We live in a sharing economy. Social platforms, and their related performance tools, are increasingly efficient to share information around the globe. The focus in the communication profession has shifted away from creating original content, to efficient ways of sharing whatever comes along. Content lost its king’s crown.
Yet, social media offers the possibility to display an enterprise’s thought leadership and unique point of views. Each sales cycle starts with research on the web. The call for original content – compelling and meaningful – has become louder again. Still, the majority of the content providers will tell you that they don’t have the time to put their thoughts on paper. As a consequence, the content sharing hubs, created to be wells of information for sales, marketing or any person within a company, often dry up after the initial enthusiasm.
Content creation takes time. But there are a number of techniques to accelerate the process and help you to mine that valuable content from those people who have the insights to make a business difference.
This is the first in a series of 3 articles, each taking a closer look at a particular technique to create content in an economic and fast way.
- Interviews: bring this forgotten lore back to life.
- Agile writing: start a new élan and be cool
- Serendipity: let the unexpected inspire you
Interviews – bring this forgotten lore back to life.
Interviewing is probably the surest and easiest way to gather and distribute content from within your enterprise. In essence, it is quite a fun process that yields immediate results. It is based on the observation that people are not keen to write (long process, heavy investment in time, not in a native language) but are keen to talk about their area of expertise. Even in a technical environment, we see that only few techies are active writers. When looking at other departments, very few people are active writers.
The exciting thing is that, as an interviewer, you are actively co-creating content and not simply sharing content.
The most effective interviews follow 3 basic steps. Once you have identified your topic and have selected one or more subject matter experts, you will take these next steps:
- Editing, approving and publishing
Actually there is a 4th step, the follow-up of any reactions or comments on the interview and feeding those back to the interviewee.
The most important part of the preparation is to brief the right person about the goal and the context of the interview. Your interviewee will feel more confident when he or she knows where the interview will be published, who the target audience is and what the goal is. Next to that, send your suggested questions in advance to your interviewee. Don’t send more than 5 questions. Needless to say that these should be open questions, or the interview will be very short. Schedule 30 to 45 minutes on your interviewee’s calendar. And you’re ready to go.
No, you are not.
As the interviewer, you will have to conduct proper research on the subject. This will help you to think outside your own enterprise and have some basic insight to actually understand the answers of your interviewee. Your newly acquired knowledge will help you to steer the conversation and increase your chances to capture some nice sound-bites that you can use as your title or click-bait…
Conducting the interview can be done in several ways, from a simple conversation over the phone to dragging in a portable studio with multiple cameras, lighting gear, shotgun microphones and green screens to film the whole interaction in 4K. Since we are in the business of providing quick but rich content, let’s stick to the KISS principle, shall we?
Over the phone it will be.
Technically, you only need a phone and a recording device. Manoeuvre yourself into a quiet environment. I would not recommend your favourite pub at 6pm. A landline has better quality, while you might want to use your smartphone as a recorder. For a bit more professionalism, a recorder such as a Zoom will come in handy. But it is not a must. Check – each time – the batteries and the memory space left on the memory card. Take some notes as this will help to structure your thoughts and will remind you to ask a related question. Using Skype can be a good alternative to reduce costs, and the sound quality is more than reasonable these days. Recording and publishing Skype (video) interviews as podcasts, has a lot of potential. It merits a separate blog. Just be conscious that in your company, the use of Skype might not allowed.
Depending on the individual you are interviewing, he or she will be more talkative. Some will talk for 30 minutes on the first question, others will have gone through your 5 questions in the first 10 minutes. This is where the proper preparation yields results. You’ll be able to keep the conversation going by injecting other point of views into the arena. You don’t need to stick slavishly to your 5 questions. You can ask for more details or examples if the interviewee touches upon an interesting topic.
There is a ‘but’ … you’ re not an investigative reporter. You are interviewing one of your colleagues. There is no need to fry or confront. And keep in mind it is all about the interviewee’s insights, not about your sharp wit.
The editing phase is for you the most time consuming. Even a 30-minute interview will take one to two hours to be transformed into a solid, easy to read, piece. Nevertheless, try to send the text to your interviewee within 24 hours. That is challenging. Allow the interviewee a couple of days, but be clear by when you want to receive the corrected and approved version. Even internally, don’t publish anything without the written approval of the interviewee. If all is set, publish the interview on your company’s intranet, blog space or specific community. Pay special attention when publishing externally. Enterprises will have their own set of conduct guidelines – better be compliant with them.
Depending on how people in your organisation are actively using social platforms, you might want to revert to the good ol’ mass mail to drive traffic to this interview.
Hopefully, readers will react to the interview. Depending on how the interview was published, questions and comments might come to you. In that case, try to arrange upfront with the interviewee that he or she checks regularly the questions and replies to them in a social manner – also if you get the questions by e-mail.