As a PR writer, I often ghostwrite bylined articles for clients. These articles typically involve interviewing the CEO or another thought leader at the company so I can gather information for a first draft. But they are also helpful for giving me a sense of the executive’s or physician’s voice and learning about their goals for the content.
During these interviews, there is occasionally some confusion about who I am, why I am interviewing the thought leader and what they should say. I am not at all surprised or offended when this happens.
Considering the many meetings and countless calls these thought leaders handle in a typical day from customers, partners, investors and other company leaders, it is no wonder that our interview is not high on their priority list. However, going into an interview prepared can help cover more ground in less time.
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, all thought leaders love efficiency. That’s why I’ve created some tips to remember for your next thought leadership interview with your PR team.
- Speak freely. This tip is first because it’s an obstacle that pops up frequently. When thought leaders start an interview, they are occasionally under the impression that I’m a reporter or editor for the publication. To the contrary, I’m an extension of the thought leader’s company, not the publication, so thought leaders can speak their thoughts freely knowing that they will have plenty of opportunities later to review and edit the content as they wish before it is published or posted.
- Know your reader. Some of our clients offer solutions that serve the spectrum of healthcare stakeholders including health systems, physician practices, payers and patients. While some topics are universal, an independent primary care physician is not always concerned with the same challenges as a health system CFO and vice versa. It is always helpful to concentrate on readers’ specific, highest-priority pain points so the content is most relevant.
- Tell me stories. Thought leadership content, by its nature, is high-level. Because of this, sometimes it can lose readers’ interest when they can’t visualize how it applies to their organization. Which is why I’m puzzled when executives ask: “can I tell you a story?” Or apologize: “sorry to bore you with that story.” To the contrary, I love stories and so do readers, even in B2B. Granted, the narratives should be relevant to the topic we’re discussing, but examples and stories are a memorable and effective way to share or explain a thought-leadership concept.
- Bring the facts. Writers are usually pretty good at researching statistics and studies, but, as all healthcare executives know, there is so much data and so little time. I urge everyone I interview to offer their favorite data or studies they feel would be relevant and interesting to readers. It is always better to have too much information and cut it later than have points woefully under-supported.
- Stay on point. Some executives want to discuss nearly every challenge or improvement opportunity in the healthcare industry during our interview. It is often interesting to hear their perspective, but it can occasionally stray from relevance and not always be useful, especially when writing a bylined article with a word-count limit. Shorter, focused articles are also more likely to be read and remembered, according to Forrester.
I realize most senior leaders’ time is very limited, so I’m grateful when they can spare a half-hour of their day to discuss an article or blog post. If they can let their guard down a little and pull some information together beforehand, that time can be well spent, resulting in compelling thought-leadership content that drives awareness, strengthens the brand and generates quality leads.