How to Enrich Your Content with Expert Interviews
Do you remember our project dedicated to the marketing trends of 2022? Today, I will tell you how we interviewed our guests, how we prepared for it, what mistakes we made, and what we learned. Sit tight, the ride is going to be pretty bumpy.
Why You May Need To Interview Someone
In October 2021, Ivan Ilin, the co-founder of EmailSoldiers, suggested that I write an article about the marketing trends of the then-upcoming 2022. We decided to base this project on the interviews with different wizards from the following areas of the digital industry:
- email marketing;
- big data;
- data security;
- web and graphic design.
The interviews became building material for the series of articles about the future of email marketing, data privacy and AI, UX and design trends, and that the most important marketing metric. Seems like it was a success!
Why would you do the same? Well, the answer’s pretty straight:
- brand awareness;
- knowledge exchange;
- staying on everyone’s lip;
- big names generally draw the attention of the audience and inspire trust.
Since we wanted this project to be useful, we needed something to back up our hypothesis and ideas. This is why we decided to interview world-class experts.
Step 1. How to Get Ready for an Interview
What You Need to Do to Prepare for an Interview
Contact the experts and compile a set of questions
Lena Blagova, head of our department, sent me a list of people who would be perfect for our interview. There were both people we already knew (knowing someone from the sphere increases your chances for scoring an interview) and people we were not acquainted with. We wanted to interview:
- Those who stay on everyone’s mind and their opinions are valued in the US marketing community (for this, we looked for various selections of marketing professionals);
- Those who we had a chance to communicate with personally and who were good and interesting company open for further collaboration.
I made a Google sheet to track the status of each expert: whether they agreed or not, the date and time of the interview, and the link to the recording of the interview. Standard rituals, you know. I also stated their job role and company. Having all of this information at hand helped us during the interviews.
There is no secret to contacting experts: we just messaged them on LinkedIn. We sent 26 requests and got 13 answers. In the end, 7 people agreed to take part in our project. The number may seem not so big, but trust me, it’s more than enough. What mattered was the experts’ quality, not quantity. We also had two aces up our sleeve — our co-founder and client success director.
To be honest, we never expected such distinguished and experienced specialists to accept our offer. We managed to get our own all-star team — most of them have been working in the email marketing area. For example, Kath Pay goes on helping her clients for more than 10 years and wrote a book on how she does it: “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionize your business and delight your customers”, Alice Li was the first person in North America to create an email with interactive elements, and Dennis Dayman is a cybersecurity consultant to the US government.
What Problems We Faced and How We Solved Them
I had a question with questions (pun intended). There was little (to no) idea of what to discuss with the experts. I’m not trying to say that I was a flop at that moment, but I wasn't an all-knowing god either. I remembered a move that my teacher taught me: “See what the rivals did and do it better”. So I went on reading various works on this topic. However, after finishing five of them, it became clear that everyone was talking about the same things. The most popular topics were:
- Apple Mail Privacy Protection;
- Instant messengers and messenger marketing;
- The COVID-19 influence on the society and offline going online;
- Artificial Intelligence development;
- Interactive elements in emails;
- Mobile devices vs desktop solutions;
- Whether the “Less text - better text” principle is correct;
- Whether there is any sense in cutting off the email channel for the younger audience and moving to the channels closer to them, like social media;
- Users’ data confidentiality;
- UGC (User Generated Content);
- Adapting emails for the dark theme;
- Whether the design will become more and more simple in general (corporate Memphis);
- And old but gold — is email dead?
Step 2. How to Interview Industry Experts
Where You Can Start with the Interviews
I decided to start with our co-founder Ivan because I felt that it would be easier for me to immerse myself in the topic this way. I was less nervous discussing the issues (which I still didn't feel confident with) with someone I already knew.
With other speakers (besides Karina, we’ll talk about her later), we always started our calls with a small meeting talk and formalities: we asked whether we could record the interview, how much time a person had, and double-checked the speaker’s job role because it might have changed.
I was not interviewing the experts alone. Lena Blagova joined and helped me stay calm while a world-level expert was sitting in front of me. After the third meeting, I stopped feeling shy and managed to host further conversations.
During the first couple of calls, I hosted more than 50% of the interviews, while George was getting into the process and feeling confident with the marketing powerhouses. However, the closer we were getting to the last calls, the more my presence became formal. I was just talking the formalities through, sometimes kept up the ball, though George carried on 90% of the conversation. It was cool to see his independence growing, see him getting more confident in the subject matter, and understand that I am no longer needed there. :)
(Don’t listen to her, she was important)
What Problems We Faced and How We Solved Them
1. How to Overcome Your Lack of Experience During an Interview
During the second interview, we were rather optimistic and thought we could go through all 14 questions. But as they say, reality is often disappointing. We managed to cover 3 questions only. This is when we understood that we would have time to discuss only 3-4 questions concerning the professional sphere of the interviewee. The experts’ schedule was always filled to the brim, and they could spare us an hour on average. This is why we decided to discuss only the subjects of their expertise. A cybersecurity specialist? Okay then, we’ll talk about data and AI usage. A designer? Then we’ll talk about design and UX.
You can choose an interview format that works best both for you and your expert. For example, we had video calls with most of the speakers, but we made an exception for Karina Kozharinova, our client success director, and had a text-based interview with her for the sake of her comfort. At first thought, this method seems more attractive as the person can answer all the questions and you at the same time can mind your own business, but it’s a trap!
The text-based interview lets you postpone it. Video calls are simple: you made an arrangement, had a call, recorded it, and that’s it. The expert spent an hour of their time and the rest is your concern. It’s easier to work with the material as you discuss only the most interesting subjects. With a text-based interview, it may take more time for an interviewee to answer your questions - it all depends on their workload and their desire to perfect their answers. As a result, you will get your answers way later. Karina provided us with very broad responses and enriched our articles, but on the other hand, it took too much of her time. We learned our lesson: a text interview can discomfort both sides. The author will kick their heels for the material and the respondent will be tormented as they won’t be able to finally finish it.
2. Don’t Underestimate the Amount and Difficulty of Work
I had a similar experience before. In the summer of 2020, I interviewed several of my colleagues in written form for the case study on our email campaign for the future Mars settlers. This was a positive experience, although there was one problem — I had to constantly DM the folks reminding them to answer the questions (here’s another flaw of the text-based interviews). Because of this generally positive story, I thought that the trends project will be quite the same. It wasn’t.
The initial plan was to release a big fat long read on December 16, just 9 days before Christmas, so people could notice it and it wouldn’t get lost among other content. However, as I underestimated the task and overestimated my abilities, these plans had to be changed.
Here’s what I did wrong while I was creating an interview for our blog:
- I didn’t measure the timespan that every question would take;
- I underestimated the amount of information I had to recycle after all those meetings;
- I failed to find enough time for the whole cycle of writing an article (gathering the answers → writing a draft → sending it to an expert → making edits → releasing the article).
Don’t make the same mistakes as I did, do the next steps:
- choose the questions that the expert will be able to answer and that you definitely need to discuss with them;
- keep in mind that your interviews and writing process might take more time than you think; you never know how the situation can change.
By December 16, I didn’t even manage to finish the first draft: my fingers were all thumbs when I saw that volume of information. There was no understanding of how to process and turn it all into one comprehensible article. This is where apathy and fear of losing time enter.
All in all, we decided to change the concept of the project and divide the long read into 4 shorter articles. Each of them focused on different subjects. Remember the way I divided the questions? I used the same method to classify the answers and built articles around these sections.
We accompanied the release of each article with posts on our social media tagging the experts. As a result, our reach was larger than if we released only one article. Keep in mind that we paid zero dollars for these interviews, so it’s a total victory.
5 Tips for a Successful Interview with Industry Experts
- Study both the subject you want to discuss and your interviewee’s field of expertise beforehand. I understand that you want to talk about everything with a professional but you must respect their time.
- Convince the expert that an in-person interview is the best option. Explain why it will benefit both sides and provide some convincing arguments if necessary.
- If I had to sum up the results of my 14 interviews, I would say that the best way to get experience is to do it “in the field”. It’s impossible to sharpen your skills without touching the working tools.
- You will be nervous. It’s okay. Always remember that you gain experience in such situations. Learn and memorize, yet try not to make the same mistakes as I did.
- If you decide to improve your content with interviews, don't expect it to be easy and simple. Double- or even triple-check everything and make sure that you managed to realistically evaluate both the task and yourself.
4 Reasons Why Interviews Will Boost Your Content Marketing
Despite all the obstacles, interviews turned out to be a really useful thing from any point of view. Here're 4 reasons why interviews with experts are worth your time:
- The experts will either affirm your statements to be true or show you the right direction.
- You will exchange knowledge with professionals.
- Interviews are a great copywriting experience. It's one thing to collect information from various written sources, but it's another thing to get it from talking to people.
- You can improve your content using interviews with experts and increase traffic to your blog.