The Axis of the Personal Brand Goes through the Mind of Others

I published on this blog 4 articles on testimonials. This is the last one in the series. You may read the previous ones below:

Jack’s Brand (09.10.2012)

Tell Me Who Recommends You So I Can Tell You How Much I will buy (04.11.2012)

From Whom and How to Request a Testimonial (20.11.2012)

The Testimonial, Set in Stone as the Referent Gave It? (12.12.2012)

Thus, we began a journey concerning testimonials, as benefits they bring to your personal brand, from whom and how to request written references, and how and how much to modify a testimonial. Now is the moment to immerse yourself in even more practical details that will help you master the art of better promoting yourself through others’ words.


What are the details that control the unconscious perception of the client?

First, there are certain things that you look for and have to do with correction/adjustment. About this I specified more in the previous article. After that, you continue your attention on the things that have to do with being in a particular order of ideas with the other testimonials. Different styles must be observed, but not one next to the other. If you have two testimonials next to each other in which one has a tendency <<haw>>. The other <<ho>>, whether it is the question of dimension, of clarity or the content of the ideas, of the serious/funny tone, of length/shortness, etc., the tendency of a too great contrast will make a discordant note of reader, who will not manage to place your product/service in a particular zone of his/her mind but will ask himself/herself in which mind box to put it. Do you know what happens when plus and minus meet each other in addition? They cancel each other out for identical values in the module. If a testimonial does not fit at all with the style and content of the others you have on the same service, it is good to not use it next to others for the moment. Wait until you have sufficient testimonies to make a concatenation with some sort of logic of placing them under another.

After considering all this, you want to see in what amount the testimonial is one you wish to pinpoint by putting it first in the list compared to the others, or you want to put it more to the middle or at the end. As you collect more testimonials, you will have where to choose from, depending on the environment in which you wish to post the testimonial. I suggest you create a list of testimonials that is OK to use according to your criterion from which to choose.

Some other things you want to avoid for image reasons would be the following ones.

Clients that have a name that can cause undesired associations (I had at one moment a client whose family name was <<Lie>>. You can imagine how he/she would have given a testimonial signed <<Lie>>!!!). Other examples of names to be avoided would be <<Penniless>>, <<Yearning>>, or <<Zombie>>. I am sorry, you cannot use testimonials from persons with such names, not even if they are willing to raise you a statue in the city center. And you can neither write Maria G. or Anton F. (unless specifically required by the client and the testimonial is stellar). It does not look professional, although many use this. A person’s name should be complete, preceded by the professional title that favors you promotionally (if, for example, someone is both manager at a company and an academic assistant, you will write the title that favors you). Here, I want to pinpoint that on one side, it does good that the person’s title sounds better in English, especially if you have in the target audience individuals with some formal tendencies, but a lot of people know to read between the lines. They will raise eyebrows if the denomination is too exotic.

A testimonial needs to be long enough as long so to contain relevant ideas

and short enough to focus only on the essentials.


What do I do with testimonials which suggest aspects that could be improved?

It depends. A testimonial, for it to be credible, needs to present things within the limits of believable realism, without elements that could be considered exaggerated. Some voices hold it is essential for you to consider some negative features, too, precisely for more credibility. Others believe testimonials should focus strictly on the positive aspects and it is useless to shoot yourself in the foot; there will always be things to correct, but the testimonials section is not appropriate for this. It is essential to keep a balance: not too much, but not too little.

Behold, in this sense, a testimonial that provoked real dilemmas because of the content and the formulation; it made me think about whether to use it or not for the auto-promotion strategy. At the same time, I am convinced that the department professor that offered it to me (I have collected recommendations even from the professors I had at university) had the best intentions. What is the problem? It is a testimonial much too <<amazing>> but unspecific, and a risk exists to give the impression of <<too good to be true>>. It was a choice at the limit.

Every pleasant surprise warms your heart. This was the case of the one I received from Marcus, for which I simultaneously thanked him and congratulated him. He learned a lesson that few educators know: sometimes, it is more important what we learn from our students than to strive to teach them ourselves.

I was glad that from most of the things I said in one context or another, he remembered and chose an essential aspect: the one of modesty which means “natural power” but tacit. Because who observes more the essence of “the salt in food”, when he is not lacking it….”

Prof. univ. dr. Traian Stănciulescu,

Facultatea de Filosofie,

Universitatea “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” Iaşi

A testimonial that repeats ideas again and again (annoying effect, right?) from others offered more clearly or by individuals with a status that provides more credibility is good to be removed from the list because it risks creating redundancy. Beware! I want to remind you that people who have shown you testimonials have the right to be kept in touch with how you use them. The best is to give the person a form to complete the moment you take the actual testimonial, in which to sign that he/she agrees that his/her testimony is used for promotional purposes to offer you rights to place the materials in almost any context. The risk exists if you have 2 testimonials from clients competing with each other, and one might request to remove one testimonial so that not to appear next to the other in the context created by you by the adjacent placing of the 2 testimonials. If, at the moment, somebody does not give you an explicit agreement, written, by email, or instant messaging (the discussion can be saved) or by SMS or fax, it is good not to use the reference from that person (only if you know him/her well enough that you know his/her word is sufficient), no matter how great it is, because you risk being sued.

It might happen for the client not agree with the improvements suggested by you because some (s)he does not like certain words. Therefore, it is a good idea to communicate the intention behind the wish to modify certain words so that if (s)he agrees, (s)he may change the terms as (s)he wishes. It is your decision to use the testimonial or not. You are not obliged to give any explanation. You have the right to choose even one of ten testimonials. It is, therefore, useful to have 3 files for an administration that you update continuously: the one with all testimonials from everyone, the one with testimonials you want to use, from which you can make “copy+paste,” and the one with the testimonials you have chosen not to use.


“Towards” and “Away From” Testimonials

From the content point of view, the testimonials are divided into two categories: those in which the referent tells how the product/service helped him/her to get closer to what s(he) wishes, what s(he) likes, and how the product/service helped him/her to move away from, to avoid risk, a problem, something undesired. It is essential to have both towards and away from. As a general observation, the mentality of most people is slightly away from it, but this is under no form a general rule; likely, the majority of the potential clients for a particular product/service are oriented towards it.

As you observe these examples through language, content, and orientation, the testimonials below represent the two types of thinking. These influence in a decisive mode even the motivation, as you can read in the article “How to direct the motivation to you and your clients” and in the article “The motivation’s direction“.

I consider that the level of the evaluation and the analysis of the profile of the test Identity Compass aligns perfectly with the level of professionalism and relevance needed by any European organization which aspires towards maximum performances from the part of their members. Therefore, I trust the rigorous services, the accuracy, and objectivity of the offered expertise in evaluating the best test I know in the field of human resources – Identity Compass“.

Psih. Irina Mihăilescu,



Towards language: “perfectly”, “professionalism”, “relevance”, “aspires towards maximum performances”, “rigorous services, “the accuracy and the objectivity of the expertise”, and “the best”. Read the article The motivation’s direction to understand this distinction in-depth.

The profile Identity Compass was efficient and precise and helped me to understand what to avoid in professional life. I think it is a service that helps you choose your job well and not involve in things that go beyond yourself or do not interest you.”

Iasmina Iordache,

Professional interpreter, Dublin, Irlanda

Away from language: “what to avoid”, “not to involve”, “go beyond yourself”, “does not interest you”. Read the article “The motivation’s direction.” To understand this distinction in-depth.


Audio/video testimonials

A video testimonial is compelling. When someone offers a testimonial, the material can be on the presentation page, on YouTube, or on a USB stick. It is probably one of the first things people will look at. So be careful if it is a good testimonial! First, for what the person says about you, but also from the standpoint of what is actually being seen, technically. It might seem a bit superficial, but it is a video testimonial! If you offer corporate services, it will look much better with a person in a brand suit in an office, arranged nicely, rather than an individual in a tank top, unshaven, who has just awakened from sleep or interviewed on the street. Everything in the video represents a message you send, deliberately or involuntarily, about your service. Also mattering is the light, the sound, the resolution, the angle of shooting, and the length of the testimonial.

If you hold a training session and want to take testimonials from the participants, wait until people have assisted with sufficient practical applications so that they form an impression and have some favorable reactions, and are easy to observe. Be careful you have the person’s permission to use the material for promotional purposes. Some agree to write a testimonial but do not want their face to appear anywhere. It is beneficial to have a signed agreement (or agreed terms and conditions) on this thing because if the client changes his/her mind in a year, you cannot use the material anymore, and this might affect your strategy, especially if you leave links on the net about this.

It is essential that you set beforehand, with the person, a time to be allocated for the video recording of the material (if the client is not shooting the video himself/herself). When you go there, be ready with everything you might need, even spares. The best is to request some photos of the location or to see for yourself what the conditions for filming are. It is good to ask some questions about the technical organization if you, for example, go to the person’s office. Also, if you get a day when in the vicinity, a loud noise of a chainsaw is heard, you will need to prepare for the possibility of recording the sound with another microphone than the one of the camera. It is good to keep these details in mind. You cannot stroll back and forth through the person’s office 10 times to take a testimonial. Also, if you set another location, make sure there is a straightforward way of access by car, easy to understand for someone who has not memorized the city’s street map.

If you shoot a video or record audio of the testimonial, make sure that the background is, depending on the case, well illuminated, typical for the client’s surroundings, does not have noises and has no interruptions. Make sure there are several takes. The best is for the referent to have a written version of the testimonial, which s(he) memorizes so that you can have flexibility when editing. The best is for the recording to be made in a format flexible to as many ways of play-backs as possible. For example, you may upload on the internet a video recording made at a resolution of UHD or 4K, but you cannot project it on a wall at a conference. You cannot recode an audio recording in .MP3 format to .wav format for more quality, which reduces 9-10 times the amount of components of the recorded sound (through compression of .wav to .mp3, a lot of elements are lost, which cannot be retrieved at the transformation from mp3 to .wav). Advise a specialist with experience editing and putting certain information on web-specific recordings. Before the final encoding of the file, find out what technical parameters are necessary for its functionality if you have at your disposition a streaming service. And be careful to send the referent a sample of the final edit before using his or her testimonial.

Thank you!

Happy Self Branding!

Marcus Victor Grant

Useful references for the contents of this article

Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence by Shelle Rose Charvet

Dan Kennedy – Magnetic Marketing Collection

Jack Trout, Steve Rivkin – The Power Of Simplicity: A Management Guide to Cutting Through the Nonsense and Doing Things Right

Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2009-present Translation by Răzvan Goldstein and Marcus Victor Grant of the article “Axa brandului personal trece prin mintea celorlalţipreviously published by Marcus Victor Grant in Romanian on the 24th of March 2011 on Discerne. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved. Material updated for relevance in March 2021 (slightly different from the Romanian original version)

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.

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