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Though I’ve never explicitly said it, every article I write begins with a simple premise; The goal as a communicator is to engage an audience. While that engagement takes many forms (entertainment, commerce, emotional buy in, education), the fundamental truth is that everything we do begins and ends with audience, message, and desired outcome. The simplest example is marketing. A very typical starting point is we want 18-25 year old males (audience) to find out about our new product (message) and buy it (outcome.) Depending upon what type of communication you do, you can fill in the blanks for each of those areas on any project, or at least you SHOULD be able to.
So, how does the decision to use real person interviews vs scripted content fit into this rubric? As I see it, making this choice is simply a matter of understanding your audience and crafting the message in the way that will move them to the desired outcome.
This is the first and best reason to choose interview content over scripted content. If your audience requires authenticity to be moved to the desired action, scripted content will only enhance their inherent skepticism. For example, if your audience is a group of employees who are facing a fundamental change to
their method of working, using an actor, or worse, voiceover, will only enhance their resistance to the change. What they need to hear is that the change is positive, and they need to hear it from a peer. Ideally, that peer will be someone they all know and respect. In this case, the emotional content and feel delivered by their peer will be vastly more effective than even the most tightly scripted intellectual argument. This same concept applies when marketing brands with a negative past or brands that are making a fundamental change.
Sometimes the best means of letting an audience know that your message or brand is directed at them is showing someone who is “just like them” speaking off the cuff. Keep in mind that you will need to make it clear (through graphics, editorial or other means) that the person on-screen is real and that they are not scripted.
There is nothing more powerful and emotionally engaging than a real story. And, while a great acting performance can also be stirring, there is nothing stronger than your audience knowing that what they are watching is real. Think about it. How often have you heard this phrase or some version of it while watching a movie? “Is this a true story?!” The fact is that when an audience knows that what they are watching is authentic, they connect with it more deeply. When making an emotional connection with your audience is critical, there is nothing better than the truth.