Strategic Interviewing: A Blueprint for B2B Thought Leadership

Editor’s Note: Dragonfly Editorial is a gold sponsor for ASBPE’s upcoming National Conference. Visit their booth to learn how Dragonfly Editorial can become your outsourced content partner, helping you with writing, editing, design, and content strategy. Register for the National Conference by May 9.

At the heart of effective thought leadership is the ability to tell a compelling story, one that resonates with your audience on a human level. This is where strategic interviewing comes into play. By harnessing the expertise of industry leaders and weaving their insights into a narrative tapestry, thought leaders can position themselves — and their businesses — as authoritative voices in their fields.

But how can you, as a writer, talk to industry leaders to glean the right insights for your narrative, especially when the subject matter might be complex or new to you? It’s not as simple as asking them to tell you about their craft or careers; you need to guide the conversation through the lens of what you hope to publish as a final piece.

Interviewing 101

I’ve conducted countless subject-matter expert (SME) interviews during my career as a professional copywriter, and they’ve all taught me something new, whether about the subject itself or the process of interviewing.

The following are just a few of my favorite tips for obtaining the information you’ll need to create compelling thought leadership content:

Build rapport. Remember, the person on the other side of the phone, Zoom screen, or table is a human being. Establishing a genuine connection with your interviewee is essential for eliciting candid and insightful responses. Whether it’s through shared experiences or mutual interests, the goal is to create an atmosphere of trust and openness.

Ask the right questions. Thoughtful, probing inquiries can unearth hidden gems of wisdom and perspective. Instead of sticking to a rigid script, allow the conversation to flow naturally, following the threads of insight wherever they may lead. I avoid questions that can be easily answered with a simple “yes” or “no” because they halt the conversation and remove the opportunity for the subject to elaborate.

Actively listen. Don’t let your mind or attention wander — you could miss key details. And if your subject notices you aren’t engaged, you may lose their trust as well. I once interviewed someone who went on a winding three-hour tale of how they exposed fraud. Had I not been so actively focused as he spoke to me, I would have missed important information or failed to bring us back on track when necessary.

Of course, navigating the complexities of expert interviews requires finesse. It’s not just about asking questions; it’s about knowing when to dig deeper, when to pivot, and when to let the interviewee take the lead. From there, crafting thought leadership narrative is about pulling these human experiences into a story that paints your subject as a leader in their industry.

Using the information you’ve garnered from your SME interview, you’ll want to be genuine in your storytelling. True thought leadership offers unique insights, addresses industry pain points, encourages critical thinking, and provides practical takeaways. Sharing the SME’s personal experiences, challenges, and lessons learned adds authenticity and relatability.

To learn more about interviewing for effective thought leadership, I hope you’ll join me on May 17 during ASBPE’s National Conference, where I’ll talk about how to harness expertise for B2B thought leadership. I’ll include examples from my interviews and ways in which I’ve woven those experiences into my content.

Emily Primeaux

Emily Primeaux is the writing manager at Dragonfly Editorial where she and her team deliver clear and compelling outsourced content. Primeaux spent many years with Fraud Magazine and has experience across website content and magazine development, magazine production, marketing communications and thought leadership. She has built her career interviewing subject matter experts such as Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz; actor Richard Dreyfuss; the DEA agents behind the hit Netflix show “Narcos;” and more. She writes long-form articles, thought leadership, profiles, case studies and white papers on everything from fraud and finance to technology and cybersecurity.

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