I’m convinced the craft of interviewing is one of the most undervalued skills in corporate storytelling.
Consider PR’s version of what came first, the chicken or the egg.
Would you rather enjoy an excellent relationship with a journalist, but be stuck with lame content?
Or would you rather have man-bites-dog content, but no relationship with the journalist?
I’ll take the great content every time.
Sure, knowing the journalist means I’ll get a listen, but trying to foist a weak story undermines the relationship.
That’s why our storytelling workshops devote a chunk of time to interviewing.
By probing and cajoling company sources, you’ll generate content that stays far from the lame quadrant.
Here are five interviewing techniques that will fuel the storytelling process.
Do Your Homework: This means not only understanding the topic but the person or people you’re interviewing. Before meeting an engineer slated for a sourcing session, I found out he had immigrated from Cuba. How did I learn this ditty? Just took a look at his LinkedIn profile. Great ice breaker.
The Interview Starts Before the Interview: Email a few questions to the interviewee ahead of time to get the wheels turning. I always include one question that establishes I’m after drama, not a tutorial in molecular physics.
The Warm-up Act: Most human beings don’t automatically open up to someone they don’t know (even though you’re part of the same team). Start with a few easy questions designed to simply get the person talking. This way, you build momentum leading into the tougher questions.
Too Many Cooks Won’t Spill the Beans: Often, multiple people are involved with the topic of choice. Don’t interview them together. It’s better to talk with each in a one-on-one setting with the content taken from the initial interview building into the second chat and beyond. Such an approach takes more time, but you’ll end up with richer content. Notice the boys on CSI never interrogate multiple people together. Same concept.
Improv Produces “Gold:” Listen to what’s being said. While it’s good to have questions prepared, be willing to explore unexpected areas that come out of the discussion. In talking to a client CEO, he casually mentioned he was originally hired to figure out if the technology could be salvaged. That got our attention; i.e., drama in whether the venture would live or die. What was it like asking for employees’ cooperation when their cooperation might mean the end of the line? Was there a single moment when you thought, “This has a chance?” Digging out the humanity always makes for compelling storytelling.
I welcome your additions to the list.