It’s no secret that a good quote can significantly liven up a mostly mundane article. However, conducting the necessary interview is often considered to be a real chore for many writers. Changing your thinking about this essential writing skill is pretty easy by keeping these tips in mind:
1. Do Your Homework. With most companies (and many individuals) having a Web site these days, obtaining fundamental facts for the article is almost effortless. Other possible sources of information include media kits, press releases, and previous stories written on the article subject. Establishing basic information makes the fact-checking aspect of the interview go more quickly so that more time can be spent on more probing questions.
2. Develop a list of questions. Finding out as much as possible before the interview helps in developing questions beyond the basic who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Try to craft questions that will provide new information on the topic and will result in a different story angle. Also have a reasonable time frame in mind to help keep the interview on track.
3. Make an appointment for the interview. Call or e-mail the interviewee to set up an appointment. Don’t catch the person off-guard by expecting answers to your questions on the first contact, but have them ready in case the interviewee prefers to answer them at that time. Be sure to provide your contact information in case the interviewee thinks of something later to add to the article.
4. Consider providing the questions in advance. Being interviewed makes many people feel a bit uncomfortable. Furnishing the questions in advance often helps in easing apprehensions about the interview.
And more time to think about the questions often results in more thorough responses.
5. Determine if an e-mail interview would be appropriate for your article. E-mail interviews have a number of advantages including convenience (for you and the interviewee), and clarity of answers (since they are in writing). Having the option to answer interview questions by e-mail also makes many people feel less on the spot than in-person and phone interviews.
6. Keep it Conversational During a Phone or In-Person Interview. Although the subject matter may be serious, the interview process doesn’t have to be rigid and uncomfortable. And be open to the idea of the conversation taking a different direction than what you may have originally thought. Asking open-ended questions will give your story its unique approach and will often raise questions you may not have anticipated.
7. Take the Time to Get it Right. If you need a moment to write down a quote during the interview, ask the interviewee to pause a moment. It’s understandable that you’re just trying to make sure that it is written correctly. Also, review your notes as soon as possible after the interview. It’s a good idea to rewrite them, clarifying any points that you may have jotted down that could be difficult to interpret later.
8. Mind Your Manners. If you choose to use a tape recorder, get consent prior to the interview, and make sure the machine is in good working order.
And although you may feel strongly about the article’s subject matter, it’s best to remain objective about the article by keep your opinions to yourself. If possible, always have the person review the article before publication.
After the interview send a thank you note either by mail or e-mail, and arrange to have a few copies of the publication sent to the interviewee.
Interviewing is a great way add more depth to your stories. With a little less dread and little more practice, they’ll soon become second nature.
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