There are dozens, and probably hundreds, of types of content to leverage when you build your online marketing campaign, from simple how-to articles to complex videographics possibly pulled from your own original research.

Sometimes, the simplest forms of content are among the most effective, however. Take the art of the interview, for example; not only can you put yourself in touch with a leading influencer in your industry, you’ll also get to produce a relatively easy-to-manage piece of content that might well earn you tons of shares and links.

What is it about interviews that makes them such a powerful marketing format? And what can you do to maximize their potential return?

Why Interviews Are So Powerful

First, think about why interviews yield such a high return on investment (ROI):

  • Minimal investment. First, there’s not a lot of investment to speak of. It will take you time to find an influencer, convince him or her to talk to you, and write up the questions; but overall, you’re looking at only a few hours of time — at a maximum. This means even a marginal return will satisfy your efforts completely.
  • Multimedia formatting. Why should you have to choose between the rising trend of visual content and the reliable SEO benefits of written content when you can have both? Interviews can be recorded on video, offered as an audio download, and transcribed in written form to satisfy audience members of all types (as well as search engines).
  • Mutual interest in distribution. Don’t forget: Your interviewee has a vested interest in getting the interview seen by more people, too. Double the people sharing and distribution of the interview means your content will have at least twice the impact a normal piece would.

Ingredients for Success

So what is it that makes for a “good” interview: one that everyone wants to see or read, and will generate lots of links and shares?

  1. Choose the right authority. Your first job is to pick the right person to interview. You’ll have to strike a careful balance here. You need to find someone in your industry (or at least related to it) who has a reasonably large following. However, if you aren’t much of an authority yourself, you won’t be able to reach very far up the ladder. For example, it’s unlikely that a startup would be able to wrangle an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has 5 million Twitter followers. Still, it can pay to be ambitious. Start high and work your way down.
  2. Skip the small talk. It’s tempting to ask basic questions to start, such as for your interviewee’s opinions on basic industry topics, or about the expert’s personal background. But you would do better to push deeper, into more meaningful, possibly riskier, and more surprising territory. This is what will grab people’s attention, as well as make the visit more interesting and worthwhile for the interviewee. For example, penny stock investor Tim Sykes was recently interviewed by Secret Entourage, and the interviewer had no qualms about openly addressing the nature of investing scams, a less “safe” topic than the usual small talk.
  3. Be prepared to deviate. It’s good to prepare your interview questions in advance, because that gives you a thread for discussion. Planning ahead gives you a better shot at covering the more interesting topics. However, if you rely too much on your prepared questions, you could miss some interesting opportunities for exploration on the fly. Keep your ears open for those and go after them.
  4. Offer multiple forms of content. This is a strategy that takes advantage of one of the interview’s greatest assets: its malleability. As a best practice, capture your interview on film. From there, it should be easy to extract the audio and write up a transcript (especially if you’ve already written the answers beforehand). Making your interviews available in multiple formats can greatly increase the number of people you reach.. and quite possibly, their level of satisfaction with your content.
  5. Invest in distribution. Finally, remember that your material isn’t going to be effective unless it’s seen first; sitting on your website in isolation won’t do it much good. Instead, you need to invest heavily in distribution. Share the interview with your social media followers, submit it to social bookmarking sites, and support your followers who share and comment on your work. Then work with your interviewee to have that person share the interview with his or her audience, and watch for cross-promotional opportunities, such as if the interviewee has a blog or podcast on which to promote your interview.

If you employ the above strategies, you’ll be able to create a landmark interview. Even if you’re new to the content scene, the authority of your interviewee will be enough to carry the piece and make it worth your initial investment.

If you’re successful, you can invest in more, and turn your strategy into an interview series. Then you’ll be able to interview bigger and bigger influencers.