The value of interviews. Why it's important to talk to people.
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
While many believe writers are hermits, preferring to work in solitary confinement, we’re actually quite sociable beings. We love to talk to people. We love to hear stories. And we love to write copy that is informed by the people that know their stuff, whether that’s knowing the business inside out or telling a story in their own words.
Interviews are a brilliant tool for copywriters. We can create copy with more impact and uncover new insights. We’ve interviewed everyone from lawyers to people working at the UN, academics to small business owners. They’re the bread and butter of what we do.
The importance of conversations
At the start of new projects, we’ll always ask, ‘is there anyone else we should talk to?’ Many of our existing clients understand the value of interviews. Once you’ve seen the difference it can make, you won’t look back. However, we’re often faced with one of the following responses:
a) ‘Our employees/stakeholders/partners don’t have time for that’
b) ‘We’ve already got some source copy’
c) ‘There’s no room in the budget for that’
d) ‘We haven’t got the time to set up interviews’
Of course, they’re all valid answers, but we urge them to think again.
a) ‘ Our employees/stakeholders/partners don’t have time for that’
People want to talk to – give them a chance
Everyone is busy, but that doesn’t mean they won’t want to give their input. If it’s something they care about, they’ll be able to squeeze it into their jam-packed diaries. We always recommend asking people if they want to be involved, instead of assuming that they don’t.
Although an interview is generally only 30 minutes long, an interviewee can cover a lot of ground in that time. We’re often talking to them about their area of expertise, so there’s no need for them to do prep beforehand either. All they need to do is turn up, the rest is down to us to ask the right questions. Most people love to talk about themselves and are keen to share their experiences and perspective.
Conversations across the globe
One of our clients has bases everywhere from Seattle to Stockholm, so Zoom has been a faithful friend of A Thousand Monkeys for years. When Covid came along, it was brilliant to see how Zoom changed the way we communicate. Over the last year, I’ve interviewed people in Peru, New Zealand, Switzerland, and more. Time difference isn’t really a barrier – people are willing to be flexible. And so are we!
Save time in the long run
Giving people the chance to have a say early on means you shouldn’t receive overwhelming amounts of feedback later down the line. However, we always recommend they see the final copy, so they have a chance to comment and remove anything they’re not comfortable with.
b) ‘We’ve already got source copy’
Quality over quantity
So, you’ve already got source copy? But is it still up to date? Will it be enough to hit your new brief? You could give us pages of source copy, but quality is what really matters.
By carrying out an interview, we can create copy that is tailored to the brief. We can ask the questions you want to know but might not be able to find the answers to. We can find out the latest information, instead of working from something that’s been on your site for five years.
In today’s world, things change quickly. By carrying out an interview, we can inject the most up-to-date information into the copy we’re writing.
Talking to an outsider
Of course, your product or service will make sense to you, but is the reader going to understand it and its benefits? Try explaining it to us. We’re not afraid to ask silly questions if it will help us write better copy. From experience, we find people explain things far more naturally when they’re talking – often in ways that make more sense. When complex concepts are written down, that’s when the jargon starts to sneak in.
Stories, quotes and anecdotes
Stories are what bring copy alive. And they make your writing more persuasive.
For example, you could tell your audience all about your fundraising campaign and what you’re going to spend the money on, but imagine being able to introduce someone who will benefit from the building, facility, equipment etc. It puts everything into perspective and evokes emotion.
Personal anecdotes often come out of interviews too. That’s something that source copy rarely offers. Robotic writing can be transformed when an anecdote is added. It makes it more human and readers are often able to relate to the anecdote and perhaps think of a similar experience they’ve had.
Of course, a quick and easy thing to do is pull out quotes from the interview.
The beauty of having stories, quotes and anecdotes under your belt is they can be used for other marketing material too. Quotes look great accompanied with a portrait on social media. Stories make great features in newsletters. Anecdotes could help you back up your benefits in a sales pitch.
Gear copy to the audience and hit the brief
Your source copy might be great, but does it actually answer the reader’s questions? With interviews, there’s no need to compromise. We can make sure we get the information we know that the audience is looking for. Whether that’s details about a feature of a product, how a service helps customers save money or an element of a university course.
Also, by carrying out interviews, you’re almost guaranteed to meet the brief better than you possibly could with existing source copy.
c) ‘There’s no room in the budget’
You’ve spent thousands on your branding and tone of voice (most likely), so surely it makes sense to have copy that’s in line with those guidelines? An interview is often the best way to do it.
King’s College London want to ‘make the world a better place’. We recently interviewed graduates about how they think they’re making a difference. It was no surprise that when we are able to ask them about this, we got answers that aligned with the strategy King’s have in place.
d) ‘We haven’t got time to set up interviews’
That’s alright. Leave it to us. ‘You can do that?’, they ask. Of course we can. In fact, it gives us a chance to introduce ourselves to the interviewee. We often send questions beforehand or explain what we’re trying to get out the call.