Archive for November, 2010

Blog Post SEO Tips from ClickNewz

"moving is always chaotic"Immersed in a whole whack of projects nearing completion this month, plus moving my office, so it will be at least a week till I can get back to the subject of copywriting research.

So today I thought I’d share the link to this really handy post by Lynn Terry, on her “must-read” ClickNewz blog…

30 Rocking Search Phrases To Inspire Great Content For Your Blog.

See you in about a week!

Free Public Domain Graphics and Content Tip

No time to write the next part of our copywriting research series today – finishing off a hefty client project.  But speaking of research, here’s a great link for all of you who like to use free Public Domain graphics or content: Xpase, a list of free public domain directories, with descriptions.

Meanwhile, I’ll be back soon with more in our Research series!

Copywriting Research Secrets: Part Five – 7 Juicy Interviewing Tips

Today, we take 7 juicy interviewing tips, and qualify them with a dose of reality to help you create interviews that sparkle.  Follow a system, and by the time you’ve got a few interviews under your belt, the process will feel like child’s play…

1.  Pick your interview subjects by their relevance to your topic:  However, don’t hesitate to be creative and think outside the box.  Go for the obvious industry choices… but look for the unique perspective, too.

For example, don’t just interview the top show jumper when writing an article on “What Makes a Champion Horse” – interview his groom too for a different perspective.

2.  Do your research:  Find out everything you can about your subject beforehand… but invest an amount of time proportionate to your project.  (In other words, don’t spend 3 weeks reading every book written by an author if you’re writing a newspaper article and you only need her to answer the question:  “What’s your favorite color?”

3.  Keep your interview focused.  Stick to the main angle you’re looking for insight on.  Don’t ask your subject whether or not he approves of Formula One Racing or invite him to comment on what he thinks of the current president if you’re writing a technical report on his toxicology specialty, neonatal drug ingestion.

This doesn’t mean you should snap out questions like a sixties Scottish schoolteacher (I’ve been there; I can say that with impunity).  It’s one thing if your expert decides to be conversational and comment on the current political situation (you can either include them in a way relevant to your article, or file them for a future subject) – but it’s just plain unprofessional for you to lose track of the topic and waste his time.

4.  Think of your question list as an “outline”, much as you would write one for an article or report, to help you stay on track.  Do have at least 1-3 specific, targeted questions for your subject to answer – but be prepared for tangents and don’t discourage them.  If you’re truly objective and open, you can score the unexpected bonus with your subject’s unsolicited observations; a new idea for another article or report; or simply just a “coup” that others haven’t managed to land from that particular interview subject.  However, being aware of your “outline” (and the questions you need to have him answer) will help you control the interview and get the most out of it – to both your satisfactions!

5. Don’t ask vague – or obvious – questions.  Your subject is most likely an authority figure in his or her niche, so avoid obvious questions that have been asked by other interviewers ad nauseam.  Ask the ones you need to ask – but do your best to come up with other relevant but unique questions that your subject will really enjoy answering.

6.  Give your subject a chance to shine.  Listen more than you speak.  Speak only to help the conversation along.  (One of the most common amateur interview mistakes is thinking that you and the subject are really bonding while you’re boring his ear off with your views on Tesla’s theories.)

7.  Remember you’re having a conversation.  The truth is, there’s a fine line between sticking to all these “rules” and breaking them to score interviews that really rock; ones that dig deeper than the other 99 that are all clones of each other.  But keeping it focused and keeping it fun will bring freshness and engagement to every interview you do.

Next post, we’ll finally get around to what I promised at the start of this series… 7 meaty sources of offline research material.

And if there’s any other questions about copywriting research you’d like answered… just ask!

Here’s my most successful method of landing interviews and quotable expert responses, boiled down to 5 simple steps…

5 proven steps for consistent interview results1.  Keep your request short and to the point.   (The subject really isn’t interested in your life history… or how much you loved their latest book.)

2.  Ask more than one expert.  Don’t pin your hopes on just one authority figure you’d like to quote – ask at least three.  That way, if you only get one “yes”, you’ve still got great, quotable material.

3.  Always include these 5 details in your request:

  • Who you are: (“I am a freelance writer specializing in equestrian articles…”)
  • What type of vehicle your request is for: (E.G.: “I’m writing an article entitled “Natural Horsemanship: Hoax or Holy Grail” that I hope to sell to Horse Sport magazine”) – Be honest and up front about this if you’re writing on spec.
  • Why you think they’re the ideal choice to answer your question. (“I know you’ve long been a proponent of the Tellington-Jones method and your insights on the equine parasympathetic nervous system are well known…”)
  • What sort of interview you have in mind: (“I’d like to arrange a 15-minute telephone interview focusing on your method of natural horsemanship…” or “I would love to quote your answer to one specific question about natural horsemanship…”)
  • Your actual question or main focus for the interview: (“I would appreciate it if you could comment on why you stated you don’t endorse the Parelli method at your clinic in Newmarket, last Friday…”)

End it simply “Thanking you for considering my request”…

And one more obvious but crucial point…

4.  Remember to include your contact details! The fuller, the better:  Someone who doesn’t have time to respond in print might just pick up the phone and call you on the spot.  (TIP:  Highly proactive, wealthy or A-Type personalities are particularly prone to doing just that, so never leave out your telephone number, assuming they won’t!)

If a potential interview subject doesn’t respond, don’t assume they hate your guts.  They may simply not have received your request, or an assistant may have not gotten around to the pile of email in your expert’s inbox, or they may be out of town or 110% engrossed in preparing for an important event.  (Good research on your subject before asking can help prevent this latter scenario).

Finally – and this is what will get you repeat interviews, every time…

5.  Make sure you follow up!

If a potential interview subject responds, send a prompt “thank you” letter.  If their response is to make arrangements for an interview, send another thank you letter when the interview has concluded.

One extra that’s especially important if your expert is an online personality, such as an internet marketer:  Do get to know your potential subjects well ahead of time.  Friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, comment on their posts if you have something valuable to say, let them see your profile photo attached to your name.

On Saturday I’ll be back with 7 juicy tips on how to make sure your interviews produce golden nuggets.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about interviewing that you’d like tackled in this series, be sure to leave me a comment.

How Does a Beginning Copywriter Land an Interview?

asking for an interviewBeginning copywriters often share one guilty little secret:  They’re too terrified to ask for interviews.

It’s true that, in online copywriting in particular, clients don’t seem to expect you to quote authority figures in your niche… However, you’ll increase your own authority status (and value) if you do include relevant quotes from industry experts.

Interview material is an important part of research.  It can add depth and a truly original perspective to your written products.  So don’t put it off any longer:   Take a deep breath and remind yourself that even experts being interviewed are often a little nervous about the process too.

Over the next couple of posts, we’re going to tackle the subject of interviewing, starting with the tip of the iceberg:   Engaging the expert you want to quote.

There’s only one way to get an interview with someone – and it’s the same whether they’re Joe Blow, the parking attendant, or the top star in your niche…

Just ask.

So What’s the Worst that can Happen?

Your subject could:

  • Ignore your request
  • Say “no”
  • Say “yes”

If he ignores your requests or turns you down, will your article or report still get written? Yep. Most likely.

Has the world ended?  Nope.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with 5 proven steps to help you consistently land interviews, so stay tuned.  And, in the meantime, if you have any questions about landing interviews with experts…

…just ask!