Director of Web Strategy & Design, Team Lead, Speaker, 10+ Years of Project Management and Digital Marketing Experience
February 8th, 2018
Even if people are completely bought into the importance of blogging for business, it can be difficult to get them to follow through with it.
Perhaps they “don’t have the time” or aren’t strong writers; whatever the reason, getting some to create a piece of critical SEO content, can be like pulling teeth.
That’s part of the reason why at IMPACT, we offer an interview-based blogging service to clients.
A good content creation strategy rests heavily on the knowledge of the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in your business. You won’t be able to create knowledgeable, helpful, or useful information for your audience without their expertise.
As a marketing strategist, interview-based blogging is one of my absolute favorite services to deliver for a variety of reasons (which I’ll dive into below).
My clients get so much out of it, their audience gets so much out of it, and I get so much out of it.
It truly is a win-win-win.
What is Interview-based Blogging?
It’s not uncommon for an SME to be strapped for time. So, an interview-based blog is meant to help alleviate some of the challenges of writing.
Instead of asking them to sit down and write an article about a specific topic and try to explain to them how to use keywords, LSI keywords, and meta descriptions, we choose to take the load off them.
All the SME has to do is get on the phone and record an interview where we lead them through some questions about the specified topic and clarify responses.
From there, the recording and outline for the blog are written with all of those things in mind, resulting in a valuable piece of written content with a fraction of the required effort on their part.
Why do we do it?
Quite simply, we use interview-based blogging because clients love it -- but there are 7 more specific reasons this service is one of my favorites to deliver and may be one of the most valuable content creation strategies for your organization.
1. You learn so much more about the business.
Conducting these interviews helps you get as close to an “expert” in your or your client’s business as possible, going far beyond the typical conversations you have about marketing strategies and opportunities.
It takes you into the specifics of the pain points in their industry, the nuances of their market, and the inner differentiators of their business. It helps us truly get into the same mindset as our clients and creates the type of alignment that only comes from a deeper level of understanding.
At IMPACT, these aren’t the kind of conversations that just happen by accident.
The subjects we cover are very specific and highly relevant to the personas we are trying to reach. Questions asked in the interview typically start out following a pattern and then very quickly start to become specific to the topic at hand.
The common questions we always cover include those that clarify who the audience of the post is and what pain point has brought them to read this specific article.
After that, they will be based on the outline that has already been established, clarifying the main points that have been laid out.
The interview will typically conclude with a couple questions that are meant to make sure nothing has been left out (e.g. “Are there any points that are relevant that we haven’t discussed yet?”).
Finally, the last few questions are meant to make it very clear what the reader should walk away from the blog knowing, thinking or retaining.
We get the opportunity to ask probing questions -- why something is the way it is or why the company approaches a subject in a specific way. The kind of knowledge makes me a better strategist to my clients and marketer to their businesses, and that is worth its weight in gold.
2. It helps the SME solidify their own thoughts.
Have you ever sat down to write something and realized your own thoughts are all over the place? I know I have, and I’m sure many SMEs at the organizations you work with have felt this as well.
One of the greatest things to come out of the blog interview process is an improved ability to articulate their thoughts.
We have found, time and time again, that working through a subject in a conversational setting with someone else to bounce ideas off really helped people to better formulate their own thoughts and ideas.
This outcome has far-reaching implications that go far beyond the blog that is ultimately published; A better ability to articulate an idea means better conversations with prospects, improved sales presentations, and better internal dissemination of ideas within the company.
Interviews, like most discussions, usually lead to free-form brainstorming, and (with just the right amount of structure, this is the best way to take an idea that feels half-baked and turn it into something that is ready for the big-time.
3. It creates deeper blogs.
Because of the two-way discussion, the blog that results after an interview is typically much deeper than one that would be written solely based on an outline.
When we can actively ask questions and pivot based on the answers we get, we can usually get deeper details than a list of planned, surface questions could have.
While this may seem like a small distinction, it goes a very long way in solidifying our clients’ position as a thought leader. Obtaining that coveted position in your industry requires depth-of-thought, unique thought. Interviews help us draw that genius out.
4. It captures the SME’s true voice.
One of the most difficult things about outsourced writing is tackling the issues of voice and tone.
Many of our clients obviously come to us because they want the content on their site to be highly-effective from both a conversion and SEO standpoint, but delivering something that also matches their own voice is a totally different ball game.
Interview-based blogging makes it infinitely easier to accomplish this.
They give you the opportunity to use similar phrasing and examples to what the SME would use themselves, making the finished blog articles more conversational in nature and a better representation of the brand.
5. It is a way for people to write without actually writing.
While our interview-based blogging service doesn’t include the client actually writing, it still offers many of the benefits of learning how to better express themselves through the brainstorming process.
What’s more, it is a great way for people to create written content without having to take as much time as is generally needed to produce it.
With our process, a client will spend, at most, about 45 minutes of their time to produce a blog that is between 900 and 2,000 words (depending upon the subject and some SEO considerations).
To simply sit down and write a blog that long, review and edit, and ultimately publish that blog would easily take most people three to four times that much time and effort.
6. It produces ideas for other things.
In my experience, these interviews are filled with “aha” moments about the business, industry, and market at hand, which means we are constantly discovering new ideas which will be useful in future marketing strategies.
In the past, these interviews have spawned ideas for:
Additional blog posts, or even blog series.
Specific campaigns that should be run.
Emails that should be sent.
Premium content topics.
Paid advertising campaigns.
Ways to reach new audiences.
Opportunities to incorporate additional marketing tactics like Account Based Marketing, Outbound Marketing or Event Based Marketing.
And many, many more.
7. It is really, really fun.
Unlike simply creating an outline, these interviews allow you to create a deeper relationships with clients and teammates.
The levels of understanding and comfort they create transcend those of simply the vendor-client variety. We get to know people on a more personal and intellectual level, and in my humble opinion, there are few things more fun or rewarding than that experience. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
How do we do it?
Ok, so now you understand why interview-based blogging is so awesome -- but how do we do it, you ask?
1. Planning and Research
Prior to each interview, we do a lot of prep work. Every blog topic will itself fit within the greater marketing strategy and likely be selected far ahead of even this research.
Each topic requires extensive research to determine optimal use of keywords, length, and expected distribution channels. These items should be based on a thorough knowledge of what content already exists about this topic out on the interwebs, a larger keyword strategy, a deep understanding of the target reader, and fit with the messaging strategy of the brand as a whole.
We also put together an initial outline for all of the key points the blog should discuss. This step is incredibly important for facilitating a successful interview. Without it, it is very difficult to keep the interview on track and ensure that it hits all of the relevant points to be useful.
To create the depth desired in each blog, we often spend about 30 minutes interviewing for a single topic. We typically group interviews two at a time for a full hour-long timeslot. This allows us to make the most effective use of both our time and the clients'.
We typically conduct our interviews using a video conferencing tool like Zoom. While we are typically taking diligent notes and formulating a written outline of the blog during the call, we are also recording the entire exchange to help us truly capture the SME’s voice and phrasing to use in writing.
The interview recording is then handed off to the assigned writer along with an outline and variety of details about keywords, SEO requirements, and tone of voices.
All of our writers are meticulously selected and hand paired with the right-fit clients. They are required to have a wealth of knowledge on the industry and market in which the client operates. Keep all of this in mind, whether you are outsourcing or having someone in-house create the finished article.
4. Editing and Review
Once a first draft is written, it comes back to the strategist who conducted the interview for a first round of edits.
When the strategist is confident the blog hits all the right marks, it is then sent to the SME for a final round of edits and review. After all, the blog does have to go out in their name.
Once the client has approved the blog, it is time for publishing and promotion. There are numerous examples publishing and promotion best practices on our blog that you can read through:
If you’re an agency that offers blogging services and you aren’t doing interview-based blogging, I’d highly recommend giving it a try. You’ll find there are numerous benefits to working with clients this way.
Meanwhile, if you’re a marketer struggling to get the subject matter experts in your company to participate in the blogging process, this format is a great way to get them involved without taking a ton of their time and it will help you understand your own business in a way you may not have had an opportunity to do yet.
Or of course, if you’re still having trouble, talk to us. :)