By Paul Gustafson published March 21, 2012

5 Tips for Creating Customer Testimonial Podcasts

Capturing the voice of the customer is critical for producing an engaging customer reference, whether it becomes a full-blown case study or is incorporated into a press release, solution brief, or other type of marketing collateral. Collecting quotable material almost always involves an interview, either in person or conducted by phone and recorded to accurately capture the customer’s words.

This customer interview provides a key opportunity that many organizations overlook: The recorded audio can be repurposed for a podcast. Why produce a written document alone when you can provide direct access to the customer’s unique voice? For many prospects, actually hearing real customers endorse a product or service can be very convincing. Podcasts can supplement case studies and product web pages, provide multimedia content for interactive eBooks and conference presentations, and can even be incorporated into a series offered to subscribers over iTunes or other online distribution services.

Following the important guidelines below will help make the most of your customer interviews and help you produce high-quality results.

Use a good phone in a quiet room

It’s a simple request, but it’s often neglected. Customers are busy, and many try to fit interviews into spare moments during the day, including the time when they are commuting to and from work, eating lunch, or waiting to board a plane. Unfortunately, a bad phone connection or excessive background noise will ruin the potential for using interview audio for a podcast.

To help deliver the best possible audio quality, ask customers to use a landline rather than a cell phone or IP-based phone, and conduct the call from a quiet office or conference room. Also avoid speakerphones for the interview, if possible, in the interest of good audio quality. In order to make sure your interviewee can accommodate your technological requests, it’s best to make them well in advance of the interview, and then remind and re-remind the customer to improve your odds of getting a clear recording.

Record in the highest-quality format available

Many modern recorders and computer-based recording applications offer the option of recording high-resolution audio, such as CD-quality WAV or AIFF formats. Using these high-resolution formats — rather than MP3 or WMV formats — will help generate the best possible recording from the outset. After interviewing and editing, you can always create smaller file sizes, with lower-resolution audio, when the podcast is complete.

It’s also helpful to record the interviewer and customer on separate audio tracks, as some recording software allows, which enables you to re-record the interview questions later to eliminate errors, improve the flow of the discussion, and better match the questions to the answers from the customer. In fact, some of the best customer endorsements are spoken voluntarily or in response to completely different questions. If it is not possible to separate the audio tracks, the interviewer must be sure to stay silent when the customer is speaking to facilitate editing later.

Tell a good story

After the interview is completed, you can begin constructing the podcast. Informal discussions that take place during a 30- or 60-minute interview need editing and fine-tuning to produce cohesive, engaging, and concise podcasts.

Short podcasts (between 30 seconds and 2 minutes long) often work best. In today’s fast-moving, short-attention-span world, audiences are reluctant to listen to long recordings. As a result, it’s essential to focus on the customer responses that are most articulate, most supportive of key messages and, if at all possible, most entertaining or insightful.

At TDA Group, it’s our standard practice to produce a written transcript of the interview, including time stamps (which are handy during audio editing). Working from the original transcript, we find the best quotes from the customer and arrange them into the best story possible for the podcast.

Once we have identified and arranged the best customer quotes, we fine-tune the questions. Subtle modifications to the questions smooth the flow from one topic to the next, and help the listener effortlessly follow the transitions.

Polish the audio

Using the edited, time-stamped transcript, an audio engineer edits the recorded audio. In addition to assembling the specific phrases and sentences we need, in the right order, the engineer removes awkward silences and deletes coughs, sneezes, “ums,” and “uhs”, so all participants sound their best.

We also re-record the questions to coincide with the edited audio. Finally, the engineer incorporates introductory theme music or other music as appropriate.

Get it ready for prime time

The final step involves preparing the audio files in whatever format (or formats) needed. Podcasts are usually offered as downloads, streaming audio, and/or integrated with multimedia.

Creating podcasts from customer reference interviews is an efficient way to leverage and highlight the voice of the customer, but it does require advance planning and post-production work to achieve the best results. Ask your customer reference team how they optimize customer interviews. If podcasts aren’t on their list of deliverables, they should be.

What about you? Have any podcasting or interview tips to share? 

Image Credit

Author: Paul Gustafson

Paul Gustafson is president of TDA Group, Silicon Valley's premier B2B content marketing agency. The award-winning marketing communications firm provides a broad range of services to engage buyers wherever they are: on the Web, on smartphones, on tablets, and through print. Get more insights from Paul on Twitter @PSGustafson.

Other posts by Paul Gustafson

  • http://www.showyourexpertise.com Carl Friesen

    Thanks for the ideas on how to improve the quality of my podcasts. I’ll look into the idea of using higher-quality formats.

    But I think that reasonable-quality podcasts can be done with consumer-level equipment. I record interviews using a tiny Sony recorder a bit bigger than an iPod, download the clip to my Mac and then edit it using GarageBand. I can add intro music from the jingles offered through GarageBand. The resulting MP3 files get posted on my client’s website, although I’ve also had success sending the podcast to industry magazines and professional association websites.

    Paul provides some good guidance on how to produce high-level quality. I know that most serious sound professionals wouldn’t have much time for my Sony recorder, or GarageBand, or MP3. And I can see how a large company that is very concerned about its image might insist on the polished professionalism that someone like Paul can bring to the task.

    My view is that as long as the information itself is genuinely useful, studio-quality sound isn’t necessary.  I think that the debate about “go pro” as Paul advises, or to stick with my DIY approach, depends on your circumstances.

    Has anyone else had success with just picking up the basics, to do DIY podcasts? Under what circumstances is it important to get seriously intentional about it, as Paul advises?

  • http://www.writespark.com Janice King

    I think this is a good idea, but do you find that customers are less frank and open in an interview that they know is being recorded for broadcast? Sometimes case study interviews are useful as much for getting a customer’s feedback about problems or issues as they are for getting the details on a successful implementation. Also, does this request cause them to hesitate about doing the case study at all?

  • http://trafcom.com/ Donna Papacosta

    I do like using audio for client testimonials, but I wouldn’t consider publishing them as podcasts, which are serial by nature. I would use the audio as clips on a website. In the early days, I used to record these conversations over a landline, using a VoicePort hooked up to an Edirol R1 digital recorder. But for the past few years, I’ve been conducting audio interviews over Skype, and recording them via Call Recorder. Then I edit and publish, etc. The warmth of the human voice works well for testimonials; that’s for sure.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/temafrank1 Tema Frank

    I think there’s a difference between a podcast and a testimonial audio clip. Maybe I’m atypical, but I don’t bother with podcasts that are only a couple of minutes long. However, I would listen to a very short customer testimonial on your website. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/temafrank1 Tema Frank

      I fully agree. A 2 minute or less clip is not a podcast. My podcasts (http://frankonlinemarketing.com/show are usually about a 1/2 hour long. But I am also starting to do brief videos — a totally different purpose and market.