February 22, 2021 Content Chat Recap: How To Conduct And Edit Compelling Interviews That Engage Your Community

A #ContentChat header image saying today's topic is how to conduct and edit compelling interviews that engage your community.

The potential success of your content is often determined by how valuable of a story you tell. The best way to gather a full picture of your topic—and create an engaging, audience-focused piece of content—is to interview subject matter experts, customers, partners, and other people who are close to the topic at hand. But the art of interviewing is intricate, and it is difficult to lead an effective interview without preparation and practice.

In this #ContentChat, we’re joined by storyteller/writer, editor, content marketer, and event speaker Jonathan Crossfield to discuss how to conduct and edit compelling interviews that engage your community. Read the full recap below, where we discuss how to optimize your list of interview questions, ways to put an interviewee at ease and help them tell their story, the tools needed to create and edit audio or video interviews, and more.

Q1: What preliminary research should an interviewer conduct? What information is most important to know before stepping into the interview?

First, align on the intended goal of the interview. What content will this interview inform? How can this interviewee help meet the intended direction of the piece?

A1a / You’re interviewing this person for a reason – a case study, expert insight on a topic, whatever. You need at least a rough idea of how the person will answer your questions. What story or message are you looking for? #ContentChat https://t.co/0UdMQTMCv1

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A1b / Do they have a particular opinion on a topic, or do they have a good story to tell about the product? You don’t want to ask questions for which they don’t have a meaningful or interesting answer. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A1c / When you watch a celebrity interview on TV and the interviewer asks, “Have you ever [insert open question]”, they already know the celeb has a good story to tell, even if the celeb didn’t know the Q would be asked. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

Review the interviewee’s previous interviews, biography, recent content, and social media activity. Ensure you are aware of their current role and areas of interest.

A1d / Check previous interviews, dig into their bio, read any blog posts or articles. You’re also looking for hints to questions they haven’t already answered ad nauseum. How can you prompt them to give you something new? #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A1: Make sure you know who they are and what they do NOW. It can start things off on the wrong foot if they’ve recently started a new job or project and all you want to talk to them about is something they’ve made a decision to STOP doing. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

A1. Research the person and their background—social media is a treasure trove, as is any content they’ve published/created. Approach like you’re meeting someone new, not just checking off boxes. #contentchat https://t.co/cHLOHZXcpc

— Carmen Hill 😷 (@carmenhill) February 22, 2021

A1: I always like to do a little digging on LinkedIn and a quick Google search to see if there are any other stories where they’ve been quoted or featured. For a doc, I always check to see if they have a doc profile and/or video in their system’s directory. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) February 22, 2021

A1 Any accolades or achievements (yay LinkedIn), articles written, work they do in their industry/community/etc. outside of work, pick out things you might having in common, anything they’re passionate about or known for
-Alyx #contentchat https://t.co/cDetWJRSkO

— Charlie & Alyx – Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) February 22, 2021

Check to see what questions they’ve already answered. Create questions that explore new territory or expand on what has already been discussed.

A1: What types of questions have been asked previously? As an interviewee I’d think it would be easy to get robotic when you’ve answered the same thing repeatedly. I love hearing interviewers ask obscure unexpected Qs #contentchat https://t.co/le3aEBf1ah

— Olivia Griffin (@LivGrMedia) February 22, 2021

This! It always feels like a great compliment when the interviewee says “Wow, I’ve never been asked that before” and then proceeds to give you a great answer. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

Confirm base details with internal teams like sales or customer success before the interview. In the case of customer case study interviews, these details include why the customer chose your product, how long they’ve been using it, and any stats about their results.

A1e / When researching a customer for a case study, find out as much specific info as you can from your own CRM or sales team, etc. to inform your questions. Why did they get the product, how long, key stats, etc. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A1f / Too many case studies are based on interviews using generic questions and getting generic answers. Case studies need specifics, so you need questions that probe the details of their story. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

This is a pet peeve of mine. So many case studies clearly started with a person asking “Tell me how you use our product” and never got into the interesting part of the conversation (the pain points, decision-making, and positive change) #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

Q2: How can an interviewer optimize their intended questions? Do you recommend they have a set list of questions they read from?

Have a set of questions to work from, but treat this as a general guide/flow for the conversation. Add questions based on the interviewee’s responses and new areas that arise. Use your question set to get you back on track if the interview derails into a tangent.

A2a / I always have a set of questions to work from – and writing them down helps to organise my thoughts. But I treat them more as a rough guide and not a fixed script; prompts to the points I want to cover. #ContentChat https://t.co/EQAN8gUqma

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A2: I always like to have a standardized outline or list that I pull from, but then I expand on that based on the interviewee, topic, content goals etc. Even with our doc interviews (which are often similar), we customize questions for each one. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) February 22, 2021

A2 Have Qs that tie into others, or lead into segways that give insight into the person they’re interviewing
Have a set of Qs as a guideline, or a tether to refocus the convo when you get off track, have back up Qs
-Alyx #contentchat https://t.co/DyRQB46tmV

— Charlie & Alyx – Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) February 22, 2021

A2: If you’ve done your research, and understand the goals of the interview, you should have a prepared set of questions, but you should also be ready to go off script as you dig into the details. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) February 22, 2021

Make your question list easy to read and skim. Use general ideas or keywords instead of verbatim questions so that you sound more natural in your delivery and do not stumble trying to read directly from your sheet. Flow your questions together naturally like a conversation.

A2b / Single page, large font & well-spaced for at-a-glance checking. Sometimes, a few bullet-pointed keywords are enough, so I can phrase the question naturally in the moment while looking at them, instead of reading word-for-word. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A2c / In the interview, I try to make each Q sound like it naturally follows on from the answer they just gave – like a conversation. I’ll often reorder, skip, change or add questions on the fly in response to things they say. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A2d / This is also why research is important, and why you should know your questions well, even if they’re written down. To improvise in the moment, you can’t be tied to your notes. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

As Martin said, the best interviewers aren’t necessarily the best question-askers—they’re the best listeners. Focus on the conversation. Listen for cues from your interviewee that you should further explore an area or ask a follow-up question.

A2e/ When you’re reading or checking notes, you’re not listening to their answers. You might miss new info or a point begging for a follow-up question – or you might ask a question they’ve just answered. #Embarrassing #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A2f / And follow-up Qs can be where an interview takes off, evolving like a natural conversation. Don’t frustrate the audience by not asking the obvious question or following the more interesting line of enquiry. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

Agreed. Because the best interviewers aren’t necessarily the best question-askers, they’re the best listeners. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) February 22, 2021

There are podcasts + radio shows where the interviewers clearly have a set of questions they are dead set on going through. It’s a bummer! So many missed opportunities from not asking follow-up questions. I know folks only have a small allotment of time, but… #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

It helps to be prepared/have a loose idea of what you’re going to ask. But there needs to be room for unexpected answers and actual conversation (otherwise every interview would be the same) #contentchat https://t.co/sClhEvPLnv

— Olivia Griffin (@LivGrMedia) February 22, 2021

Yes! You may have goals or answers you need to get, and that’s fine, but if you approach the interview like a conversation, not a Q&A, and approach it with curiosity, you’ll tell a better story, ultimately. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) February 22, 2021

A2. It’s great to *start* with a list of set questions & ensure you come away with any must-have answers. But don’t focus so much on your list that you don’t LISTEN. Be open to where the conversation goes. Follow up: “Tell me more…” #contentchat https://t.co/yCYp2M2qug

— Carmen Hill 😷 (@carmenhill) February 22, 2021

And remember that the interviewee should spend the majority of the time talking. Interviewers should act as a guide and avoid minutes-long monologues.

This reminds me, when you are an interviewer, you are supposed to be asking questions. Not having a 5-minute monologue and asking the interviewee to agree/disagree. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

Q3: How do you put your interviewee at ease and quickly build rapport?

The interviewer sets the tone for the interview. Arrive at/join the meeting early and be prepared. This will reduce the likelihood of last-minute issues or stressors that could set a negative tone for the interviewee.

A3a / You set the tone. For your interviewee to be at easy, you need to be at ease. Be early. Be prepared. Check your equipment and check again. Know your questions/research. Avoid any unnecessary stress. #ContentChat https://t.co/xRSc65NAGx

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

Start with small talk to put the interviewee at ease. In your preliminary research, find some common ground that you can bring up (if possible) to create an immediate sense of connection. Your interviewee is likely nervous, and this is an opportunity to help them become more comfortable.

A3b / Don’t dive straight into the interview. Make small talk. (Jay Acunzo asks fun questions saying he’s checking their levels. He’s really putting them at ease.) Be friendly and fun, casual and relaxed. #ContentChat https://t.co/TIyK0ZnSoY

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

This is super important! I think we forget sometimes that the SMEs can be nervous, too. And not everyone loves being interviewed. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) February 22, 2021

A3 Find a common interest and have a small convo about that, instantly brings about a mood of comradery and like-minded thinking
If you make a promise – follow through on it
Set clear boundaries and let them know that you’ll respect theirs as well
-Alyx #contentchat https://t.co/2uqFLVO9P3

— Charlie & Alyx – Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) February 22, 2021

A3: I mentioned this in A1, but finding a connection (even if it’s small!) can help feed small talk and make them comfy at the beginning. Where they grew up, went to college, used to work etc. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) February 22, 2021

Transition from small talk to then review the purpose of the interview and provide examples of the intended end result. Use this time to answer any questions.

A3c / Remind them what the interview is about; perhaps even hint at what you’re looking for. “I loved that example you gave at …” This gives them confidence about what to expect and primes them to give you what you want. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A3: Before you dig into prepared questions, explain the “why” of the interview and then ask if they have questions. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) February 22, 2021

A3b: I also like to use the start of the convo to ask if they have any questions about the project/purpose, so they have as much context as possible for their responses. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) February 22, 2021

Reinforce that this is meant to be a casual conversation. They will not get in trouble for what they say and that the goal is to tell the best story.

A3 Set the right expectation. You’re not there to get anyone in trouble. You want to tell the best story, and you’re partners in making that happen. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) February 22, 2021

Confirm any housekeeping items, like how the interviewee would like their title and company positioned.

A3: Whenever I am interviewing someone I’ve never interviewed before, I always start off with the housekeeping—how they want me to quote their name/title/company. If we’re on video, I ask about something on their desk/bookcase or the family pet I can see. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

Be genuinely interested in the interviewee and what they have to say.

A3d / Be interested! Even if this is the tenth routine interview that day on a topic you couldn’t care less about, each interviewee should feel you’re excited and eager to hear what they might have to say. Your attention is entirely on them. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A3: The same way you put anyone at ease! Listen to them, try to get to know the person beyond what you already *know* about them, be genuinely interested #contentchat https://t.co/kKUSbeyOIC

— Olivia Griffin (@LivGrMedia) February 22, 2021

Once you are ready to start the interview, let them know. Then, ask the first question.

A3e / Once they’re happily nattering, and before they start telling you things you want to cover in the interview itself, let them know you’re ready to start. Pause and take a breath to reset, then ask the first question. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

When natural, ask the interviewee if they’d like to answer any specific questions. This can uncover their interest areas and gives them a chance to talk about something that matters to them.

Sometimes it works to ask “Is there a question YOU’D like me to ask because you’ve got a great story to tell or answer to give?” Helps me to find the gold while also allowing them to talk about something that matters to them. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

Q4: How can interviewers gain valuable insights from interviewees who may be inexperienced, short in their answers, or too product-focused?

It is common for interviewees to be misaligned or short in their responses. Prior to the interview via email and at the start of the interview, explain the purpose of the interview and let the interviewee know what areas you will explore. Share example content that shows how the interview will be used.

A4a / This is common when doing interviews for case studies. Do your research. Let them know beforehand exactly what you’re looking for, particularly if they might need to look up some facts or figures to prepare. #ContentChat https://t.co/t7bkjGK4RZ

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A4 Explain up front what you’re trying to accomplish, and what the final content product will be. If the interviewee knows more about what you’re looking for, they can try to answer questions more appropriately. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) February 22, 2021

Agreed. Similarly, if you have completed examples of the kind of content you intend to produce from the interview, it can be helpful to share that with the interviewee in advance, and then reference it in the interview as an example. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

In same cases it is appropriate to send your questions ahead of the interview.

A4: If it makes sense to do so, send the SME the questions in advance. I always give a disclaimer that the Qs will be a ‘guideline’ for the conversation, and not the only Qs asked, but it can help them prepare. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) February 22, 2021

I always send my basic case study questions out in advance. And for our Twitter chats, we agree on the questions in advance too, to give guests ample time to think through responses + supporting materials they want to share. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

Identify your “must-cover” questions in your initial interview question guide. These are questions or details that are crucial for the end piece of content. Ask the same question in different ways or ask follow-up questions to gather the depth of information you need.

A4b / Have a clear structure for the interview. For example, in a case study you might want to know the problem they needed to solve, what the stakes were if they didn’t, why they chose the product, and what was the outcome. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A4c / Inexperienced interviewees might give basic or vague answers. “It worked well” doesn’t tell us much. Don’t be afraid to ask the same Q in different ways or use follow-ups to dig for detail. Why? How? Who? What next? #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A4: For those who keep giving short answers, try asking a question followed by an example of the type of anecdote, story, or detail you think the interview’s audience would be interested in, so they know it’s OK—even expected—to go longer. #ContentChat https://t.co/WYPix6JtvC

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

A4: Short answers or product-focused are easy – start asking follow-up questions. Inexperience is harder. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) February 22, 2021

Balance factual questions like “how did it work?” with emotive ones like “how did that make you feel?” to put the interviewee in the story.

A4d / Balance factual questions (“How did it work?”) with emotive ones (“How did that make you feel?”). Ask questions to put them in the story, so they don’t only talk in terms of the product. (“Why was that important to you?”) #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

Ask more questions than you’ll need and edit later. Store any extra information in a separate document for future reference/use.

A4e / Always ask far more than you think you’ll need and edit later. Prompt them with questions or statements that guide their answers. “That must have been really stressful. What did that mean for the people around you?” #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

I had an editor who would create a section at the end of our case studies called “Extras” where we put anything that was interesting but ended up needing to be cut from the case study, so we could find an appropriate home for it somewhere else later. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Expert (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

Let the interviewee share additional stats or responses after the interview. This can keep them focused on their train of thought during the interview, instead of getting caught up on a small detail they can’t remember in the moment.

A4f / If they can’t provide a detail in the interview, such as a specific stat or number, say they can send it through later to keep the conversation moving. Don’t let them become distracted or lose the thread of their story. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

And remember that silence is an effective interview tool.

A4: Open-ended questions always seem to work wonders. With my health coaching clients, I also try to leave silence…even if it feels awkward at first. Silence is a valuable tool that leaves space for the interviewee to show up fully #contentchat

— Olivia Griffin (@LivGrMedia) February 22, 2021

A4. It’s amazing how silence can be used as a tool to actually get people to speak! #ContentChat

— Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) February 22, 2021

Q5: What tools are needed to conduct and edit audio or video interviews? Are there resources you recommend for folks just getting started?

Jonathan recommends video platforms like Zoom to conduct and record interviews. The face-to-face presence can help the conversation flow better and makes it easier to establish rapport with the interviewee.

A5a / I mostly use Zoom because most people are comfortable with it now. Even when I only need the audio or a transcript, I still interview with video on so we have eye contact and other facial cues. I find conversations flow better when we can see each other. #ContentChat https://t.co/DKLXmg1TBu

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

Invest in an external microphone to improve your audio quality.

A5b / Audio quality is far more important than video. Get a good mic and find the right spot in your home or office for clear sound. Even if the audio won’t be published in a podcast or something, your transcriber will thank you. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A smartphone can be used to record interviews, too. However you record the interview, consider a tool like Rev or Otter.Ai to transcribe the conversation.

A5c / When interviewing in person (how 2019!) a smartphone may be enough. I just use Voice Memos on the iPhone and send the audio file to @Rev to transcribe. But if the audio or video is for a podcast or something, I’d use an external mic with a smartphone adaptor. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

We’ve been leaning on Zoom, as well. It allows us to easily record the convos and some of my colleagues use @otter_ai for transcribing. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) February 22, 2021

A5 A free or cheap transcription tool like https://t.co/HPhfjSXQmO is priceless. Even if it’s not a clean transcript, you’ll still have guidance for what you can keep and what you may want to cut. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) February 22, 2021

Can’t say I’ve tried https://t.co/3Ul2ABL5R1 but Rev offers both automated and human transcription services. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

To edit audio and video, Jonathan recommends Audacity, Hindenberg, and iMovie for various needs. Derek recommends Zoom P4 for podcasting.

A5d / For podcasts, etc. some people like to record ‘as live’ to reduce editing. Most interviews can be improved with a little editing to polish and tighten. For simple edits, I use Audacity. For bigger jobs, e.g. intercutting multiple interviews, I use Hindenberg. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A5e / With video, it helps to have an editing plan beforehand. If it’s a single camera shoot, what can you cut away to when making an edit to avoid a jumpcut? A graphic? Some other footage related to the topic? #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A5f / For beginners, standard software like iMovie is probably enough, making it easy to add captions or graphics and perform simple edits. But it takes patience and practice to edit video effectively, so experiment a little to come up with a visual style you like. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

I just started a podcast and love my Zoom P4 podcasting bundle. I got it from Sweetwater here in Fort Wayne and it’s a really great deal for people who are thinking about getting started on the voice recording world. #ContentChat

— Derek Pillie 🎯 (@derekpillie) February 22, 2021

Q6: How can an audio or video interview be repurposed? Are there examples you can share?

Repurpose the audio from interviews and embed it as streaming content within the article.

A6a / When I was editor of CCO magazine for @CMIContent, we started repurposing the audio from interviews as streaming content to embed within the articles, like a DVD extra or bonus feature. #ContentChat https://t.co/J9mG2Cq0IP

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A6b / Some interviews needed more editing or post-production than others, particularly if they hadn’t been recorded with this in mind. But when it worked, it gave readers more than one way to experience the content. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A6c / One of the most successful was my interview with Ella Dawson @brosandprose on the dark side of social media moderation. The 1,800-word article used only a fraction of the 1-hour interview, so I cut the raw audio down to a tight 25 mins in Hindenburg.https://t.co/1feVv96aUh

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

A6d / Lots of people shared the article for the audio as well as the text. One person messaged me to say they’d listened to the audio 10 times because it resonated with her so much. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

Gather soundbites from a variety of interviews to create content like “Five experts share their answers to…” or “Five customers reveal their favorite feature…” etc. You can also use these soundbites in your email marketing.

A6e / Of course, when you’ve built up a lot of interview recordings, you can also recut clips from them into new content. Five experts share their answer to … or five customers reveal their favourite feature … etc. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

1. apologies for earlier thinking we were talking hiring
2. Yes, I always prefer to get a video interview, repurpose that into case studies and sound bites. It’s also helpful for knowing what language your audience uses and informs content and brand.

— Kat (@KatInTheCLE) February 22, 2021

A6. I have used smaller snippets of video interviews into emails to get people to open and click through to landing pages that have the longer version of it #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/y1cbEf27J5

— Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) February 22, 2021

Share all finished interviews with your sales and customer success teams. This keeps them better in tune with your customer needs.

A6f / And customer/case study interviews can also be a useful resource internally for the sales and customer service teams, helping them to understand how people use the product, for example. #ContentChat

— Jonathan Crossfield (@Kimota) February 22, 2021

I know the team at @SlackHQ gleaned so many new and unique case studies from interviewing customers for case studies, based on the ones I worked on with them. So much to learn. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketer (@SFerika) February 22, 2021

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