You have found out what a testimonial is and what benefits it brings to the personal brand. After that, we have discovered 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! What do you do then?
When to modify a testimonial
The moment a referent offers a testimonial, the ideas and words used belong to him/her. The marketer has the obligation to assume these just as they are offered by the referent, but in certain situations, 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 it is 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 originally received in the Romanian language (here translated to English) after that it was translated so that it would be usable at an international level. 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.“
Coca-Cola HBC Romania
« The information obtained by the Identity Compass® questionnaire application are 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 data about the motivational profile of subordinates and can help to build performant teams.
It is an instrument easy to use and I am sure that it will have a great development in the organizational field. »
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 data about the motivational profile of EMPLOYEES and can help to build HIGH-PERFORMANCE teams. It is an instrument THAT IS easy to use and I am sure that it will have a great IMPACT in the FIELD OF ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT. »
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 which activates in over 40 countries and was translated, so that it would be able to be used for promotion at an international level. 2 persons with ability of decision in the respective company requested the modifications pinpointed above and it was needed to inquire the referent’s permission in order 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, inasmuch as the one who operated the testimonial are top experts in the domain they are active and have experience regarding the promotion of services. As a proof, you have observed how, sensitive to the loss of some meanings by translation, the recommended company’s representative insisted to adjust 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. Example given, this article contains certain…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. My recommendation is you request permission for everything and always to offer transparency to your referents.
<<Never mind, write there whatever you want and I will sign!>>
This is one of the phrases which many potential referents will tackle you with, alleging lack of time, inability, etc…
First, it is a deontological criteria, that obligates every initiator to use only real references, leading all the way to publishing the referent’s contact information even in the promotional material, in order 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 in a constant manner (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. I will give you an example of how much different the attitude, personality and style can be reflected in three persons who offer testimonials for the same service, of graphological analysis.
“My personality was “read”, pretty much, by means of 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 me, on one hand, and on the other hand, made me discover other aspects which I did not know about and that are useful for creating a solid road.
In order to realize the best choices in life, first you must know yourself very well. I think the graphological analysis is a useful method regarding this and you do not have anything to lose by trying out this option. You might be surprised in a pleasant sense, just as I was, rediscovering myself in a large part of this graphological analysis and not only that but even discovering things that I did not know about my personality”.
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 the 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”.
Graduated Medicine and Pharmacy, Iasi
“Even though I tried to dissimulate certain things on my page, Ştefan Alexandrescu, in the position of a graphological analyst, made an exact analysis of my personality”.
Commercial law counsellor, Bucharest
It is obvious these three testimonials were written by different persons. And they represent, additionally, a warranty of the fact that persons from different domains (in this case, editorial, academic, economic-law) will have a positive view concerning the offered service, despite the difference of perspectives, style and field of activity. Likewise, we remember easier what we wrote/said than what anyone else wrote/said. The moment it will be contacted, a referent will know what he/she wrote you, as a reference, comparing to the situation where you composed a nice text and he/she only signed it.
Sometimes, it happens that you discover, with this occasion, that a person is not fully satisfied with your service and this will give you some suggestions of improvement. At one moment, together with a group of students from the department of psychology I tried a method of team-building. 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, but with this occasion I discovered that things did not necessarily go bad, 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 would not have requested these references, I would not have gotten a feed-back, even though I had requested feed-back immediately after the session of team-building. Which proves that…
A feedback is not a reference,
and a reference is not a feed-back
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 precious testimonials, even though it might happen for them not be observed by others, but they are the ones you will remember. Example given, in my work of profiling in the field of human resources, it happens sometimes for certain 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 certain post, a side benefit might be that of the person being able to identify more clearly certain problems or directions for action by means of which to make a decision. Just as the case of Andreea was:
“I have to admit that I have always needed help in identifying firstly my problems, or better said, 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 profile, I had a sort of a revelation. And this opened my eyes upon the strategies that I should adopt regarding me in the future. I began today…
Stefan found the problem and its explanation in only an hour…for me it took years to understand the decisions I made. If I were to say in per cent the results of the profile in relation to reality, I would say 99%”.
Now think well…even though I know what I would like the clients to express about the offered services, do you really think such a testimonial could be counterfeited? And to be of a different style compared to the other 7 testimonials of the same service on a certain type of profile? Small probability. Additionally, if you are good enough to make an effort in forging 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 these will come to you.
If you will run after wonderful descriptions in the (auto)promotion of your services, these will not come.
I thank you!
Happy Self 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
Andy Szekely – Ghidul credibilităţii, 2007
Jack Trout, Steve Rivkin – Puterea simplităţii
For a full list of articles on personal branding, in Romanian and English, press here.
Previously published in Romanian [ro, blog] Translated by Răzvan Nidelea