The Art of the Copywriter’s Interview

There are a few schools of thought on interviewing.

Some copywriters feel like a questionnaire does the trick. Indeed, when strategy isn’t the goal, a cleverly worded questionnaire can tease out playful trivia, basic philosophies, and a useful soundbite or two.

But more often than not, a questionnaire is a static document. It’s lifeless, detached, and blind. Responses are hit or miss; even the most long-winded among them fail to guarantee substance, much less the vivid stories, details, and predilections that bubble forth naturally in conversation.

That’s why at MarketSmiths, we start 98% of our website copy engagements with a live interview. The most seasoned among us—particularly our journalists—rarely prepare questions: we know how much we need to learn, and we let the current of the conversation dictate the means.

Live interviews—pardon the pun—can’t play dead. Even the shiest subject has a tough time dodging the flashlight of an intent and multi-faceted questioner. When conducted well, an interview dances to the music of human caprice. It can peek into hidden nooks, sweep out cobwebs, pause to let in discovery and delight. It’s only by exploration that we obtain a 360-degree, robust, dynamic picture of your business.

In contrast, canned questionnaires push rigid agendas. They pursue closed-end inquiries, leading to potentially closed-minded marketing tactics. For clients, they can feel like homework. For writers interested in teasing out—then digging into—the substantive, they feel hollow, impersonal, and unhelpful.

At MarketSmiths, we know that the devil’s in the big principles….and all those delicious details. So we let you tell us what’s important—not the other way around.

A champion of high-end content, Jean is a living tribute to copywriting for humans. In 2012, at a TEDx talk, she declared her now widely viewed “War Against Bland.” The visionary founder of MarketSmiths, Jean leads her growing team to captivate, inspire, and motivate readers. She has helped thousands of global clients generate revenue from words (up to 12,000% ROI), and transformed the writing of hundreds of seminar attendees at the SXSW Interactive Festival (2014 and 2015), SXSW V2V (2014), the Small Business Summit (2014, NYC), and other venues.

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