Adam Fisher
26th October 2018 - 7 mins read
I

’ve woken up with content ideas in the middle of the night, half-way through a gym session and while eating dinner. One of the best ways to create content, however, is to interview people. 

Not only can these be written up as a straight interview, like this example from our magazine, but you can also use them to breathe life and add fresh impetus into existing content ideas. And invariably, as you carry out more interviews, you will find you spot more content ideas through the people you talk to. 

Whether it is people in your own organisation or key influencers in the sector, getting the views, opinions and personalities of other people into your content can offer your readers something strong and different.

But how do you carry out an effective interview if you don’t have a journalism background?

I’ve worked as a journalist and now create content for Thirty Seven and its clients.

Here are my tips for successful content creation interviews:

 

Avoid the word ‘interview’

I’ve always tried to avoid using the word ‘interview’.

As a journalist, I found that it was a word that made people nervous.  It has a formal feel and conjures up thoughts of job interviews or politicians being torn apart by Jeremy Paxman on TV. 

On occasions, it would stop people from talking to me altogether.

However, if I said something like ‘have you got a few minutes for a quick chat’, I would get a much better response.

I’ve found this theory is the same when it comes to content creation. If I use the word ‘interview’, I might typically get a response like ‘I wouldn’t know what to say’.  If I say ‘I just want to get your thoughts on…’ they are generally up for the idea.

It all goes back to making sure the person you are interviewing, or wanting to interview, is relaxed.

 

Start off gently

There is a good chance that the person you will be talking to will not have done an interview before or had any form of media training (something our sister company Media First can help with).

That means that while I’m still going to take a journalistic approach to the interview, I’m going to start more gently than I would when faced with an experienced media spokesperson.

I’ll be looking to ask questions that hopefully put them at ease, help them to relax and open up and encourage them to share their thoughts.

I tend to think on my feet and if I feel they are growing in confidence I may go for some harder questions. If not, I’ll continue with open, gentle questions which encourage them to keep talking.

Whatever their confidence level, I won’t look for the curveball question that I may have used as a journalist.

 

Don’t share questions in advance

You will find conflicting advice about this in other blogs about content creation.

But, I really don’t believe in sending interviewees a list of questions I’m planning to ask in advance.

In my experience, doing this ensures scripted responses which won’t capture the conversational tone you need to aim for.

And, as I have already mentioned, I don’t prepare my own questions in advance.

I’m not completely heartless though. I will give them an overview of what I am looking for and hope to cover ahead of the interview. 

If conducting a #ContentMarketing interview, don't share the questions you're going to ask before-hand. It ensures you create a conversational tone and avoid scripted answers. Via: @37agency

 

Focus

It might sound needy, but when I carry out an interview I want the interviewee’s undivided attention.

There is nothing worse than when someone is in full flow, telling a great anecdote or story which will bring your content to life, and suddenly they are distracted by an email appearing on their screen or a phone call for example.

So, if I can, I always strive to carry out interviews away from their desk. Perhaps there is a meeting room you could use in your building, or you could possibly meet in a coffee shop.

I’ve even arranged to meet interviewees at their home to keep them away from the distracting work environment.

Similarly, I try to make sure they have got plenty of time for the interview. Finding that you have been given a 15-minute slot sandwiched between two meetings will result in a distracted interview.

 

Be curious

I have recently found myself writing content about office designs and workplace trends.

This is a subject I have not encountered in my career, despite some of the newspaper offices I have worked in being completely dingy and in desperate need of refurbishment.

So I was a little unsure of how this would go. But then my journalistic curiosity came into play and I wanted to find out what lay behind the statements I was being told.

I found myself asking lots of open questions, many of which began with ‘why’ or ‘how’ - part of the 5Ws and an H which form the basis of most lines of questioning (what, when, who, why, where and how).

Why should a modern officer contain lots of greenery? How does that improve the health of the office worker?

To adapt an old proverb, while curiosity killed the cat, lack of curiosity killed the reporter, or in this case the content producer.

 

Look out for sound bites

When we use the term sound bites in written content, we are talking about those all-important quotes that could potentially make your content stand out.

A good quote can make a punchy headline or perhaps some pull-out quotes that can be used to break up sections of content.

But, often people don’t talk in complete sentences or are not concise, which can mean finding these quotes can be tricky.

There are a couple of tricks I use.

The first is that I may suggest I have missed their last point, perhaps by saying something like ‘my shorthand isn’t what it used to be’ and ask them to repeat it in the hope they deliver something stronger second time around. 

The other approach is to re-phrase it for them. Once they have finished their point, I’ll say something along the lines of ‘so what you are saying is’ and look to produce a summary of what they have just said that better lends itself to being a quote.

If they agree with that summary then I can put the sentence I have reworded in their name.

 

Get it all down

As a former journalist, I have the advantage of being able to use shorthand when I carry out interviews.

I’ll admit my shorthand ability isn’t what it once was –neglected by years in newspaper managerial roles and a move to PR - but even if I was still capable of producing 100 words per minute, I would still look to record interviews I carry out for content production purposes to ensure I capture everything that is said.

Always make sure, however, that the interviewee is happy to be recorded.

 

Keep it conversational

I want my content to have a conversational tone.

That means that if I’m going to have lots quotes from my interviewee in the blog then I need them to be in the sort of everyday language they would use when talking to friends or family.

Industry jargon, management speak and acronyms could make great swathes of text unusable. Again, getting them out of the workplace and helping them to feel relaxed can help with this.

It also means that while I’ll have an idea of what I’m going to ask and may have some prepared questions to use as a guide, my interview is not going to be scripted.

A pretty sure fire way of making a conversation stilted is for the interviewer to make their way through a great shopping list of questions.

I want to be able to adapt as we go along and explore things that come up in conversation that I may not have considered and veer off in a direction I may not have imagined – you never know where this might lead.

 

Avoid group interviews

Group interviews are a nightmare for the content creator.

While the interviewee might prefer the ‘safety in numbers approach’, the result is typically a series of incomplete quotes as the subjects talk over each other and finish each other’s sentences.

And I think you also miss out on a lot of the personality that comes through when you talk to one person face to face.

It may be more time-consuming, but I would rather interview the people separately and then stitch together what they have said to form my content.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

Magazine Guide

Aimee Hudson 20th March 2018 — 4 mins read
C

ompanies have become their own publishing houses, producing regular magazines aimed at informing, entertaining and evoking loyalty in their customers.

And the ones who do it well produce compelling content which is a long way from the sort of advertorial type material you may traditionally expect from branded print.

One of the great strengths of brand magazines is that if they are good, people will keep hold of them for longer than other promotional material. They also offer something different from the digital bombardment many customers face.

Here are some of our favourites:

 

The Red Bulletin

The Red Bulletin has all the high-octane, adrenaline fuelled and adventure packed articles you would expect to read from a brand which makes energy drinks and runs Formula One teams. 

But among the stories on extreme sports, like cliff-diving and rock-scaling, are features on more sedate pursuits, lifestyle activities and interviews with high-profile actors and musicians.

The monthly magazine, which is illustrated with stunning images, is distributed in London alongside the Evening Standard newspaper and is also available at universities and gyms.

Subscriptions are also available, while the magazine is backed by its own eye-catching website.

 

The Furrow

 

John Deere began publishing The Furrow long before the term ‘content marketing’ had first been used.

The first issue was published back in 1895 and is widely regarded as being the oldest example of content marketing. The publication is still going strong today with around two million global readers.

The magazine focuses on the farmers themselves and the current issues in farming, providing informative content, rather than promoting the equipment John Deere sells.

Such is its enduring appeal that it is now printed in 14 languages and is available online.

 

ASOS

 

You might think that a printed magazine is an unlikely fit for an online only fashion retailer aimed at the 18-34 crowd.

But ASOS began producing its self-titled magazine in 2007 and celebrated its 100th issue in February this year. It has proved a huge success reaching around 700,000 people globally, 450,000 of these in the UK.

It has attracted stars such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lawrence to its front page and interviews like these prove it is far more than a catalogue.  

This glossy publication is backed by an online audience of more than 120,000.  

 

Traveller

 

In flight magazines first started appearing in cabins more than 60 years ago, when they were introduced by Pan Am, and are one of the oldest versions of brand magazines.

Despite smartphones and Wi-Fi increasingly creeping into planes, these magazines continue to go from strength to strength with around 150 printed around the globe.

United’s offering, Rhapsody, is often cited as an example of a good brand magazine, but unfortunately you’ll only get to read it if you book first class.

Despite its somewhat unimaginative title, easyJet’s Traveller magazine is our pick from the in-flight market.

It is a stylish monthly publication, packed with a wide range of content. A recent edition, for example, ranged from looking at the latest crop of bands to emerge from Liverpool to an article on the charms of Comporta, in Portugal.

And if you miss a copy they are all available digitally on the magazine’s own section of the easyJet website.

 

Waitrose Weekend

 

This breaks the mould of the other publications we’ve mentioned as it is printed in a newspaper format—in fact, when it was first published in 2010 it was the first free newspaper published by a retailer.

The 48 page publication, free every Thursday, has the look of a quality Sunday supplement and all the articles on food, drinks and cooking you would expect in a publication produced by a supermarket and aimed at Middle England. 

But it also features celebrity interviews, a health and fitness section (with Pippa Middleton no less), a guide to events taking place around the country, a gardening section and TV reviews.

And like any good newspaper, it features an impressive number of high-profile columnists including Jeremy Vine, Clare Balding, Stuart Maconie, Jonathan Agnew and Mark Kemode, while Phillip Schofield has a ‘weekend wines’ column.

 

Pineapple

 

This was Airbnb’s glossy move into the world of publishing.

The coffee table production, which came in at a hefty 128 ad free pages, was distributed to the app company’s host network.

It had rather vague aims of being a ‘crossroad of travel and anthropology; a document of community, belonging and shared space’, but nonetheless was well received and covered a wide range of topics, including art, food, culture and style.

But here’s the cautionary tale; despite plans for Pineapple to be published quarterly, there was only ever one edition before the magazine was quietly shelved.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

 

Mark Mars
3rd October 2017 - 2 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.