Where to find trustworthy sources
By Tracey Wallace
I’ve mentioned in this newsletter several times that I’m a content marketer who believes very much in interviewing folks for all of my content pieces (Ok, maybe like 80% of my content pieces).
This is for a few reasons:
- Distribution! When you interview folks and include them in your content, you build distribution in. You can share it with them when it goes live and ask them to help promote (and they are more likely to help promote because their insight / expertise is featured!).
- POV! Because so much content marketing is the curation and re-hashing of information people already know and have published. Interviewing others allows you to test hypotheses on a topic and ultimately create a piece of content that add to the conversation of an overall topic, which add credibility to your content when you do this consistently over time.
- Third-party validation: Things are more trust-worthy when more than one person is saying it. A lot of content on the internet makes a lot of claims and calls this “thought leadership,” but then those teams don’t see a ton of great results. Well, duh. One person’s opinion on a topic is nowhere near as powerful as when 2-3 people have a similar opinion on that topic. In other words, interviewing folks helps to build your content’ credibility and even the credibility of your company’s overall narrative.
All of it sounds great in theory, but how do you build a stable of trustworthy folks to interview? Well, there are several ways––and you’ll likely need to use a variety of these tactics to find folks:
- Partner network: Most companies have some sort of partner network––and this is a great first place to look for trustworthy experts. Interview other content marketers, product marketers, the C-suite, if you can get access to them. Your partner marketing team, if you have one, should be really helpful here, and your partners should also be willing to help share content once it goes live. Better yet, you can practice your interviewing skills with partners before you move on to customers or more influential folks, get a good process in place, etc.
- Existing customers: Your existing customer base is a fantastic place to look for interviewees. Be careful here, though. You want to make sure that you aren’t asking the same customers for stuff too often. For instance, content teams often want to talk to folks about case studies and interviews for content. But your larger marketing team is likely also looking for customers for videos, events, etc. And then, your sales team may even be reaching out to these folks for upsells or to talk to potential prospects. WHEW––that’s a lot of outreach. So, be sure to keep track of which customers you are asking what of, and be sure to use their time wisely. I always encourage my team to ask for interviews and case studies in a single 45 minute interview. This gets us at least two assets in one use of a customer’s time.
- Your internal team: Your product marketing team, product team, engineers, customer service reps, and sales team are all fantastic folks to interview depending on your target audience. These folks have deep expertise into why something was built the way it was, how to use it for the most success, and even the competitive landscape. You don’t want to use internal folks all the time, but don’t discount how much expertise is hiding in your Slack channels, in folks who spend their time day in and day out thinking about how to solve the problems of your target market.
- Investor network: Many companies have an investor network they can tap into. Now, a lot of folks don’t ask much of their investors. They send them updates about how the business is doing and that’s about it. I get it. These folks are busy. But they have a vested interest in seeing your company do well, and positioning your company as a thought leader in content in one big way to do that. So, ask for interviews when appropriate, especially if it’s on topics they know well. Better yet, and we’ll talk about this in a moment, ask them who they’d recommend you interview for specific topics. They have large networks, and can absolutely help get your introduced to folks.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a fantastic place to search for experts on any topic, comment on their posts, begin to engage, and grow your own audience. You can also reach out to folks on LinkedIn, let them know you see them as an expert in a specific topic, that you are writing a blog on that topic, and would love to interview them. Always include how much time that interview will take and if they will or won’t be able to review and approve the content before it goes live. Not everyone will say yes, or respond! But a lot of folks will!
- Twitter: Same as with LinkedIn, you can find and follow experts on specific topics on Twitter, and reach out to them about a potential interview for your upcoming piece. The bigger your blog gets, or the bigger your company gets, the easier it will be to get these folks to say yes. But don’t let that deter you. More people than you think will say yes if you make your ask clear, short and sweet.
- Slack groups: There are a ton of Slack groups you can join. Ones that are related to your prospects’ interests and others that are content marketing related (like Superpath!). You can ping in these groups about the content you are working on, and let folks know you are looking to interview a few folks. Now, be sure to make it clear in these groups exactly who you are looking to interview. Not everyone is as much of an expert as they put on. So, well-define the person your ideal interviewee. How many years of experience do they have? Doing what? With which size businesses?
- Asking folks who they’d recommend: Even if you don’t have a solid network of folks to interview for a specific topic, you can use all of these channels above to ask folks who they might recommend you interview or talk to. These gives folks to help plug friends and connect experts. It’s an easy ask, and makes an easy intro when you say something like, “So and so sent me your way…”
- Asking your customers who they’d like to hear insights from: Not sure where to even start in terms of who are experts in your space? Ask your customers! Who do they look up to, or take advice from? Who would they interview if they had the time or got the chance? Which people would they like to learn more from? Make this your target list of ideal interviewees.
- Conferences: Do you attend conferences? Use these events to network and build a group of people you can reach out to for interviews, or a group of people who can point you in the direction of other experts.
- Other blogs: Read other company’s blogs, y’all! And see who they are interviewing. You probably don’t want to interview folks that your competitor is using (unless they are influencers for the space in general, then by all means!). But beyond that, see which influencers in the space are up for interviews. Reach out to them about how you liked their perspective in specific pieces, and how you’re writing something on a topic XYZ, and would love their insight. Again, you’d be surprised how many more folks respond than you think.
- Newsletters: Subscribe to the newsletters of folks who are experts in your space. And then, email them back! Ask them for interviews on specific topics there. Again, you’ll be surprised how many of them respond––and say yes!
Phone/Zoom interviews vs. questionnaires:
Now, I prefer doing phone or Zoom interviews because you can typically ask better questions, get better answers, uncover issues you wouldn’t have thought of over paper, and build better relationships with those you are interviewing.
But, as you are getting started, and even with some folks who are really busy, phone/zoom interviews just aren’t what they are looking for. So, if folks aren’t getting back to you, or you want to start a relationship on a softer note than a call, you can always send over 1-3 questions for them to answer over email instead.
This makes it easier for them to say yes, removing that time barrier. Just remember, you don’t want to do this for everyone. The goal is to build strong enough relationships and interviewing skills that you can hop on calls to interview folks in under 45 minutes and get enough content and context there to create pieces of content that move the digital conversation forward and make your company stand out.
Written answers often just don’t go into as much depth, nor can you ask follow ups as easily.
Paid vs. non-paid interviews:
Content marketing budgets are tight, and it often isn’t plausible to pay folks for their time in an interview. I’ve only had a handful of people ask, and I’ve just been honest with them. Trust me, there are a ton of folks out there growing their audience and expertise who would be willing to answer a few questions from you. Leverage those folks, and look for diversity as you do it!
Of course, if you really want to interview someone, and paid is all they do, that shouldn’t 100% count them. The amount of time you have to complete the piece, your budget, and how much credibility and even distribution the paid interviewee will bring to the piece all matter a lot here.