In the manufacturing industry, the need for content creation isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Increased competition to solidify your brand as a trusted and sought-after voice is often accompanied by a race to create and publish engaging, original content. The ease of online publishing makes the diffusion and circulation of content effortless. But at what cost? How often have you turned to Google in search of information only to find several articles or blog posts that say almost the exact same thing?
We understand the challenge. You have something important to say but don’t want your information to get lost in the void because it’s not relevant, not original, not captivating or not serving the right purpose. It’s much more exciting to create and publish something new (with the experience and knowledge to back up what you’re saying) than contribute to a content cavity that decays as identical information is repeatedly added to it. So, how do you create something new? Start with the art of the interview. Here’s how, and why:
In our industry, an interview is typically a meeting between a marketer (interviewer) and a subject matter expert (SME, interviewee) to obtain information. As the interviewer, preparing in advance is one of the most important parts of the process. Research and question ideation never hurt. But, more often than not, the interview won’t go how you plan. And that’s OK. Start by asking your questions, and don’t be surprised or rattled if the conversation takes an unexpected turn, as the end result is usually better and more relevant because of this.
Extraction is a vital characteristic of a good interview that’s worth your time and the time of the SME. This is where you’ll get new ideas. You might have to work for an answer and rely on interviewer’s instinct to get the information you need. Be inquisitive. Leave no stone unturned. Ask the extra question. Usually, the most resourceful person in any room is not the one with the answers but the one with the best line of questioning. A successful interview will distill the small but essential details, explore the unfamiliar ideas and emerge with drafts of new content strategies and concepts to be polished and refined.
It’s important to listen for small, golden nuggets of information to latch onto and run with, even if your line of questioning is thrown off. Again, don’t be caught off guard if you start an interview with a preconceived notion of the topic you want to cover and end up going in a completely new direction. When you can adapt as the conversation takes shape differently than expected, that’s when the magic happens. Preparation is good. Pivoting is better.
An interview is only successful, however, if you’re interviewing the right person. This isn’t a new idea. In our post, A Content Goldmine Hiding in Plain Sight, we outline the benefits of talking with expert-level employees—product specialists, mechanical engineers, senior machinists, inside sales reps, customer service agents—to uncover a bounty of content ideas and insights. These individuals are your SMEs. They’re the ones in machine shops or behind desks with touchpoints to end users and the intended audience. They’re the ones who are in the field and in the middle of day-to-day operations with training, experience and expertise. They’re the right people with the knowledge of what’s made, how it’s made and why it’s special. Look to these SMEs when you want valuable content and new ideas.
Your job is to help the SME unleash greatness. By providing support at first through icebreakers and an overview of how the interview should go, you might find that the interviewee becomes more comfortable sharing technical details with you—which adds to your understanding and the credibility of your work. Don’t rush them. Make concessions and take the extra time needed to complete the conversation. And sometimes, when you grab the right intel, one interview can spark an entire series of content assets or even shape an entire campaign.
Think about it. You can’t determine what you might learn, but you can make the most of what you do learn.
Here’s the main idea. You’re interviewing to create new content that’s relevant and aligns with the current marketing strategy. Above all else, keep this one thing in mind:
Your content must support the goals of the business.
Before you walk into the interview, you have to understand the fundamentals of the business objectives. What is the organization trying to accomplish, and how are you making a difference in these areas? Examples include product units sold, revenue, market share, or any other set objectives. We all understand that marketing needs to prove the value of the business. Enter the interview with these objectives in the back of your mind as you form pointed questions. Your final product should reflect what attracts customers or motivates them to take actions that affect these defined objectives.
The right interview with the right people for the right reasons breeds marketing success. Push past the basic interview fundamentals of being conversational and only using predetermined questions. Be creative as you navigate the discussion to extract the information your audience won’t find anywhere else. Laying this foundation will help establish a distinguished source of content that matters.
Here are a few of our recommendations to perfect the art of the interview:
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