Schools & Agents (S&A) interview with Dejan Trpkovic, PRODIREKT, published on 27 November 2018:
The Importance of Student Testimonials – An Agent’s Perspective
In this day and age selling has become quite an aggressive business – be it the selling of tangible products as well as the selling of services. Education, is by no means an exception to this rule. Nowadays we are living in a world which uses every possible medium to spread the world about whatever it is that Company X or Business Y has to offer. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when it boils down to making a decision about their future, students all over the world need all the reassurance they can get.
One way for students to get reassurance is through hearing about the experience of others through student testimonials. Our long-term partners at PRODIREKT and Verbalists created an interesting (and useful) discussion group on LinkedIn, which has quickly grown its membership to more than 1,300. That group, COMMUNICATION AND LANGUAGES, which you may find and join here, recently published a discussion subject, raised by Dejan Trpkovic, Managing Director of PRODIREKT and Founder of the Verbalists Language Network, dubbed “Importance of Student Testimonials.” So we decided to contact Dejan and speak to him in a little bit more detail about his views on the importance of student testimonials from the point of view of an established education consultant:
S&A: One of the things that really struck me about the student testimonial used in your article on LinkedIn was the simplicity of it. It was clear that the presented video testimonial (see here) was not edited by a professional, and I got the impression that it was certainly not a staged interview. What if the schools are afraid that the quality of the video is not good enough, and that it will end up ‘scaring off potential students or agents’ because it is not professionally done?
Dejan: Not doing student testimonials is much worse than publishing the testimonials of lower media quality. Don’t take me wrong, both – a student and an interviewer, should do a proper interview preparation, while sound and picture quality ought to be decent, however, in today’s age of so called “citizen journalism”, the content and authenticity are the most important. People are now more concerned what you have to say, than how you present it. Distrust is running very high. Fake testimonials are out, as much as are fake news. Showing abbreviated testimonials, just “signed” by a student’s first name is counterproductive. If you cannot show at least a student’s photo and full name, then it is better that you do not do testimonials at all.
S&A: One of the things that is always a concern is cost. How much would such a video cost? And what expenses should the school take into consideration and prepare for?
Dejan: Nowadays, creating good quality videos and photos is not costly and can even be done with a high-end mobile phone. The problem is more in the marketing and creative knowledge. And then in a proper preparation. It is not about writing short and polished students’ praises, it is about showing authentic experiences by using videos or just photos and a supporting student’s narrative. Sometimes the best testimonials are published by students or agents on their social media. Why not to ask them for a permission to be used on a school’s website and/or social media? So, it is the matter of seeing student testimonials as important and setting the priorities right. It is clear that student testimonials can be a very powerful selling tool and equally rewarding for educators and agents.
Dejan: Adhering to privacy protection is a must, especially in case of minors, nevertheless, I am afraid that the new FERPA-compliant (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) policies might become just one more excuse not to do student testimonials. The reality is that privacy concerns can be managed with informed, intentional use (i.e., use of parental consent/opt-out forms).
S&A: How should a school choose which students to interview? Should they go by “how good the level of the language of the student is” or “how happy the student is at the school” or “how outgoing they are on camera”?
Dejan: If you are making a video testimonial, then all three elements you mentioned should be considered. It is obvious that we all want to present the best of our schools and services. The point is to do that in a natural, authentic and relaxed way. In case of videos, the student who gives a testimonial should definitely be comfortable before the camera. Likeable, open personality helps a lot. However, if some mistakes are made, that is fine, it is human, and being human is what makes testimonials credible and persuasive. For example, when we receive written testimonials from our students we published them as they are written, with no grammar corrections.
S&A: Finally, if you had to come up with a simple equation that sums up what a student testimonial video should contain, what would it be?
Dejan: Optimistic, authentic and informational.
The LinkedIn Communication & Languages group is a networking forum for senior strategic communicators, media and marketing experts, opinion leaders, educators, school owners, teachers, and young professionals. It connects professionals of varied backgrounds and expertise, yet common interest — effective communication. Join the group here and let us know your opinion about student testimonials? How has your business, college or school’s website integrated student testimonials?