Years ago, I was doing a brochure update for a university. The old brochure was basically text written by the dean and images of the school. We wanted to include images of students and the graphic designer developed a beautiful layout that would require a photoshoot. As the client was approving the design concept and photoshoot, I asked if I could get quotes from the students to add to the body copy.
I remember that the dean shrugged it off. He didn’t want to pay for additional time on the project.
However, I prioritized getting those quotes.
As the students waited in line to model for their photos, I and an intern, ran through a list of powerful questions and recorded their responses.
When we added these next to the images, the dean was stunned. They represented the program beautifully while adding authenticity to the statements. Going forward, he insisted that we get quotes from any of the students we used in our brochures.
How to Get Good Interview Quotes
Content marketing materials always benefit from quotes, especially when they capture the heart. I have combined my skill sets from freelance writing and content marketing to create a list of question types that always get a good response.
Ask them to bust a myth
When I was interviewing Shelly Andrews, Administrative Director at BRACC, I could tell that she was a passionate person. However, most of the key information in the article was a bit dry. They won a nonprofit award for “Lynchburg Living” magazine but, the heart behind their work didn’t shine through in the statistics or programming.
So, I asked her to bust a myth. I said, “What’s something people always get wrong about BRACC?”
She told me, “I find it humorous when I tell people what I do. They’ll say, ‘It takes a special person to do what you do.’ And I always say, ‘Not really.’ Everyone that works here is very special. But anyone would walk in here and just love what they see. It doesn’t take a special person because there is so much joy.”
That quote shaped the tone throughout my article. Helping adults with autism can be perceived as difficult, thankless work. But, Andrew’s response flipped that trope on its head.
Ask them to start at the beginning
Origin stories help you uncover why someone took an action. In the case of Nickie Gentry, owner at Divine Designs & Delights, her lovely energy radiated through our conversation. She’s upbeat and I wanted to capture the spirit that launched her carefully curated collection of home goods and womenswear.
So, I asked her to start at the beginning. She began her business by making wreaths around the holidays. They were so popular that she expanded her taste-making abilities to a whole shop (and a Christmas store).
Ask them to tell a story
In my conversation with Sandra, “LULU” Mayberry, owner at Lulu’s Closet, I noticed that she didn’t fit the typical entrepreneurial mold. She runs a consignment store that specializes in women’s plus-size clothing and she was passionate about finding beautiful clothes for all sizes. So, I asked her what it was like when she went shopping.
She recounted her frustrating experiences, looking through straight size stores, “…even the shoes didn’t fit.” That little thought encapsulated the universal struggle for consumers who are tired of designers and retailers who don’t want to dress all sizes.
Ask them to give an example
When I spoke with Tosha Worrell, owner at Modern Day Boutique, I could tell that she really liked helping her customers shop. I wanted to capture that energy so, I asked her to tell me a story about a customer that she helped.
Worrell gave an example of someone who said they couldn’t find their size on the clothing racks. But, Worrell insisted “Try it on. Try it on!” because any good retailer knows that sizes are inconsistent among manufacturers. The customer found several perfect items.
That statement energetic, friendly urging allowed Worrell’s personality, and her store’s vibe to shine through.
Ask them to talk about challenges
Monogram Love has an interesting backstory. Karen Betham, the owner, has been thinking about opening the business for years. Her family also owns the printing company Universal Ts.
However, she delayed her dream because her family needed her. When her children, especially her special needs son, were younger, she had the idea to do monogramming for all those southern lady needs. But, she waited because she wanted to do it right.
She explained, “When you do a business, you have to put your heart into it,” when I asked her about the challenges in opening the store.
Ask them what question they wanted to answer
In most of my interviews, the best quotes come at the end. By that time, the subject has loosened up and trusts me enough to share a little bit of themselves. The last question I always ask is, “What question do you wish I asked you?”
People are often startled by this. And they always have one last thing they want to say.
When I was talking to Carol Barker, an LPN at The Summit, we discussed how to seniors can keep track of medications. She explained that they should always keep their own list of medications with prescribing instructions with all of their emergency information because “The hospital doesn’t always have a list.”
That little thought was so profound. You can imagine the difference this would make in a senior’s care during an emergency.
Ask them to get controversial
If the mood is right, you can ask your subject to get a little controversial. Often I say, “What do you wish everyone knew?” in relation to the topic.
People always have one thing that they want to discuss. In the case of Cindy Draws, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Virginian, she said, “The biggest misconception is that there is nothing to do in Lynchburg.”
For a story about conference venues, it was difficult to get more than specifications from the people I was interviewing. But, by asking this question, I got some robust opinions to use as pull quotes.
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