The 5 lessons I learnt interviewing 239 people.

Interviewing was a task that completely daunted me.

I still remember my first one, it was speaking to a guy called Fred who was set to present at a Retrofitting conference. When I heard that Fred was well known for a particular area of façade design and that it was my job to get some content from him.. I Panicked. I went out and bought a pack of highlighters and decided that this was it, make or break time for if this was something I could do.

3 years and 240 interviews down the line it’s become a passion, I’ve been pretty lucky getting to fire questions at Hospital Chiefs, University VCs, Finance CEOs, CMO’s, Government Leaders, EAs and a whole host of techy people.

A few tips matter, no matter who you’re interviewing.

Do your research
Why highlighters? It was apparent from the off that research was going to be key. We’re very lucky to have a host of background research available. Start with the company website, narrow in to the name of the person you’re interviewing – check if they’ve been in the press recently, if they have a blog, an active LinkedIn, a mention on their company newsletter. Prepare.

You don’t need to become a subject matter expert, you just need to know what makes this person unique – What makes them special? Why are you interviewing them In the first place? Use this to prepare your questions.

Why? Quite frankly you don’t want to look like a fool. Also, the key part of any interview is finding the ‘sexy’ angle. You won’t find it if you haven’t researched what’s already out there…

Be nice
Be friendly and approachable. I approach every single interview wanting it to be a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Over the years I’ve been amazed by the amount of CEO’s and pretty influential leaders that still feel nervous in front of the camera. It’s not just you that feels nervous, and it’s important to put people at ease.

See the interview as ‘a chat’ and communicate that to the person you’re asking the questions to, right from the off.

Why? In addition to it being a much nicer experience for everyone involved, you’ll find people will relax and open up more – telling you the real stories, not the brand approved ones. They will also be more likely to work with you in the future.

Listen
The difference between a Q&A and an interview is huge.

I’ve always sent questions in advance, allowing time for preparation and to instil some ease. However, I understand that by doing this, it means I may end up with responses prepared by the Communications team. That’s why you have to listen rather than just move through the questions and take the answers, listen and ask follow up questions – drill into each answer.

Information you find out during an interview can also benefit wider departments.

Why: Again, it helps you find the angle and ask follow up questions. It also helps to generate future content ideas. Once someone has given you their time to be interviewed – pick their brains, make the most of being with them.

Use a formula
Each interview should be personal, no doubt about it. But there’s nothing wrong with having a bit of a raw framework to your question development – it helps you develop the content following the interview. Mine goes a little something like this:

Overview of Journey

Macro impact

Challenges

Above and beyond

Lesson Learnt

For example, the challenges question may end up being something like:

Change Management was clearly one of the biggest challenges of the project – could you tell me a little about the strategy you had in place and what hurdles you were faced with along the way..

Go the extra mile
It’s the simple things that count here, share a copy of the video – edited and raw footage, add some value to the experience.

Communicate where it’s been used and what the feedback is.

Being interviewed can be a real personal development tool. It will also increase your chances of getting the video shared with new networks. People are generally more than happy to self-promote, exponentially increasing your coverage.

I’ve changed my mind on content.

I didn’t start out in content. I didn’t even know I liked it till a few years ago, but always enjoyed the basic principle of telling stories.

It started at the age of 13, although granted that was mostly my brother and I telling porkies – the most elaborate stories to see what we could get away with. Completely fabricated but entirely fun. (Sorry mum)

In my first content role, I soon learned a side of storytelling previously undervalued – honesty. I was pretty lucky in the role, with access to some of Australia’s most interesting professionals. It opened my mind to the story in somebody’s day to day. What’s nothing to them, is something to someone else.

Writing came second. I actually used to hate writing. But then I realised it was just because I didn’t like the theory style writing your conditioned to use during university. I soon discovered the joys of writing a sentence based on opinion, rather than the pages of what someone said in a book.

The most enjoyable part has been meeting people, getting to know their journey then sharing their story.

The aim – get insight from one experience that will add value to someone else on a similar journey. Essentially, offer solutions where no one else can.

Year on year a new wave of tips and best practices have emerged as more and more content has emerged, and whilst I agree with it tactically. Recently I found myself changing my opinion on the underlying principle of producing content

It all started when the LinkedIn publishing platform extended. I found myself not getting ‘value’ from 90 per cent of the articles, yet kept coming back and soon found that I was visiting for a different reason, I was drawn to the stories

I used to think good content was a piece of content that solved a particular challenge, something that offered value for a particular circumstance. A how to, top tips, whitepapers etc.

The simple truth is everybody likes a story.

At every stage of life, you just never grow old of them. And rightly so.

It’s a huge opportunity that excited me as a content marketer.

As an example, my personal standout is GoPro. I remember seeing the video of thekitten being resuscitated. I immediately liked the brand.

Over time I’ve always watched their videos, never once giving me a ‘value takeaway’ on how to take better photos or edit great films. They never gave me a CTA, they never ensured there were banners across all my touch points. I didn’t get a sponsored Facebook post, or a timely email with a discount code. If there is a funnel, they’ve sure disguised it well.

But I want one, granted maybe i’m being greedy. But I want to make videos that capture a moment the way they do. I’m completely sold. All because they told me a few well told stories.

Don’t get me wrong, couldn’t agree more that strategy, analytics and all those things have a huge role to play in helping us get the right content to the right people. But it served me with a reminder of exactly why I’m in this profession…. To share great stories from one person to the next.

What do you think, value takeaway or story? What makes great content for you?

Share your thought on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141010034408-107004231-i-ve-changed-my-mind-on-content