Just Say “No” to Forgettable Employee Testimonial Videos

Jul 8, 2014
This article is part of a series called Videos.

made to stickIf you search “employee testimonials” on YouTube, you will notice a theme after watching a handful of them.

They look and sound alike.

They all say basically the same thing, with variations on these themes:

“I love working here because…

  • “… I get to work with really awesome people.”
  • “… there’s such high integrity here.”
  • “… you get to grow professionally.”
  • “… you get to work on really cool projects.”

… etc, etc.

Blah, blah, blah.

If your videos are like these, they will quickly be forgotten in a sea of sameness. You will have lost an opportunity to stand out as an employer of choice.

To Be Memorable, Get Concrete

While creating videos with appealing, animated employees is obviously better than having no videos, your employer branding videos can be so much more compelling if you translate the abstract into the concrete.

As Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick note, one of the ways to make your message “sticky” is to make it concrete. You make your cultural qualities concrete by giving examples and telling short stories that translate abstract concepts like “Here … your input matters” into real-life experiences the applicant can easily envision.

Using an Example to Make Your Point Come Alive

So for instance, you can simply have an employee say “Here … your ideas matter. Senior management really cares about what you think, even if you’re new or straight out of college. They don’t just have the attitude that a lot of my friends’ employers’  seem to have which is ‘You have to work here 10 years before we want to hear what you think.””

While that assertion will hit home because many young employees hunger for an employer who is not that way, the message is abstract.

You make it concrete by following it up with an example.

For instance, Steam Whistle, a brewery from Toronto, is known for not only making fantastic beer, but also for being a fantastic place to work.

In describing what makes Steam Whistle a dream-come-true employer, Nicole George, a millennial Creative Manager who has worked at Steam Whistle for six years, reports that from the very beginning, she would be included in strategy and brainstorming meetings:

“At these meetings there are veterans in the industry with twenty years of experience. When you are new in the industry, it can be intimidating when you are around these powerhouses. By Greg (Taylor, one of the co-founders of Steam Whistle) will make a point of saying ‘Brendan … Nicole … what do you think?’”

Now, put yourself in the shoes of a young, talented employee hearing this example on a video.

They so want to work at a place where they can make a difference; where their opinion is valued. As mentioned earlier, they have either experienced, or heard about from their friends, how often this is not the case with young employees.

Can’t you just imagine how this simple little example paints a picture in their minds of how leadership at Steam Whistle would treat them? With that short sentence, you can easily put yourself in the scene, feeling a bit intimidated but wanting to share your ideas, and appreciating the invitation and the respect it communicates.

Doesn’t that feel so much more real? Doesn’t that hit home so much more powerfully than just hearing the statement: “Here … your ideas matter…”

Even Better, Tell a Short Story

Given the amount of press storytelling is getting today, you probably understand that using stories to communicate your message dials up the fascination and influence factor of your message. It also makes you far more memorable.

In Made To Stick, Chip Heath tells the story of an exercise he does with his Stanford students. The students are given a single topic to present on, with half the group assigned one position and the other half the other position. Each student then gives a one-minute presentation. At the end of each speech, the other students rate the speaker on their effectiveness and then write down the key points they made.

The results of this exercise are instructive for employers wanting their employer brand to stick in the minds of talented candidates: The average student cited 2.5 statistics in their one minute presentation, while only 1 out of 10 told a story. While 63 percent of the audience remembered details of the stories, only 5 percent remembered any of the stats shared.

From this exercise, the brothers Heath conclude:

“The stars of stickiness are the students who made their case by telling stories, or by tapping into emotion, or by stressing a single point rather than 10.”

So … to capitalize on the power of stories, have your employees follow up their abstract assertion of what it’s like to work in your organization with a short story that illustrates their assertion.

Here’s an example from an employee named Whitney Duprey who works for the New Hampshire-based  International Association of Privacy Professionals. In 1 minute 28 seconds, she shares a story that makes the message: “At IAPP, managers work with you to create opportunities to grow professionally and advance in your career.”

Notice that the video is nothing fancy. It is not an expensive, high production video. Instead, it is real and it tells a story, which will be remembered by the kind of talented job candidate you are seeking to attract.


To Put This Into Action

  • If you already have a well-defined employer brand, take your core cultural attributes and gather examples and stories that illustrate each attribute.
  • If you don’t yet have a well-defined employer brand, identify core attributes from your employees and translate them into examples and stories.
  • Curate your stories so they can be used not only on your website, but by recruiters at job fairs, and by employees actively involved in your employee referral program (you do have one, right?) 
This article is part of a series called Videos.
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