As Content Marketing develops, grows and, ultimately, becomes more necessary for online marketing success, it becomes more and more obvious that content creators may need to step outside their comfort zones. They need to start interviewing real, live people and become masters at it.
For journalists who have moved into the marketing space, the idea of interviewing is par for the course, an old friend, something done without hesitation. But for marketing copywriters who are complacent with jobs behind computers, who are used to writing about products or services without any human interaction, this can become a point of concern or anxiety.
Whether you are interviewing the CEO of your own company or product managers of companies your agency represents, the process is the same. To be good at interviewing there are two things you must be: prepared and confident. Follow these tips to equip yourself before any interview and you will be on your way to creating compelling, storytelling content.
- Do Your Homework: There is nothing that a source hates more than a clueless interviewer. Asking basic questions makes busy people feel like you are wasting their time. Read whatever you can get your hands on about your interviewee, including his or her business bio, published articles and websites. Also, learn whatever you can about their products or services. Create a list of questions to serve as your guide.
- Dig a Little Deeper: Sometimes it is OK to ask the easy questions if you have a specific goal in mind. I once asked an up-and-coming music group why they named their album “On the Stoop.” I immediately received an answer filled with attitude: “That explanation is on the CD insert.” I followed up by explaining that I had read the edited version, but wanted to get a more personal and detailed explanation from them. They felt flattered and gave me more information than any other interviewer, and I was able to tell a much better story than the others.
- Ask for Clarification: If you don’t understand something, ask your source to go back and explain the subject again. Another route is to repeat back what you understand, and ask, “Is that correct?” Know there is no shame in doing this. The person being interviewed would much rather you get the facts right than not ask for simplification.
- Follow up: Follow up questions are golden opportunities for better nuggets of information often missed by rookie interviewers. Of course you want to ask the questions on your original list, but it can be extremely beneficial to venture from the guide and ask more detailed questions. If your source tells you that he decided to start building his $50 billion dollar empire because of something that happened in his childhood and immediately starts talking about his rise to the top, let him finish talking, but make sure you get back to asking, “What happened during your childhood that made you so driven?”
- Be Human: An interview session can be awkward for all parties involved if you sit down, ask questions, take notes and leave. Instead, develop a rapport with the person you are interviewing. Upon meeting, shake their hand firmly, introduce yourself while making eye contact and be friendly. During the interview, make eye contact every now and then, nod your head as you take notes to let them know you are paying attention to what they are saying and feel free to chuckle if they make a joke.
- Say Thank You: People are busy. If they are kind enough to take time out of their schedule to meet with you, make sure you thank them as you are leaving and again with a follow-up email.
By developing a habit of preparation before interviewing and building confidence in yourself and your skills, you will collect all the information (and more) you need to develop intriguing, share-worthy content.