Using testimonials in advertising has long been a tried and true device for creating a relatable and personal message. Hearing a story from the perspective of someone who’s ‘been there’ can be very effective, whether it’s relaying a positive customer service experience, touting how wonderful a product is, or telling a personal story about a company’s merits. If you can bring that true emotion to life you can effectively connect with your audience. However, if you miss the mark, the results can be most uninspiring. In fact, there’s nothing worse than a phony sounding testimonial commercial.
But there’s the catch. What’s the best way to deliver a ‘true’ testimonial, without sounding fake and unrealistic?
Keep It Real
One approach is to use untrained, everyday folks off the street. The thought process goes something like this:
‘We’ve got some really great feedback from our customers. We should use it in next month’s radio to show people how great our client is!’ ‘Great idea! In fact, why don’t we use real customers to voice the commercial?’
Good idea in theory. In practice, it can sometimes lead to disaster.
If you choose to go this route, you need to start with people who are honestly enthusiastic about your product or have a genuine story to tell. They must also have the personality that can convey that story in a compelling way. Often times people untrained in voice overs are chosen to read testimonials simply because they’re untrained, and the writer is looking for that ‘real’ sound. Even true customers who have a positive story to tell can end up sounding fake because they’re not prepared to have a microphone thrust in their face and a group of people hanging on their every word.
Once you find a person who you think can deliver, you’re still not home free. Next, you need to allow them to tell their own story and be prepared to craft your message around whatever comes out. Try and put words in the mouth of someone who’s never done voice overs, and you’ll end up with a commercial that sounds as dry and uninspiring as a Saltine cracker.
Go With a Pro
The alternative, of course, is to hire professional voice talent to portray your testimonial voices. This can be effective, but it’s not without its pitfalls.
Begin by casting voice actors for your script, with the emphasis on ‘actors’. Each voice talent has his or her own strengths. Some are best at announcer roles, others play great characters. For testimonials, be sure to seek out voice talent who have a knack for being regular people. It takes skill to bring a conversational, off-the-cuff style to a read, without sounding too ‘sell-y’ or too ‘flat’. Cast based on the read styles you hear in their demos or auditions, not because they have a similar voice to the people they’re portraying.
Once you’ve found your voice, the next step is to let them do what they do best. Allowing a voice talent to put your copy in their own words will ultimately deliver the ‘real’ sound you’re looking for. Give the talent the emotion or feeling you’re going for, along with a framework for the copy and then let them go. Even if you’re working with testimonial copy that comes from real surveys or letters that you would prefer not to edit, if you give the talent the flexibility to add subtle interpretation to the script, the results will be that much better.
You Better Believe It
Which ever way you go about producing testimonial voice overs, make sure you step back and ask yourself ‘Do I really believe this person?’ If there’s any hesitation, you’re running the risk of creating advertising that’s easily forgettable. Tap into the emotion of a true believer and you’re on your way to connecting with your audience.