Look up the phrase “what makes a good interview” and you’ll find a lot of links to interviewing in the job market. And yes — interviewing (either as interviewer or interviewee) is as important part of a job search. But right here, right now, we’re going to talk about how interview skills are important in marketing.
Do you ever think about that?
OK — I’ll assume No.
When I say “interviewer” it could be anyone — a writer like me, a web designer, a sales person, an account executive — anyone who needs to find out information to help you market your business.
There are 11 traits that make a good interviewer.
James Lipton of Bravo’s Inside the Actor’s Studio is known as a consummate maestro of The Interview. During his special for the 250th episode, he asked co-founder actress Ellen Burstyn what makes a good interviewer. Her answer:
- Curiosity. Good interviewers are curious. They want to learn — how things work, where it all started, who did what, why, when did it start, what it means. In other words — the story behind the business. If they know the story, the message that needs to get out — they have a better idea how to market it.
- They do the homework. Before someone goes into a business on a marketing project, they bone up on the subject, the company, the people involved, the history, the media page (you have a media page, right?) — they read as much as possible — and questions can come from there.
Nine of the 11 traits come from an interview Katie Couric did on You Tube. This time, she was the interviewee.
In both instances — Lipton and Couric — the answers relate to interviewing celebrities or famous people. Yet they’re easily transferable to the subject of a business that needs to market.
A great interviewer helps you discover new and valuable things for your marketing.
Look for these traits:
- The ability to put people at ease. Very often, the person being interviewed — or just in a discovery meeting on a project — is a little nervous or even guarded. That small talk, genuine smile, casual questions about your weekend, or interest in the fact that you have a hockey stick in the corner or a preschool “work of art” tacked up — all help to break the ice, relax and open up a real dialogue about the business. A good interviewer will use these.
- Body language. Whether you’re on site, on speaker/conference call or Skype – even if the interviewer can’t be seen — you can sense whether someone is tense or relaxed, open or distracted. It works both ways.
- Tone. If Couric is interviewing a politician who’s under investigation, she uses a different tone. If someone is interviewing you about your business, that tone should be appropriate — interested, attentive, relaxed… whatever you need to get information across.
- Having empathy. Got a problem you need solved? Excited about a new product? Been through a tough time and now things are on the upswing? You should be able to feel the empathy of the interviewer. If the person can’t relate — how will they convey your story?
- Asking questions that don’t require a yes or no answer. The interview is about learning the important information. “Will this new drug benefit those with diabetes?” is not the effective question. You want someone who will ask: “How does this new drug benefit those with diabetes?” The answer you give may translate into a standout ad, a white paper, a go-to page on your website. You get the picture.
- Asking appropriate follow-up questions. This goes back to being curious and attentive. Sometimes these new questions come about spontaneously. There has to be room for spontaneity. Sticking to a set list of questions doesn’t leave room for creative thinking.
- Listens. Next to curiosity, this may be the next most important. A great interviewer often picks up on what’s been said and uses it as a springboard to gather more information, says Couric. That means the ability to focus. Paying attention. And honestly, in today’s “just let me send this text while you’re talking” world, focus and attention are priceless.
- Remembers the audience. That’s who you’re trying to reach, right? The right audience for your marketing. The audience needs and wants to know certain things. So the interviewer makes sure he/she gets those answers.
- Allows the subject (you) to communicate. The interview is about you. You have things you want to say. Notice that James Lipton, while in control of the interview and keeping it directed forward, allows the person to have time and freedom to say what he or she has to say. Sometimes people are surprised by their own answers. And that is a good thing — because in marketing, it’s about what makes you stand out and unique.
A great interviewer can also help you enjoy the process.
If you feel energized and positive after the interview, you’ve hit pay dirt.