August 13, 2021

Creating and running an interview series

Content creation

Inside Marketing Design podcast cover

Last year I launched an interview series called Inside Marketing Design.

The idea for the series started as much of my content does: by wishing someone else had already created it for me to consume.

I’ve been a marketing designer my whole career, and I love it. Marketing design is a fun mix of making beautiful, creative visuals that attract attention and represent a brand, but that also work to tell a clear story and convert that attention into signups or purchases. It’s everything I love about design: art and science coming together.

But, in the tech industry, there are simply far less of us marketing designers than there are product or UI/UX designers. So most of the content we see about design work at tech companies tends to be about the product side of things. 

I wanted to know more about how my marketing design peers approach their work, and since I couldn’t find a series like this that already existed: I decided to create it.

Since its launch the series has had 34,787 views and downloads, and the site has had 6,700 visits. More importantly though, it’s had great feedback from people who felt, like I did, that this type of content was missing previously. 

As I’m currently working on season two, I wanted to share an overview of my process for bringing this show to life, as well as some of the changes I’m making for the second season.

Finding guests to interview

For season one I created a Google form for any interested marketing designers to apply to be on the show. The majority of my guests were pulled from there. I did a little bit of personal outreach to ensure I had representation from a few specific companies that I really wanted to feature, but this largely ‘inbound’ approach for the first season meant I wasn’t having to spend a lot of time doing cold outreach for a show that didn’t exist yet. It can be hard to convince people to take part in something when they’re not really sure what the end result will be!

For season two I’m still pulling a few guests from the Google form, but I’m doing a lot more outreach now that I have season one to share as a proven example.

I wanted to ensure I had a good mix of different tech company verticals as well as size on the show so in my form I asked about these things. Crucially, I also asked if the designer was able to speak publicly (in detail) about their work. The people who selected ‘no’ weren’t going to be a good fit for the show, and neither were those who were freelancing as I wanted to the show to document how marketing design works at different companies, rather than being focussed on individual designers.

For season one I kept track of my ‘casting’ in a Google Sheet, but for season two I’ve switched over to a table in Notion, using a status column to track if the potential guest has been contacted, if they’ve responded, and eventually if their episode has been booked and then recorded. Notion is great because within the table I can also open an individual page for each episode to take notes in.

Scheduling the interviews

I’ve used Calendly for years to schedule meetings without annoying back-and-forth. I set up a link for a 60-minute session where my guests could book a time that fits their schedule. I’m based in Europe, so I made sure to set up a few different time slots throughout the week so that my guests could find something that suited them.

Screenshot of Calendly booking interface showing a calendar with dates to pick from

I set Calendly to a limit of 2 events per day, though I wish they had a setting for a limit of events per week as well! I wanted to make sure i was bringing my full energy to these calls, and as an introvert recording too many in one week would have meant the quality suffered. Luckily, my guests didn’t all choose to book in the same week, and there was only one time I recorded multiple interviews in a day.

When I sent the link to my guests for them to book, I also sent through the questions I was planning on asking them. This was particularly important to do as the show was new, so no one had seen an episode yet, and seeing the questions helped my guests to understand that they would be speaking on behalf of the company. I invited them to share the questions with their manager or anyone at the company who would need to sign off on the topics for discussion, and also let them know we could skip over any questions the company didn’t want them to answer. 

Because the majority of my guests hadn’t been on a podcast before. I wanted to make sure they felt prepared and comfortable and sending the questions through in advance definitely helped with that. As did sending through some guidance for recording (asking that they use a mic if they have one, or headphones with a built-in mic if not, and to set themselves up in a well-lit room for the sake of the video).

Something that would also have helped though would have been getting on a short ‘get to know you’ call in advance of the recording. I’ve been doing this for the Coffee with Charli series I produce with Figma and have experienced the difference it makes for flow of conversation and the guests’ comfort. So for season two I've been getting on a 15 minute call to chat with the guest about the show before we book in the official recording time. And instead of using the same set of questions each time, I've been adapting them based on the things I uncover in that quick call.

Recording the interview

Here’s the technology and setup I used to record the interviews for season one:

  • I chatted to my guests through Zoom.
  • For my side of the video I used my Canon 90D DSLR (it only records for about 30 mins at a time, so partway through the interview I’d subtly reach over to stop and restart it).
  • I recorded my audio using my Blue Yeti podcasting mic and Adobe Audition.
  • My guests video was recorded on Zoom. I joined the call on both my computer and iPad so I could “spotlight” the guests video to record, meaning it was large on screen at all times even when they weren’t the one speaking. Weirdly it didn't seem possible to do that when only two people were on the call.
  • I asked my guests to record their audio separately too through QuickTime on their computer, but I had their Zoom audio as a backup.

This setup meant compiling the video and audio feeds later on (more on that soon) but I also think it made for a more interesting video than if I’d just recorded us both in the Zoom call. (no one wants to see all that black space around two little rectangles, right?)

Screenshot from the Inside Marketing Design at Webflow video showing Charli and Johnnie's video feeds taking up half the screen each

Zoom only gave me 360p video, so my guests video feedfor season one of course doesn’t look as sharp as my own. For season two I've seriously stepped up the quality of the footage not only through my equipment upgrades (Hello Shure SM7B microphone) but by recording the episode through Riverside (that's an affiliate link FYI). Riverside records the video and audio for my guest locally in the highest quality their webcam allows, and it does the same for my side too. This has been a much simpler setup!

Running the interview

Since I didn’t have pre-interview calls with my guests for season one, we spent a little time chatting before starting the interview. My goal was to make them feel comfortable and at-ease, and to make sure they had time to ask me any questions they had.

Before we hit record interview, I also asked my guest about their background and how I should introduce them. I recorded the intro and outro to the episode separately after the interview as I didn’t want my guest to have to introduce themselves. Plus, it’s a pet-hate for me on interview shows where the host introduces the guest to the audience, and then re-introduces them when they cut to the interview recording. 

I also let my guests know that the show would be fully edited, so if they ever didn’t like the way they phrased something, or needed time to think about an answer that was totally fine. I could just cut it out later. For the most part, conversation flowed freely! But I think it helped them to know that taking a pause was an option.

I didn’t ask every single one of my pre-prepared questions each time, and certainly not always in a certain order. Rather, the questions informed the conversation, and when something interesting came up we dug deeper on it.

My guest and I usually talked for about an hour total, and as soon as I got off the call I recorded my intro and outro for the episode. Recording these after the interview itself meant that I was able to summarise some of the main things we spoke about in the intro, and then give some of my closing thoughts and impressions in the outro.

Editing the episodes

This is the part that took the most time, by far. I managed the whole editing process myself for season one and the main thing I knew immediately that I wanted to change for season two was bringing on an editor to outsource this to. My regular YouTube video editor Nancy Palm is going to be editing the upcoming season, yay!

I felt it was important to edit season one myself though, because my edits weren’t just to bring the video and audio together, but to do light content edits as well. I cut out pieces that I didn’t feel added to the overall value of the episode, and moved sections around if they made sense in a different order. I wanted to make sure that every episode was packed with value for my listeners, and to figure out how I wanted the show to flow in the edit. Now Nancy has a bunch of examples to look at when I hand her the footage for upcoming episodes.

This is how my solo editing process went:

  • Synchronise the audio and video feeds for each side of the interview in Adobe Premiere (affiliate link) and export.
  • Import those video and audio feeds into Descript - an app that automatically transcribes your video and allows you to edit it by editing the text. Editing text instead of editing waveforms/video was a game changer! It made my editing process SO much quicker.
Screenshot of the Descript interface showing the video transcript with a timeline below
  • I tried to cut out the majority of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ from the interview. Descript has an option to automatically remove filler words, but the one time I tried it I felt it made the footage feel too stunted. If a guest naturally speaks with a lot of filler words sometimes you need to leave a few in help the sentences flow.
  • I edit while listening at 1.75 or 2x speed.
  • When I’d done a pass through it all in Descript (aiming to get the episode around 30 mins) I’d use the inbuilt “export to Premiere Pro” function to get an .xml file that I’d then import in Premiere. It brings in your footage to the timeline with all the edits you made in Descript text editor as cuts!
  • This is when I’d then add my intro (including my intro animation) and outro, with my ‘theme song’ (just one I liked on Epidemic Sound!) as the backing track.
  • This is also when I'd format the video feeds, moving the position of the video file and adding a Crop to it so that each video filled half the screen. To keep the video engaging, I’d change “views” every so often having the guest feed full-screen.
  • In this second run through on Premiere I’d also tighten things up as needed, and insert graphics like the company logo or screenshots of work mentioned.
  • The last step was to export the episode from Premiere as an mp4, and also as an audio-only mp3 for the podcast feed.

The podcast brand & website

I decided a long time ago that logo design is not my forte! So I hired my wonderful friend Hollie Arnett to design a logo for Inside Marketing Design. I knew I wanted something handwritten, and that I’d use my existing ‘Charli Marie’ colors so that the podcast would feel like a part of my overall brand.

Handwritten Inside Marketing Design logo with episode cover art examples

Hollie designed templates for the podcast art for me as well as the logo. I loved what she’d done with the overlapping squares and used that same idea for the website design. I gave myself just one weekend to get the website designed and built because I knew it could be a project that stretched on forever if I let it!

Screenshot of the Inside Marketing Design website

I’m really pleased with how the website turned out for a one-weekend project, although heading in to season two I’m making some much-needed tweaks. (I've been livestreaming some of this process over on Twitch. Check out the stream replays here)

I built the site in Webflow (of course - and that's also an affiliate link, of course) because a) it’s my favourite site-building tool and b) because the Webflow CMS is super customisable, so every time I’d post a new episode it was easy to just fill out all the fields I’d created for myself and get the episode live on the site. 

Promotion & publishing

This was my process for publishing a new episode:

  • Upload the video to YouTube set as “unlisted”, then go into rev.com and order captions.
  • Once the captions file was ready (usually in less than 24 hours) I’d download it along with a .txt transcript.
  • Rev captions are pretty good, but to catch the odd mistake (especially to ensure peoples names or software names are spelled correctly) I’d then do my third run through the video; watching it on YouTube at 2x speed as I checked the captions.
  • On this viewing I'd also note down time stamps of topics discussed, and I’d be on the lookout for a good quote to add to the website episode feed, and a piece that’s particularly interesting I could use for an episode trailer.
  • To make the trailer I’d drag the .srt captions file I’d downloaded from Rev into the Premiere timeline and format the caption text styling. It's pretty magical that you can just import an .srt like this! And I have to thank my friend Nathan Allotey for making this tutorial that showed me how easy it was to do.
  • At this stage I also wrote a blurb for the episode, and put together the section linking to the guest and anything else mentioned in the episode.
  • To get the episode live in podcast feeds I uploaded the .mp3 to Simplecast and added the intro blurb, links and time stamps to the description field and click publish
  • That text was also added to the YouTube video description and the video made public.
  • I’d fill out all the CMS fields on my website and publish the episode there too.
  • Finally, I’d upload the trailer to Twitter and share a link to the episode.

Phew!

This stage of the process was also a lot of effort and took a lot of time. Not as much as the editing, but definitely more than the scheduling and recording. I have help on this for the next season too. Nancy will be creating the trailers when she does the edit, and my VA Chloé will manage the uploading, captioning, and scheduling on YouTube and Simplecast.

When each episode was live I also wrote and sent an email broadcast (using ConvertKit of course). I mostly sent these to the people who had specifically opted in on insidemarketingdesign.co, but every now and then I’d send an email to my whole 20k+ email list about an episode too, always giving them the option to opt-out of hearing about the show in future. For season two, each episode will be included in the weekly Marketing Design Dispatch that I send to my list.

I loved reading the comments and feedback on an episode once it was published! It was fascinating to me to hear what takeaways other people had.

Learnings from season one

Aside from learning what parts of my process I wanted to change from future seasons, there are a couple of other things I learned and will be addressing.

I was surprised – and a little disappointed – that the episodes didn’t do as well as other videos on my CharliMarieTV YouTube channel. I’d put vastly more effort into this content than my vlogs (for example), and it always sucks when more effort doesn’t equal more engagement or views. I can see why though: they were a completely different, much longer format than my regular videos. So the YouTube algorithm didn’t really know what to do with them, and my regular subscribers were left wondering where the 10 minute vlogs were. The episodes have been slow-burners so while they have good view numbers now, the sudden brief change in format for those few months during the season did hurt my channel performance overall.

For season two I’ve set up a separate YouTube channel for Inside Marketing Design, and I think I’ll be sharing a trailer on my main YouTube channel to drive traffic towards the full episodes on that separate channe;. As I invest more in the Inside Marketing Design brand with my marketing design newsletter and now a job board too it makes even more sense for this channel to be a separate entity. (Please go subscribe to the new channel if you're interested in seeing the next season!)

The next major thing I learned in season one was just how important it is to get absolute assurance in advance of recording that the designer can confidently discuss marketing design projects and processes.

I had an unfortunate situation where an episode had to be deleted a day after publishing because the company wasn’t happy with it. It was a real shame as the designer did a fantastic job and (I thought) showed the company in a great light! But the company management was being pedantic about some details and in the end it was best to just remove the episode so as not to cause problems for the designer.

It was a major lesson for me to get explicit confirmation in advance of recording that the designer is sure they can discuss the topics in my questions. My mistake was in assuming if a designer didn’t flag any topics to be removed from the list, the company was happy for them to discuss them all.

Luckily though, the rest of the companies featured in season one were all thrilled to be a part of the series (some even shared the episode to their own social media audience) and I hope more and more companies will recognise the value of transparency and sharing knowledge in future.

So, season two?

Inside Marketing Design will be back for season two starting in September! If you work for a tech company as a marketing or brand designer you can fill out the form here to be considered for either this season or the next one. I already have some exciting episodes underway with companies like Buffer, Stripe & Instacart, so please do make sure you're subscribed to the YouTube channel or the podcast audio feed (or both!) to hear them when they're released.

Thanks so much to everyone who has watched/listened to the show so far! The great thing about these episodes is that they’re evergreen in their usefulness (that’s a word right?), so check out insidemarketingdesign.co and catch up on any you may have missed. There’s something to be learned in every single one of them.

If you’re thinking about starting an interview series of your own, I hope this post sharing my process might help you figure out your own. If you see a gap for a certain type of content, go ahead and be the one to fill it! 

Got any thoughts on what I wrote? Tweet them to me!
Tweet me

Get more inside info on content creation

Sign up to be notified whenever I post about making content