Learn How & Why to Use Interviews for Top Quality Content & Leads
“Joe, give me 500 words on the challenges of stainless steel ball bearings in pre-NAFTA single engine whirlygigs.”
(WHAT!!??)“All over it, boss. Who’s the target?”
(WHAT???!!!) “Cmon, Joe, it’s Millenial hiring managers in top-10 population growth areas in the South!”
(AAAGGH!) “Oh yeah, that segment—need it by when?”(Please be two days from now, please be two days from now)
“End of day tomorrow.”
You can create good content without speaking with an expert from a target demographic, but the extra time you spend researching or being creative would be better spent learning from those in the know.
Interviews provide facts and experiences that help good content become great with realistic detail, and great content when published produces leads.
These discussions not only give you what you need for your current post idea, they can provide information that leads to future posts on, and stronger relationships with, the target demographic.
If you are lucky, you may discover a reason to create a post for a new target demographic.
Not every client sells ‘everyday items’ to mainstream consumer demographics. When the subject and personas are niche, you must cram on both, because you can’t write what you don’t understand.
Sure, you can research without speaking with anyone, but that’s like learning a language only from a book. The result will most likely not connect with real people.
You must interview the people who are intimately involved with the challenges of stainless steel ball bearings in pre-NAFTA single engine whirlygigs as well as the Millenial hiring managers in top-10 population growth areas in the South if your content is to be interesting and valuable to the target.
Interviewing can be overlooked among the other skills involved with top-notch content production, but if you are to be a compelling storyteller you must have compelling information. Not only do interview subjects tell you their reality, they can give you great quotes and examples you can use to make valuable content entertaining.
Interviews are not easy if you are introverted or self conscious, but there are ways to enhance your chances to get great blog post material without conducting the call like the Spanish Inquisition, which nobody expects anyway. E-mail interviews are popular but let’s address phone calls because they are more difficult to do well.
Remember, the goal here is to garner great insight into the customer target profile, insight that you will use to align products or services with their current business objectives in your content.
Once you’ve identified and contacted your subjects, and set a time limit, offer to send them questions so they can prep before the agreed upon time. They may ask anyway, but if not, offer.
Remember, as much as you may be dreading the interview –you are a crackerjack SEO writer and light-speed headline writer but freeze up in small talk situations—your interviewee is not a professional speaker. He/she will appreciate the gesture.
Do not craft Yes/No questions, do ask for real-world examples illustrating a challenge or solution. Emphasize details. They will help you tell the story and connect with the audience, who will more easily identify with feelings and situations related to the common existence. Make sure you ask every question that will get you the information you require to get the job done. Less important questions can be ignored in case of time crunch.
Do some research on the topic and on the person you’re speaking with. It will eliminate too many nuts and bolts questions that can be easily answered online, and more importantly, it will increase the quality of your questions.
Not least, the scan of a bio or LinkedIn profile may show you that Mr. Millenial graduated from the same college as you, and boom! You have your icebreaker as you open with a discussion of whether The Grotto is still the Tuesday night hotspot.
During the Call
That may seem like wasted time, but feeling comfortable is crucial for both ends of the interaction. If you conduct it like a job interview, you can be sure the interviewee will be starchy, the answers stunted and without color. It’s OK to admit to the subject you are nervous, too, if you sense they are.
Even once the ice is broken, continue the casual atmosphere. Remind the subject the purpose of the call, what you want from it, and that their every ‘umm’ and ‘uh’ will not be recreated. Tell the subject you will stick to the questions sent, but may ask follow-up or clarifying questions.
If the person gives a short answer to a question you really wanted more details from, ask for more. This is your only chance, and you can do it without nagging—“Can you elaborate on that?” or “Can you explain that a bit more?”
You are trying to make this a conversation. People like to talk about themselves and things they know, but if you can refer to something you’ve researched or show them you are familiar with the topic, your effort will be appreciated and bolster the friendliness you’re trying to create.
Record the conversation. If you are furiously scribbling gobbledygook trying to keep up, your stress level rises and your attention to the flow of the discussion suffers.
If tangents are presented, even if unrelated to the main topic, go off on them briefly. If it could happen in a chat with a friend at a party, it can happen in your interview. As long as you aren’t too pressed for time, indulge. If one or both of you laugh, well done.
Once you finish the scripted questions, finish by asking the subject if they want to add anything that you may not have asked about. Many people will answer only what you ask about; unaware of related information you would be interested in, they don’t add it. They have a chance with that final opportunity.
Thank the person for their time and knowledge, and if you have any time left, reminisce about college day nightlife.
After the Call
Congratulations, you may not remember everything that was said, but you felt comfortable during the chat, asked the most important questions, and followed up when necessary. Get what you need from the recording, write your post, and don’t forget to follow up with a thank you e-mail to the interviewee.
You will see when you begin to write that the post nearly assemble itself because you have focused your questions on what you need and steered the subject to substantial answers. You’ve more than enough for the post you planned, and likely ideas for future content related to the same demographic. The realistic details you’ve gained from the Interview will improve your content and increase the chance for lead generation once it is published.
Best of all, you have cemented a bond with a client and gained confidence conducting a valuable process.
Bring on the 600-word advertorial on trends in deli counter display design aimed at deli owners who have criminal pasts!
Author Bio: Joe Bush is a freelance all-purpose content whiz who is for hire while he searches for full time work. See trade publication work at http://joebushtradepub.blogspot.com/, but that is only a small sample of his talents and capabilities. Reach him at email@example.com