There is a goldmine of amazing content hidden in the people around you.
Notice I didn’t limit that statement to your colleagues. Anyone who specializes in work closely related to your core product or service could be a great resource for the content you produce. That list might include colleagues, clients, vendors – even competitors!
Sound crazy? Bear with me.
Marketers cannot be the sole content creators in your organization. I don’t care if you have a team of 12 amazing writers. The human experience is limited. We need fresh perspectives in order to grow, and the same applies to your buyers. No matter how knowledgeable you are, there is a limit to how much effective content you can produce on your own.
Inviting guest posts to your blog is one way to get a transfusion of fresh ideas, but the quality of the writing will vary and you also risk publishing statements or claims your brand doesn’t stand by.
Interviewing SMEs, on the other hand, offers several benefits:
Choosing the right SME for the topic is not always an easy call. Just because someone is an expert in a given subject does not mean they will give you a great interview.
After doing hundreds of these, our team looks for the following attributes:
They embrace the principles of content marketing – They understand the goal is to provide valuable, objective information to buyers that are trying to solve a challenge, not pitch your company’s solutions.
They will commit the time and do it right – If the interview is for written content, I recommend dedicating 20-30 minutes of focused discussion on the topic. Rushing through it all in ten minutes will not provide enough value to make the article worthwhile. If the person wants to send you additional info afterwards, ask them to do it that day. The longer you wait, the less likely you will get what you need.
They are articulate, concise, and enthusiastic – When writing from a transcript, nothing is worse than slogging through six pages of incoherent, rambling copy. Try scheduling a “pre-interview” with people to get a sense of their communication style before setting up time for the actual discussion. Coherent communication is especially important when you are producing video and audio formats as well.
“Winging it” is a bad way to conduct interviews.
Even if you confirm the details in advance through email, some people will show up to the call or video shoot with absolutely no idea what we’re going to talk about. They literally look at the topics in the invite as they are logging into the call!
As the interviewer, you need to assume everyone you are dealing with is busy and won’t dedicate time to preparing their thoughts prior to the discussion. The best way to make sure both you and the SME are prepared is by spending a few minutes researching the topic in advance and preparing at least five good questions to move the subject forward. You will think of good follow up questions during the chat itself, so don’t worry about it not being enough.
The goal is to provide a roadmap that sets an expectation of what you hope to cover, and encourages the SME to gather their thoughts ahead of time.
Sometimes, they may offer changes or corrections that will lead to a better session. Listen to them! As much as you want a well optimized post that meets your marketing goals, the primary objective is to provide value to your persona. If you’ve interviewed your buyers for persona research, you will know exactly what their expectations are. Your SME will have good insight into how to best convey the information they are looking for.
When it’s show time, allow a few minutes to make sure your recording gear is working properly. Test the mic levels and confirm you are recording before diving into the discussion. If you are managing the interview remotely, it doesn’t hurt to test your internet connection as well.
You should also take a moment to review the title and outline, giving your SME the chance to ask questions and make any last minute adjustments that will improve the quality of the conversation.
Once the interview gets rolling, keep one eye on the outline to make sure the discussion stays on track. When people lapse into a tangent, just wait for a chance to politely interject and pull them back to the outline by asking a clarifying question.
When the topic is winding down and you’ve gotten the information you need, ask the SME for a summary that ties it all together. I usually do with this a question: “So if you were summarizing this conversation for someone who asked for your advice, what would you say…?”
This step brings the topic full circle, and helps the writer produce a better conclusion. If you are recording video, this is the moment to capture a bite-size clip you can use on LinkedIn or Facebook to deliver a couple quick tips to your buyers.
Interviewing SMEs is a critical skill in marketing today. No matter what type of content you produce, interviewing smart, enthusiastic experts can elevate your brand, push your content in front of new audiences, and keep the value high for your buyers. When interviews become the cornerstone of all your content, you will be shocked at the amazing stuff you’ll deliver and repurpose for your audience.
Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know how it works for you!
I attended Inbound 2019 with the same agenda I have for the last three years.