Interviewing experts in your industry is a fabulous way to add variety to your content marketing and get the powerful information and captivating stories your customers really want. This Complete Expert Interview Guide covers everything from finding the right experts and securing an interview to asking the right questions and promoting your new piece of awesome content. Armed with this ultimate interview guide, you can realize the full potential of the expert interview.
Finding the Right Experts
There are a few different methods you can use to help you find the best subject matter experts to approach for an interview: networking, respond to the audience, and fill in the Funnel.
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Networking: If you don’t have a lot of experience with interviews, start with the people you already know or have networked with in your industry. They are more likely to say yes when you ask for an interview because they already know you, and you already know their specialties and if they’re a good fit for your audience. Remember, you don’t have to look outside your organization for an expert – sometimes employees and executives can provide exactly the details and stories you need.
Respond to the Audience: If you have active readers and loyal customers, they’ll tell you exactly what they want to know. Talk to your sales reps, customer support personnel, social media team, and others who regularly communicate with your audience to find out what kinds of content they want more of. Then hunt down the experts that best fit those criteria.
Fill in the Funnel: The better matched your content and your sales funnel are, the more leads and sales you get. Audit your existing content to see which parts of your buying cycle could be fleshed out with more content. Here are some ideas:
- Early-stage education: When prospects first discover you, your content needs to define the major problems your customers face and the best solutions. Display thought leadership with expert interviews from industry analysts, specialized sales reps, consultants, coaches, and executives.
- Mid-funnel research: Show leads who are researching their options why your solutions are best by providing in-depth technical information. Interview experts such as product testers, engineers, product managers, your chief technology officer, and others.
- Purchase validation: Help leads become customers by expounding the benefits and results of your solutions. Case studies and success stories from satisfied customers are some of the best interviews for late-funnel content.
Establish a Relationship
Once you’ve found the right experts to talk to for your audience and content marketing needs, it’s time to break the ice and make the initial contact. Building a relationship with the experts you want to interview dramatically increases the likelihood that they’ll first open and read your email, then agree to chat with you.
So how do you establish a relationship with an industry authority or thought leader?
- Follow them on social media and share their content often. Occasionally mention them in your status updates (such as a #FF tweet) or send them a message (such as a brief “I loved this article of yours!”).
- Read their blogs and guest blogs, and comment on them. Leave honest, valuable, value-adding comments that they’ll remember and enjoy reading.
- Buy, download, test, and/or review their products.
- Attend any webinars or conferences where they’ll be speaking.
- Subscribe to their email list and occasionally respond to their emails thanking them for the useful info or asking questions to clarify.
You don’t have to do all these things to make the initial contact, but the more of them you can do, the more readily the expert will recognize your name and be open to communicating with you.
Ask for the Interview
Once you’ve started building a rapport with the targets of your expert interviews and it’s likely they know who are and will read your email, you can ask if they’d be interested in letting you interview them.
Send a short email briefly stating who are and why you’d like to interview them, and close by asking them if you could interview them on a certain date. Your message might go something like this:
I’m the (position) at (company), and I’m a huge fan of your work. I’d love to interview you about (topic of expertise) because it would be a great fit for our audience of (describe ideal customer, i.e. young professionals). Of course you’d get a copy of the interview so you can use it however you like. If you’re open to the idea, would (date) be a good time for you?
Here are a few links to help you get to know me:
Thanks for your time. I look forward to talking with you!
Research the Expert’s Specialty
Read their blog, follow them on social media, check out a few books at the library if you need to. The more you know about the subject, the better questions you can ask during the interview. This research should be an ongoing process because it also helps you build that relationship you started earlier by giving you fodder for conversations and a foundation of understanding.
Based on your research, brainstorm interview questions that will draw out the information you need for your content and the stories your audience wants to hear. Make most of your questions open-ended – meaning they require some sort of explanation, not just a yes or no. Focus on the 5Ws and 2Hs: who, what, when, where, why, how, how often.
Of course, your questions will vary depending on your topic, the expert, and what information you’re looking for. But some universally applicable ideas to help you brainstorm questions are:
- challenges and how to overcome them
- what the most important points are
- why they’re important
- features and benefits
- how the expert discovered the answers
- who the answers are most applicable to
Send the Details
Once you’ve secured the interview with the expert of your choice, you can send him or her the rest of the details to set up and prepare for the interview. These crucial details include but are not necessarily limited to:
- Thank them for agreeing to interview
- Time and date of the interview
- Method of the interview (email, phone call, video) and technology used (Skype, VodBurner)
- List of interview questions
- Pre-interview “how-to”
If the experts publish a lot of content or give a lot of interviews, then you don’t need to send them the pre-interview “how-to”. But for most interviewees, a few interview tips help them feel more comfortable during the interview and help you get better quotes. Encourage them to speak in soundbites, quotes that are easy to pull out for press releases, blog posts, and other places. Ask them to speak in concrete terms, tell stories, and provide examples, and to focus on talking to you like a friend. Let them know the pre-interview how-to is just for their information and to help you both get the most from the interview so they don’t feel like you’re talking down to them.
Also make sure your experts know who will be reading/listening to their words and the purpose of the content. This helps you be in sync with each other and be more comfortable during the interview.
Before the interview: You’ll definitely want to send reminder emails a few days before and the day of the interview, and don’t forget to test your tools to make sure they’re working properly.
During the interview: Be prepared to ask spur-of-the-moment questions. Repeat what the expert said to make sure you understand; if you get it wrong, they’ll correct you, and they may offer additional insight in the process. If you don’t understand something, clarify by asking for examples, stories, how a process works, or why something is important. Keep asking “Why is that important?” to dig for deeper benefits.
After the interview: When you edit the interview, don’t tweak it too much. Clean up the ums and remove pauses (for audio/video) and fix the punctuation and spelling (for written responses). Add a short introduction at the beginning to pull your audience into the interview, and add an ending with a strong call-to-action. For audio/video interviews, transcribe the call and clean up the text so it reads well.
Promote the Interview
Now that you have an expert interview, make the most of it! Send the audio/video file and the transcription to the expert and thank them again for the opportunity. Ask them to share the interview on their social media accounts, blog, and anywhere else they can. You could offer to write a guest post for their blog to help them.
Then promote the interview yourself. Share the interview on your social media, write up and distribute a press release, turn the interview into a YouTube video or an iTunes podcast, add great photos to the transcription and call it a blog post…the possibilities are endless.
Have you interviewed experts for your content marketing? What tips would you add to this interview guide? We’d love to hear your thoughts!