When you think of interviews, you may reminisce about Barbara Walters making celebrities cry. Or, maybe you flash back to David Frost’s 1977 interview series with Richard Nixon. But interviews don’t have to be limited to televised entertainment or political journalism. In fact, the print interview format can be an effective marketing tool because it allows you to showcase your product or service through an outsider’s perspective.
While professional journalists sometimes resort to aggressive tactics to “get the scoop,” your primary goal as a marketing interviewer is to create a positive experience for your interviewee; after all, you’ll want that person to continue to be an advocate for your business after the interview. With that in mind, here are some general guidelines to consider before sitting down with your interviewee:
1. Agree on the schedule and technicalities. Let your interviewee know how long you’d like to chat (anything over an hour is probably too long) and if you’re planning to transcribe the discussion from an audio or video recording. You may also want to explain where the interview will appear, such as your blog, website, social media, sponsored journal article, or newsletter.
2. Focus the questions on the interviewee—not on your business. Successful marketing interviews are formatted like a case study: they introduce the subject (the interviewee), explain the subject’s problem or situation, and then unfold how the subject has improved that problem or situation by using your product or service.
3. Invite the interviewee to preview the questions. Some people are comfortable being put on the spot; others, not so much. Therefore, you should give the interviewee the opportunity to review the questions ahead of time.
4. Guard your interviewee’s privacy. Your interviewee may accidentally share private information, such as his or her child’s name or a client’s name. Before publishing anything even remotely sensitive, always reconfirm (preferably through email so you have a written record) that he or she is comfortable sharing that information with the public.
5. Share the limelight. Your readers may be just as interested in your interviewee as they are in you (and that’s a good thing because it means you conducted an intriguing interview). So, ask your interviewee if he or she would like to share contact information with your readers.
6. Agree on copyediting before conducting the interview. In the newspaper industry, editing quotes (other than replacing vulgarity or adding missing words) is generally taboo. But this isn’t the Wall Street Journal. It’s a marketing tool that should shine a positive light on your interviewee and your business. Therefore, the questions and answers may need to be lightly edited for grammar and clarity before publication. If the interviewee is uncomfortable with editing, he or she may not be a very good fit for this type of project.
7. Invite the interviewee to preview the finished transcript before publication. Ask the interviewee to read the finished transcript to make sure he or she is comfortable with the accuracy of the content and depth of the editing. Be open to making adjustments as necessary.
8. Encourage the interviewee to share the interview. Most people are proud to be interviewed because it means their knowledge and opinions are valued. Encourage the interviewee to share a link to the published interview on his or her own website, blog, or social media. Who knows, it might go viral!
Erin Wright is a freelance copy editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, technical content, and nonfiction.