One of the most important parts of writing content that engages your audience is an interview that provides the substance for the story. If you want to write something solid that will both inform and engage readers, it's important to use these tips for conducting good interviews.
Know Your Audience
The content you create for your readers can’t be tailored to fit your audience or help you build a loyal following if you don’t know what they’re most interested in. To help ensure you know what your readers value most, consider these audience feedback best practices. This will help you write engaging stories.
Your interview will go much more smoothly if you go prepared. Research the topic and the person you're interviewing so you have background information in hand. This will enable you to move quickly from the basic questions into the gist of the information you need, and establishes you as someone who comes prepared.
Figure out your angle, but don't set it in stone.
Everyone has a story, but not every story needs to be told. If you know the angle that you plan to write about ahead of time, you can stay on track and avoid excessive tangents. However, don't blindly follow your lead. If something new and compelling comes up that's better than the course you're following, revisit your original plan and consider a new angle. Even if you don’t want to change your story angle, new information can be the basis for an interesting sidebar to go along with your main article.
Write Down Questions
Compile questions before you head out for your interview. While you don't have to go down the list of questions like you're running an interrogation, such a list ensures you will stay on track and won't miss valuable information. You don't have to ask every question you have written down, and you will almost certainly come up with more as you visit with the interviewee.
Be Friendly and Engaging
When you meet your interview subject, be friendly. An engaging personality puts people at ease and creates an atmosphere of trust, especially if you put some of yourself out there, too.
Showing interest in what the interviewee has to say can elicit robust answers that you can quote in your story.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
If you only ask yes or no questions, you're going to be frequently disappointed with the answers. Ask open-ended questions to give them the opportunity to share their experiences in their own words and elicit quotes rich in emotion and storytelling.
Try to cover everything in your interviews, but also ask your interviewees how you may contact them if you have follow-up questions once you start writing.
Record Your Interview
Bring a digital recorder along to record your interview. Even if you record the interview, always take handwritten notes. The recording is there in case you miss something. If you record an interview, always ask permission to do so.
Get a Strong Photo
Your story is only as compelling as the art that accompanies it and attracts people to start reading. Shoot a variety of photos, both posed and candid, ideally with vibrant backgrounds. You may only need one or two photos, but it's good to have many to choose from. Plus, if you run only one photo with the article in a print publication, you can refer readers to an online version of the story that includes more photos.
Conduct Multiple Interviews
Unless your story is a short profile piece on one person, don't rely on a single interview with that person. Getting input from others will ensure your information is layered and offers more perspective. Even in the case of the short profile piece, a few words from another person can provide a sense of identity or perhaps an anecdote that would give more heart to the article. Secondary sources can be interviewed fairly quickly if you just need a quote or two or some basic information.
Seek More Info
Before finishing your interview, ask if the interviewee has anything he or she wishes to add. You may be surprised at the answers, even if you know the person. After all, everyone has a story.
And, of course, once you have used the results of your interview to write a compelling story, don’t forget these essential proofreading tips to help ensure your story shines and avoids these 10 common punctuation errors.