Why Great Interviewers Produce the Best Content

Posted by waAdmin
Monday July 6, 2015
Categories: Uncategorized

why great interviewers produce the best content

No matter what kind of content we’re tasked with producing – whether it’s a case study, new web copy, a solution brief or a ghost-written thought leadership article – invariably there’s an interview with a subject matter expert to guide the output.

That’s a given.

But not all interviews are the same, no matter what questionnaire template you design. In fact, they are like diamonds, snowflakes, and fingerprints: they are utterly unique.

So how do good interviewers extract the most meaningful information for content development purposes? In my experience as a former journalist trained in the art of asking probing questions, sometimes it’s the unexpected follow-up that yields the best results.

I’ll give you a good example. For the past two years, Write Angle has been producing case studies for Pure Storage. Yes, we’ve developed a questionnaire that asks about the nature of a customer’s business, their pain points, the evaluation process, selection criteria, key technical and business benefits and TCO/ROI results. And yes, the questionnaire has evolved over time to keep pace with product innovation and shifts in value propositions.

What’s not built into these interview guidelines is what I refer to as the art of the redirect or subtle insistence on elaboration. Sometimes a seemingly innocuous question can yield a dynamite response, especially with a difficult interviewee that isn’t terribly expansive.

A case in point involved a financial services customer whose corporate communications team sat in on the interview to “oversee” the interview. While this presented a gating influence from the outset, the subject of the interview was a “just the facts” spokesperson. After getting blunt and uninspiring input, I decided to shift gears i.e. utilize the redirect. I decided to ask about this individual’s history as an IT director so he could get comfortable talking about himself. Not only did this “loosen” him up, it provided some historical context that allowed me to probe for his experience with legacy storage systems and how this contrasted with his organization’s adoption of flash storage.

The results were dramatic. Suddenly, I had an expansive and engaged subject. By invoking the redirect strategy, I succeeded in pushing for greater elaboration to responses. This resulted in terrific real world examples of “before and after” scenarios involving his storage infrastructure. What had been a teeth-pulling exercise morphed into an engaging story with real drama: a subtle yet growing problem threatening a segment of the business; a proof of concept trial ripe with competitive give and take; and a powerful resolution with meaningful results that went well beyond technical metrics.

So what’s the takeaway? Like great jazz musicians, be prepared to improvise when leading an interview. Sometimes straying from the melody can take you in an entirely new direction with better results.

As a former journalist trained in the art of asking good questions, it goes without saying that the “Who, What, When, Where and Why” line of questioning is a starting point. But It’s a blocking and tackling set of tactics

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