Are you new to doing interviews, or do you want to do more for your blog or podcast? What are some different ways to interview people, and how can you prepare for an interview?
Interviewing people is a great way to add perspective and expertise to your blog or podcast. We’ve talked about sources in the past two posts, but in addition to print or text sources, another source for bloggers and podcasters is interviews.
When I was in journalism, I interviewed a lot of people. I always enjoyed the interview process because I found it fun to meet people and pull out their stories. If you’re experienced at interviewing, perhaps you enjoy the process already. If you’re new to interviewing and nervous about it, there are some techniques you can use to get better at it.
The only way to get better at interviewing people is to do it. I hope these tips and tricks will help you relax and enjoy the process.
Preparing for the interview
You have a blog post topic in mind, and you think you’ll need to do an interview. To prepare for the interview, figure out what information you need and who the best source is. Then prepare questions to ask.
Gather background information about your topic and source so you can plan specific questions. If you’re not familiar with the topic of the story, research other news stories and websites.
Before you do the interview, get familiar with your source’s website and what they offer. Google them, and look for newspaper or magazine articles about them or by them. Find them on social media outlets and check out their profiles. Your first question should not be, “So, what’s your blog about?”
Now you’re ready to write some fresh and intelligent questions. It’s a good idea to start with a list of questions, but you also want to leave room for spontaneous questions. Sometimes, the interview will go in a direction you hadn’t anticipated.
Organize your questions about the same topic together. Jumping back and forth between topics will be jarring for both you and the interviewee. If you have questions that may be difficult or confrontational, save those until the end. Start with the easier questions so you can establish rapport.
Now you’re ready to set up the interview. Decide the best way to interview the source. Is email sufficient, or should you set up a phone call or video interview, or can you get together with them in person?
As a blogger, you’ll probably conduct a lot of interviews via email. This allows you to write out your introduction to a source and contact them no matter where they live. The interviewee can take time to write out thoughtful answers. However, although email interviews are convenient for bloggers, they’re not as spontaneous as an in-person interview. It’s also harder to establish rapport on a screen than it is in person.
Telephone or video interviews let you establish rapport better than email. If you’re on the phone, you have to do it verbally because the interviewee can’t see you. If you’re using Skype or another video interface, then they can see you, so it’s almost like an in-person interview. The disadvantage to a telephone or video interview is that it can be difficult to arrange yours and your subject’s schedule.
In-person interviews are useful when you’re able to get together with the interviewee. Interviewing in person can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but it gives you a real sense of your interviewee. Like the telephone or video interview, you have to be able to arrange a time to meet that fits both your and the interviewee’s schedule.
Asking for the interview
To get an interview with a source you’d really like to talk to, you have to ask. Whether you’re asking via email or phone, establish who you are and your credentials, then explain what you’re doing. You can say something like: “Hi, I’m Jennifer Thornberry, and I’m the author of the Contemporary Communicator blog. I’m writing a post about the harm that writing errors does to a blogger’s image. I’d really like your expertise and perspective. Would you be willing to answer a few questions via email?”
Or, if you’re asking for a phone, video or in-person interview, explain that and ask to schedule a time when you can both get together. No matter what type of interview you’re asking for, use common courtesy and respect the interviewee’s schedule. Even answering email questions thoroughly takes time.
You should always identify yourself and what you’re doing to a source. An interviewee whose words may show up in text on the Internet or in voice on a podcast needs to know how their words will be used. You should always give them the opportunity to decline talking to you.
If your source is hesitant or shy, do your best to reassure them. Tell them you really want their perspective because it will really enhance your story.
For in-person, phone or video interviews, schedule a specific time to meet or conduct the call so you can both be ready and have plenty of time. You want to be able to have an uninterrupted, private discussion. Allow more time in your own schedule than what you tell the interviewee. Be prepared for the interview to run longer if it’s going well.
If you’re recording the conversation, ask if they’re okay with you doing so. Some people don’t mind, and some people do.
Next: Conducting the interview
Interviewing sources can add an exciting dimension to your blogging or podcasting. Now that you have your research and questions prepared, and you’ve gotten your source to agree to the interview, it’s time to actually conduct the interview.
In my next post, I’ll give some tips and techniques to help you conduct a smooth interview that helps you and your source.
Readers, have you conducted many interviews? How do you prepare? What other tips besides the ones I’ve given do you find helpful? Let us know in the comments!