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17 tips for collecting the most information during an interview

12 December 2014 Svetlana Kuznetsova
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Why you should take advantage of expert sources of information in content marketing

What do a journalist and a marketer working on promoting their commercial website, with help of a content marketing strategy, have in common?

At first glance there’s nothing common. But a good marketer can’t be a specialist who doesn’t know the basic principles of professional journalism. He must have an idea not only of the unique marketing advantages of their promoted product or the nature of traffic and effective ways to promote content, but also about the mechanisms which create content that tends to self-replicate (everyone need reposts, likes and retweets). Content, such as this, can only be created by betting on expert information and the ability to present that material correctly.

Let’s move on to the main idea, how you approach collecting information while creating web-content should be the same as a journalists one. In this way, you can create a content that will go viral.

Three main attributes of viral content:

  • It talks about what is really interesting to your audience
  • It gives expert information
  • It makes the audience trust you

Each author has their own approach to writing articles and collecting information. The late Helen Thomas, a reporter of the White House press corps, loved provocating and uncomfortable questions. The legendary Hunter S. Thompson, author and creator of gonzo-journalism, believed that objectiveness is a myth. Sometimes it happens that fictional facts and vivid imagery can work for an articles idea much better than truth – he was a writer, no further words needed. The audience is interested in nothing but the result of the author’s work. It doesn’t matter what you’re going to do with information you have collected, how you are going to shuffle the facts and which source you choose to serve and how to interpret them for the sake of making a good article which is interesting to your audience. Only one thing matters, you can’t provide your audience with great results without studying your topic carefully. Conveying the idea of the importance of studying a topic to your copywriters is a very important task.

Sources, journalists rely on them. It’s his starting point. Having an expert on a topic is the best overall source for web-content writers. Of course, the internet gives us great opportunities to collect information, but it’s a secondary source.

An article can be extremely useful, only if there has been deep preliminary research on the main source of information – an expert on the topic. Interviewing experts before writing each article is not just helpful, it’s necessary. Not having expert information means not having an expert article.

Videoconferencing  with more than two specialists is a great opportunity to compare several expert opinions at once
Videoconferencing with more than two specialists is a great opportunity to compare several expert opinions at once

Here are some “journalist” tips on how to work with experts effectively:

1. Only conduct interviews by email when there are no other options. Phone calls, Skype, Google Talk and other voice messengers are a great opportunity. Private meetings are ideal.

2. Do not initiate an interview before you have a straightforward plan for the content you are going to create. Without this plan, your interview will remind you of porridge cooked from a lot of useless information and random facts. It will be hard for you to collect these pieces of puzzle later.

3. Start your interview with a joke, compliment or by discussing recent news – with small details that create a positive mood in the conversation. Spend a minute or two speaking about nice things. Then smoothly drive to the main subject.

4. Be prepared when going to take an interview. Just like an excellent student going into an exam.

5. Don’t write your questions down on paper. Keep them in your mind.

6. If you are taking an interview at a private meeting then you should remember that dictaphones can make some people nervous. The best way to relieve tension in this situation is to inform your interlocutor that the whole material will be approved by him and he will be able to make any necessary corrections before publishing.

7. Arrange a conference interview with two to four participants. You will save time and get the opinions of several specialists at once.

8. Surprise your interviewee, tell him an unusual fact (spend some time on searching for this information) about a person who is an authoritative figure for him. In this case he will treat you like a professional and be more willing to talk to you.

9. Smile. Your interviewee is worthy of positive emotion. Don’t forget that he hopes you are a great author and that you will write a cool article. Aren’t you happy with this fact? Just smile.

10. Smile even if you are taking an interview by phone call or Skype without using video. Most hotline specialists think that an interviewee feels better if the operator smiles talking to him (it hard to say how it happens, but it’s a fact).

11. Let your interlocutor know that you are interested in them. Don’t be afraid to waste time by clarifying several questions thats diverges from the topic but will reveal their personality (even if you are not going to describe your interlocutor in the article). Don’t run madly over digressions, but ask a couple of questions which show your interest in the interlocutor’s personality which will relax him and thus he will be ready to answer any question concerning the topic.

12. Don’t believe people who say that you shouldn’t take up too much time of a busy man who agreed to give you an interview. Be a reasonable egoist – you need information, your interviewee needs content, which will be useful for his business and which he wants to get. Spend as much time as is necessary to get satisfying answers to your questions. And not a minute more.

13. Try to make time your interviewee spent with you comfortable and helpful. In future he and his staff will agree to engage in conversation easily with you.

14. Control the situation and know how to delicately return your interlocutor to the main subject. There are two types of interviewees. The first takes matters into their own hands – they talk a lot, leave a topic and answer not only your questions but also the questions they think up by themselves. The second ones want you to be the initiator. In the first case you have to stay on topic by asking leading questions. In second case, ask more clarifying questions to make the interview feel more like a live conversation rather than just a “answers and questions” session.

15. Never interrupt an interviewee. When you interrupt you make a person lose his thoughts, rhythm and mood.

16. Train your memory. Sometimes you will a piece of useful information after you stop recording.

17. Most importantly, if you use quotations from your interviewee or even if your whole article is an interview then don’t write it verbatim. An interview is also a copyrighted material. The interviewee’s speech can be edited in any way you think is necessary (without leading to a misrepresentation of the meaning, of course).

© “Texterra”, At full or partial copying of materials reference to the source is obligatory.

Former editor at Texterra online marketing agency. She is a graduate of The Maxim Gorky Literature Institute. Svetalan started working at "glossies", then turned to PR, where she worked for a long time in different structures promoting the "ConsultantPlus" brand.. She has been engaged in online marketing since 2010. Favourite thing to do is to work with copies. Unfavorite thing to do is to do nothing.
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© «TexTerra», At full or partial copying of materials reference to the source is obligatory.
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