4 Tips for Mining Golden Copy Nuggets with a Good Interview

The success of your sales letters – and, ultimately, the success of your career – can get a huge boost from the power of well-conducted interviews.

By interviewing both the people who've created the product you're writing about and the people who have used it happily, you'll be tapping into a rich source of great quotes and testimonials that will add credibility and strength to your copy.

You'll gain insight into who your prospect truly is … and, often, you'll discover a unique angle, theme, or Big Idea for your promotion

Plus, you'll also discover some good stories for your letter, which can make an important difference, too.

But beware: Conducting an interview isn't always as easy as it sounds. You’re goal is to come away with more great information than you ever dreamed possible. Here are four tips I’ve used that will give you your best chance of succeeding.

  1. BE PREPARED

    It sounds obvious, but being well prepared for the interview is critical. If you skip this step, your interview is sure to bomb. There are three steps to preparing for an interview.

    First, do a little research. You don't want to spend your time asking a bunch of questions that you could just look up on the product website. Second, set some goals. Ask yourself what kind of information you are hoping to come away with. Third, use the answer to that question to come up with a list of questions for your interviewee.

  2. BE FLEXIBLE

    Okay, you're WELL prepared. You have a list of great questions to ask. But if you plan on sticking doggedly to those questions to the exclusion of anything else, you'll miss out on some of the best stuff your interviewee has to offer.

    Copywriting genius Jim Rutz told me a story about a fellow copywriter who was having trouble finding the USP for a piano company. Then, during their interview, the manufacturer made a quick point about the piano's stabilizing bar, and the copywriter recognized that there might be something interesting in that comment. He hadn't expected to hear anything about a "stabilizing bar," but he was flexible, followed up on it – and found a great USP.

    The point is, your prepared questions are an outline of what you want to achieve during the interview. But an interview is an organic thing – so sometimes it's a good idea to explore digressions that pop up. You might unearth gold.

  3. BE A GOOD LISTENER

    Being a good listener goes hand in hand with being flexible. Going into the interview, you won't know half the questions you should be asking. Things you hadn't thought of before will come up as you listen to what the interviewee is saying. Listen carefully, and you'll find valuable ideas that you'll want to pursue as the interview progresses.

    Respond to what your interviewee has to say. Encourage his comments. But if you find yourself doing more than a quarter of the talking, you're doing too much talking and not enough listening.

  4. BE APPRECIATIVE

    Be grateful … and say so. The people you are speaking with have taken time out of their busy schedules to help you. Let them know that you recognize they've done you a favor. Say it at the end of the interview and follow up with a thank-you email.

    The follow-up email can result in gold, too. I once interviewed copywriting pro Bill Hebden. In response to my thank-you email, he sent two pages worth of notes expanding on some of what he'd told me during the interview. There was a lot of good stuff in those pages that I would have missed if I hadn't sent him that thank-you.

BONUS TIPS

It's tempting to just email a bunch of questions to the person you want to interview and let him respond with his answers in a return email. If that's the only way you can arrange to do the interview, that's okay.

But whenever possible, speak with the person. That way, you can really delve into something he says that catches your interest. And whether you're speaking in person or over the phone, record the interview (making sure you get your interviewee's permission first). That's the best way to make sure that your copy is completely accurate – and that you don't miss anything.

Interviews are a great way to add authenticity and interest to your sales letters. Use these tips to get the most out of each and every one.

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Published: November 5, 2007

1 Response to “4 Tips for Mining Golden Copy Nuggets with a Good Interview”

  1. More excellent hints. As a reporter, I was taught that a good story must be preceded by a good interview. The theory holds. . .

    D TolleyOctober 26, 2010 at 5:27 pm


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