “HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT!?!?!  I’d LOVE to tell you about that!”.  And that, next to active listening, is the secret to the magic in a great interview.

Simply asking someone whether they were satisfied does not a great interview make. And certainly not one that the majority of internet surfers with attention spans of less than a goldfish (this is a fact: < 8 sec) will make the time to watch and be affected by.  If you don’t leave then wanting a similar experience, there’s no point in doing it.