Alyssa Writes

Interviews: A Key to Great Content Marketing

This is the third and final post in the Newsworthy Content series: Sources, Quotes, and Interviews: A Key to Great Content Marketing. In case you’d like to have a look at the original presentation, head over to Slideshare.

Interviews make for great content marketing

Why? Because quotes and people bring content alive. If numbers make information more relatable imagine what a person can do! It gives a “face” to your words, colour to your conjecture.

Adding a well-placed quote from the right source takes your work from an article or a blog post to a story. Bloggers don’t use quotes enough but they can add gravitas to your writing especially if you interview a well-known figure or celebrity.

Quotes canprovide an angle to your story that you weren’t expecting. For example, today on The Guardian one of the most popular articles is this: Vatican: ‘Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer Christians’ – the quote was so compelling it was used as a title.

Any quotes make a difference. It gives another side to the story so that readers feel like it’s not just your voice they’re reading. It’s like having someone corroborate your alibi – it just makes what you say more believable.

Finding Quotes and Getting Interviews

Using quotes and interviewing sources will elevate your content to the next level. They will make your content more interesting to read and give it more power, but where can you find them?

Your life

I carry around a notebook. When someone says something amazing or that I think could be used in a story, I write it down. You can type it into your phone if you want to be less suspicious and look less weird. I also have a clause in my disclaimer that states any comments on this blog or in emails sent to me can be used in future articles, so I tend to draw inspiration from reader emails and comments.

Mine your connections

When I wanted to write about transnational couples, I would interview friends I know that are in them too. If I wanted to interview nurses, for example, I could talk to my mom or my aunts. If I was writing about lawyer training contracts, I could ask a friend to ask a friend.

Make someone you know or someone in your company into an expert. It’s all about how you sell it. Your friend may be a dietitian that’s never written online before but if she has the right experience to talk about the 5-2 diet then let her have her 15 minutes!

Other articles and stories

Quote one of your favourite bloggers or high authority writers. Whether it’s an article of theirs, a Tweet, or a Facebook update, they’re all fair game. Remember: this is a quote, not plagiarism, so be sure to give credit appropriately.

Help a Reporter

As I mentioned in my Resources for Freelance Writers article, I use Help a Reporter Out to get interview subjects. I’ve used it for some of my copywriting articles as well as here on my blog.

I managed to interview CEOs of companies and get quotes from diamond billionaires thanks to HARO – that’s some newsworthy content if I’ve ever seen it!

Just get in touch

If you want to interview someone, just contact them. Send them an email, LinkedIn message or a Tweet. Let them know your idea and send some samples. If you have a commission with a publisher tell them that too! “Hey so-and-so, I’d like to interview you for the Toronto Star” carries a lot more weight than “Can I talk to you for an article I’m writing?”

Interview Skills

Few people are born knowing how to ask the right questions in order to get the information they need. They teach it in journalism school, but you can learn it too.

1. Research everything but pretend you know nothing.

This is something I learned at my internship at the Barrie Examiner: people will be more open with strangers they don’t feel intimidated by. Don’t tell people what you know, just ask questions.

Get all the background you can before an interview. You don’t want to ask the same questions they’ve been asked before and you should know what kinds of answers you need too.

2. Ask open-ended questions.

Upon hearing something like “I’ve had a hard time living in London.” you should ask something like, “What challenges have you faced adapting to life in London?” It’s more telling and less threatening than “Do you dislike London?” which is presumptuous and doesn’t allow them to tell their story.

Of course there is room for closed-ended questions, too, but save them for the end when the person is more comfortable speaking with you.

3. Record the interview.

There are a lot of reasons for doing this:

– Your memory and notes won’t be 100% accurate and you don’t want to misquote someone.

– You’ll be able to pay attention to what they say and ask better follow up questions. It becomes a conversation rather than an interrogation.

– You can watch what they’re doing when they say certain things – making your story more illustrative. Focus on them.

These tips are tip of the iceberg when it comes to interview skills so be sure to read up. With practice, you’ll develop your own interview style.

A Caveat to Quotes

I learned this during my internship: Keep your notes and quote accurately or you risk being the subject of a defamation or libel suit.

You cannot alter quotes! You can make spelling changes if you don’t want to embarrass someone, or leave it by using the [sic] designation. You can remove parts of quotes to shorten them using ellipses [. . .]. You cannot reword sentences or remove anything that might change the meaning of a sentence. It may make for interesting content to misplace a quote but decontextualizing someone’s words won’t win you any friends.

Be honest with your sources about what their words will be used for. Just like decontextualizing quotes, don’t tell someone they’re being interviewed for an article about how terrible Virgin Media customer service is only to use their quotes in a story bashing Richard Branson.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on creating newsworthy content. If you want more advice on content or stories about travel, feel free to subscribe by e-mail to the right!

Lead photo courtesy of Graham Holliday, CC licensed at time of publication.