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Interviews are great content: a technical guide

Mar 25, 2019

For the last four years OnlineHub has managed the online marketing of The 24 Hour Plays in aid of Dublin Youth Theatre. Roseanne is on the board of Dublin Youth Theatre. In this blogpost she shares how she creates keyword-rich content, quickly for The 24 Hour Plays: Dublin website and their Facebook and Twitter.

Getting ready to kick off The 24 Hour Plays: Dublin 2019
Getting ready to kick off The 24 Hour Plays: Dublin 2019 Photo credit www.alcraigphoto.com

The 24 Hour Plays in aid of Dublin Youth Theatre has taken place at The Abbey Theatre for seven of its eight years. In that time this gala event has raised over €100,000 for the organisation. Every year about 60 actors, directors, playwrights and theatre professionals from all over Ireland give their time and energy to create this unique night of theatre to benefit the future theatre makers of the world. It all happens in 24 hours over a weekend in late January or early February and it is the biggest buzz ever.

Zero budget

As there is little budget to be spared for advertising, I had to come up with a way of leveraging the star power and reach of all these busy theatre-makers who very kindly agreed to take part in the production. All OnlineHub’s work on this project is pro-bono at a very busy time of year for some of our e-commerce clients. So I also had to be sensible about the time I could commit to the project. I had to consider how I could automate some of the processes.

While we love our partners we need more to tweet about than how wonderful they are.

We needed a content feed to keep our social media channels busy and to mix up the message from “Buy a ticket” and “Thanks partners” and to also give back some keyword rich link love to our participants. We needed something that would encourage our highly networked participants to share our content: there’s only so many times we can expect them to share a link to buy tickets! To this end I came up with the idea of interviewing the participants. I think the process I developed could be used in many other industries to help create content with your collaborators and colleagues. It could also be a really effective way to create blog posts about key staff in an organisation or a selection of guest posts for your company blog.

How did we develop our Q&As?

First we came up with our questions. We created four questionnaires with about five questions each. We kept the tone light and friendly and similar in style to what we would be using on the blog itself. We hoped this would encourage a similar response and generally it did.

The reason we created four questionnaires instead of just one was because the content is all being shared over about 3 months. That could be up to 3 Q&As a week so it was essential to mix things up a little to keep it interesting.

The questionnaires generally include a questions about being young, being a teenager, ambitions, impact of theatre on their young selves and so on. This creates keyword rich text links back to Dublin Youth Theatre’s website as well which is great for the main site’s search engine optimisation

Fair exchange

We always link to the participant’s preferred online presence and again this is great for their Search Engine Optimisation. Therefore including questions about their experience to date and upcoming productions sends keyword rich links to their work too. A fair exchange for the hard work they all put in over the weekend!

We change some of the questions every year as we do have some amazing participants who return to participate in The 24 Hour Plays: Dublin. We also try to include something topical e.g. two years ago we asked questions relating to DYT celebrating 40 years. This year we included a question about moving house as DYT are in the process of looking for a new home. Again we’re always thinking about those keywords!

Nothing fancy at all

You can see an example of one of the questionnaires here. If you have a peek at that you’ll see it’s nothing fancy at all.

These questionnaires were created in Google Forms so the results are collated in Google Sheets. There are, of course, other options for creating questionnaires like SurveyMonkey or Typeform but being familiar with Google Forms back when I first started I lazily have stuck with it. “File/Make a copy…” FTW :)

An image of all the Zaps ready to go.

Then the magic happens. I created a zap in Zapier which takes the results of the questions and automagically adds them to a draft blog post in WordPress. I even add the questions and basic formatting to the Zap so that all I have to do is review for typos, add in head-shots and productions shots. Then I use Yoast Plugin to check how I’m doing SEO-wise for keywords and once everyone is happy I hit publish.

This exercise also has the added benefit of giving me lots of content to work with on social media in the run-up to the event. It also lets me get to know the Creative Team a little so when the Social Media Team are live-updating the event we can add in information about their previous work, their younger selves, their prior experience (or not!) on the Abbey Stage and so on. It all adds a little colour and fun!

Did it work?

The proof is in the pudding, of course! This content was mixed with regular “Buy your ticket now” updates, reshares of content from participants and alumni and announcements about the Creative Team as they signed up to the event. The latter usually got the biggest boost from the social algorithms as there was a lot of interest in the business about who was mad enough to sign up this year :)

Coupled with an excellent press and publicity strategy created by O’Doherty Communications we achieved what we set out to do. Reader, we sold all the tickets! As this is an annual event we have a targets every week that we know we achieved in previous years so we can tell how we are doing beyond watching every seat sell.

Bring the GLAMOUR to your business blog

So how could you use a system like this for your business blog that doesn’t have the glamour of the stars of (Irish) stage and screen as fodder interviewees?

  1. Create a questionnaire for new employees to introduce them seamlessly to customers and colleagues. You might think “Who cares?” but people are super nosy and always want to know who’s gone where. Also it allows you to underline to your employees from Day 1 that your business is an online business.
  2. Create a regular feature like Prosperity Recruitment’s Thank God it’s Monday feature. Folk working in Digital respond to very open questions about their work-life and their life’s work.
  3. Invite customers to fill out a fun questionnaire. Do as I do with The 24 Hour Plays: Dublin and include questions that will create keyword rich text. For example, if you are a hairdresser, you might ask “If you could have anyone else’s hair for a day who would it be and why?” Don’t be afraid to get crazy with those questions!
  4. Approach people working in the same industry in different territories (so they are not competitors!) and ask them questions that allow them to share their experience, case studies and expert advice. Hopefully they will reciprocate and ask you for a guest post…
  5. Approach people working in complementary industries and ask them to respond to your questionnaires. It might be difficult to create an open enough set of questions that it could apply to any industry but use your own as a jumping off point. Similar to the examples in 2 and 3 above, relate it to your industry to keep it relevant. For example, an estate agent might approach an interior designer, an architect, a BER Assessor, a mortgage broker and a surveyor to respond to their questionnaire. “We are in the business of buying and selling homes here at Acme Estate Agents and have loads of knowledge about that side of the business. Based on your expertise, what is the top tip that you would give someone planning to sell their home.” You could, of course, vary this for someone buying a new home.
  6. Invite regular contractors to share their approach and what they bring to the table. For example, if you are a theatre company or arts centre you might be able to create separate questionnaires for your visiting crew, actors or artists.
  7. Ask your clients to respond to a questionnaire in lieu of requesting a testimonial or writing a case study. This would be far more interesting to a potential client and, ultimately, better for SEO.
  8. Ask people who are like your clients to respond to a questionnaire about their experience in your sector. So for example I might ask people to share their experience of online marketing: the biggest challenges for their company, what works well for them, what or who inspires them, their favourite online marketing blogger/ podcaster/ YouTuber/ Instagrammer and more. I am sure there would plenty of inspiration for current clients, prospective clients and myself in their responses.

The benefits are HUGE!

The potential benefits to this kind of outreach are huge:

  1. Regular, keyword rich content would be great for search engine optimisation. Also a different voice writing on a related subject might introduce other industry key phrases which will again be a boon to your SEO.
  2. The added reach on social networks if you invite others to collaborate or contribute to your site is excellent.
  3. A regular feature, interlinked on your own site develops the site’s structure and unique content for search.
  4. It will allow you to develop your real world network as you reach out beyond your industry.
  5. While we can’t assume anything we would hope that your interviewee might return the favour and invite you to write a guest post. This will strengthen your authority and PageRank with Google and expose you to their networks on a different occasion. You will, of course, be returning the favour by letting your networks know that your content is featured on your contact’s blog. All grist to the search and social mill!
  6. A quicker and easier blogpost than writing one entirely from scratch so a day off for you. Hah! Chance would be a fine thing!

One final tip if you do decide to give this a whirl: I would recommend that you run the final draft by your respondent before publishing. This will give them a chance to correct any misunderstandings or miscommunications. This is especially necessary if there is a lag between their response and your scheduled publication. They are doing you a favour and your proposed date of publication may clash with an event of their own so don’t be over-reliant on their input to maintain your publishing schedule.

Guest post on this blog

With all of this in mind maybe you would like to contribute to my blog? I would welcome you to be my guest by responding to this questionnaire.

What do you think of my approach? Would you use it for your own blog? Do you have any questions about it? Would you like me to set up similar for your company? Leave a comment below or get in touch to discuss today.

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