The Testimonial, Set in Stone as the Referent Gave It?

You have discovered a testimonial and its benefits to the personal brand. After that, we found together from whom to request it and how. But, just as you should not count your chickens before they are hatched, you do not always get what you wish the way you requested it! So, what do you do then?


When to modify a testimonial

When a referent offers a testimonial, the ideas and words used belong to him/her. The marketer must assume these just as they are provided by the referent, but in certain situations, this can change:

  • orthographic, writing, or punctuation mistakes;
  • words that are repeated can be substituted;
  • phrases that are too long can be divided into sentences;
  • 2-3 words that could be replaced with better synonyms can be replaced;
  • If needed, he/she can delete certain portions/ideas if they do not affect the contextual meaning.

Look below for an example of a modified testimonial. This testimonial was initially received in Romanian (here translated into English). After that, it was translated to be usable at an international level. Unfortunately, as you will observe, some meanings were lost in the translation, and some corrections were needed. The first is the original. The second is the modified one.

Informaţiile obţinute prin aplicarea chestionarului Identity Compass® sunt deosebit de relevante şi pot fi folosite atât la nivel personal, cât şi în organizaţie la partea de evaluare la angajare/promovare şi la stabilirea unui plan pentru dezvoltarea individuală. Poate furniza managerilor date despre profilul motivaţional al subordonaţilor şi poate ajuta în contruirea echipelor performante.

Este un instrument uşor de folosit şi sunt convinsă că va avea o mare dezvoltare în domeniul organizaţional.

Mara Manea,

Training Specialist

Coca-Cola HBC Romania


« The information obtained by the Identity Compass®  questionnaire application is especially relevant and can be used at the personal level but in the organization, too (at the evaluation part of employment/promotion and for establishing an individual development plan). It can provide managers with data about the motivational profile of subordinates and help build performant teams.

It is an instrument that is easy to use, and I am sure it will significantly develop in the organizational field. »

Mara Manea
Training specialist
Coca-Cola HBC Romania

The information obtained by the Identity Compass®  IS especially relevant and can be used at the personal level AND in the organization too (TO EVALUATE FOR employment/promotion and for establishing an individual development plan). It can provide managers with data about EMPLOYEES’ motivational profiles and can help build HIGH-PERFORMANCE teams. It is an instrument THAT IS easy to use, and I am sure it will have a great IMPACT on the FIELD OF ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT. »

Mara Manea
Training Specialist
Coca-Cola HBC Romania

This testimonial, after it was received, was contained just as it was offered, in a list with other similar references, and the referent received access to the document, having the right to oppose if it did not agree with the context it appeared. The testimonial refers to the product of a company that activates in over 40 countries and was translated so that it could be used for promotion at an international level. 2 persons with the ability of decisions in the respective company requested the modifications pinpointed above. It was necessary to inquire about the referent’s permission for the testimonial to be able to be published in its new form, even though you can observe it is not a big difference.

I have used this example because, in this case, the referent, since the one who operated the testimonial is a top expert in the domain they, are active and have experience regarding the promotion of services. As proof, you have observed how, sensitive to the loss of some meanings by translation, the recommended company’s representative insisted on adjusting the testimonial and did so with respect for each word the person had written. I know an example of one person that was to be sued because it sent, neglectfully, to some people a version of a promotional document in which there was a version with 1-2 words that had not been modified in time at the referent’s request. Testimonials represent a thin line and matter for litigation. The example given in this article contains specific…examples. But these examples are used from testimonials for which the referents have given their acceptance for being used in public, and the copyright law stipulates that any examples may be used for educational/demonstration purposes, as is the case with this article, without requesting the referent’s permission deliberately, however, these situations are pretty restricted. I recommend you request approval for everything and always offer transparency to your referents.


<<Never mind, write whatever you want, and I will sign!>>

This is one of the phrases many potential referents will tackle you with, alleging lack of time, inability, etc…

First, it is a deontological criterion that obligates every initiator to use only absolute references, leading all the way to publish the referent’s contact information, even in the promotional material, to be able to verify (most frequently, in the online surroundings, link on the name to the e-mail address is practiced).

Second, another criterion exists, even more practical: if you write about what you would like others to read and you do it constantly (in case you falsify the testimonials), you will notice at one moment that all the testimonies that you have signed by referents have almost the same style. Finally, I will give an example of how different attitudes, personalities, and styles can be reflected in three persons who offer testimonials for the same service of graphological analysis.

My personality was “read”, pretty much employing the graphological analysis, and a part of the aspects found clarified some doubts regarding the choice of my future profession. In other words, the made description confirmed what I knew about myself; on the one hand, and on the other hand, it made me discover other aspects which I did not know about and that are useful for creating a concrete road.

To realize the best life choices, you must know yourself very well. Therefore, I think the graphological analysis is valuable; you do not have anything to lose by trying this option. On the contrary, you might be surprised by a pleasant sensation, just as I was, rediscovering myself in large part of this graphological analysis and not only that but even discovering things that I did not know about my personality”.

Madalena Tenchiu

Copy editor, Iasi

There are pseudo-psychological tests online. Anyone can take them and think they are correct. The truth is that nothing compares with the prepared individual who explains face-to-face how things are. I liked the analysis. Besides the fact it was amusing, it was also useful for me. Useful and pleasant, the most beautiful of all combinations”.

Ioana Stefania Ciureanu,

Graduated Medicine and Pharmacy, Iasi

Even though I tried to dissimulate certain things on my page, Marcus Victor Grant, in the position of a graphological analyst, made an exact analysis of my personality”.

Luana Stanciu,

Commercial law counselor, Bucharest

These three testimonials were written by different persons. And they represent, additionally, a warranty of the fact that persons from other domains (in this case, editorial, academic, economic-law) will have a favorable view concerning the offered service, despite the difference in perspectives, style, and field of activity. Likewise, we remember more what we wrote/said than what anyone else wrote/said. The moment it is contacted, a referent will know what he/she wrote you as a reference, compared to the situation where you composed an excellent text, and he/she only signed it.

Sometimes, it happens that you discover, on this occasion, that a person is not fully satisfied with your service, which will give you some suggestions for improvement. For example, at one moment, I tried a team-building method with a group of students from the department of psychology. Even though it was not done until the end, due to limits of time and space, I had the impression it had gone well and thought it would be a good idea to request some references for the respective method. Still, with this occasion, I discovered that things did not necessarily go wrong, but they did not go as good as I would have liked to think. Two participants made some observations that helped me understand where I had done wrong. If I had not requested these references, I would not have gotten feedback, even though I had asked for feedback immediately after the team-building session. This proves that…

Feedback is not a reference,

and a connection is not a feedback

The moment you receive a positive reference, warm, from the heart, from someone who you know was really helped by your product/service, it is the case to congratulate yourself. These are the most lovely testimonials; even though it might happen they are not to be observed by others, they are the ones you will remember. The example is given in my work of profiling in the field of human resources; it sometimes happens for specific clients to have insights or revelations about themselves, a thing that can help them develop; even though the purpose of profiling is, for example, choosing a job or evaluation for a particular post, a side benefit might be that of the person being able to identify more clearly specific problems or directions for action using which to make a decision. Just as the case of Andreea was:

I have to admit that I have always needed help identifying my problems or their essence. I have always known I am also my biggest enemy. I have never understood why. The profile enlightened me from this perspective. After the shape, I had a sort of revelation. And this opened my eyes to the strategies that I should adopt regarding myself in the future. I began today…

Marcus found the problem and its explanation in only an hour…for me, it took years to understand the decisions I made. So if I were to say in percentage the results of the profile about reality, I would say 99%”.

Andreea Serban


Now think, well…even though I know what I would like the clients to express about the offered services, do you think such a testimonial could be counterfeited? And to be of a different style than the other 7 testimonials of the same service on a specific type of profile? Small probability. Additionally, if you are good enough to make an effort to forge some references (a thing I consider absolutely embarrassing and irresponsible for someone who works in marketing) and to use styles that are sufficiently different so that you do it successfully, believe me, that you have the abilities to offer your services at a level of quality that you will obtain testimonials <<for real>> with much less effort.

Those who will know best how to appreciate your work are others.

Leave the words to them, and those will come to you.

If you run after excellent descriptions in your services’ (auto)promotion, these will not come.

Thank you!  

Happy Self Branding

PS. You may access this list [ro, blog] for a list of articles treating personal branding.

Useful references for the content of this article

Shelle Rose Charvet – Words that change minds/Cuvinte care schimbă minţi, Editura Amaltea, 2006

Dan Kennedy – Magnetic Marketing Collection

Jack Trout, Steve Rivkin – The Power of Simplicity

Marcus Victor Grant

Translation by Răzvan Goldstein of the article “Testimonialul, bătut în cuie așa cum l-a dat referentul? “previously published in Romanian on the 18th of March 2011 on Discerne. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2012-present, all rights reserved.

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.

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