This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts) – Darren
Think interviews are best left to Barbara Walters, news reporters, or magazine journalists? Think again. Conducting interviews for your blog helps create unique content, increases your blog’s authority, and adds an additional voice of expertise. In today’s post, we’ll look at how some bloggers covered this week’s most talked-about stories using interviews and how you can use interviews to your advantage. As always, the weekly blogosphere trends have been provided by Regator.com.
1. Proposition/Prop 8 – The Courage Campaign Institute’s blog, Prop 8 Trial Tracker, has been traveling the United States, doing video interviews with both supporters and protesters of gay marriage. One interview in particular, from “An amazing 24 hours: Round-up of NOM tour and marriage equality news,” was featured by several other bloggers and news organizations. Creating exclusive content that is picked up by other media outlets gives you opportunities to build your blog’s reputation as a voice of authority in your niche.
2. Steven Slater – There are a lot of ways to secure an interview and, while stalking apartment building elevators as City Room did for “Flight Attendant Had Long Imagined Escaping Down Chute” certainly isn’t your best first option, it did do the trick and prove that a bit of persistence and thinking outside the box can lead to an unexpected win. Try a brief, polite email or phone call first, detailing what you’d like to talk about, the amount of time you expect it to take, why you are interested in talking with that individual in particular, and when/where the piece will be published.
3. Jennifer Aniston – You don’t always need to interview the big celebrity to create a useful post. For “Jennifer Aniston Not ‘Destructive,’ Say Parenting Experts,” PopEater talked with parenting experts about Aniston’s newest role. Insights from a social psychologist, a parenting expert, and a mommy blogger add information and expertise. If you blog in a particular niche, you should be working right now to build relationships with experts in your field. Keep a database of people who can be interviewed or quoted on your topic.
4. Teen Choice Awards – Odds are you won’t be joining PopSugar on the red carpet of the Teen Choice Awards (“David Beckham and Twilight Take Over Teen Choice, Zac Tips Vanessa’s Sexy Dance, and Ashley’s Bikini Party”) and unless your blog is focused on celebrity gossip or pop culture, you probably wouldn’t want to. But the good news is that “regular” people (aka non-celebrities) can be just as exciting and interesting—often more so because, unlike stars, the average Joe isn’t media trained to spit out PR-approved soundbites. I interviewed musicians and actors for years and, to this day, one of my favorite interviews was with a cop who’d been fired for perpetrating a Bigfoot hoax. People are interesting if you give them a chance.
5. CEO Mark Hurd – Keep in mind that, because these are the week’s most blogged-about stories, the blogs that are able to score interviews with the high-profile individuals involved are likely to be larger entities, such as The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to learn from them when it comes to growing your blog. “Digits Live Show: Mark Hurd Isn’t Leaving H-P Quietly,” shows the importance of prepping for an interview and researching your subject before sitting down to talk. Study the topic and come prepared with a list of questions. Never try to wing an interview.
6. Ground Zero – Though it’s difficult to tell exactly how War Room’s interview with Newt Gingrich’s spokesman for “Gingrich aide: Mosque at Ground Zero is like statue of Marx at Arlington” played out based on the post, it does bring to mind another piece of interview advice: Leave controversy and potentially upsetting questions until last. Make sure you’ve asked your subject any other questions you may have because, by bringing up sensitive topics, you stand the risk of ending the interview or, at the very least, putting your subject in a less-than-helpful mood.
7. Net Neutrality – If you enjoy interviewing, consider adding a weekly or monthly podcast to your blog. Bits has a regular audio component that features a combination of interviews, news, and tips (“Tech Talk Podcast: Net Neutrality”). You can choose from any number of podcasting tools.
8. Senator Ted Stevens – GretaWire conducted a phone interview for “Former Gov. Sarah Palin Reflects on Ted Stevens.” Interviews can be conducted via phone, instant message, email, or in person. If your subject is high-profile, they may have their own requirements. Otherwise, choose based on the length of the interview (driving two hours for a ten-minute in-person interview doesn’t make sense) and the limitations of each option (email and instant message don’t allow you to read body language and the subject’s vocal cues). If you decide on an email interview, be clear about your deadline. If you choose phone and decide to record, be sure to ask the subject’s permission.
9. Scott Pilgrim – The “Exclusive: Edgar Wright Vs. ComingSoon.net…FIGHT!” Q&A illustrates the most important quality of a good interviewer: being a good listener. Remember: The interview is not about you. It’s okay to add some personal information to put the subject at ease or build rapport but keep the focus on your subject. In my personal opinion, this interview tends to bring the interviewer into the mix a little too much but it’s clear that he is taking the time to listen to the answers and ask solid follow up questions. Follow-ups of this kind can yield some of the best information, and if you’re too busy thinking of what you’ll say next, you’ll miss those opportunities. Keep quiet and let your interviewee fill the silence.
10. Katy Perry – Blogging is about filling a need for your readers. As you interview or prepare for an interview, ask yourself what your audience wants or expects to learn from your subject. According to “YouTube Users More Interested in Katy Perry Than Barack Obama,” YouTube’s approach to interviewing Katy Perry was to actually ask YouTube users for question suggestions. You can try this on your own blog if you’ll be talking with someone who is well-known in your niche. Keep in mind that the questions you choose—whether created by you or your readers—should be open ended (“What do you like about ProBlogger?” rather than “Do you like ProBlogger?”) and creative. Stock, overused questions yield nothing but stock, overused answers.
One last bit of advice: If you can’t score the interview, don’t do this.
Do you do interviews for your blog? Please share any tips you have as well as an example or two from your blog in the comments. I’d love to check out what you’re working on. See you next week!