When it comes to content marketing, your company’s in-house experts are a gold mine of information.

Think about it:

  • They work directly with your customers and know their pain points
  • They design updates to your products
  • They invent incredible things
  • They do tonnes of R&D, experiments and research
  • They have lots of on-the-ground experience and stories to tell

But despite all this skill and know-how, most companies fail to turn their unique, valuable insights into content. The good news is that you can unlock this information very easily by setting up interviews with them.

In this post, I’ll provide tips and ideas for running successful interviews for content marketing with your in-house experts. I’ll also look at some of the ways to turn those interviews into great articles.

Both through my copywriting and my journalism, I’ve carried out hundreds of interviews with experts in fields as diverse as engineering, cybersecurity, healthcare, finance, urban planning, education…and even on the psychology of space travel.

Why should you use interviews for content marketing?

Every organisation will have numerous experts who have a deep knowledge of your market and what your business does. Tapping into their insights can provide plenty of benefits for your content marketing strategy:

Interviews are a great form of E-E-A-T content

Producing blogs that contain unique insights from your experts is a great way to produce E-E-A-T compliant content (read all about that in my blog). Interviews with your experts clearly demonstrates experience, expertise, and authoritativeness. And that means your website is more likely to appear in search results.

If you conduct an effective interview, you’ll generate plenty of interesting quotes and insights. Your experts can explain fascinating ideas, research or projects, helping to produce new information. This is good in and of itself, but it’s also handy from an SEO perspective. In 2022, Google was granted a patent for its ‘information gain score‘ – basically, if you’re producing samey content without new information, it may be less likely to surface. Interviews are a perfect antidote here, since they inherently contain new information.

Interviews are interesting to read

If you’ve interviewed your in-house experts well, you should be able to produce fascinating articles that really engage readers to the end of the piece. Strong opinions, tales ‘from the trenches’, or stories that give background to the development of popular products all make for genuinely interesting things to read.

Interviews spin up more content

I find that a single interview can often generate several ideas for new articles. What’s more, you can also use quotes from interviews for other kinds of content – particularly social posts or in email campaigns.

Interviews are good for brand profile

Interview articles show off your company’s experts, and demonstrate thought leadership.

Interviews are great for internal comms

Especially at large organisations/multinationals, interviews with in-house experts are a really good form of internal comms. They can also support the sharing of knowledge in the business and keep people up to date with news and projects.

How to run interviews for content marketing

I’ve been interviewing people for content marketing and journalistic articles since 2013. I also hold a Master’s degree in social research, with courses specifically covering interview techniques. Running an interview isn’t rocket science, but it’s not always as simple as it might first seem.

Sometimes you get a reticent interviewee who’s uncomfortable answering questions. Other times, the opposite is the case – you get someone who talks lots, but without answering your question. Structuring interviews, analysing them, and then selecting the best quotes requires a certain degree of judgement too.

Here are some tips you can use when interviewing in-house experts.

1. Decide what the article is about

I’m assuming you’re reading this because you’re looking for ideas for your company’s content and already have a few topics in mind.

All the same, it’s worth reflecting on what the article is really about. Topics that I find are especially suited to content marketing interviews include:

  • New concepts you’re promoting
  • Stories about your company’s history or plans
  • A focus on an individual person (e.g. your new CEO)
  • ‘The story behind X’ articles
  • Company achievements and successes
  • Updates on projects
  • Opinions about regulations/technologies/news

2. Identify experts

Sometimes, this will be obvious, other times less so. You’ll need to find people who are happy to speak about their work and who have clear knowledge of the topic at hand.

If at all possible, getting two or even three employees onto a call or meeting to discuss a topic will add even more insights and quotes. But there are limits. I personally find that articles start to get confusing when there are more than about four voices in there.

Next, set up a time for a call or meeting. I find that 30 minutes is usually ample to discuss most topics.

3. Preparing for the interview

Spend some time doing background research for your article. Get up to speed on key terms and concepts. You definitely don’t need to become an expert yourself, but this can save time (you won’t need to ask your interviewee to explain basic concepts) and means you’ll be likely to ask more interesting questions.

4. Preparing interview questions

You could write a book on interview questions! But here are a few tips and angles to consider:

  • Stick to one topic: Your questions should stay focused on the topic at hand.
  • Write a long list then edit: Write down all the questions that you’d like to ask, then whittle it down, removing anything superfluous, irrelevant or repetitive. I find that somewhere between five and seven questions is usually more than sufficient.
  • Keep questions short and direct: Avoid unnecessary prefacing, and keep it simple. My questions are hardly ever longer than one sentence.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask basic questions: If you don’t understand something, then ask! You’re not the expert, so shouldn’t be expected to know everything. Asking basic questions can suddenly elucidate a whole field.
  • Ask open questions: Avoid questions that produce a yes/no answer. Good open questions could begin as follows:
    • What does X mean for you?
    • Can you tell me about…?
    • How do you approach…?
    • How do you manage the tension between X and Y?
    • Why is X perceived in a certain way?
    • Why is X a problem?
    • What do you think of X?
    • What would you do in X situation?

If you’re interviewing a colleague for content marketing, they might want to see the questions in advance. This can be helpful; it means they can reflect a little, and they might come to the meeting better prepared. On the flip side, it can also result in less interesting interviews. Sometimes people prepare (and even write up!) answers in advance, which can make their quotes feel less natural.

5. Tips for running interviews

Running an interview requires a balance of empathy, rapport, people management and thinking on your feet. Here are some general tips for running a successful interview:

  • Build rapport: To begin with, spend a couple of minutes on chit-chat and introductions. It eases people into the conversation.
  • Remind them what the interview is about: Quickly explain the purpose of the interview, and what you want to discuss.
  • Give an overview of what you’re going to ask: Not always necessary, but I find it can be helpful to get them in the right mindset.
  • Track time: Keep an eye on the time during your interview. If they’re spending too long answering one question, then you might not get your other questions answered.
  • Know when to interrupt: If they are going off on a tangent, or are speaking too long on one topic, politely interrupt. Sometimes, I find simply saying “ok sure, that’s great” is enough to stop someone’s flow. You can then proceed to the next question. Other times, you might need to be a little more direct: “sorry to interrupt, I’m just conscious of time and want to pick your brains on a couple of other things too”.
  • Encourage the reticent: Some people are less comfortable speaking in an interview setting. If you’re not getting detailed answers, you’ll need to follow up. Questions like “could you tell me a bit more about exactly how you did that?” or “I’m not sure I fully understood X, can you explain more?” can help.
  • Give them space: Remember, your interviewee should be doing 90% of the talking.

6. Note taking

Nowadays, I do most of my interviewing over Zoom or Teams, which let you record calls directly (assuming your interviewee gives their permission). You can also use apps like Otter.ai to transcribe call recordings – which is really amazing. Jut a few years ago, I depended on a Dictaphone and my shorthand, which would often be laborious process.

As good as recording apps are, I still swear by typing out answers as my interviewee is speaking. First, it’s insurance in case the call didn’t record properly, gets lost or the file is corrupted. But for me, I find it helps me to focus, and listen actively. It’s also helpful if the person you’re speaking to loses their train of thought or has to pause the meeting for some reason – you can quickly remind them of the last thing they said.

Writing up interviews for content marketing

Again, the topic of writing up interviews could easily fill a chapter in a book (in fact it has – I learnt a lot about the craft from Brendan Hennessy’s classic Writing Feature Articles).

There are a few formats you could present your article:

  • Q&A: A Q&A is by far the easiest format for producing articles with your experts. In a corporate setting, they’re great for getting insights into things like business mission, development plans, ‘get to know you’ interviews and sometimes analysis (e.g. detailed explanation of a regulatory or legal topic). The trouble with Q&A’s is that they can feel quite formulaic, and lack a sense of narrative.
  • Feature article: When I say ‘feature’, I’m talking about any article that has a narrative structure, telling a story and using quotes from your expert to tell the tale.
  • Editorial/opinion pieces: This will be a ‘ghost written’ article, in your interviewee’s tone of voice, where they expound on a particular topic.

Using quotes effectively for ‘feature’ style articles

I write dozens of feature articles for magazines and newspapers every year, and also write them for many of my corporate clients. Marshalling your interviewee’s quotes into a coherent narrative takes a bit of skill and practice. Here are some things I do:

  • Read your transcript in depth: I use Otter.ai to produce transcripts. I then read through the interview carefully, and highlight interesting quotes.
  • Structure the article: Everyone writes differently, but my approach is to work out a structure in advance – and I like to have an idea of which quote I’ll use where. I just find it makes writing the piece simpler if I have a plan.
  • Use quotes sparingly: You’ll probably have reams of quotes from your interview, but you should use these sparingly when writing the article. Use quotes that express strong opinions, which summarise key ideas, or that illustrate a point. Quotes should rarely be more than a couple of sentences. Avoid using quotes for general background information (you should be summarising this yourself more snappily).
  • Avoid the temptation to make quotes ‘perfect’: It’s normal to remove the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ from people’s speech when writing quotes, but if they use unusual turns of phrase, don’t try and edit these out so. You are, after all, trying to produce a true representation of how people talk. It feels more real than endless business-speak!

Ready to use interviews for content marketing?

If you’re looking to begin using interviews for content marketing, I can help. I have over 10 years’ experience interviewing experts in multiple fields, and know how to get insights and opinions out of them. I then turn those interviews into thought provoking and interesting articles that demonstrate your company’s expertise.

Contact me today to discuss how you can use interviews in your content marketing strategy.