Interview tips: how to get the most out of your stakeholder stories

Written by Aaron Frank

8 December 2020


When we think of great interviewers, we recall some of the famous TV Q&As (such as Frost/Nixon or Oprah/Armstrong) but the skills and techniques they use to get powerful stories from their subject are not just confined to journalism. Those media skills can be put into everyday practice in the PR world to bring out the most compelling stories from your company stakeholders and share your business message in an engaging way.

Indeed, there is a lot that PR can learn from the media when it comes to interviewing. You can argue it’s one of the most important skills to possess as a comms consultant – executed right, you can create truly engaging PR content, such as case studies, thought leadership pieces, whitepapers or video interviews from your senior executives – content that will cut through the noise, secure quality coverage, and influence your target audiences to take action. Often executives are short on time. So, preparation holds the key to success for interviews with your stakeholders, and this is where Berkeley can help you.

In my previous life as a journalist, my first editor once said to me that the perfect interview was like a successful trip to the supermarket. Dig out your bags for life, reach for the facemask, and let me explain why…

Make a list before you go

Much like shopping for groceries, preparation ahead of an interview with a CEO, CTO or more is essential. Do your homework and research the details of their role and their team, check their background (LinkedIn is good for this) and look for any hobbies/interests outside of work (think Twitter/Instagram) that you can reference.

And it’s always worth taking the time to look for any breaking industry news from the day and add in topical questions to help get their opinions flowing. Once you have these details, jot down what you want to achieve from the interview (for example, in a profiling piece look for details about their career and background, or get their thoughts on an industry trend for a byline article), and 5-10 key questions that are going to help you meet this goal.

Be friendly and interact by asking them questions

Make the interviewee feel comfortable by asking them how they are, what they have been up to, and start the call in a friendly manner. They may feel quite daunted at the prospect of being interviewed so putting them at ease early on is a real skill and may encourage them to open up more to you. Use open-ended questions, rather than closed to get them to talk more.

Make the most of the offers at the end of each aisle

You’ll have your set questions, as outlined above – they are your essentials (think of these as your milk, bread, fruit and veg), that will help you shape your pre-conceived idea of the angle of the story you’re looking to attain. However, going into the interview with an open mind will allow you to adapt and pick up on nuggets of information (those shiny discount offers) that can take the interview in a different direction, which can even lead to a better story than you had originally planned. The key to this is being flexible, truly listening to what the interviewee is saying, and being able to respond accordingly.

Ensure you have enough bags to package your goods

Once the interview is complete, it’s worth recapping the main points with the stakeholder so you’re both on the same page before you go and write up the piece, as well as running through timings for delivery to keep them on track with approvals. Make sure you have everything you need in addition (including bio, imagery and media-facing job title) so you can leave the call knowing you have the key ingredients to develop a compelling story that will prove fruitful in whatever form it takes – be it generating coverage with the media, or a lead-gen piece of marketing content.

The supermarket analogy to interviewing can indeed be applied to all PR and marketing collateral, whether it’s a case study, press release, byline, website copy, video or podcast. It’s important to embrace your role as the interviewer, and ensure you apply the key attributes of concentrating, listening, responding to, and remembering what’s been said by the interviewee to make the most of the story.

Empower your stakeholder to embrace their inner storytelling potential – then your content, and your business will cut through the noise.

We can help

Do you want to turn your stakeholder interview into engaging content?

Get in touch