Adam Fisher
26th October 2018 - 7 mins read
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’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

How to make and start a business podcast

Tom Idle 28th February 2020 — 6 mins read
A

ccording to Ofcom figures released in the autumn, 7.1 million people now listen to podcasts each week – that’s one in eight people and an increase of 24 per cent over the past year.

There are currently more than 860,000 podcasts in existence today and half of all the podcasts in existence were created in the last two years alone.

Clearly, more and more people are realising the benefits of creating long-form, in-depth audio content.

With figures like these, you might ask whether the world needs another podcast right now.

Well, as someone who set up and run their own podcast, I think you should, and I feel my experience could help you to get started.

I got into podcasts when I was commuting from Kent to Oxford for work. I was spending a lot of time in the car and podcasts were my salvation.

I listened religiously to several different shows and began to try to work out the functional elements of those shows and how they were put together and how it related to what I was doing.

When I left that job to set up my own business, podcasting seemed like the perfect content marketing tool to promote what I was doing. Not only was I passionate about podcasts, but I was a trained journalist who had specialised in radio journalism at university.

Additionally, no-one else was doing them in the sustainable business area, so there was a huge gap in the market.

So, I launched the Better Business Show. It was a weekly show with new episodes every Monday morning and the idea was to showcase some of the innovators, start-ups, small businesses – as well as some of the legacy businesses – that were working out ways of doing things differently and more sustainably to create better businesses.

It was a magazine show and at the centre of it was an in-depth interview, usually with a start-up and then we wrapped it up with some news and some conversations with consultants and experts in the field. We brought different elements together in a 40-minute podcast.

We launched it in 2016 and I think it is fair to say we achieved some success. We got more than 3,000 listeners, we found some good sponsorship, we branched out into multiple countries and we had lots of repeat listeners (38 per cent repeat listeners). In short, we built a nice community.

Why was it successful?

Well, there were a few factors and one of the key ones was planning and getting ahead. When we launched, we had three episodes which was important in terms of building credibility. If people are discovering you for the first time and you only have one episode, they won’t be sure whether you are serious or whether you are going to come back with more episodes.

In the first few weeks, we worked hard to get our ranking on iTunes as good as we could. Doing this was as simple as getting friends, family, colleagues and customers to give us a five-star review. It worked wonders and we ended up getting on to the ‘new and noteworthy’ section’ of the business podcasts. We stayed there for about three months which built early traction.

I think that consistency was also key. We made sure the podcast came out at the same time every week – 9am on a Monday – and that helped to build behaviour among the listeners where they were looking out for each episode. If you are saying on your episode ‘we’ll be back next week’, then you need to be back next week.

Having evergreen content was also important. Although we included a news section, the rest of the content is still relevant and will continue to stick around.

So, if the podcast was successful, why am I not still doing it?

The main answer to that is that it achieved what we set it out to do. It won me a lot of work and new connections and helped me to grow my business.

It is something I’m glad I did and even now the archive lives on and we are getting new listeners and plays a month.

For me, there is no engagement like having a podcast where you are capturing someone for 40 minutes every week and they are listening to you while they are doing something else like driving, cooking or working out in the gym.

Here are a few tips from my experience to help you get started:

 

Recording device

It sounds simple but you need a decent recording device – I can’t state how important this is. Your content can be strong, but if there is background noise or the recording is just not good enough quality, then listeners will instantly switch off. I carried my interviews over Skype and used a free app to record them. For the interviews that were carried out on location, I used a £100 Dictaphone. But the iPhone technology has moved on so much that I would probably use that more now.

 

Editing equipment

In terms of the edit, I used Apple Garageband, which is easy to use. It was great for splicing and adding music to intros.

 

Hosting the podcast

I hosted my podcast because I wanted to market myself, but that doesn’t mean that sourcing a decent host for your show isn’t important. If you do want to do it yourself, some of the presenting and hosting skills can be learnt and honed from Thirty Seven’s sister company Media First.  

 

Noise

I’ve already mentioned that background news will be a big distraction for your listeners, so make sure you have a quiet office to record your podcast or hire a studio. Failing that, sit under a duvet when you make your recording – it sounds crazy but this is something BBC journalists do often on location.  

 

iTunes

Although Spotify has now entered the podcast market, iTunes remains the main platform. I submitted my podcast to iTunes from day one and I think it was an important part of its success. Once you have done that you can submit it for free to other platforms, like Deezer, to extend your reach.

 

Social media

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that social media was a really important way of sharing my broadcasts. LinkedIn worked particularly well for me. I also created a blog on my website to hold each podcast.

 

Ask for help

If I was to relaunch my podcast now, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for some help. I might look at outsourcing some of the editing, or scripting or maybe someone to look after the logistics of organising interviews.

As a trained journalist I know how to structure podcasts and create captivating audio content. If you don’t then please hire the professionals to help you.

You don’t have to go it alone.

 

Get in touch with one of our account managers to find out how we can help you get your podcast started.

 

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 a podcast or email marketing.

Mark Mars
19th February 2018 - 3 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.