“When I interview people, and they give me an immediate answer, they’re often not thinking. So I’m silent. I wait. Because they think they have to keep answering. And it’s the second train of thought that’s the better answer.” — Robin Leach
We all know that good, solid research is part of what we must do as copywriters.
There are times, however, that poring over company literature, browsing the Internet, and visiting the library isn’t quite enough to give you what you need. At times, you must get additional facts from product experts employed by your client. These experts might include engineers, designers, salespeople, product managers, and brand managers.
Journalists will always say that a face-to-face interview is better than a phone interview. And from their perspective, I agree with that. When you sit across the table from someone, you can observe their mannerisms, their dress, and their appearance. And you can learn a lot about people just from their surroundings.
But as copywriters, we don’t always need to be sitting across the table from our interviewee. This is because we conduct a different kind of interview than is conducted by a reporter. We are not interested in the subject’s colorful personality (or lack thereof) or history. At the risk of dating myself, like Sgt. Joe Friday would say on the old police series, Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
Since we are generally only seeking straight facts and product information of a technical nature, there’s no need to get up close to the subject — a telephone interview will suffice quite nicely. And there are other benefits of a phone interview over face-to-face: A phone interview takes less of the expert’s time and busy managers appreciate the efficiency of this method. Also, it’s easier to take notes by phone. Sometimes the person sitting across the table that’s being interviewed gets nervous at the sight of a tape recorder or the interviewer scribbling notes on a pad of paper. Then they’re inclined to peer over the pad to see what you’re writing.
While those concerns go out the window when you conduct a phone interview, it doesn’t mean that you just wing it. Here are some suggestions for coming off professionally and getting the most out of your interview:
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