Interviewing a subject matter expert can be one of the most time-consuming and frustrating parts of writing copy. If done correctly, it can also be the most important thing you can do to create a successful sales piece. The interviewee has knowledge you may not be able to get anywhere else. However, the interviewee may be speaking “a different language” that you need to interpret or translate into layman’s terms, and then sell. Properly worded questions can help you uncover differences between your hospital (or whatever company you’re writing for) and your competitor’s. A well-conducted interview will also give you an outsider’s perspective on your hospital or clinic. A good copywriter can uncover all of the information quickly in a short, fact-finding interview.

So, knowing how important the interview is — and that you only get to do it once — what steps can you take to prepare?

Clearly know your topic and the purpose for writing this marketing piece. Whether you’re writing a feature article, a new Web site or a flyer you’ll be handing out at a health fair, you need to clearly define your objectives. For example: Is your goal to increase awareness of a new facility? To educate physicians on a new procedure and when it is best used?

Schedule the interview right away. Most subject matter experts, whether they are physicians, engineers or marketers, are busy and can’t drop everything for 30 minutes to talk to you. Call to set up an appointment now for a couple days out. This shows you are respectful of the busy interviewee’s time and gives both of you time to prepare. Waiting until the last minute is a mistake!

Find out where you can go to learn about your topic. This is a question you should ask when you are first hired for the assignment. Whether you will be gathering materials that have already been published or researching information on a complicated subject online, you need to start thinking about this immediately. The more complicated the subject or procedure, the more difficult it may be to find information. It may also be why you are writing this piece — because there is a need to disseminate the information to the public or physicians.

Know where the marketing piece is going. If it’s going in a magazine or newspaper, you had better check out the publication. What are the other articles like? Who advertises in this publication? What concerns these readers? How can you grab their attention? Also takes notes on the tone and voice of the publication. What grade level is it written to? If this is a Web site or brochure, where will it be handed out and how will it be used? Learn as much as you can about your audience and how they will be introduced to your piece.

Prepare interview questions ahead of time. Preparing ten or so interview questions ahead of time forces you to plan ahead, so you can (hopefully) ask intelligent questions and not generic questions. It also shows the interviewee that you’ve done your best to prepare and have tried not to waste their time. This earns their respect and can make for a more fruitful interview.

If you found this information helpful, you will also enjoy my book, Healthcare Copywriting Secrets Revealed, which goes into much more depth on interviewing techniques and ways to get the most out of your interview. I give you specific questions to ask and great places to go for background research, among other things.

Here’s what Bob Bly had to say about my book, “The healthcare market is huge and lucrative for freelance copywriters, and every copywriter who works in it can profit from Kelly's book." Visit to learn more.

Author's Bio: 

Author of Healthcare Copywriting Secrets Revealed, Kelly Robbins is an award winning copywriter and marketing coach/consultant. She also publishes The Healthcare Marketing Connection (, a free e-zine on healthcare marketing tips. Contact Kelly to receive her free report, "5 critical things you must know when writing for the healthcare industry" - or 303-460-0285.