Say What?

Schools love using students and/or graduate testimonials to market their product. Why? Because, typically, spots featuring happy grads tend to pull phenomenal leads. It’s the ol’ “If-I-Can-Do-It-YOU-Can-Do-It” adage. And it works time and time again. A proven winner, if done right.

If done WRONG, however, it’s cataclysmic. Students are not actors … and many times they’ll freeze up on camera. Or stutter. Or pass out. Or worse. So you have to try and get their attention and keep it while fourteen crew members with fourteen high-beam lights hover over them.

My trade secret? Start talking with the student LONG before the camera flips on. My photographer will “accidentally” bump me to signify the camera is rolling … but the student won’t be clued in until later. It’s a creative way to continue the casual back-and-forth banter I want the viewer to see.

In my heyday, I was interviewing about 75 grads per month … give or take. Each had a different story to tell. Trying to get them to tell that story cohesively, though, took every ounce of cajoling I had.

Schools seem to be impressed I can get the answers they want to hear out of a student. I always tell them the same thing — “This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.” Back before I worked for PlattForm, I interviewed celebrities for a living as an entertainment producer.
Believe me, if I can get a quality sound byte out of Anna Nicole Smith – I can get the perfect quote from your student.

Once I had a marketing muckety-muck banish me from the room DURING the interviews because she felt I wasn’t asking the right questions. Turns out, I was asking the right questions … I just wasn’t asking them in the right language. Very few of their grads were comfortable speaking English … let alone speaking English with a giant camera two feet away from them. Live and learn.

The best interviews are the ones where schools hand-pick students they want to represent them. The worst are – duh – the proverbial cattle call of talking heads schools send me – usually in groups of 10 or more. That’s when I hope for the best, pray someone says something articulate and look back at the tape two weeks later to see what sticks.

If you haven’t done a testimonial campaign lately, I’d highly suggest it. I know …I know … EVERYONE does it. But why is that? It’s simple. Testimonials are honest, understated, straight-forward and pull great leads. And it’s an opportunity for you to put your best face(s) forward!

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