Citrix brings video production to in-person events to film customers

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There are few things as effective as a customer endorsement. Citrix Systems has always known this, and, like other companies, has long employed customer case studies as a component of its overall marketing program. Five years ago, the company took its case studies one step further by adding video to the mix. But going to customer sites to film was costly and time consuming, so the company's marketing team began using its regular customer conferences as central points for recruiting and filming video customer testimonials.

Eileen D'Ippolito, Citrix senior manager for customer marketing, said she selects and secures her case study subjects about four weeks in advance of a customer conference. Typically, she goes after people who work at high-profile, household-name companies. And of course, anyone selected to participate must have a compelling success story centered on Citrix's products, she said.

D'Ippolito reviews with interview subjects what to wear, how long they will be in the studio—generally, for about an hour—and points of information they'll be asked to discuss. Though she gives participants a script, it's just a guide—D'Ippolito doesn't want the video to sound staged.

Participants also receive a consent form, which gives Citrix the right to film and use their story and likeness. "You want to set realistic expectations from the start, so you tell them, `This is how we're going to do it,' so they are put at ease," she said. "We want them to have all the information they will need upfront, but we want them to be natural, too."

Once participants arrive at the conference, they are brought to a room set up with a camera on a tripod, a few lights, an audio technician, director and producer. The camera is situated directly behind and to the left of the interviewer's head.

"I'm sitting there facing you and the camera is over my shoulder," D'Ippolito said. "We tell people to look at me and try and forget about the camera."

D'Ippolito starts the interview with some simple questions designed to put the subject at ease: Who are you? What's your IT environment like? How many people are involved? She reminds people to answer her questions by repeating them.

"You try to guide them," she said. "We want them to get comfortable having a conversation with us."

Once the taping is complete, D'Ippolito has the audio portion of the interview transcribed so she can go pick out the best parts to assemble into the video. Although she typically ends up with 30 to 40 minutes of video—including more than one take, if the subject was uncomfortable—D'Ippolito, who does much of the editing herself, keeps the end result down to no more than three minutes.

"Even one minute of a talking head can seem like a long time, so anything three minutes or under is really what you want to shoot for," she said.

Once the case studies are completed, they are placed on an Akamai streaming server so people can watch—but not download—the videos from Citrix's Web site. "You don't want people to download these, edit them and put them on YouTube. It's one of the decisions we've made about this," she said.

Today, Citrix produces about 20 to 25 video case studies per year, and each one costs about the same as a written case study would, D'Ippolito said.

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