Whether it’s an interview with your CEO, a local personality, the employee of the month or a new hire to your organization, chances are that you’ll be interviewing someone this spring for your organization’s content marketing program or blog.
Maybe it’s a phone interview with a time-pressed executive or an in-person sit-down with a local celebrity; whatever format you decide to use, there are some practical tips everyone should know for getting the right material, and it’s not entirely up to the person being interviewed.
Below are four time-tested tips to help you interview someone and get fantastic results.
Get Beyond Yes/No Answers
The easiest way to avoid the dead-on-arrival yes/no answer is to ask open-ended questions during the interview. This allows the interviewee to get into “why” territory rather than just agreeing or disagreeing with a statement you put in front of him or her.
Don’t: Do you think dogs are the best pets?
Do: What is it about dogs that makes them the best pets?
Get a Story Going
Storytelling is a surefire way to engage an audience and really hook them so they stay with your article until the very end. Whether you’re putting together a client feature or employee spotlight, asking interviewees to tell a story from past experiences will help illuminate their personalities and captivate your readers.
Don’t: Have you ever had a dog?
Do: What was it like the day you got your first dog?
Go for Emotion
Just like storytelling, emotion draws people in. Details and hard data are good for some stories, but gaining a glimpse into someone’s soul is not one of them. Ask questions that will bring out emotional responses from the interviewee, and document how the person seems to feel while answering your questions. Once you get the knack of it, you’ll automatically start framing your interviews this way.
Don’t: Were you sad when your dog died?
Do: Tell us about the day you had to put your dog down.
Do the Prep Work
This one isn’t rocket science, but it’s worth a reminder: Do your homework and use common sense. If you’re filming an interview and you know the interviewee is camera-shy, be prepared to make the person feel comfortable with the camera before the interview begins. If, when you meet the person, you can sense that s/he likes to talk a little too much, adjust your focus to steering the conversation and keeping the interview on track. Know what questions to give to your subject ahead of time and which questions to save and surprise him or her with. Above all else, get the facts before you start the interview so you can get right to the good stuff.
Don’t: So, what’s going on with you right now?
Do: A year ago you said you’d never work in an animal shelter, yet here you are running one. What changed?
It’s amazing how different an interview can be when you use these tips to draw out the extraordinary stories that each of us has inside. Now get out and there and ask some good questions.
Jon Barnes is director of communications at ADG Creative (www.adgcreative.net), in Columbia. He can be reached at [email protected].