Many content marketers, like myself, have had a previous life as a journalist on consumer magazines or newspapers. For those of us who have made the switch from editorial to branded content there are some new skills to learn for sure, but as any journo will tell you, you never really stop being one.
The skills you hone as a journalist are not only transferable to the world of content marketing, but some I’d say are indispensable (some you can do without – an increased capacity for red wine or booze of any kind is nothing to shout about after the age of 30). A key skill, however, is the ability to conduct a good interview and one that at Southerly, I use regularly to be able to produce quality content.
A good interview can provide the basis for a compelling business blog. A business blog is an integral part of most content marketing strategies and can reap rewards for brands. A truly effective blog is one that’s updated regularly – 82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog, as opposed to 52% of marketers who blog monthly, according to Hubspot’s State of Inbound Marketing, 2013. However, there are two main concerns I hear from clients: that their industry isn’t interesting enough to blog about; and that their experts or senior management would not have the time to blog regularly.
To the first point, I reply that to others in your industry or to an audience who may need your service or product, your blog is going to be interesting if it’s a well written, informative piece from someone knowledgeable, who sounds ‘human’ and not like they’ve swallowed a press release. And with regards to the second point I say that the only time the experts and senior management have to find in their diary is around 20 minutes a week for a phone call with someone like yours truly, who will interview them and produce a blog. It will still be that person’s views and ‘voice’, just crafted by a writer.
The influencer-posts on LinkedIn show how popular missives from influencers and CEOs across all sectors are. After the platform launched in October 2012, LinkedIn’s then 225 million users (it now has around 300 million) viewed 63% more pages in the first quarter of 2013 than they did in the same period in 2012, according to the executive director of LinkedIn Daniel Roth. There are blogs on there from some of the world’s biggest names in business and politics, including our own PM. Do you think David Cameron writes his own blog? Correct me if I’m wrong Dave, but there’s a writer on the communications team somewhere tasked with that job. What I’m saying is that a blog doesn’t need to feel like an insurmountable task, it can be tasked out.
A little more conversation…
Aside from blogs, an article about a particular product launch or a case study will be a hundred times better with genuine quotes that actually give you a sense of who that person is who’s speaking. And that comes from getting the most out of someone when you interview them. A good interviewer will be able to achieve more than simple conversational ‘tennis’ – I ask you a question, you answer. I ask you another question, and so on. They will be able to build a rapport with their interviewee, they will have done their research on and around the topic at hand so that they are not left umming and ahing if their subject throws them a curveball they weren’t prepared for. Likewise, a good interviewer will know to stay on safe ground before perhaps throwing in a curveball of their own near the end of the interview (if an interviewee doesn’t want to answer a question you don’t want them clamming up or at worst ending the conversation before you have enough material to write the piece).
I remember, a few years ago now, one of my first assignments for O magazine for the mobile operator Orange, was to interview the former astronaut and second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin. He had a new project in the offing to promote space tourism, but I was under strict instructions from his PR not to ask him about the moon landing. I remember dialing through to his hotel room in Honolulu – which may as well have been the moon the connection was so bad – my adrenaline pumping because I knew I was going to have to ask him about his experience as part of the crew of the Apollo XI at some point. My own curiosity wouldn’t allow me to avoid the topic. We talked at length about his new venture, which was about space after all, which led to him bringing up himself how disappointed he was at the way NASA treated him after the moon landings. Bingo. Turned out he was more than happy to answer questions about that momentous moment in history.
Sometimes simply asking a person how their experience has made them feel will mean your content connects with the audience on a deeper level than some marketing blurb. Good interviewing technique feeds a business blog that engages your audience. And engaging with your audience should be what a great piece of content marketing is all about.