Interviewing people: Getting good information from others

Sometimes you need that expert opinion. It’s a common practice in journalism, but less common in marketing writing, although maybe it should be. Interviews give you access to first-hand information, which is often more compelling. They also can boost your credibility by bringing other voices into your work without your asking for the bother of a guest post. Here are some tips for interviewing well:

  • Do your homework. Important people have limited time, so don’t waste asking questions about history or their background that you can easily took up ahead of time. Then you can ask things like “Why did this happen?” or “What did you think when this happened?”
  • Order your questions. Make your first one, one that requires some talking beyond “yes” or “no” and is easy to answer. Teachers and salespeople know that getting someone to talk once is key to getting them to keep talking, so make the first question a softball.
  • Order your questions, part 2. If you are asking challenging, threatening or controversial questions (“did you steal the money?” you have a better chance of getting an answer if you put the question at the end of an enjoyable conversation, than if you come out swinging. 
  • Be cautious taking notes. If you are interviewing someone who is interviewed often, it may be fine to push a recorder under their nose or to noisily type notes into a computer when you interview them over the phone. If it is not that person, the act of recording what they say can make them nervous, which affects the quality of your answers. Be sensitive to this and figure out another way if this is a problem. For example, you can take notes by hand when in person, or use audio recording (with permission – laws on this vary by locality) on the phone and type up notes later.
  • Fill in your notes immediately afterwards. You can’t write down everything and have a semi-normal conversation at the same time. So sit with your notes as soon as you are done with the interviewee to fill in gaps.
  • Send a link to the published interview so the source can link to it. A win-win strategy!

A good final question? What didn’t I ask you that I should? You get some very interesting responses this way, and it is always worth asking. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s