Interviewing the Interviewers: Sarah Parsonage

One of the privileges and joys of journalism is meeting and interviewing truly inspirational people.  The new digital age has meant this privilege has now opened up beyond professional journalists, with some of the most thought-provoking interviews now conducted by numerous industry thought leaders in addition to our most respected journalists.

In NDA’s Interviewing the Interviewers series, we caught up with some of the best interviewers in our industry, from journalists to independent content creators, turning the tables to find out what makes them tick.

Sarah Parsonage, previously MD at PerformanceIN and publisher of The Memo, founded One Question, a unique event asking all speakers to tackle just one question. Her on-stage interviewees have ranged from fashion photographer Rankin to Obama speechwriter Sarada Peri.

What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear for the digital industry in 2019?

Ohh ‘digital industry’ is a catch-all term. I am not sure I have a fear, but I would like the marketing, tech, and advertising industry to listen more. We seem to have a plethora of events and ‘spokespeople’ that spend time criticising other marketers, and in most cases with just cause, but nothing seems to change. 

What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2018?

I am not sure if it was an industry highlight but producing One Question is generally my annual highlight. 

Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed in 2018 and why?

I don’t do as many interviews as journalists or presenters per se. However last year I had the privilege of interviewing photographer Rankin, on the One Question has technology enhanced or damaged our experiences?

Unsurprisingly Rankin has some strong opinions and ideas on the current technological / creative climate. Not to mention his feelings on the ‘selfie’, (you can see this first hand on Instagram through a project he recently launched, ‘Selfie Harm’ ),  the responsibility of big corporations and his most memorable photoshoot. All of which made for an interesting and ‘entertaining’ interview.

What one technology are you most excited about this year and why?

None. I am looking forward to an innovation-free year. Perhaps we could go old school and see more people in real life.  

What was your favourite ad or digital experience of 2018?

I liked the Stabilo Boss Highlight the Remarkable campaign as it was just so simple. I wasn’t a huge fan of the john Lewis advert, but Aldi’s response to it and the follow up Waitrose ad was witty. Simple and smart. I am easily pleased. 

What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever? 

All of them. Probably ‘Millennial’ as it just doesn’t mean anything! 

Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t?

Well for May’s One Question asking, does purpose really drive profit? I would love to talk to Tom Ford, Yvon Chouinard or Michelle Obama. Could you arrange any of those for me, please? 

How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely? 

I really enjoy interviewing people, it is all about chemistry though. In the same way I curate the sessions at One Question, it’s all about how it makes you feel, so I guess if they had no sense of humour and we had no chemistry I would probably decline.

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