Join Tom Geller for an in-depth discussion in this video Conducting interviews, part of Writing Articles.
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Interviews are a great way to get information from the people who know it best. Nearly every article I write ends up including quotes from an interview subject, because quotes can give an article credibility, personality, and focus. Sometimes when I've struggled with finding an article's hook just talking with someone at the center of the subject gives me exactly what I need. Your first step is to find appropriate people to interview. One way is to contact people who are quoted in similar articles. On one hand, you know that you'll get someone who's willing to talk with the press, but on the other, that could make your article seem a little like a rehash. Going a little deeper, you might find an expert who's mentioned in other articles but not quoted. Or maybe you'll find people who have established themselves as experts in other ways.
However you identify the right people, track them down and send emails to ask for interviews. I've included a template of such an email in the exercise file for this video. Sometimes you'll be given an interview subject. That's the case in our example article, where we're expected to include a quote from a specific person. I still recommend you treat that interview subject like all the others, by nailing down the details early. Now, some subjects will want to see the interview questions beforehand, or they'll prefer to answer them by email rather than in a phone call.
It's really your decision whether to do this. In my experience an impromptu live conversation gives me better quotes, and sometimes it's rambling nature leaves me to delve into areas that I hadn't considered before. But on the other hand, an email interview lets those subject do background research, and some interview subjects may need to run there answers by other people in their organization. So an email interview might be the only way to reach them. But let's say that you succeed in getting a voice interview. Be ready to take notes, and if possible, to record the call for accuracy.
It's polite, and in some cases legally required, to let your interview subject know that you're recording the call. Here are a few ways to do it. Just so you know, I'll be taking notes well we talk, so sorry if there's a bit of a gap from time to time. I'll just be catching up. Also, I'm recording this to make sure I quote you correctly. Is that okay? I want to make sure I get your quotes right. Do you mind if I record this? I will also be taking notes, but the recording will speed things up. I'll be typing while we talk, but I'll also record the call, just be sure I get your quotes right. Is that okay? As you can see, it's not really that hard, and it's even easier if you prepare the interview subject ahead of time with a friendly email.
Now, a lot of people freeze up at the idea of talking to the media. I think that's because reporters in the movies are always shown shoving microphones at people as they're being hustled away from a courtroom. But in reality, most interviews with people who want to talk with you. They might still be nervous about it, but they'll open up if you treat the interview like what it really is: a conversation between two people just trying to make a story more interesting, thoughtful, and accurate.
In this course, author Tom Geller explores the process of writing articles and publications for businesses large and small. The course begins with a look at the preparation you'll need to do, best ways to find assignments, and smart strategies for determining your article approach. Next, the course dives into techniques you can use to brainstorm angles, research, interview experts, finish a piece, and build your portfolio.
- Adopting technical tools
- Gathering reference materials
- Defining an article
- Finding assignments
- Determining your approach
- Conducting interviews
- Managing revisions
- Following up