Interviewing is one of the best ways to add precision, depth and expertise to your writing. Stories from subject matter experts in your field—whether it’s your CEO or a field specialist—will provide high-quality content for readers. What’s more, well-presented tales will give your visitors the knowledge they seek about your brand without hitting them over the head with a sales pitch.
Below are three tips to help craft your next interview:
- Think about your audience: When you conduct an interview, you’re giving your audience an exclusive point of view. To begin the value-add process, then, ask yourself what your audience wants. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Do your key targets want a bigger perspective or greater objectivity on your products and services?
- Do they want to get to know the people whose work they believe in (put a face to the story)?
- Or do they want just the facts (often presented in Q&A format)?
- Make a list of potential interviewees: So, who should you interview? Well, who would your audience like to hear from? A professional athlete? Politician? Author? Industry expert? Recently, our director of Content Marketing, Carrie Majewski, wrote a blog on the marketing strategy behind Sprinkles Cupcakes and its success with 24-hour cupcake dispensers. Her article featured insights and quotes from Sprinkles’ Vice President of Marketing/Social Media Nicole Schwartz, who shared her vision and viewpoint on branding strategy and marketing tactics—a boon for readers!
- Prepare beforehand: Come up with five to 10 questions to ask your interview subject. Remember: Don’t interrogate your subject. Rather, have a two-way conversation. You must be “present,” which is why recording your interviews is important—to allow you to be engaged in the dialog. Stay responsive to what the interviewee is saying, so you can ask those vital follow-up questions, which oftentimes turn out to be the key to the real story. Even better, let your interviewee wander off topic; this is yet another avenue for grittier truths. Below are some tips for framing your interview and asking questions:
- To get a clearer picture of your subjects, ask them to describe their actions rather than their beliefs.
- Don’t inquire about the past (do your research instead). Ask about the next thing coming down the pike. This approach is more likely to engage and excite your subject.
- Ask your subjects open-ended questions to avoid “yes” or “no” answers. Demand “how?” a lot.
- Ask stupid questions. That is, don’t move on to the next question if you are confused. Solicit clarification, even if you sound dumb. You don’t want to start writing your article and then realize you don’t know what you’re talking about.
- Try to mix up the tone of your questions. Move from pointed to more light-hearted ones.
- Query your subjects with short questions and then follow up.
At the end of your interview, ask if there is anything you missed. You’ll often get an unexpected and golden tidbit for your trouble. Now start writing—using all your best practices for creating compelling text.
After spending seven years as an editor and supervisor at Gartner Inc., you could say that Peg Ventricelli—also known as Content Boost’s very own “grammar police”—knows her way around an AP Style Book. As Content Boost’s Quality Control Editor, Peg is the last set of eyes on content produced by our team of editors, and is tasked with redefining our standards of excellence in writing. Did we mention she holds writers workshops for the team (and they include pop quizzes!)? Drawing from her early days working local beats as a journalist, Peg is also a regular contributor to our corporate website. When she doesn’t have a red pen in her hand, she can be found employing her green thumb, traveling to the beaches of Maryland on the weekends, and biking around her hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut.