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Content Marketing and the Power of The Interview

By Ryan Nicholson

Jul 21, 2015

About 7 minutes


Content Marketing 101: Hone Your Interviewing Skills

Sometimes the difference between good content and great content comes down to the ability to get to the pure core of a concept. The heart of a product or an idea, the thing that gets people really excited about it, can be hidden underneath layers of technical specs, presumed customer pain points, and tired value props that often swing and miss. Good interviewing skills can help you immensely here. Let’s first talk about the big problem.

Content Stagnation

Even the most well rounded marketer has to lean on their team for help building content for your products and services. Many marketers I work with rely on the product expertise of their various team members to drive their marketing content and blogging.

This reliance can lead to the stagnation of content creation. Marketers wait around for the input of team members or have help requests that get sidelined for a variety of reasons.

Here’s the top complaints from marketers I work with:

  • My team is too busy to write content
  • Even if my team did have free time, they just aren’t good or fast writers
  • I’m not a product expert so I need a certain experts from a certain line-of-business to sign off on content
  • We’re so focused on initiative X that we never get around to writing content (usually something around events)

If this is happening to you, if you’re facing a bad case of content stagnation, then I have some advice. Don’t wait for the help to come to you. Go to them. A good interview can help you pull information out of a conversation and capture the excitement that your team and your customers have about your products and services.

To be a great content marketer you have to be a good interviewer. To be a good interviewer you have to be prepared and you must be an excellent listener. If you put the following tips to work then you should be able to conduct great interviews with team members that helps your content tell a story.

Preparing for the Interview

We’ve all seen it. An author goes on to a television interview show to talk about their book and the interviewer hasn’t read the book. This leads to an awkward and rambling conversation. Your team members who don't have time to write also doesn’t have time to sit down for an interview that you didn’t prepare for.

Here a handful of tips to prep for the interview:

  • Find a block of time – you can get a lot out of someone in a focused 15 minute interview.
  • Do your homework. Research the topic enough to have a talking knowledge.
  • Get a recording device ready in case you need to reference the conversation for quotes.
  • Don’t worry if your knowledge isn’t deep—that’s what your expert is for, just make sure it’s broad enough so that you can ask the right follow up questions if needed.
  • Prepare your questions beforehand. If possible provide them to your interviewee.
  • Have an outline in mind for your content. Don’t go into the interview with no set destination.
  • Prepare to pivot – even the best planned interviews can, and occasionally should, go off into a direction that you didn’t expect.

Art of the Interview

An interview just isn’t about asking a series of questions and collecting a response. This will work if you’re doing an activity like a Q and A type blog article, but it may lead to pretty dry and robotic copy depending on who you’re interviewing and the topic.

Understand that interviewing another person is a skill that you might not be immediately great at. Learn from your mistakes, build on your strengths and identify your weaknesses. This will help you improve on your interviewing skills over time.

Find the moment of WOW

A great interviewer has prepared themselves and is ready with questions, but they’re also ready for moments of serendipity. That place in the interview where you realize the kernel of the thing. At its best it is when your subject’s unadulterated excitement about a topic flows over or when you yourself come to realize the hook of the topic. Someone who prepares well for an interview is more likely to find the essence of what delights your team and your customers about the topic at hand.

Finding Your Content Story

You don’t get to the moment of wow by just asking questions. A great interviewer is a great listener. You get to that point because you’ve prepared and because you’re listening. You aren’t listening to capture a response and ask the next prepared question in the series. That’s what mediocre interviewers do. You’re listening to hear for that moment that gives the conversation clarity. The moment where the content that you’re about to create is going to meet its story.

Interviewing Intangibles

All of the preparation in the world won’t equal a great interview that results in a great piece of content. You could come to the table with the most thoughtful and researched questions and still have an interview that falls flat. Your interview will go to that next level if you can conduct it with these principles in mind:

  • Curiosity – A good interviewer is curious about the topic and wants to get answers to not just the next question, but the new question that the last answer created.
  • Sincerity – if you want a good interview, it’s important to make a human connection. If your curiosity doesn’t come across as genuine then you won’t get genuine answers.
  • Honesty – Ask more honest questions and you’ll get more honest answers. If your interview subject feels like they can trust you with their words and ideas then they're more likely to open up.
  • Empathy – If you can tune in to what your subject is experiencing during the interview then you’ll be well positioned to understand those distilled moments of the interview that get to the heart of the topic. If they start to get excited you should reflect that in your tone and hone in on that point of excitement in the next question. 
  • Wonder – If you can’t get yourself excited about the topic then don’t expect the person you’re interviewing to give you a very exciting interview. If you are genuinely interested in the topic and can find the thing that is compelling about it, then don’t be afraid to express your own sense of amazement and wonder.

Great marketing content is rarely just pulled out of thin air. Great content is a collaboration of different people, ideas, and perspectives. Good preparation is important but it will only get you so far.

By honing your interviewing skills you can go from good content marketers to great content marketer. By being a better interviewer you can stop content stagnation in it's tracks and pull great stories out of your colleagues.

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Tags: SEO, content marketing