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Making video that’s going to work for your brand or business is all about telling your story. It’s normal therefore to want to get external comments in there, either as testimonials or to add value – perhaps an expert endorsing your view or supporting your claim.Getting great comments though is not as simple as you might think.

The biggest mistake people make is to have an expectation that an unpaid contributor is going to ‘say the right thing’ in interview.  These are individuals, not automatons, they have their own views and opinions and will phrase their answers how they wish.  It’s important to understand this – the answers they give represent them publicly.  You might want someone to say something a certain way but they might not feel comfortable with what that says about them to the outside world.

So, given that you’re not going to and shouldn’t try to put words in someone’s mouth, how do you get people to say roughly what you want them to say?  Well that’s a three point process:  First, you have to be realistic about the kind of comments you can get – don’t think you can script an interview.  Second, you need to talk through your expectations with them in advance, so they know where you’re coming from and then thirdly (and this is the key technique take away) – when you’re preparing your notes, DON’T WRITE QUESTIONS.  This might seem like odd advice for conducting an interview but questions are NOT your friend, they are to be avoided.  It’s far better, no essential, to have a conversation – leading the interviewee where you want them to go (to the place where they give you comments that get as close as possible to what you want them to say).

So, how do you prepare for an interview?  You write out the comments you want them to give and then think how you can lead the discussion so that they give you these comments in a relaxed and comfortable way.  Remember, how the process plays out is not important, the outcome is!  Whether you ask a question or do most of the talking yourself just to get them to say a few key words doesn’t matter.  All that matters are those comments that you come away with.

All too often, people just write out a load of questions and that doesn’t seem that unreasonable from the outside but when you understand the psychology of an interview – the need to make people feel at ease, free to say whatever they want – then you start to see the interview as something very different and, to be honest, questions get in the way.  Interviews are a dance, let’s even go so far as to say it’s a Tango!  You place your foot there, the interviewee responds.  You move to the left, they follow.

So, you’re looking first at outcomes – the comments you want (even write them out word for word), then add emotion to give weight to the comment and lastly, you need them to be relaxed and conversational, so it seems genuine.  So, perhaps the answer you want might be “I couldn’t recommend (insert name here) highly enough, (insert product name here) is just the best (describe the thing) I’ve ever used and let me tell you, I’ve tried them all! Nothing comes close and I’m never using anything else… I just love it!”  (big smile).

How are you going to get there? Well, you might not get it all in one go.  Real people are notoriously normal and reciting dialogue is not a normal thing!  So, draw the key comments out of them gradually, perhaps over several responses.  If you’re able to use background footage with an interview, you can easily conceal the point where you’ve joined two separate comments together to make one sentence.  You might just get lucky and get it all in one comment but it will probably be a 1 in 10 occurance when you do, so if they do give you the comment from heaven first time, rejoice and think of all the extra great stuff you’ll get from them from the other discussion points, as a bonus!  Notice I didn’t say “all the other questions”!

In practice, to get the comment above, you need to write the following discussion prompts or something similar.  “You seem to be very happy with your (insert product name), can you give me an idea of what it means to you and whether you’d recommend one to someone else?”

Then: “Can you tell me how (insert product name) compares to other products you’ve used… I get the feeling from your reaction that it’s pretty high up there…” (See what I did there?  I’m now chatting and they feel at ease).  At this point you’d also give them a big smile to make a connection that says ‘if you don’t think it’s pretty high up there, please don’t be harsh or say anything bad as I’m smiling nicely at you and being very friendly’.

Then: “I’m kind of hoping, from what you’ve already said, that you wouldn’t be drawn to using a different (product type) and it seems like you think that (insert product name) is out there on its own, without any competiton…?”

OK, so maybe you’re not going to use these exact words or phrases but hopefully you get the drift?  Also, getting people actually to say your brand or product name within interview can be tricky, unless they’ve been media trained and understand the concept of answering a question by first repeating the question (yes I know I used the Q word but sometimes it’s just simpler).  So don’t set yourself up to get this if it’s not realistic – find another way to get brand exposure, such as a watermark or ‘top and tail’ brand sting for instance  – we can make one for you if you like!

In an interview, questions don’t create conversation, conversation creates conversation.  Don’t be afraid to talk a lot yourself or put words into their mouth, as a way of suggesting what you’d like them to say.  Make them feel like you’re just having an informal chat and actually go out of your way to seem like you’re not asking them anything, you’re just feeding them thoughts and this then leaves them free to let their thoughts come through.

So, start with the comments you want, work back to create conversational prompts and always, always, always listen to what they say and respond conversationally to them. All too often people asking questions just say the question and then mentally move on to the next question, so that they’re ready to speak again as soon as the answer finishes.  They just let the interviewee give their answer and because they’re mentally preparing for the next question they can’t pick up on anything that’s said, which could be expanded upon to get better comments or more information. Always listen and be prepared to go freestyle – clarify what they say, add a related question or affirm their point with a statement of your own, leaving a pause as if to suggest that they should say something else – they probably will.

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