How can healthcare marketers interview like Oprah?
As healthcare content creators, our interviews with patients and providers may not get the attention of Oprah’s celebrity conversations. But we can still pick up tips to interview like Oprah to draw out our subjects. Her techniques can bring out the golden nuggets to bring the content we produce alive for our readers. When we speak with a patient about their experience or a physician about their care, it’s a rich opportunity to discover something beyond the facts and figures. The result is communication with a fresh perspective to help patients and consumers understand and make more informed health decisions.
Here are 10 practices to interview like Oprah.
1. Do your homework
When Oprah talks to an author, she’s read the book, marked some pages with her favorite passages and knows where she wants to explore the author’s thinking.
When healthcare writers get 20 minutes with a busy physician, we go in already knowing enough to ask good questions. We’ve done our ‘investi-googling’ of the doctor’s bio, their specialty, their health system or practice websites. We may have to confirm what we’ve found from our research, but we can move quickly beyond the basics to find out what unique contributions the subject matter expert (SME) can add.
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4. Exude authentic interest
After anchoring a daily talk show for 20 years, Oprah likely had some days that were a slog just to get through. But on stage, she always showed interest in her guests and what they had to say. Eye contact, nodding, leaning in — all the signals that she was listening to what they had to say.
With Zoom as a primary means of SME interviews, writers often have to be on camera. It’s not easy to take notes, think about follow-up questions and still show your interviewee that you’re listening. But the extra effort to convey that you’re paying attention and interested, by looking up at your screen or providing an encouraging ‘oh’ or ‘hmm’pays off. Recording your interview for later reference can free you up to listen more intently without worrying about taking complete notes.
7. Ask something unexpected
Before Oprah, there was Barbara Walters. For decades, Barbara would make celebrities cry and world leaders squirm on TV. While tears and discomfort are not a healthcare writer’s goal, asking something that brings out feelings, not just facts, can become the best quotes in a piece.
For instance, a cancer patient discussing her decision to have a double mastectomy because it had a 5% better survival rate than another treatment told a writer, “Every little percent counts when it comes to your life. I wanted to see my daughter graduate and be a grandma.”
There’s no need to make Tom Cruise jump on a couch, but getting a heartfelt human response can make your content more compelling.
9. Follow-up and create a moment
Have you ever wondered if all those cars Oprah gave to audience members in 2004 are still on the road? Probably not. But you can bet every audience member remembers that moment when Oprah proclaimed, “You get a car!” There are some moments in our lives we remember for decades.
While you can’t give your SME an extravagant gift, you can create a moment they may remember. Take the time to write a thank you note, send a link to the finished content, share an article or congratulate them on an accomplishment. There are many ways you could create a moment that lets your SME know your appreciation goes beyond one conversation.
10. Sweat the details
This practice should be first on the list — but it’s the least glamorous. Oprah has people to take care of setting up her interviews. For your interviews, someone (probably you) must lock down the logistics. That means confirming the date and time (in the right time zone), communicating whether it’s a 1-1 phone call, conference call, Zoom or in person.
Make sure you also find out:
- Who else needs to be in the interview?
- Can you record?
- Will the SME review the draft?
- What are the next steps and deadlines?
It’s not exactly sexy, but everything else depends on it!
Healthcare writers know it’s a privilege to get to interview patients, physicians and other experts and share their stories. Like Oprah, we want to make the most of that opportunity. These ten tips can help you interview like the Queen.
Need healthcare experts who can interview like Oprah? If you want to work with healthcare writers who will treat your experts and patients like royalty, WriterGirl is ready. Drop us a line to learn how we can help you create engaging healthcare content.