People relate to people. Your customers, your client base, your employees and your partners relate to people.
One of the great content ideas for your company blog is to interview experts in your field…or, more to the point, in your readers’ field. These are people who will interest them.
To make this work, you need to do two things: make it useful and make it exciting. If it’s not useful, people won’t invest the time to read it. If it’s boring…well, you know what people do when a blog is boring.
Here is a six-part recipe for a useful and exciting interview on your blog.
First, understand your audience’s needs
I feel almost silly mentioning this because it is so fundamental. You should do this before every blog post. No, you should have this memorized by now.
If you publish a blog, you should understand who your readers are, or at least who your target readers are. You should know what interests them. You should know what they want to learn.
In this respect, an interview is like any other blog post. The only difference is the format.
Second, find an interview target that will interest your audience
There are four reasons somebody might be of interest to your audience:
- who they are
- what they know
- what they have done
- what has been done to them
For the most part, that second one is the sweet spot. Your audience is reading your blog to learn something useful. Your interviewee should have the knowledge they seek.
Sometimes that knowledge comes from what they have done. In fact, most knowledge comes from experience. Sometimes, that experience is the result of something happening to them. Victims might not have done anything special, but they sure have a story to tell, and it just might be packed full of lessons.
But sometimes, who they are counts, too. If someone is a bit of a celebrity or holds a high position in your readers’ industry, that makes them a worthwhile target for an interview. But, aside from the gawking factor, a well-known person usually has lots of valuable advice to offer, too. And, whether true or not, people will assume that advice is worth listening to.
Third, ask all the usual questions
There are some questions you have to ask. If you don’t, readers will feel funny about the interview. These are generally questions that help people understand who the person is and what the person has to do with them.
A bit of early history establishes that the person is human. A bit of professional history establishes that this person has enough authority to speak knowledgeably on the subject.
Even if the person has celebrity status within the industry, it’s worth asking these history questions. Not everybody knows the celebrities because some people are new, busy and just not paying that much attention.
Besides, some of those historical questions give useful information:
“How did you start out in the industry?”
“What barriers did you face early in your career?”
People are eager to learn these things, as it gives them ideas and motivation in their own careers. It also helps them relate to the interview target, making them more approachable and more human.
Fourth, ask unusual questions
If you want your interview to stand out, it helps to not ask the same seven questions that every other interviewer has already asked and already published.
For that reason, it’s worth digging deeper. It’s worth doing your research before the interview. It’s worth asking pre-interview questions. How else will you know to ask about that time the interview target was running from a water buffalo stampede?
Sometimes, the interview target has had special experiences from which there might be lessons that would interest your readers. Try to dig those out. Universal lessons are always valuable, as is niche-specific how-to advice.
Fifth, edit the answers
Few blog owners edit the answers of their interviewees. But they should. in fact, you should!
Why? Because a straight Q&A format is dull. When President Trump sent in his written answers to Robert Mueller’s questions, there was a collective yawn. Imagine how more exciting it would have been if he had chosen to testify in person.
Your job as blog interviewer is to try to capture that excitement. Try to make it sound like the transcript of a live interview, rather than just a Q&A. This is storytelling, so try to make the readers feel like they are there, in the room, while you are conducting the interview.
That means sometimes “interrupting” the flow of a response to put in an added question. It means having the interviewee engage in a bit of small talk around that question, too.
I did this in my interview with screenwriter and director Mark Parks. Here is an excerpt to show you what I mean.
…I wanted to give that to people. Whether it be poetry, in a novel, or on the screen…at some point in my life, and I’m not really sure when, I knew this is what I wanted to do.
THGM: You write poetry, too?
Mark Parks: Yes, I even won a cash prize for poetry once.
THGM: Mark Parks, award winning poet!
Mark Parks: Yes, technically, but I won two screenwriting awards with Digi60, so if we want to count awards, you’d best call me a screenwriter.
THGM: Fair enough. So how did you become a screenwriter? Not every writer writes screenplays.
Mark Parks: I actually started my foray into writing with books…
I should note that I made other edits, to help the interview flow well, but I was careful not to change his style.
If you are not sure how to make these edits, watch some late-night TV interviews, and see how they do it in real life.
Sixth, create the images
When you can create an image of the interviewee sitting with you in a TV studio, go for it. Otherwise, interviews are custom made for some very unique images:
- Headshots of the interviewee. These are almost as boring as stock photos, but people relate to human faces.
- Photos of winning an award or shaking hands with a famous person. These are a little better than headshots.
- Photos on the job. This is perfect for artists and people who do something physical. It’s boring for accountants and writers.
- Images of the interviewee’s finished work. This is great for anything artistic, including website creation, book writing, industrial design, construction, etc.
- Quote photos, where you combine a headshot of the interviewee with something interesting they said in the interview. Quote photos are one of my favorite types of images, because they are so unique and so intriguing, and they are so easy to share on social media. You will note that I created two quote photos for the Mark Parks interview.
Interviews don’t have to be boring to be good. If you plan well and dig hard, you can get some pretty unique information. And if you follow this recipe, you can make your interview not only useful but exciting, as well.