Interview Tips for Case Studies / Client Stories

Good interviewers are like good lovers — they seduce you and allow you to open up, sometimes quicker than you ever thought possible. As a content marketer, you need to be a smooth talker. When creating collateral like case studies, client stories and even media relations materials, you need to perfect the art of the interview. Here’s how you do it.

Do Your Research

Often, the most difficult part of an interview is actually scheduling it on the calendar. And doing your research in advance will ensure you’re ready to interview the subject at a moment’s notice. Next, approach your subject like a book report. Do as much background research as possible so that you can speak intelligently about the topic/person at hand and not waste anyone’s time.

Prepare Your Questions / Goal

An old journalism adage is that you should already know the answers to most of the questions you are asking, you just need the final proof and confirmation — and those golden quotes — to bring the story to life. While this isn’t always true, you should go into every interview with at least five defined (written down) questions and an overall mission to achieve. Creating this structure will help you guide the conversation, yet create flexibility to allow the dialogue to flow naturally or explore an interesting angle.

Don’t Treat it Like an Interrogation

You’ve got copy to write and a deadline to meet and expectations to hit within a budget, but remember that an interview is simply a conversation. With a little research and planning, you’ll empower your subject with thoughtful dialogue and make them feel like a valued, important part of your story. (Keep in mind that you may need to use them as a resource again!)

Ask for What You Need

Just because the conversation is casual doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get what you need. If the question is difficult, come right out and ask it. If they don’t answer, ask it again. Be persistent when necessary and rephrase the question to ensure your copy has what it needs. Now here comes the really hard part — learn to embrace silences. Being interviewed, especially by phone, is awkward — which means you need to allow your subject the breathing room to stop, think and open up. Don’t fill the void with unnecessary chatter, which can derail the conversation.

Think in Quotes / Sound Bites

Sometimes all you need is one golden quote. Subjects may say these quotes off the cuff, other times you need to guide them there. Ask pointed questions to nudge your subject in the right direction.

Don’t Close the Conversation

Your last question should always leave the conversation open. Encourage your subject to send their final thoughts or additional resources via email, and invite them to reopen the conversation if you didn’t get the information you needed within a 30- to 45-minute interview.

Now, go get ’em, Casanova! As with the art of seduction, interviewing takes practice. The more you do, the better you’ll get.