The Art and Effectiveness of the Tech Interview

Content marketing can be a key component of your outbound and inbound campaigns but what if you’re new to the product segment and don’t have internal expertise?  One possible solution is an interview with a recognized subject matter expert (SME)!  During my time marketing Hadoop and Big Data training, I was put in the difficult position of not having an internal subject matter expert when we launched.  But it was crucial that my company establish thought leadership and credibility in this new training market so I knew I would have to rely on my technology partner, Cloudera.  A leader in Hadoop software, Cloudera had on its staff the founder and creator of Hadoop- Doug Cutting.  But as you can guess, Doug is a Big Data rock star and in high demand but after repeated requests, Cloudera graciously set up an interview for me with Doug. 

Doug Cutting, founder and creator of Hadoop
Doug Cutting, founder and creator of Hadoop

The reason why interviews work so well is that there really is a minimal time commitment for your SME, typically you can do it in under 30 minutes.  And as long as you’re comfortable doing the interview, you’ll have all the resources you’ll need outside of a phone line and recording system.  Some of my guidelines are below:

  • Draft up 10 or 15 questions in increasing detail for review by your SME or partner.  Use a good mix of forward and backward-looking questions.  
  • Mix up the questions from practical and detailed to more offbeat and personal, you want to have some fun with the interview.  
  • Set up a conference line to record the interview for transcription purposes, make sure your SME understands that he/she is being recorded.
  • As you start the interview, warm up your SME with the broader questions to prepare them for the more detailed questions.  
  • Keep the conversation lively and informal, you’re more likely to get interesting tid-bits that way. Provide encouragement for your SME because there’s always some stress involved. 
  • Take 2 or 3 hours to transcribe the audio content to a document or use a transcription service to assist (it can be a painful process).  
  • Smooth out the language and verbal clutter within the transcript and go through final review with SME. 
  • Post your great new content online for your audience and leverage that interview article in your outbound marketing efforts.  

It’s really a pretty quick and painless process outside of the transcription part of things.  I really enjoy interviews because you can bring both humanity and expertise out to your audience in 30 minutes or so.  And the mantra of social media is always about authenticity and real-time information which makes an interview a perfect content candidate.  

In the end when it comes to your technology marketing, it’s important to have technology rock-stars on your side like Doug Cutting. Establishing technical credibility creates a halo-effect on your offerings.  If you don’t have a rock-star, well it’s on you to find one or create one. And then generate great marketing stories to influence your prospects and audience!   Techies tend to trust other techies because they speak the same language and an interview is one of the best and easiest ways to create engaging marketing content…

Ron Wen


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