A practical guide to article interviews

Now that you have a blog or website, you’ll be wanting to publish some great content.  Great original content is what increases your search rankings and delivers visitors to your website.  Expanding on our evergreen pillar content series, let’s take a look at the art of interviewing for an article.

Photo: Roger H. Goun/Flickr cc.
Photo: Roger H. Goun/Flickr cc.

Interviews are a great way to introduce other subject matter experts into your blog and demonstrate your connectedness with your chosen topic.  A strong interview will give you content that perhaps nobody else has and will help you generate content that is both original and useful to your readers.

We’re going to assume in this series that you have a solid topic that you want to explore.  The nice thing about interviewing, is that you don’t have to be the subject matter expert for the topic, you just have to have an inquisitive mind.

Here are my 9 tips for acing an article interview. These tips are in no particular order, except for the first one and the last one…

1. Do some research

When you are interviewing someone new on a topic, demonstrate that you know something about the subject as a starting point.  This doesn’t need to take you a lot of time, and you can use readily available resources like the internet and Wikipedia articles.  The main things you’ll want to familiarize yourself with is some of the jargon and buzzwords that may come up.

2. Consider the best way to conduct your interview

There are a number of different ways you can interview someone, but by far the best is doing a meeting face-t0-face.  This allows you to build rapport and have a discussion, clarifying points as necessary and creating a good natural flow for your interview.  Other ways of interviewing can be via a series of questions via email, or doing a face-to-face discussion via Skype or over the telephone.

Choose a place where both of you can be free to talk, without too many distractions.  You don’t want to miss an important point because a truck roared past, or there was an interruption with a phone call or office drop-by.

3. Be human

I know this sounds really silly, but realizing that everyone is just a person is a great way to put yourself on an even footing with the person you are interviewing.  Establishing some rapport and being candid about the amount you know about a subject will do a lot for putting your subject at ease… and it will also give them permission to talk with you at an appropriate level for you to get the most from your discussion.

4. Ask open ended questions

Open ended questions allow your subject to reveal the subject to you.  You need to put yourself in the position of ‘not knowing’, so that you can be receptive to all that is being said to you.  By asking open ended questions and not relying too much on your research, you may uncover topics you didn’t know about.  Topics that create ‘true gold’ for your readers.

5. Don’t let your questions drive the interview

Even though you have done research and you will have some pre-determined questions, don’t let them rule a face-to-face conversation.  Make sure you go where the conversation leads, it may surprise you.

6. Take notes

Note taking is the important part of the interview, because it allows you to recall everything that was said during the meeting.  Notes also allow you to refer back at a later time during the interview, to fill in gaps.  Taking notes is also a really flexible way to note other information you may observe throughout the conversation that is not necessarily said.  This is why note taking is always preferable over a recording, which only captures the voice.

7. Listen for quotes

During your interview, the interviewee is likely to say things that will make good quotes for your story or blog post.  Make sure you write the quote down word-for-word exactly as it is said, and put it in ‘inverted commas’ so you know it was a quote.  This will be extremely helpful when it comes to writing up your article.

8. Voice recording

If you take a recording you must always ask permission.  Be aware of the impact that turning on a recorder may do to people.  Some people get very uncomfortable and may be overly aware of the way they say things, leading to unnatural or perhaps guarded responses.

9. Finishing up

There are two important things you must do as you finish up an interview. The first is to thank the subject for their time, the second is equally important.  Ask the interviewee whether you can follow-up   This establishes an expectation that you may contact them for clarification afterwards.  This is much better than them spending time with you, only to feel like a second meeting is a chore.  If you get permission upfront, it will be easier to gain the extra time if you need it.

So there are my 9 tips for acing article interviews, and I’m sure you’ve got some ideas as well.  What’s your favourite interviewing tip.  Leave them below.
Asporea Consulting can help you with communication training and helping you establish a range of communication channels for your blog or business.  Let’s have a chat about your requirements – and let’s explore how we can help you.

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