A skillful interview delivers powerful quotes on which to build an excellent article. Ask the right questions and you’ll unlock a world of useful information.
On the other hand, a weak interview can skeletonize your writing.
I hate it when that happens.
Early in my work with an online publication, an editor returned one of my pieces with red ink where a couple of the 5 Ws and 1 H should have been. Ouch. How could I have missed those?
I despise red ink. So to avoid splashing around in it in the future, I sat myself down to review the art of the interview.
Chances are good that if I needed a refresher, you just might, too. So let’s go over those essentials for getting a quote-worthy interview, shall we?
INTERVIEW TIP #1: DO THOROUGH RESEARCH
Learn as much as you can of the history, the key players, and statistics pertinent to your topic. Also learn what you can about your interviewee. What other sources might they be willing to connect you to?
Use your stockpile of facts to inform your questions. Later, these facts will help you flesh out your story’s context for your future reader.
Be the studied-up reporter who impresses the interviewee—as someone who is either easier to talk to or harder to fool.
INTERVIEW TIP #2: PREPARE EXCELLENT QUESTIONS
List your questions ahead of time, in a logical order. That way, should rabbit trails lead your subject off course, your list will help you steer them back. (Of course, a rabbit trail may create a more fascinating interview than your questions would have, so follow the trail if it’s hot!)
Collect the 5 Ws and 1 H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) about each piece of the story. Get these details down.
To go beyond the basics, check out this infographic for ways to refine your interview process. (Tip of the hat here to Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Article Writing Masterclass on the Freelance Writers Den, as well as the Poynter News University class, “The Interview,” for their inspiration.)
INTERVIEW TIP #3: LISTEN WELL
Speak only when necessary. Let your source do the talking.
Listen to everything, not just what you wanted to hear. Listen with your eyes and your intuition as well. Watch the person’s body language. What do their eyes do? How do they breathe? How do they shift in their chair? These clues reveal hidden messages behind their words.
Record the interview. For a short interview from which you want a brief quote, handwritten notes may be sufficient. For a longer interview that will form a substantial basis for your piece, you might be wise to record the interview digitally while typing or writing notes. Why write and record? Dead batteries could cost you your whole interview. And keeping key statements visible while listening can help you recall that brilliant follow-up question you were going to ask.
INTERVIEW TIP #4: BUILD RAPPORT
Work to establish yourself as a trusted confidant. Find points of common interest to help your source can feel comfortable and relaxed with you.
Lead off with your less controversial questions. Save the tougher questions for later, so if they shut down the interview at that point you have less to lose.
Remember your source is giving you a gift of their time and knowledge. They’re doing you a favor. By building rapport, you just might leave the door open for similar favors in the future.
Don’t let your writing tasks pile up.
Let’s talk about how Karen Ingle Freelance can reduce your workload and deliver writing you’ll be proud to display on your site or splash across your pages.
FOR ADDITIONAL TIPS
I recommend this article for more a in-depth look at interviewing: https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2020/07/how-to-one-one-interview/
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