Writing: How to Make It Quick and (Relatively) Painless

Your interview went well, your technology came through, and you have an audio recording of the interview, most likely someplace on your computer. Now you have the fun job of sifting through all of that information and starting to put it into some sort of coherent shape. So where do you start?

Transcribe and Organize

If you followed your questionnaire, the story should already be in the rough order you need it to be in. But, of course, conversations don’t always follow a set questionnaire. You and the customer may have skipped around or doubled back to discuss certain topics in more detail. This is perfectly fine, since letting conversation take its natural course always produces a better case study story. However, it will make organization a bit more difficult.

To make things easier on yourself, get the recording transcribed (there are many relatively cheap transcription services) or transcribe it yourself. It doesn’t have to be verbatim, but having a text record of your conversation will make it easier to identify key details for each section of the case study. Reviewing where you did well and where you might have tripped up can also make you a better interviewer for future case studies.

Get Some Highlighters—No Really

When your transcript is ready, get five different colored highlighters and assign each case study section a unique color. For example:

Yellow – About
Pink – Challenge
Blue – Solution
Green – Results
Orange – Next Steps

Now, go through the transcript and mark it up. (I still like to do things on paper, but you could just as easily save a tree and do the highlighting with the word processing program of your choice.) A quote where the customer talks about how his old billing system was slow and out of date? Make it pink. A quote where he describes two other competitors he looked at before picking your product? That should be blue. A quote where he explains how your product helped his company boost sales by 27 percent? You guessed it, mark it green. When you’re finished, it will be plain as colorful day which chunks of the conversation relate to which case study section.

Then, start moving them around. Open the transcript on your computer (if it isn’t already) and cut and paste until every chunk is grouped with other chunks of the same color. If there’s miscellaneous text that doesn’t seem to fit into any section, you can move it down to a holding pen at the bottom of the page, or delete it altogether.

Congratulations! You are 50 percent of the way toward having a completed case study, and you haven’t even really had to write anything yet. Isn’t this easy? Up until now, yes, but the next part is when the real fun begins.

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