More than ever, companies want content. Whether they need it for blog posts, website articles, podcasts, newsletters, videos or social media posts, companies are trying to create content that will lead their target audiences to view them as experts in their industry.

The purpose of branded content is to offer expertise and deliver useful information. When done properly, this type of branded content will position a company as an expert and go-to place when prospective customers are prepared to spend money. Audiences typically want substance and don’t want to read or watch a commercial in disguise.

One way to create content is by interviewing industry experts and the quality of the content is often based on the quality of the interview. Here are 12 tips for conducting better interviews:

Google the interviewee.

Before you commit to interviewing somebody, do your research. Google their name and look beyond the first page of results. Check their LinkedIn profile and review their Facebook posts and Tweets. You want to know exactly whom you’re interviewing to ensure this person fits your brand and serves a purpose for your audience. You want to make sure you fully understand whom you’re interviewing because that person’s content will reflect on your organization.

Be straightforward.

Before interviewing people for branded content, ask them about their expectations. Do they expect you to blatantly promote their product or service? Do they expect to review or have final say over your content before you publish it? Do they expect payment? Do they expect the content to be published by a certain date? Are there additional demands they may be making?

When I worked as a television reporter, companies constantly pitched me story ideas. Sometimes they strategically left out information that might deter my interest. I eventually learned these hidden details and the publicists for the companies would lose credibility in my eyes for wasting my time and not being upfront.

Another thing to consider is your company’s policy regarding interview agreements. Should you ask your guests to sign a formal document to assure they don’t expect compensation now or in the future? Is an email confirming the interview agreement sufficient? Should your content include a disclaimer? Check with an attorney about the best approach for your company or organization.

Don’t lose focus.

Don’t allow the people you’re interviewing to dictate your content. Before you talk to them about the possibility of an interview, create a checklist of interview guidelines. Outline the focus of your interview as clearly as possible. Send people examples of your previous work to help set their expectations.

If people complain that the content that you’re creating by interviewing them doesn’t spend sufficient time highlighting the product or service they’re selling, explain to them that the more content turns into a sales pitch, the less likely others will share the content.

If necessary, you can offer them a place to share more details, such as providing links for readers and viewers to find additional information.

Prepare key messages

I’ve watched interviews in which the person conducting the interview didn’t have very much information about what the person they were talking to did or didn’t know, turning the interview into a fishing expedition that wasted a great deal of time. Not only does that present an uncomfortable situation, it also leads to lengthy notes or video to review. Go into an interview knowing the three to five key points you want to relay and ensure the person you’re interviewing can answer those questions. Conducting a pre-interview can help determine what the key messages will be.

Once you address the key messages during the interview, move on.

When I was reporting, I got to the point where I’d conduct very short interviews because I knew exactly how long I had on TV. When I heard a couple of soundbites that shared a key point, I didn’t waste an extra 15 minutes for no reason. There’s no purpose in wasting people’s time.

Find a compelling story angle

People often remember good interviews because of hearing and reading great stories instead of trying to digest a long series of facts. I’ve interviewed people about their companies and sometimes the details themselves aren’t always memorable. But then you find the story behind the person and learn what led them to this line of work. One of the best ways to relay complex information is through good storytelling. Guests often don’t appreciate the fact that they have an interesting story to tell. So when you’re interviewing somebody, you may have to guide them into telling their story.

Don’t delegate too much.

We recently met with a business writer who arranged the interviews for her organization but then delegated the interviews to other employees who had much less experience with interviewing and with the topic itself. The person conducting the interview often determines the quality of the interview. If you delegate interviews to younger, less experienced employees, you risk creating a less polished product.

Choose the right environment.

Our experience is that most people default to conducting interviews in offices and conference rooms, which typically aren’t the most interesting places. If possible, conduct an active interview, which means interviewing someone who is taking part in the activity you’re asking about.

Conducting interviews in a relevant environment can often help generate more interesting stories and lead to more compelling aspects of the story. When I reported on fire safety during the holidays, I ditched my plans to interview a firefighter in front of a fire truck at a fire station. I instead shot the segment at someone’s home as the firefighter demonstrated the correct way to build a fire and watch over it. Having the firefighter at someone’s home with his tools and fire extinguisher made for a much more compelling, visual interview than the alternative in front of a firetruck.

When selecting a location, make sure the background doesn’t distract from what the person is saying on camera. You don’t want an environment where people will constantly be walking in the background or making noise and interrupting the whole process.

Pick a prop

When shooting a video, consider what the interviewee can hold or show viewers during the interview to make it more visually interesting. In the above example, the firefighter had his tools and a fire extinguisher.

Dump the notes

I’ve interviewed people who sit down with their hands filled with notes and read from them. One executive asked us to hold his notes near the camera lens to make it less apparent he would be reading. But when he read from them, the interview still felt unnatural. I recommend people put aside their notes. The experts you’re interviewing should know what they’re talking about. They lose credibility when reading from notes and microphones often pick up the audio of people crinkling things in their hands.

Keep it conversational

Make the interview seem personable and not like a deposition. Ideally, the conversation should feel like a chat, not like an interview. I’ve watched normally very personable people start to clam up when someone, as a Hollywood director might, declared “We’re rolling!” You want to make people feel comfortable.

Dive deeper

The conversational tone is important for the interviewer as well. If you are using a list of questions to conduct the interview, be sure to carefully listen to their responses so you can be flexible and inquire deeper into something they brought up. The interview might lead to information you may not have anticipated, which can divert you from your list of questions.

How to end the interview

Always end an interview with the question: “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” Some of the best soundbites I’ve ever heard resulted from that question. People have an opportunity to say whatever key message is on their minds without feeling restricted by a question and asking that question can give you some compelling soundbites or quotes.

Keith Yaskin is president of The Flip Side Communications LLC, a media company that helps companies tell their stories through video production, public relations, media training and employee communications. Before joining The Flip Side in 2011, Keith was an award-winning TV reporter for 17 years, primarily as an investigative journalist. Keith turned his passion for journalism and helping people into working with companies to effectively tell their stories from the inside out.