Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with VeraContent’s Shaheen Samavati and Kyler Canastra, on how to create thought leadership content:

Kyler Canastra 0:12
Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. I’m Kyler Canastra.

Shaheen Samavati 0:15
I’m Shaheen Samavati. We’re your hosts of The Content Mix podcast brought to you by multilingual content marketing agency VeraContent. Today we’re going to be talking about sourcing expertise for B2B content creation.

Kyler Canastra 0:28
Subject Matter Experts often don’t know how or have time to write. And good writers often aren’t subject matter experts. Finding both can be expensive or impossible. So how are you supposed to create thought leadership pieces for your company?

Shaheen Samavati 0:43
This is a problem, we’ve helped a lot of clients solve it very content, and oftentimes, the solution can be tapping into the power of a good interview.

Kyler Canastra 0:50
So today, we’re going to be talking about the processes we’ve established for creating thought leadership content and best practices for interviewing. So let’s jump right into this topic. So Shaheen, in your opinion, how do you find the right writers to create thought leadership content, which is the million dollar question of today’s interview?

Shaheen Samavati 1:08
Yeah, so I think just as you alluded to, like, there’s this kind of, like, problem where you have people who are really expert in their subject, but they’re not good at writing. And then you have people who are really good at writing and maybe don’t know anything about the subject. And I think a lot of times, content marketers, content marketing teams, are looking for just these perfect people that are really difficult profiles to find that have both things. And I think, well, obviously, if someone is a thought leader, and an excellent writer, they probably already have a platform, and they’re probably difficult to access. “So that’s why I mean, I think if you have to choose between one thing or the other, the more important thing is to work with great writers, because a great writer can always learn new topics. And as personally, as someone with a background in journalism, I have a lot of experience of like, always having to write about different things. Like when you’re a journalist, you’re constantly just writing about whatever the news is in your in your subject area. But like, every, every time, it’s a completely new, clean learning curve, and you have to talk to others source the information from them, and then put that into, into an article that is accessible for like a reader who maybe doesn’t have the same level of expertise as, as the people you’re interviewing, exact. So I think those the concepts of journalism definitely shouldn’t be applied in content marketing, and that in the same way, yeah, it’s journalists can’t be experts in everything they’re worried about either someone who does writing for, for a company blog, for example.

Kyler Canastra 2:55
Now, this like kind of going on that, like in another episode that we’ve done, we talked about how your journalistic experience like impacted our company, like very content and what it is, and I think it’s interesting, because one of our core values is like relentless curiosity. And I think like, we chose that I got to be part of that experience, too. Like, it helped me with the core values. So we got to do a lot of brainstorming. And I think we chose that one. And it really like, reflects this topic well, because I think we have a lot of great writers, but like you need to be relentlessly curious in order to learn about new topics and the different clients that we work with. And it’s part of our day to day job. So I think like that’s such a big part, like a good writer is relentlessly curious. And they’re going to be able to learn new things and then apply their great writing skills to the content they produce. So

Shaheen Samavati 3:41
yeah, absolutely. It’s a great place. Totally agree. Yeah, and that is like totally the spirit of that value. It’s like, we only want to work with people who are really going to dig into the topic and truly understand it. Like, we’re not like looking to create superficial content.

Kyler Canastra 3:57
That’s for sure. Now, I think it’s also like worth mentioning a recent case study that we’ve done very content. And I am excited to talk about this a little bit because I had the experience of writing for this client, and then also being the project manager for this client. And the client is called Red K. And they’re a consulting firm that transforms organizations by optimizing sales, marketing, customer experience and other processes with like really high end technology tools such like sugar, CRM, and Salesforce. And they were really when they came to us, and we’ve been working with them for numerous years now. And they came to us because they’re really looking for an agency that can help them produce high quality content, especially like with their special not special, they’re very nice style and tone of voice. And a lot of the thought leadership work we’re doing with them. We’re writing on behalf of the CMO. So it really has to be high quality and they were looking to invest a lot of their time and energy in like teaching an agency how to write about their topics. So that way it became like this, you know, well greased content production engine or machine. And I think every year we produce about like 100, over 100 blog posts for them. We’ve also done a lot of case studies created, I think six in total, so far in English and in Spanish, has brought a lot of traffic to their website and has helped the blog in general become like one of the top 10 in the UK. And I think it’s really interesting with this client, because not only are you trying to, you know, learn a new topic and become these thought leaders in this very, very niche field. But also, we’re doing it in two languages, because right k has headquarters in Madrid, and Spain and also in London in the UK. So it’s like bilingual content that we have to work in two different languages on a very nice topic. And I think in my experience, for example, I didn’t know anything about the topic when I started writing for them. But I think I was a great writer, or at least I was very thorough with research and I really wanting to learn about the topic. So it’s definitely like an interesting case study, definitely check it out on the website. I don’t want to like shamelessly plug it. But I do think like, because we did this case client story very recently, for like about this client, we came up with this topic too. And I think it’s very interesting that we like can refer to this throughout today’s interview.

Shaheen Samavati 6:14
Yeah, so like, maybe you could talk about like the kinds of topics that we typically write for write about for red k, because I know, like you said that they are basically consultants who help people implement different software tools. So it’s a lot of like technical contents, maybe give me an example of like the, yeah, a couple of the topics we’ve done are,

Kyler Canastra 6:34
a lot of the topics are really focused on like the new tools that are coming out and the updates that happened to these tools, because a lot of read case work in general is becoming this consultants of helping different companies to this whole digital transformation. And they offer this like very boutique and niche service. So a lot of it’s like updates on the new technologies. But also, I remember a lot of the work that I did was about customer service tools, and like how, basically how, like the tools and technologies are coming out to like streamline customer service, and how there’s tools now that basically like if someone calls the company, it automatically comes up with their profile information, their whole client history comes up on the screen. And a lot of the so we do a lot of the thought leadership based on a lot of research and like most of the research lot of recent research and publications about these topics. So a lot of it like in this case, and the work I was doing with customer service, and the different tools that can help streamline that and give your client like the best experience possible. A lot of that was based on like different sociological studies and different research that was basically like saying how like little things like this, like streamlining your processes can make your client happier, and make them you know, buy more have higher sales, etc. So it was kind of showing those trends. So it’s definitely very specific topic for sure.

Shaheen Samavati 7:54
So yeah, talking about like, where to like source expertise from, like, I think, both with read gain with other clients, like obviously. A huge source of knowledge is internal knowledge. And I think that’s oftentimes the best place to start because when you’re creating thought leadership content you really want to highlight the internal expertise of the company to show your authority and knowledge about what you do at the company. So a lot of times, a great tool for us, as content marketers is to conduct interviews, and as I was saying before, in my background as a journalist, I know how important it is, an interview is really unique because it’s a primary source of content. It’s going to be different than anything else that’s out there on the internet for the most part. I mean, you’re getting a unique perspective from an individual person, and that’s going to give you the chance to create something really different rather than only researching and rewriting something that’s already out there. Of course, when we’re getting to know a new topic a lot of it is also based on secondary research as it isn’t journalism as well. You need to read everything else that’s out there and put your own take on it. And obviously that can also inform the questions that you ask during your interview. Then another like source that we sometimes use is featuring external experts. I was like I think internal experts is like preferable but it can also be interesting also, it can create synergies for the company as well. Just having these opportunities to interact with other experts in the field. It can be a chance for like cross promotion with other organizations appearing on their social media and things like that. So that’s also interesting. And then one thing that I know we’ve done with red K and with other clients also is like repurposing from first other first hand sources such as like webinar First, and I know, maybe you can give you an example color of like, webinars. We’ve done that with red K Yeah,

Kyler Canastra 10:06
well, I was gonna say like for this the client, though speaking from my own experience, we kind of done all the different methods that you just mentioned. So like one of them was like, we do this blog, weekly blog posts for them. And it’s from the CMOS point of view. And I think he invested a lot of time with me, for example, when I started on the account, to like, train me to give me his perspective on the topic to really understand so that way, and obviously, we did a lot of touch base with him, but we were able to take his like, throughout the collaboration, it wasn’t just one training session, it was many, throughout the different many years that we’ve worked with him. And that has given me a lot of insight into like, what, how he wants to present his ideas, and, you know, kind of Yeah, I guess like that really helps helps me understand His purpose, and what he wants to get out the content. So like working alongside with him, but then we also, within the organization itself, we’ve done like different like employee interviews, to kind of highlight the different members of their team, and how they’re so essential to like the different processes they have and the services they offer. So we were able to do an interview with them and record the interview and come up with the questions that we wanted. And like you said, great firsthand. First, yeah, first person, like firsthand, like, you know, quotes we could use. And it really helps when you have that, because when you have the copy of the interview recorded, then you can use it in many different ways. And then also, we did different webinars. So a lot of the times they have done webinars, both in English and Spanish, with their different clients. So like it’d be, you know, a member of their Medicaid team, interviewing one of their clients to talk about, you know, how right, okay helps them with their digital transformation within the organization. And with that, we were also able to go to the webinar, ask our own questions as well. So it kind of putting our journalistic hats on in this case, and then we also would have the recording of it. So it was all different, like factors. And we were able to kind of, you know, go into the webinar, knowing what kind of information we wanted to get, and then curate the questions that we wanted to ask them as well. So I think like interviewing is probably one of the easiest ways in terms of like to produce this type of content, because it allows the expert to really showcase their skills in a comfortable and natural environment. Yeah, and

Shaheen Samavati 12:16
in the course of the interview, you often get enough content creates, like, so many ideas come out that you create several pieces of content around that, right. Yeah. I know, like one challenge that a lot of companies face is like, how do you get people to, to make time for doing these interviews? First of all, some sometimes there’s, you know, that we talked about how it’s like, asking them to do an interview is easier than like asking them to write something. Because, like, that’s, like, really a big ask, I think when it’s when it’s someone outside your department, I know, like, some, in some cases, people, marketers try to get their colleagues to produce a piece of content for them. And I feel like that’s almost an impossible ask. Because that really requires like a lot of organization and skills that they might not have. But that interview is an easier ask. But still, it’s something that has to fit into their workflow and has to be prioritized. And so it’s like, how do you convince your colleagues to make time for for doing this kind of an interview? Or if you’re working with agency to do the interview? And I think like, first of all, like there has to be like a process created around this. And there has to be buy in obviously, in like, it has to be a company wide priority has to be in line with the goals of the organization, and people have to understand why it’s important. But I think also like, if you, like have a really clear schedule and deadlines and okay, this is your date for the interview, this is on the calendar, you have to be there. Like, I mean, that’s it’s key for for getting, getting interviews done, of course, people might cancel because something else like claim meeting comes up or whatever, but But yeah, being as organized as possible, and, and being serious about it and being strict about the deadlines, I think really helps to get people on board with it. Also, like you said, I know. Like, a lot of times we think like thought leadership has to come from the C suite. And sometimes in they’re generally like the hardest people to pin down for an interview. And I think that the book can, it’s also worthwhile, obviously, to interview people, like there’s lots of other people on the team with knowledge, not only the executives, and maybe even more, like specialized knowledge. So, yeah, it can make sense to interview people at other levels of the company. But of course, like you said, with with red cane with other clients, we do ghostwriting on behalf of, of senior executives, and it’s, I mean, basically you can interview someone at a lower level. You I use their insights to even if you’re writing like ghostwriting for an executive, you can create that piece of content based on other interviews you’ve done, and then get approval from the executive, which is obviously, oftentimes much faster, easier process than doing an hour long interview with

Kyler Canastra 15:16
them. I think it’s like to go after them what you’re saying in terms of like, you know, not everyone has the skills to write, like, If someone asked you or me to write something, I’m sure we could, because that’s our field. And that’s what we’ve done in our career started in that with that passion. But I think like a software engineer, for example, is not going to be the one that’s, you know, the top writer in the art department, for example. So I think it’s the whole concept behind the interview is like, like you said, like, being prepared, I think it’s a really big part of it, because you really want the person to feel comfortable, because not everyone is going to be a great public speaker or feel comfortable, you know, in an interview, so a lot of it’s kind of make them feel comfortable, make them you know, have a good environment. So one thing you can do is prepare the questions in advance and share the questions with the interviewee before, so that way they have an idea, more or less of what to prepare, or what the conversation is going to be about. So they’re more at ease. And I also think another thing that I’ve done, I’ve seen, like good results is like, making sure you stay on time and the schedule. So you say like, it’s going to be 30 minute interview and make sure it’s 30 minutes, because you know, people have, you know, busy schedules, and they’re carving out time for you. So I think being that being concise and being to the point, and knowing what you’re gonna get out of interviews important as well. So yeah, I think like making sure that interviewer is comfortable with the topic and feels comfortable with you as like the interviewer is super important. But I guess like the question comes up to now is like, kind of who should be conducting these interviews? Because a lot of times, I think, in my experience, I was interested as like, even though we’re an agency, I was the one that was reaching out to the different employees or, you know, thought leaders or people that we needed to reach out to on behalf of the agency, which it’s because I think the clients that we work with really do trust us for that, but I don’t know, in your opinion, she came, and then we conducted the interviews as well. So it was kind of like the third party was doing everything. So in your opinion, who should be conducting the interview? Should it be someone within the organization? Do we trust people from outside?

Shaheen Samavati 17:15
What do you think? I think I think it can be either one, of course, but like, I think like the person actually doing the interview needs to be someone. I mean, I think they need to be someone who has experience with interviewing. So someone with a background in journalism, or Yeah, who just has done interviewing as part of their job as a content marketer, but who’s also a writer, like I think, ideally, it’s the same person who does the interview, who’s later gonna, like, turn it into the content. Although it doesn’t have, it doesn’t have to be for sure. Like you said in there. Like, we can also repurpose, you can have like a video interview that’s done by someone. And then a writer later takes that and it turns into the content. But of course, if you’re the one who’s going to be creating the content, you are going to target the questions in a way that’s going to, like lead to the, to the answers that you need for the content that you’re creating easier than repurposing something that’s, that’s been created by someone else, then you’re limited to what they’ve asked in the interview. And then, well, in the way we work at Berra, I mean, yeah, we have like project managers. And then we have, you know, writers and content creators. So it’s oftentimes, like the coordination side of it will be done by the project manager, actually, like setting up the interviews, but then the, then they’re usually conducted by a writer on our teams. So and we have different types of writers who are specialized in different types of projects. So of course, we work with the ones who, who are more journalistic, have more journalistic experience to do this type of work.

Kyler Canastra 18:48
It’s important to like that, you know, how to ask questions like that. And we mentioned to, like I mentioned that least, like preparing questions is super important, like, you know, sharing the questions with the interviewee to be well prepared for an interview. But like, I don’t know, if you have any other best practices Shaheen in mind, when you have done interviews before as a former journalist, as well, what are others, tips and tricks, I

Shaheen Samavati 19:11
think it’s really important to be prepared for the interview, but at the same time, you do have to leave it somewhat open ended, like you can’t just stick to the set list of questions or else it’s, it’s especially like, I mean, if you do that, it’s like, if you send people that the person you’re interviewing the questions in advance, they’re gonna like, think about it and come with their set answers. And it’s almost the same as if you just sent them a questionnaire. Whereas like, Yeah, I think the advantage of doing an in person interview is that things have like conversation leads to more interesting topics. Exactly. Your things come up off the cuff. So like, so I think it’s really important to like listen and adapt, because actually, the questions that you can come up with, as a writer who’s not really experienced in the topic, are probably not going to be as interesting as the topics that But experts themselves would want to, would come up with on their own. So it’s really interviewing is all about listening. And just kind of, you know, I would say prepare a few questions. So they know more or less in line what to expect, but leave a lot of time open for open conversation and letting them lead the conversation and then choosing the topics. Yeah,

Kyler Canastra 20:21
I think that’s a good thing to keep in mind, too, is like breaking the ice at the beginning as well. And just like, be a personable person as interviewer and, you know, just ask them some questions about how their day is going from like that, like, you really want to make them feel comfortable. And I think that’s a really good way of doing it as well. And to like, kind of go off of the question idea. When we used to do a lot of interviews for this podcast, we would interview a lot of different marketing experts here throughout Europe. A lot of times, I’d find like people being like, do I have to answer all the questions like 100% that way, or people would come in with all the answers prepared, which I would fully I totally understood in many cases, because English wasn’t people’s first language as well. And I totally get that and like, with my work with, right, okay, for example of how to do interviews in Spanish, and that’s obviously like, an extra step up for like, our extra factor, you have to keep in mind that you’re speaking in your second language, but I always would tell the people I was interviewing, like, yes, you can use that, but like, I’d prefer not for you to like, you know, stick to your script, or like, I want you to feel comfortable, just have a conversation with me, or like, pretend that we’re like at a coffee shop, and just very relaxed, because I think the best content comes out of those, like sporadic or spontaneous conversations that like stem come out of the different questions. And that’s where you get, like, the really interesting content that maybe you weren’t even expecting to talk about. So I think it’s like, if you make that person feel comfortable, then they’re gonna be like, their true self. And they’re going to share a lot of info comfortable enough to share with you with different insights.

Shaheen Samavati 21:45
Absolutely, yeah. And actually, when I, when I did work in newspapers, I mean, the best practice in professional journalism is to not send the questions in advance, it’s actually kind of like a faux PA. Yeah, like, I mean, in my, my training, as a journalist, it was always like, told that you like the best practices to, you know, you prepare, you come into the conversation with your questions ready, but you don’t, don’t send that to them in advance, or otherwise, they’re gonna, like, they’re not going to be spontaneous, and they’re not going to be as forthcoming in the meeting, they’re going to be overly prepared. And they’re only going to say, you know, especially in journalism to when you’re talking more about, like, you’re trying to get people to say things they might not

Kyler Canastra 22:27
want to say like.

Shaheen Samavati 22:32
So you want to catch them like a little off guard. I don’t think that’s as much the case when you’re doing like corporate copywriting. But I think like, but yeah, in journalism, we want to keep it really natural. You want to get like the super interesting tidbits that like maybe they wouldn’t have said if they were too prepared, you know, but I think like with, with corporate copywriting and blog, post writing, and so forth, I think it’s it’s more like I like to use like a middle ground, it’s like, prepare, send them a few questions in advance, so they know the line of what you’re going to be asking, but don’t send them everything. And keep keep it really simple. Because they can get overwhelmed. If you send them like 20 questions. They’re like, Oh, my God. And that’s like, way too much for them to have to prepare as well. And you probably won’t get the chance to ask 20 questions. So I say like Max five questions, like, and so that it gives, like five very broad questions that gives the idea of what you want to talk about. But then, then your notes have, like more specific questions that you that you plan to ask them, but don’t tell them about that in

Kyler Canastra 23:39
advance. Exactly. As long as you know. Yeah, exactly what questions you want to ask them what you want to get out of interview, you can guide the person in the right direction. Yeah, absolutely. So I think to wrap up the interview, this is an interview we’re doing right now. So it’s kind of a more of a conversation that you saved. But that’s how it should be very relaxed, and just like having conversation with a friend. So I guess in Now we talked about like, the best practices. I mean, we just talked about how like the best practices for interviewing, and what are some tips and tricks, but in terms of like creating the great interview based content, what do you think are some like best practices or things that you need to keep in mind when you’re doing that kind of work in order to like really hit

Shaheen Samavati 24:20
the bar? Yeah. Well, I guess it’s like a few tips. I think we’ve touched on a lot of things already, but one is like, um, like, I think it’s when it comes to content marketing, like it’s really important to whenever you can record the interviews because that opens up a lot of possibilities for repurposing. And again, if you’d like record the audio and the video, you can potentially use it for multimedia content as well. And you can also use transcription software to get everything in the text format. And actually what we do with this podcast and with a lot of other things, is is used like to like to keep a database of all the transcribed interviews, so that when we meet to reference, like when we’re looking for content, we want to, when we have a topic that comes up again, we can search back in, in our old interviews and see if we’ve interviewed someone about that in the past. And that is a really great way to like, yeah, to, I mean, to get to like, have to not have to reinvent the wheel every time. And sometimes you have like great content that that came out of an interview for a piece of content you’re creating at a time at the time, but that you didn’t use in that particular piece in that particular piece. So then you can find it by searching, searching back, if that makes sense. For English, it works really well, this And actually has a search feature within the software. So that’s really cool. And I know for other languages, we use different software, but I think, yeah, it’s, that’s super useful to have to create, like, a database,

Kyler Canastra 26:05
especially like this, see the words and be able to like, work with them as well. I think it’s important.

Shaheen Samavati 26:10
Yeah, absolutely. And then one thing is, well, I wanted to say, in general is like, when you’re like, going back to the topic about how it takes time, basically, to become a subject matter to learn a topic, like we were talking about how, you know, writers, like oftentimes, it’s necessary to work with writers who aren’t necessarily experts in the topic yet. But I think that like, if you like, it requires investment in them in the beginning, and patience and time to get to the point where they’re going to be consistently creating great content on the topics that you need. And that’s, it’s just important to, like, have that expectation from the beginning, that it’s not going to be instant. But once you do create all the processes, you have the right team, and yeah, and everything in place to create the content, like it’s gonna get easier and easier over time.

Kyler Canastra 27:07
Exactly, I think was like, 5k. That was the case with me. And like, I think the client has been very understanding of that with us and patient, I think he came in and I had no idea of anything. And he started from the basics with me. And like, check in and like, you know, tell me, this is like, maybe like, you can say it this way, because this is XY and Z and like stuff I don’t know about. So like, I think it’s, yeah, it takes time, like any good habit, or any good skill that takes time to learn. So it’s really important, I think that like both sides, whether it’s the client that you’re writing for, and the client, towards the writer, it’s themselves, like your patient a bit, and just start, you know, it’s, it’s kind of like the growing pains of any relationship that you want to, like, you know, get through the tough stuff first, and then it kind of grows and evolves, and then you don’t have to worry so much about it. Absolutely.

Shaheen Samavati 27:58
Yeah. I mean, it takes time to like build your your writing team. But once you have them in place, then

Kyler Canastra 28:04
once you have like good like processes in place, as well. And even if you’re, you know, writing on different the same type of content for a same client different topics, obviously, you could do like a how to guide, for example, and make the process very efficient. So that way, you can train a lot of people at the same time. So kind of like knowledge transfer that happens from like the client. In my case, it was to me, and then I was able to train my other team members on the topic. So yeah, definitely, if you train one person, not just, they’re not like people the knowledge, it’s good to share as well.

Shaheen Samavati 28:34
Yeah, exactly. That has to be documented. And like we’ve talked about in other episodes, like, that’s a huge part of what we do at various like, for every client, I mean, we really invest in the long term relationship with our clients and being their content partner in the long term. And what we do for every client project is create, create, like a style guide and turn base so that we have reference points for every new writer who works on the project. So like, it’s not just like training each individual writer but creating all those materials so that every time you do have a new writer come in, or you have that they they start at the same baseline as the team

Kyler Canastra 29:12
and record those, like, for example, like if a client’s giving you like a workshop on the topic, like the initial record that so that way you have the video, and you can also share that as a resource for your writers as well. So, absolutely. I think like the theme of this whole interview today has been like record and transcribe everything so that you can use records. Yeah, keep your receipts for everything. But that does help because that way you can use the written and sort like hard material for an article or whatever content we’re working on and in the future, you guys can circle back to it as well. So, with that being said, I think we’ve covered all the main topics that are associated with economic thought, leadership, copywriting for corporate publications. So I wanted to thank you Shaheen, as always for your and say on this topic, and I want to thank everybody for listening in. For more perspectives on global content marketing, definitely check out And if you’d like to get in touch with us, or if you have any interesting topic for an upcoming interview, feel free to reach out to us at and keep tuning to the podcast for more perspectives on topics related to global content creation. Thank you, everybody.

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