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6 Dos and Don'ts of Conducting an Interview on a Blog
Posted on September 5th 2013
While the social media community could certainly use a writing style guide in a similar structure to the MLA and AP stylebook series, we’re more likely to see at least three more site updates made to Facebook before this kind of guide can be created. Creating a guide on “how to do xyz on your blog” is difficult enough considering that the platform it’s hosted on is always changing – and additionally, more platforms are being created that your blog may wind up moving to for compatibility and new audience reach reasons. But the biggest issue on why it’s hard to make up rules for blogging is that there is no set formula that guarantees success in doing it. At the core, blogging is always going to be about content, the voice you choose to say it with, and the angle you take with it.
The more you do it, the better you get and the more other bloggers will notice and want to be a part of the action. The fastest way to get this to happen is with an interview, but that’s where we need some structure in place because interviews on blogs can easily spiral into 3000+ word saga that basically sound like advertisements for the guest’s Twitter account and why you should follow them there. Take a few of these dos and don’ts into consideration before you start looking into bloggers and other experts to feature on your blog for an interview.
DO your research.
In the age of Google search, you can’t walk blindly into an interview with anyone anymore without knowing even just a touch of their back story. Always do some research beforehand, whether it’s through reading articles online about them or spending some time scrolling through their blog. Don’t be afraid to dig deep either – you can find just as relevant content on an article from 2008 as you can now!
DON’T ask for nothing but the obvious.
“Where did you go to school?” “Was it hard to start a business or this blog?” “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” The journalism rule of thumb is to always write as though your audience knows nothing about the person being interviewed but that doesn’t mean you can load your interview up with snoozeville questions! Many basic questions – job title, school graduated from, area currently residing in – you probably do know the answer to thanks to your research earlier. Confirm these briefly and make note of that before moving on to the more thoughtful and thought-provoking side of the interview.
DO stick to a question limit.
20 Questions is a fun game to pass the time with on a road trip, but on a blog it can be detrimental to keeping the reader’s attention, especially if the answers are long. 5-10 questions are simpler to work with and allow the interviewer to get more creative with what they ask.
DO ask for social media handles.
How can we find you on Twitter? Facebook? Tumblr? Ask for the best places to find the person you’re interviewing, specifically the places where a reader can connect and start a conversation and not every social media channel you’re on. Nobody needs your foursquare information.
DON’T leave the interviewee hanging for a publishing date.
Once you have a concrete date in mind for when the interview is slated to run, be sure to email the person you interviewed to keep them in the loop. Part of your courtesy email of “thanks!” to the person for taking the time to be interviewed by you will probably include an estimate of when the piece may run. The moment the post goes live is the moment you need to let them know so that they may plug the piece on their own social media channels.
DO offer “e-interview” and phone interview options.
Just because the interview will be going up on a blog doesn’t always mean that you’ll be doing everything through email only. Sending over questions through email is great because it allows the interviewee some time to work on them and better articulate themselves through words as opposed to over the phone where not everyone is a great speaker. On the other hand, you may email these questions over and not hear back from the interviewee for a long time, even with a deadline in place. Offer up the option to do either over the phone or by email – remember that you too have just as busy a schedule and it’s important to accommodate both parties for the interview to be its best!