“So the point of the interview,” the company’s PR person said, “will be to share how the company helped the interviewee?’
“That’s the meta-message,” I agreed, “and it makes a great starting point. But the real point of the interview is to listen for something really interesting to our readers. With any luck, we get that, and then that that becomes the focus of the article.”
“Of course,” she laughed. “I tend to think about the plug.”
“Sure, but if the article’s not interesting to read, your visitors won’t make it down to the plug.”
I told her about how, when I was writing for a hospital in our state, I interviewed a surgeon who explained to me that people’s organs are all in different places. You don’t really know, apparently, just where the bit you’re going to work on is until you cut the patient open and look.
“My mind has just been blown,” she said.
Exactly. Once you find the interesting, entertaining, or useful thing that can become the main point of your article or blog post, you’re in a position to write something that visitors will find worthwhile. Naturally, you dig deeper in the interview and get lots of interesting and useful details on that main point — and then you weave the plug in subtly.
Since we’re human, we tend to have our goals and desires at the top of our minds. For businesspeople, that can mean that we think about the plug — the thing we want to convince our readers to think about — first. We’re all excited about our products and services, so we figure our readers will be too. The goal of the online content is simple: to sell our stuff.
Since our readers are also human, though, they’re thinking about their own goals and desires. They don’t care whether we sell our stuff or not. If anything, their goal may be to avoid being sold to — even if they have problems that could be solved by our stuff. The goal of our online content should always be to help, interest, entertain, and delight our readers.
By doing these things we earn the right to plug our goods and services.