Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Interviews: Be Your Own Journalist

Over the years, I've been lucky enough to spend a large portion of my work day conducting interviews with people from all around the world and from all walks of life. From my work as a journalist to the owner of Writing Belle, I've interviewed authors, editors, publicists, literary agents, business entrepreneurs, cover artists, bloggers and more. I've written for newspapers, newsletters, magazines and websites. Let me tell you: conducting a fun, great interview is pretty easy. All you need to remember are some basic points. Whether you're a journalist or a blogger, here is the best advice I can offer on coming up with an awesome interview! 

Do your research. This one is obvious, but hey. It's step one, so I had to include it. If you want to conduct a great interview, the best thing you can do is familiarize yourself with the subject beforehand. Thanks to the Internet, doing research on anyone is incredibly easy. Information is abundant and accessible. Websites, social media feeds and Facebook make it all very easy to access. 

Assemble punchy questions. Your questions are designed to pull a story from your interviewee. Ask questions that are based on the research you did on your subject. Your questions should be punchy - but smart. Ask professional questions. Ask personal ones. Ask who, why, what, where, when and how. Everyone's life is a story, and staging your questions according to the five Ws (and lone H), will make your interview fuller and more interesting. 

Be cordial. The number one rule of PR is good manners. Be prompt, be polite, and be attentive. Don't invade the privacy of the person you're interviewing - but don't be afraid to ask tough questions if you need to. Take their suggestions and ideas into account and ask for their take. When I'm writing a story on someone's life or business, I will oftentimes ask them to fact-check the article for me before I publish it. I want to make sure that I've got the story straight before it hits the presses, after all! 

Nab a proofreader. It's always a good idea to have somebody read your article before you publish it. One extra set of eyes will help ensure that your interview flows well. It can be anybody, from your mother to your best friend. Just find one. 

Assemble everything in order. Interviews are not unlike writing a story. Everything should flow - it should have a beginning, middle and end. Your questions should be arranged chronologically. This is part of the "flow" of the interview, and it's up to you and your proofreader to make sure everything works. 

Supplement your story. A great interview is always strengthened by images and contact information. It's a standard in the publishing industry - whether it be a newspaper or a magazine - to include a way to contact the journalist. When I write stories for Writing Belle, I always include contact information on the person I'm interviewing. It's just good manners! 


Get fictional - it's fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!