Regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on, most agree that our society now endures unprecedented levels of misinformation, manipulation and resulting division. Unsure whom or what to believe, we dismiss it all as untrustworthy.
The implications for our societal well-being are dire, while marketers face a barrage of new disruptive challenges. If consumers have become skeptical of all sources of information, then how can brands build trust?
Since the turn of the last century, advertisers have used recognizable celebrities, created memorable characters and recruited consumers to get attention, trigger a positive reaction and drive customers to buy. But with consumer skepticism at an all-time high and social media giving everyone a voice to share grievances, advertisers are increasingly compelled to ensure authenticity and credibility.
Consider celebrity endorsements. Famous people can boost a brand’s flattering reflection of consumer desire, but their use can backfire. Kendall Jenner, Michael Vick and Lance Armstrong led complex lives that eventually short-circuited multimillion-dollar campaigns.
The personal experiences of everyday consumers are less risky and build trust through empathy. Audiences best relate to people like themselves and tacitly assume shared preferences for brands and their benefits. So how can today’s marketers engender trust and sell great products, too?
The Influencer Paradox
Thanks to social media, thousands of consumers have built up their own online followings, ushering in a new era of influencer marketing. Brands are now recruiting these influencers to share testimonials, exponentially increasing reach and engagement.
But trust is based on a relationship that is earned rather than bought. When brands pay online influencers ostensibly to promote and create content for their products, consumers sense their stories and opinions are somewhat disingenuous and start to feel manipulated.
Real People Are Worth It
Despite the growing trust challenges of influencer marketing, the use of “real people” for brand testimonials is a time-proven and reliable alternative. Without the reputation and risk of conflict of interest of celebrity and online influencers, real people build trust without backlash.
So, how do find these real people for your marketing content?
Begin with the end in mind to ensure alignment with your brand personality and goals. What is it these real people are communicating? Are you featuring real people to endorse your product and services, or are the stories they share in alignment with the brand’s values?
But before you begin, don’t forget about compliance. Determine if you need to follow Federal Trade Commission guidelines or if you can go ahead and be transparent in your approach to casting real people. To find out, first consult with your legal advisors to determine whether you are required to conduct market research to collect unbiased testimonials from real people, or if you can cast and recruit real people directly.
Once a casting approach is established, devise a comprehensive strategy to find and connect with real people.
One proven tactic is to tap into the right circles, those tight-knit communities that already have strong communication networks able to circulate casting opportunities. Effective methods include social media advertising, as well as reaching out directly to clubs, groups and associations both on and offline.
Despite the power of digital search, finding a real person who not only loves your brand but remains authentic on camera is labor-intensive and requires patience. The process of screening camera-ready, qualified candidates with compelling stories can be arduous depending on the creative idea. How do you identify honesty and authenticity?
In order to suss out the truth-tellers from those who will say anything to see their face on camera, offer multiple brand options in your initial screening. For example, if you are looking for real people who use a certain product, offer five to eight different answers to choose from. After they choose, ask for details about what they like, what they don’t and why. The more details you uncover about each candidate’s opinions, the more clearly you can determine if their story is authentic.
And don’t forget to leave time and money in the budget to conduct criminal and social media background checks to protect your team and your project. After all, your candidates become associated with the brands they represent. Make sure your clients are protected from any reputation concerns down the line.
Up Close And Personal
Once you find a viable candidate, a combination of skilled interviewing techniques and video technology make the vetting process organic and efficient. Effusive fans are given a context and voice to share their genuine stories with infectious enthusiasm. Now it’s time to listen as real people reveal their own heartfelt experience.
An inquiry-based video interviewing approach can prove particularly effective. Using questions that make the interviewee feel comfortable, this technique encourages real people to tell a real story they have already touched on somewhere during the initial screening. The interview brings this out and gives candidates the chance to freely express themselves.
Ensuring authenticity is vital, so listen closely. During the interview, offer compassion and empathy while maintaining a sense of humor. Create a safe space for each candidate by remaining fully present. Multitasking during an interview can sever any connection quickly. Real people should leave the session feeling valued and heard by the casting team, having just shared a personal and meaningful experience.
It’s A Matter Of Trust
As consumers, we have every justification for questioning everything seen and heard, especially online. But as human beings, we also possess an innate need to connect with and trust real people with whom we can empathize.
These same emotions apply to the relationship between brands and consumers. Much as we gain confidence through receiving information from people we know, real people build trust between consumers and the brands they come to love. To find, vet and bring out the best in these candidates, ensure your techniques are as honest and enthusiastic as the real people you want to represent and energize your brand.