Digging for the scoop: Tips on interviewing people for articles

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You have to write a newsletter article or press release, and Google won’t provide you with the information or quotes you need. But there’s a person you know, it could be a co-worker, a customer, a vendor or an expert in your industry, that has the scoop. But, wait, you’re not a reporter! And you have a feeling conducting an interview takes more than wearing a fedora and owning a notebook.

Don’t fret…You don’t need press credentials or a journalism degree to interview someone. A successful interview simply takes a little forethought and planning. Below are a few interviewing tips to get you started:

  1. Write questions before the interview. You don’t want to waste your interviewee’s time by meandering and asking a lot of unnecessary questions or have to call back later to ask questions you should have asked in the first place.
  1. Make sure your ask all the questions you need to to write an article that conveys all the information your audience needs to know or is interested in reading about. Take time to think about who your audience is and what they want to know.
  1. To ensure you’re asking all the questions pertinent to your article, make sure they answer who, what, when, where, why and how.
  1. Schedule the interview ahead of time. Never ambush your interviewee. And then make sure to arrive to your meeting on time.
  1. Think twice about using a tape recorder. As soon as you put the tape recorder on the table and turn it on, people get nervous and self conscious. Doing the interview sans recorders can make your interviewee more relax and lead to a more in-depth interview. Besides, relying only on your note-taking and listening skills kicks your brain into high gear, resulting in quick-thinking follow-up questions and a deeper understanding of the information as its being conveyed to you.
  1. Don’t forget to ask for titles, the spelling of names and other necessary information about the interviewee.
  1. Re-write notes immediately after the interview. Your scribblings will make less and less sense as more time passes after the interview: Tomorrow, “100 G bud mktg. cmpgn.” might seem like nonsense to you, but right after the interview, you’ll remember that it means “$100,000 budget for the marketing campaign.” Translate those messy notes while the interview is still fresh in your memory.
  1. If an interviewee asks if they can see the article or press release before publication, say “no” as politely as possible, unless your organization insists you send it to them. (You don’t want to give the interviewee the impression that you’re inviting them to edit your work. And there’s really no reason for the interviewee to see your article before publication. They’ll just have to trust that you’re a professional who will do a good job.)
  1. Make sure to ask if you can call back with follow-up questions if necessary. No matter how well you prep for the interview, once you start writing the article, you might find information holes that need to be filled. However, don’t wear out your welcome. Only call back with more questions if you absolutely have to. The interviewee has already given you their time, and you don’t want to be a nuisance. Besides, your interviewee might prove to be a good resource for future articles, so you’ll want to establish a good relationship so they won’t mind talking to you again.

Remember, your article or press release will only be as good as your interview. So, prepare and think on your feet.

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