«Return to Blog List Video or Written Customer Story – Which Comes First?


In the multimedia age, more organizations are creating both written and video customer case studies and success stories.

It’s a powerful way of catering to prospects’ varying preferences for consuming information.

But in what order do you produce video and written versions of case studies and success stories?

I’ve done it both ways – created written case studies based on video footage, and scripted videos and questions based on a written story.

But which is best?

Personally, I find it more effective to create the written story first. Here’s why.

In interviewing and writing a customer case study, you have a lot of flexibility in the way you present information, and customers go through the process of tweaking and approving their public comments on paper.

It’s a process that allows customers to think through their comments behind the scenes without being "on the spot" on camera – increasing the customer’s confidence level.

Creating the written story first also allows you to flesh out what your story is, and then work on translating that to video.

Once you capture your customer on video, you can’t easily go back and make changes. What’s recorded is what’s recorded. It’s better to be as prepared as possible before the video process.

So, with written first…

You can focus your on-camera questions more specifically.

You can loosely script out the video.

It takes less time to arrive at the sound bites you need.

You already know the story you want to tell.

Your customer feels more comfortable on camera because he/she has already thought through the answers.

You spend less time on the more pricey medium of video, and less of your customer’s time perhaps.

That’s my take. What’s yours?

Do you prefer to capture video or written customer stories first, and why?

5 Responses to Video or Written Customer Story – Which Comes First?

  1. Casey,
    I think there are benefits to both methods of production. I would actually suggest it may make more sense to produce these items side by side.
    I would agree that there are benefits to producing a written case study before video production. As you say, it provides the customer with an opportunity to review their thoughts before being filmed on camera. It also provides the video crew with a clear direction for the shoot. This method is particularly useful if you are working on a video with a client whom is not fluent in English (for example). However, there is a risk attached with this method that the video content appears scripted.
    From my experience, a video reference is more credible when a client gives an answer ‘off the cuff’ and therefore it may actually be beneficial to produce the video first to avoid leading the client’s answers. The interviewees involved with a customer reference video should be selected based on their knowledge of the project and therefore should be confident enough to discuss the project in detail without a great deal of guidance. My viewpoint is that if you ask the right question, you will get the right answer. Of course it is still important that clients receive ample time to prepare their thoughts for a video shoot.
    In my view, it often makes sense to produce both a written story and video at the same time. For instance, in the past we have managed productions whereby we conduct a briefing call with the client, create a set of interview questions for the shoot, and then interview the customer for the video and case study at the same time. We take a writer along to the video shoot that contributes to the messaging of the video, but then has a separate interview with the customer to ask any outstanding questions or to qualify responses from the filming for the written case study. This way we get a natural response on camera (that doesn’t look scripted) and the writer gets the detail they need to write the case study. Plus, the customer only has to commit one day of their time to the process, instead of potentially several days if they have to contribute to two separate documents at different times.
    There are many ways to produce a customer reference video and case study, and I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong method here. It is better to choose a method that fits the scenario.

  2. Hi James,
    Thanks so much for your valuable thoughts on this.
    I agree there’s a fine line of preparing the customer enough but not sounding scripted.
    I haven’t been involved in a project where the info for the written and video were gathered concurrently but can see where this would work.
    The briefing call sounds key – to learn the general themes and prepare interview questions. Then whatever is not covered on the video shoot is collected right after. Nice way to minimize customer time, but at times it seems hard to get all parties (cusotmer, video team and writer) on site at once.
    I appreciate your weighing in with your experience for us all to learn what works best!

  3. Susan Fantle says:

    What you’ve outlined here makes perfect sense. However, sometimes timing and opportunity affect how case studies are done. Two of my technology clients used the convenience of a user conference to videotape interviews with their customers using a fixed set of questions. The consistency of the questions made sure that each interview would cover the same issues. Then I was asked to take the information from those interviews and turn it into a collection of case studies that my clients could use for marketing. Because the videos were interviews, it was easy to edit them to tell a quick and compelling video story as well. The best part is that this was a fast and effective way to get both video and printed case studies put together.

  4. Hi Susan,
    Really good point. Sometimes a user conference or event is the starting point. I know many companies have customers present and record that, and then generate written stories from that. Or they do official video testimonial interviews right there when they have customers, as you said.
    What seems to be coming out of this thread is that any order will work but it’s important to be organized with your questions when you get in front of the customer. Ask the right questions and get as much as you can for video and written at once.
    So, the order doesn’t matter as much as maximizing the opportunity.

  5. For more insight, this string is also being discussed concurrently in two LinkedIn groups:
    Success-Story Marketing and CRKSN (Customer Reference Knowledge Sharing Network)