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Case study spoking – What it is and why it works

By February 14, 2017 No Comments

During interviews with case studies I often find myself in the middle of a fascinating conversation. Often, though, the topic is nothing to do with what I’m writing about and we have veered off from our original subject to something else the interviewee is passionate about.

For many years I just wrote those conversational titbits off as interesting distractions during the interview. But recently, I’ve changed my tune.

I started to see the potential of an interviewee taking a side route during a conversation.

Case study spoking – What it is and why it works

There’s this idea (and I’m not sure where I first heard it) about spoking, where your topic is the hub of a wheel and all the potentially different stories that can come from that topic are the spokes. So there are many different ways to spin one topic.


For me, it’s not so much about topic spoking, but about case study spoking.


What is case study spoking?

I should say that I’m not sure that this is an actual thing – it’s just a term I’ve coined, but let’s go with it! Case study spoking is recognising that case studies and interviewees have vast experiences and stories beyond the one that you are interviewing them for. People are multifaceted and if you are interviewing them about their business or previous experiences, they are likely to have other fascinating stories to tell.


How can you use case study spoking?

A little while ago I pitched and was commissioned to write a story about research around IVF and resilience. I interviewed a prominent Australian obstetrician and just as we were about to finish our interview, he mentioned the fact that most people who successfully conceive via IVF do so within several attempts.


I saw the potential for another story and asked him a few more questions about it. I asked whether he would be open to me using this part of our conversation for another story and he agreed. I got off the phone, pitched a second story about how you know when it’s time to give up IVF and received a commission within half an hour.


Another example wasn’t quite as quick. As part of creating content for a tourism body, I interviewed a boutique ice cream maker. Again, at the end of the conversation (why are the juicy bits always at the end?!) he mentioned he was part of a burgeoning group of producers and artisans who had come together to form a food trail. I asked if they had had any press about the food trail and he said they hadn’t.


Over the next year I pitched the story to five different outlets without luck. I kept in touch with the case study and let him know that I hadn’t forgotten, but that I hadn’t had any luck placing the story, but that I would keep trying. Towards the end of last year I pitched the story and was commissioned.


I think keeping an ear out for other potential stories and asking case studies about their additional areas of expertise is one of the most important things to pay attention to when you are interviewing people.


What do you think? Do you use case study or topic spoking?

No Comments

  • Hi, this is exactly what I am doing at the moment – contacting previous interviewees to see if they’re interested in other stories too. Doing this in the same interview is much more efficient though – which I’ll try to do from now on! Well done for coining a term for it and thanks for writing about it.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Vivienne, thanks so much for your comment. I’m not sure it’s the most eloquent term I could’ve come up with! That’s great you are contacting previous interviewees – do you have a system for how you are doing it? Are you going back to them with stories in mind that you’d like to pitch?

  • Michaela Fox says:

    LOVE the term. Aren’t you clever?! I have a fairly consistent ability to go "off topic" whenever I am interviewing case studies. But I often find that this leads to new story ideas. Great post!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      You are too kind Michaela! I think your ability to go off topic is a blessing! For too long I was too focused on the topic I was writing about and so didn’t listen out for the gems that could be turned into another story.

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