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Blogging and the Art of Interviewing

Published on: December 14, 2006
Last Updated: December 14, 2006

Blogging and the Art of Interviewing

Published on: December 14, 2006
Last Updated: December 14, 2006

The prevalence of user-generated content — both on the Internet and in corporate intranets — has created a virtual community of wannabe journalists.

Major news events are increasingly being covered by both established members of the blogosphere as well as traditional media.

Good bloggers (the key word being “good”) are gaining respect and have evolved from hobby writers to trusted citizen journalists.

In the article From Slogger to Blogger: Tips for a Better Blog, I presented some tips on improving not only your blog, but also yourself as a blogger. Some people have a knack for journalism.

And one of the fundamental skills of journalism — aside from actually knowing how to write and research a story — is conducting a face-to-face interview.

An interview with known experts in a particular field can strengthen your story and provide you with colorful quotes.

So, if you want your stories to be more than fluff pieces — and you’re not 7-years old — you might what to avoid asking, “Like, you know, if you could be, like, any animal, what animal would you be?” and follow these interviewing tips.

Do Your Research

Getting an interview is an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted with dull questions that have already been asked by others, or questions that can be easily found out with a little bit of research — you’ll come off looking like an amateur.

As a writer you want to ask interesting and original questions that will engage your interviewee and your audience, not simplistic and commonplace questions that you can find the answers to yourself with a quick Web search.

You should already have done your background research before the actual interview.

Don’t ask a business person how long he or she has been in business when it’s clearly stated on the business’s Web site.

If you ask a bunch of already-known questions, your interviewee will get bored and count the minutes until the end of the interview.

Treat your interviewee as someone who can provide you with opinions and insights, not a talking FAQ.

Ease Into The Interview

Don’t go into the interview with a notebook and recorder already in hand.

Bring a briefcase or other professional looking bag with all your tools of the trade — notebook, pens and pencils, and voice recorder (more on this later) — and take them out only after you’ve introduced yourself and thanked him or her for meeting with you.

Start off with some friendly small talk to lighten the mood — and in some cases, set the mood — and allow your interviewee to relax a bit.

This will also give you a good indication of the type of person you’re dealing with and how you should conduct the interview.

If the interviewee appears very serious, you’ll know not to joke around; if the interviewee is casual and down to earth, you can let the interview become more conversational; if the interviewee comes off very shy, don’t be too in-your-face and scare them away.

Learning to read interviewees will enable you to adjust your approach on the fly to best suit their particular idiosyncrasies. This leads us to the next point.

Order Your Questions On A Bell Curve

Conduct your interview the same way you would exercise: warm-up, core routine, and cool down. Never start or end an interview with a tough question.

You don’t want to shock your interviewee with a difficult question right off the bat, and you don’t want a difficult question to be the last impression they take away with them at the end of the interview.

Ease them into the interview with some friendly chitchat, gradually segue into the more difficult questions, and then ease them out of the interview with some easy questions again.

Avoid Asking Yes/No Questions

Your interview will be so dull — and will give you very little in the way of usable quotes — if your interviewee gives you nothing but one-word answers.

Avoid these yes/no and true/false type questions by wording them in such a way as to encourage a longer response.

For example, don’t ask, “Do you think the new security policy will affect the way employees handle sensitive information?”; instead try asking, “How do you think the new security policy will affect the way employees handle sensitive information?” The first question prompts a direct affirmative or negative response; the second question prompts an explanation.

Steer Without Leading

Not everyone is used to being interviewed; some interviewees need a little prodding and guidance. They might not be used to having the spotlight pointed so squarely on them.

Whether because of novelty or simple nervousness, the interviewee might not give you the best answers they can.

The interviewer must be able to help steer the interviewee through the interview without actually leading them.

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Written by Bobby

Bobby Lawson is a seasoned technology writer with over a decade of experience in the industry. He has written extensively on topics such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, and data analytics. His articles have been featured in several prominent publications, and he is known for his ability to distill complex technical concepts into easily digestible content.