This much we all know: people buy people, and people buy stories.

And whether we’re building rapport with new talent or busy building employer brand equity, there’s no more immediate way to bring both people and stories to your candidates than video content.

The testimonial film

In the employer space, the common form of video is the ‘testimonial’ film. i.e. someone bringing to life what it’s like to work in your business, and what inspires them about it. 

Now first things first, it’s debatable if testimonial film is the right approach in every circumstance (spoiler: it isn’t), but I’m parking that thought just for today because it’s the form of video content I’d like to show some love. It’s a bit of an unsung hero, even, and still one of the most powerful tools in the box to get your employer brand message across. There’s nothing else quite so easy to consume and nothing else that communicates with such a sense of authenticity. I’m fresh from shooting two forms of testimonial films for clients last week and I’m definitely still an ‘ultra’ fan of the medium.

However, there is a big ‘but’, so-to-speak....  there are badass testimonials and just plain bad testimonials.

I want to make sure yours is the former.

What can you do?

So here I am with my top testimonial tips. These are pretty broad brush strokes to begin with. I hope to expand on these further if you’ll have me back around here soon.

There are millions of ways to shoot these films, well, definitely thousands. So try not to have a pre-conceived idea on how to do yours.

What I mean by this is if you come to your agency having already set in stone who we are filming, what they are saying and where (in the office, perchance?) they are saying it, you may be limiting some of the more exciting possibilities. 

Whilst it might seem like you are saving time, that doesn’t always work out either.

It’s a privilege to shoot a film for a client and one any creative should be delighted to do regardless, but our target audience will be brutal. At best the play-head gets scrubbed along to the end, putting it in video lingo. More likely, though, our candidate clicks/swipes somewhere else instead.

So what is the best starting point? In my opinion, it’s asking a bunch of simple and non-rhetorical questions. What is the film meant to be saying? To whom? What do we want these people to think and feel at the end? Finally, where is the final output going? That last one has got a whole lot more interesting now and often includes a variety of end points requiring a variety of different types of edit from the same rushes. It’s becoming rare that we don’t need to consider suitability and share-ability in the social space.

The do's and don'ts

Now, I don’t want to sound too reductive about any of this stuff, but this is also the kinda article one might expect a few do's and a few don'ts, so here goes. 

Do bend creative ears with your project straight-away, no matter what the turnaround time or budget is.

A good agency will not be scared of a tight budget as there are ways and means of getting the best value for money. As a rule, I like to see as much of it as possible actually visible on screen at the end of the process. Every single great piece of film content started out as a great idea in the first place. Whether it was destined to be a cinematic masterpiece or simply a cheeky bunch of selfies. Audiences these days have an instinctive understanding of the medium and that means we should be exploring less conventional narratives and structures. And we can take liberties with what we see on screen whilst we’re listening to spoken testimonial.

Which reminds me, don’t be afraid to go beyond the classic cutaway. It’s unlikely an audience will complain if they don’t see your profilee tapping away at a keyboard or earnestly pretending to chat on a phone!

A final word

Finally - and yes it’s easy for me to say this – do take a few measured risks with the idea. Not actually so easy to do, so maximum respect to you if you manage it. If nothing else, the more creative ideas will inspire a film crew on the day and ensure us creative types have even more reason to make the best film we possibly can. 

And that can’t be a bad thing.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Do you use testimonial videos to showcase your offering? What are your barriers?

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Senior Art Director

Peter Bayer is an insight driven, channel neutral, classically trained art director. Pete’s done 20+ years, so far, of a 50 year career. He loves shaping employer brands and sharing best practice advice, honed from his years on the frontline. 

Pete's never met a project he didn't like. He'll take on pretty much anything. As long as it doesn't involve dry ice. He's terrified of it. 

In his own words: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”