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

7 reasons your organisation should produce an eBook

Adam Fisher 10th December 2018 — 4 mins read
E

lectronic books, or eBooks as they are more commonly known, occupy the middle ground of the content world, between the shorter and more regularly produced blogs and the more formal, often academic approach, taken in whitepapers.

It is a format which has enjoyed something of a boom in recent years and it looks set for further success.

What exactly is an eBook?

When we talk about an eBook we are not talking about the publications you read through a device like a Kindle.

The eBooks we refer to are produced by businesses and typically come in PDF format.

They enable brands to explore a topic in deeper detail – often aimed at solving a problem customers may be experiencing - but through an easy-to-read style.

And producing them has many benefits.

So without further ado, here are seven reasons why your organisation should produce an eBook.

 

Cover a topic in more detail

If you are already regularly blogging, you are probably tackling topics in somewhere between 500 to 1,500 words.

An eBook enables you to tackle topics in much more depth, usually starting at around 5,000 words or around 20 pages.

This gives plenty of scope to educate, entertain and engage readers and potential customers.

Longer form content can appear daunting to a reader – many would be put off by a 5,000 word blog for example.

But putting it in the format of a well-designed eBook, which is supported by eye-catching design, will make them more likely to download it and read when they have time.

Not only that, but an information-driven, educational eBook could become a resource they refer to again and again.

This creates brand loyalty, enhance the reputation of the band and the connection the customer has with it and ultimately helps to drive revenue.  

 

Showcase expertise

Producing an eBook can help position your organisation as a thought leader in its industry and showcase its expertise.

Tackling important issues which matter to your customers in detail not only reveals a deeper level of understanding but will also encourage prospects to view your organisation as a trusted source of information and as a problem solver.

This in turn helps organisations cultivate the credibility customers look for.

 

Generate revenue

eBooks are a great way to generate new leads that could lead to new sales.

In return for your carefully crafted insight, potential customers typically need to provide their email address for the download link.

In some cases they may also be required to provide other details such as job role and phone number.

That means an organisation now have valuable information about someone who has expressed an interest in your content.

They are also a great tool for sales teams to use to generate interest and new business.

 

Reusable content

One of the great benefits of an eBook is that it provides a lot of content which can be repurposed and recycled in blogs.

I have written a few eBooks for our sister company Media First and I have been able to take parts from each one, whether it is a chapter, section or even just a paragraph, and turn that into a blog at later date.

For example, one I wrote on the importance of preparing for a media crisis has led to blogs on holding statements, risk register, the importance of communicating internally and identifying the right spokesperson.

Additionally, they also provide plenty of reusable content for social media teams.

 

Rise above the competition

Not only do eBooks provide another channel to promote your organisation, but they are also something many of your rivals may not be using.

There are plenty of blogs out there, for example, but how many companies in your sector go beyond that?

So, not only do they help to ensure your brand stands out, but they could also help you tap into a wider audience.

 

Retains its value

An eBook is an item of content which retains its value.

Unless it is on a particularly time sensitive subject, it can stay on your website indefinitely generating leads and interest.

You can also keep referring back to it in blogs to attract new readers and post about it on social media.

At the very worst you may just need to update it occasionally.

 

You may already be half-way there

If you are already regularly producing content like blogs then you may already be well on your way to producing an eBook.

Your existing content could form the basis of your eBook and may just need some repositioning, a slightly different angle, more detail and some good design.

 

In summary, eBooks are premium content which should form part of your content marketing strategy.  If they don’t, your customers may just find the information they are looking for through a rival organisation’s eBook.

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 an eBook.

Adam Fisher
6th July 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.