May ProductionsMay Productions
Communications Boutique
Milwaukee, Wisconsin


I tell them that I have elves who wait for the last person to leave the office and turn out the lights, then they burst out in a Disney-style whirl of stardust and magically transcribe my interviews.

Pete May runs May Productions, what he calls “a communications boutique” based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. “I see ‘boutique’ as the opposite of the top-heavy, cookie-cutter communication ‘warehouse stores’ that seem to dominate nowadays.  We’re small by choice.  Being small makes us nimble and cost effective plus it insures every project will get our full attention.  It also keeps me on the front lines of production, not back at headquarters, bogged down in management.”

Pete side-stepped from science into television 30 years ago.“I don’t regret my years in engineering.  I call on that knowledge and experience every day.  TV just felt like a better fit!”

Since then he’s worked as a photographer, editor, graphic artist, set designer, producer, director, and writer on scores of projects, including more than 50 award-winning travel, industrial, and documentary programs.  He’s also dispenses advice as a writer.  His last book, The Essential Digital Video Handbook, has been a popular college textbook.  His articles and product reviews have appeared on various industry websites as well as in communication and engineering periodicals.  Recently his resume has broadened to include speechwriting.  “One day one of my favorite clients asked me if I was also a speechwriter.  I said, ‘I don’t know, let’s find out!’  Turns out the storytelling skills that have served me so well in video translate perfectly to speechwriting.  It’s the fastest growing area of our portfolio.”
Pete May takes the success of his clients seriously.  “A big meeting opener or a sales video can represent a significant portion of a client’s annual communication budget and the whole company is probably watching!  Careers are built on the power of high profile projects.”  Pete understands that he often has just one shot at achieving the communication goals of his clients.  “Sure, there’s a formula,” Pete says, “You’ve got to listen to your client, design creative solutions, construct a realistic budget, plan perfectly and execute flawlessly.  Simple!”  Pete believes in hard work, honesty and putting in the hours.  “If it’s worth doing, it’s not only worth doing well, it’s worth doing it better than anyone else.”

Way With Words Transcription embraces the same philosophy – providing world-class, top quality transcription executed by elite language professionals and delivered to the global market.  That’s why Pete May and Way With Words Transcription have enjoyed a decade-long working relationship.  “I respect Way With Words and the hard work they do.  Believe me, I have tested Way With Words and they have never failed me.”

Way With Words’ clients range from private individuals to large entities including the British Museum, the BBC, Microsoft Research, InterCall and the Financial Times in England; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Bank of New York in the United States; the Welsh Assembly in Wales; the World Health Organization in Switzerland; the International Criminal Court at the Hague in the Netherlands; the ITER Organization in France; Sasol, Harith Fund Managers and Naspers in Africa; HSBC World Bank and IQPC in the Middle East; the Australian Institute of Criminology in Australia; Concordia University in Canada; to TV shows, market research companies, conference organizers and universities around the world.

In a brief interview, Pete shares about his work and the involvement of Way With Words Transcription in his world-class video productions.

Pete, briefly describe your company.

We’re a communications boutique, specializing in ‘not specializing.’  But core competency, our area of primary focus?  I’d say high-end video production and speechwriting for Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and anyone in between.

Why do you have audio files transcribed?

I collect facts and opinions for my written work by talking to people, interviewing people. Transcription puts the material that I collect into a readable, searchable, cut-and-pastable, emailable form. Another big reason is that I want to be able to pay attention to the person I’m interviewing, instead of worrying about taking notes. I can give that person 100% of my attention and assume that the transcript will be my notes. I’ve found in the past that if I’m trying to listen to someone and also get down accurate quotes, things they’re saying, it turns out to be a mess. So that’s a big reason that I have audio files transcribed.

Explain how you use transcripts?

Anyone can shoot video nowadays.  Anyone can edit.  There even seems to be an emphasis on looking “crowd sourced” and unprofessional!  One thing that doesn’t change and that’s the need to tell a good story and that’s how we we distinguish ourselves; by being superior storytellers.  We know how to assemble facts, descriptions, dialogue – complete with all the twists, turns and surprises – into an engaging, effective, evocative story.  I wouldn’t start assembling a bookcase from Ikea without having all the parts right there in front of me, and I can’t assemble a story until I have all the pieces gathered together.  To me, those pieces are my transcripts.

How do transcripts add value to your business?

We deliver are videos, speeches, scripts and articles: that’s our finished product. But we collect media all throughout the process of creating those products.  What we’ve started doing is giving those raw pieces as value-added material back to the clients.  Now, we usually shoot video of our interviews and I can certainly give the client a copy of the raw footage, but without editing and compression capabilities, video files are of limited use to the clients.  I can give clients a transcript of the interview and they’ve got a useful, editable, portable reference; something small enough to attach to an email.

And it’s also informative for a client to see what they say in print.  It helps them think more clearly about what they say – especially clients who find themselves quoted from time to time.  It’s very instructive for a client to see what they’ve offered the news media and maybe understand better why certain sound bites are chosen.

Do other similar companies also get audio files transcribed?

I don’t really know how other people do it.  I know that some people in my business, in the video business, don’t get transcriptions, and they do all their story assembly editing video clips together.  I think that’s a cumbersome, inefficient and expensive way to work.

In my business, there’s a difference between working online and offline.  Online is when I’m sitting with my editor who’s operating a top-of-the-line workstation, dragging and dropping real-time sound and video while we charge by the minute!  Off line is when I’m sitting at a coffeeshop, tapping away at a Word doc on my laptop, making big decisions “on paper.”  Guess which one is more cost effective for my client.

Why do you use Way With Words for your transcription needs?

Well, I use Way With Words for a number of reasons.

First of all, Way With Words seems to be a very scalable company: it doesn’t matter whether I send one interview to transcribe or a dozen, there doesn’t ever seem to be any problem handling the work, and that’s something I can’t really say about local transcription services I’ve tried in the past. Other transcription services I’ve tried in the past force me to work to their schedule.  It doesn’t matter if I want a quick turnaround.  They don’t have time!

Another big reason I use Way With Words is the turnaround: I can end a day of shooting at 7pm Central Standard Time in the United States, compress my audio files, and upload them to Way With Words that evening, and because of the time difference, Way With Words has been able to transcribe them overnight and have them waiting for me when I sit down at my desk the next morning.  That’s a tremendous advantage!  I never promise clients I’ll have the transcripts the next day.  I like to surprise them!  It’s become a little joke with some of my clients: I tell them that I have elves who wait for the last person to leave the office and turn out the lights, then they burst out in a Disney-style whirl of stardust and magically transcribe my interviews.  I get emails from my clients asking, “Are your elves free tonight?  I’ve got some tapes that need transcribing.”

The final, and probably most important, reason I use Way With Words is accuracy. It’s very embarrassing to hand a transcript to a client and have it full of errors.  In one case, another transcription service I tried actually spelled the name of the company and their product wrong.  C’mon!  Every hear of “Google!”  That made me nervous about the entire transcript.  I don’t have time to compare transcripts and recordings and check for accuracy.  I’ve sent transcripts to Way With Words containing very technical engineering discussions and they get it right.  I’ve sent them interviews regarding the history of vintners in France.  Words and names that I didn’t understand when I did the interview come back correctly transcribed.  Believe me, I’ve tested Way With Words and they’ve never failed me!