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6 Tips for Hosting an Interview Series on Your Blog

shutterstock_125091749This is a guest contribution from Kerry Jones of CopyPress Community.

Interviews have become popular features on many blogs, and for good reason.  In addition to being fresh content, interviews can help you build relationships with other experts in your niche, provide your audience with different perspectives, and encourage influencers to promote your blog. Recently, Darren even shared a few tips on how to get high-profile bloggers to agree to be interviewed for your site.

If you’d like to start incorporating interviews into your editorial calendar, take a look at these tips for creating an interview series that benefits both your subject and audience.

Six Tips for Hosting an Interview Series

Choose the Right Format

When you think of conducting an interview, an on-screen video format probably comes to mind. Video interviews can be an intimidating place to start since there’s a need for technical skills like lighting, audio, and post-editing. You can invest in the right equipment if on-air interviews will become a regular feature on your blog or hire a video pro to help with one-off interviews.

But still, not everyone wants to appear on camera (this might include you) and geography may prevent you from conducting in-person video interviews. Fortunately, technology allows for many alternate interview formats.

Phone

This is a smart choice for busy interviewees since it’s quick, can be done while they’re on the go, and it doesn’t require a huge commitment. To record the interview, use a recording app or make your call with Skype where you’ll have plenty of  recording options. And always get someone’s consent before recording a call (it’s illegal not to in many places).

Virtual Video

Conducting a virtual video interview may be the best option if you like the thought of an on-screen interview but don’t have fancy equipment or your interview subject lives far from you. Again, Skype makes this easy since you have plenty of ways to record it. Google Hangouts are another simple way to record a video interview. Plus, you can interview several people at once this way (great for a roundtable discussion).

Email

Traditionalists may scoff at this, but using email to conduct interviews has become commonplace. You have a few options with this format. Either send a list of questions for the interviewee to fill out all at once, or ask one question at a time and respond with a new questions after receiving an answer. Keeping the questions short and few in number mean you have a better chance of getting them answered.

Face-to-face

Yes, you can still interview people the old-fashioned way. If it’s convenient to meet up with your subject, it’s worth doing since an in person chat may yield the most natural answers. Don’t forget a recording device to capture the conversation and a notepad for taking notes.

Interactive/Crowdsourced

Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can all be used as public interview forums. Use social media to crowdsource questions or host a live Q & A session with the interviewee. From there, you can turn the questions and answers into a blog post.

Do Your Homework

People who are interviewed frequently get tired of answering the same questions. Avoid regurgitating information that’s already out there — don’t ask a question if a quick Google search about the person can yield the answer (especially when interviewing someone well-known). You can always include the easy-to-find information as a blurb about the subject as an intro to the interview.

Your questions should align with the person’s background, area of expertise, and interests. You don’t need to learn their life story in advance, but gathering biographical and professional information will help you craft questions. Here are a few places to look them up:

  • LinkedIn — to see their professional background. Look for the unexpected, like an interesting career change or an unusual skill set for someone in their field. Additionally, their recommendations from others can give insight into their work ethic and personality traits.

  • Twitter — to see what interests them. What topics do they frequently talk about? What types of people do they engage with? Even a Twitter bio can provide clues about someone’s passions in 140 characters.

  • Google — to see where they’ve been mentioned or published. Also look for any previous interviews.

Consider Using an Interview Template

Believe it or not, you don’t need to ask unique questions. Rather, you should focus on asking questions that will yield unique answers. Using a list of template questions can save you time and also provide structure to your interviews. This consistency in the interview format works especially well if you’re planning on an ongoing series.

Asking everyone the same questions works best if your subjects have something in common. For example, if you will only be interviewing writers, there are enough universal questions for this group that will also result in a variety of responses.

Some of the best blog interview series use a template:

  • Copyblogger’sWriter Files” series also uses a template but since they ask questions that will get different answers for each interviewee, it works. They also write a brief introduction about each featured writer, which helps give some context to the interview.

  • Lifehacker’sThis is How I Work” series uses a mostly templated approach but the questions are so good and differ so much from person to person that every interview is unique (for example, they ask everyone to share a picture of their workspace).

workspace

Ask  Open Questions That Solicit Detailed Answers

A skilled interviewer always digs for specific examples, asks questions that will produce detailed answers, and lets the subject do most of the talking. No one wants to read an interview full of “yes” and “no” responses.

Only ask questions that solicit a specific response. Questions beginning with “how” or the 4 Ws (what, when, why, where) accomplish this. Your subject shouldn’t be able to answer with “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” or “I don’t know.”

You still may receive vague responses despite asking probing questions. When you do get a broad answer from your subject, use a follow up question, like “Can you give me examples?” to steer them into giving a more specific answer.

Lead the Subject into Sharing Anecdotes

The true gems of interviews often hide within anecdotes, which can set apart a great interview from a bland one. But getting someone to open up about their personal experiences can be one of the toughest parts of conducting an interview.

Even if your subject is open to telling personal stories, they may need you to help jog their memory. Focus on asking questions that will trigger the interviewee to remember certain events and then recall those stories.

One word that’s sure to inspire anecdotes: when.

“When did you know this was the right career path for you?”

“When did you feel you were truly a professional writer?”

But you don’t need to limit yourself to wording everything as a question. Phrases like “Tell me how…” or “Describe a time…” are also effective for leading the subject to share anecdotes.

Include Text for Video and Audio Interview Content

When doing video or audio interviews, write up some highlights or transcribe the conversation. This can “tease” your audience into tuning in and also gives the search engines some text to crawl.

In the Travel Blogger Academy interview series, they take the audio recording from an interview and turn it into a video using simple text and graphics. In the blog post, they use bulleted lists to tease readers with interview content. Any resources/tools mentioned in the interview are linked to in the post as well as links to the subject’s blog and social profiles.

Travel-Blogger-Academy

Lastly, make sure to keep in touch after the interview. Give a timeframe or exact date for when the interview will be published. If you need an answer clarified, reach out to get a more in depth explanation.

Always send them a link to the interview once it’s published. And don’t be afraid to ask them to share it on their social networks — one of the biggest benefits of hosting an interview series is the potential to attract the subjects’ audiences to your blog.

Have you had success with hosting interviews on your blog? What do you think makes a compelling interview? Let me know in the comments below.

Kerry Jones is Tampa-based blogger and the Assistant Community Manager for CopyPress Community — a networking site, training portal and job board for freelance creatives. You can connect with her on Twitter and Google+

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Comments

  1. A great list of tips I must say, Kerry…

    I have always wanted to start a series of interviews for experts in the field for one of my niche blogs.. This is a good starting point for me…

    Thanks for sharing…!

  2. Thomas Owen says:

    Hi Kerry,

    What an excellent post! I have been playing with the idea of interviewing people in my niche. This post has inspired me in a way to go through with this, I will definitely be using these tips as a guide for my future interviews so thank you very much for sharing them!

    Just one thing that may or may not be considered as important to others, but is in my opinion would be to send the interview questions to the interviewee prior to the interview taking place for them to look through and maybe prepare themselves a little more.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Thomas, you’re absolutely right that sending questions beforehand will help the interviewee prepare. Glad you found some value in my post, and good luck starting your interview series!

    • Kerry Jones says:

      This is a great suggestion, Thomas! Glad you got some value from my post. Good luck with getting your series off the ground. :)

  3. Shawn says:

    Great Blog. I’ve considered adding a interviewing section to my personal blog.It’d be nice to get some big names eventually but i can’t wait to use your suggestions to get to that point.

    • Kerry Jones says:

      Thanks, Shawn. It’s best to start small, have success with the “lesser known” people, and then use those interviews as proof of concept when you reach out to bigger names. You’ll also know the ropes better at that point and know what does and doesn’t make for a good interview. Good luck!

  4. Zeke says:

    Howdy!

    Very nicely done. Congrats and thank you very much.

  5. Simon Chow says:

    Excellent post! You nailed it.

  6. Amal Tlaige says:

    Thanks for all the advice! I will definitely keep this in mind for future interviews.

    Interviewing people is always a great skill to have because it helps us communicate with one another, it promotes the use of real vocabulary that is sometimes lacking on social networking sites today. Choosing the right format to interview in is key! As a student studying journalism, I’ve become accustomed to all forms of interviews. I mostly enjoy interviewing people face-to-face because then you can really get a feel for who they are and what types of questions you can ask.

    I also love conducting interviews via video or over the radio, and I think I like this format because I do enjoy editing (nerd alert). But I will say this, editing definitely takes time, especially if you want to add in music, or sound effects and make it sound natural as well. Interviewing people via email is also very common and a great way to go in depth when asking questions.

    I agree, researching the person your interviewing is essential in asking great questions. It’s also crucial to remember that it’s okay to veer off of what you originally planned sometimes because that path might be the better one.

  7. pawanpawar says:

    One of the biggest benefits of hosting an interview series is the potential to attract the subjects’ audiences to your blog.

  8. Great post… A great list of tips…
    This tips helps me alot.. Thanks Kerry and Congrats :)

  9. adcompteltd says:

    Thanks for share with me.

  10. Amazing list of tips for someone like me who has been long planning to start an interview series on my education related site…

    Thanks for sharing, Kerry… Cheers!

  11. Audrone says:

    I can see the potential in this doing this, thanks a lot for sharing this with us. Might consider this on my health blog.

  12. Mark says:

    We’ve also had great success doing instant chat interviews and publishing them. It offers the back and forth conversation of a recording or a skype call without the technical or other set-backs. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Happy says:

    Great Tips thanks. I really need this

  14. Hai Nguyen says:

    Hi Kerry,

    What an excellent post! Each kind of interview has its own pros and cons. I’m only used to host a face-to-face interview. This post has inspired me in a way to go through with this, I will definitely be using these tips as a guide for my future interviews. Once again, thanks you very much. I’m looking forward to your next articles.

  15. mrjugnu says:

    Excellent post many thanks for posting

  16. Amy says:

    My readers love interviews! Sometimes it’s nice to have somebody else’s “voice” on my blog, and it seems like there are always a few surprises, which is fun.

  17. Thank you for the post, very informative

  18. Dominik says:

    Thank you for your wonderful informations and tips, I’m trying to realize them. You’re the best!

  19. Kaleb Nation says:

    Hi, this is such an amazing blog post, I was thinking about starting interview series on my blog, but could have much idea, your blog post help me lot.

    Thanks

  20. Interview series are nice and all that but there is something much more better: Contest! Sweepstakes and giveaways!

    They are great for bringing in traffic and surprisingly (because of sweepstakes an contest blogs) they are great for building links as well!

    With this one. http://simonsblogpark.com/onlinegambling/share-gambling-story-us-win-50/ I have built over 10 links, which is quite nice in a difficult niche.

  21. Michelle says:

    I just started doing interviews on my blog and I found it’s a great way to increase traffic so am planning to make some interview series now.So thanks for these tips Kerry.

  22. Adam says:

    This is actually a great idea that I’ve never thought of for my blogs. Some great tips on how to execute this and attract traffic :-) Combining with a video interview would be even better.

  23. first of all i really want to thank Kerry for this amazing post and second i really like ur idea of smart work desk :p….

    hosting an interview on blog is really a nice concept… it will help the fellow bloggers to motivate themselves and help them to find out new ways…

    Before starting any interview we must keep all the notes handy like what is going to be the criteria and what question we need to ask…

    Great work Kerry… Cheers

  24. Nirav Patel says:

    hey…..

    Good article..
    I read your article and I really liked it. I am glad that you posted such useful information to the readers.

  25. Prakash says:

    hi Kerry Jones..
    Very good post and nice information for start interview series thanks for sharing
    i also recently start interview series on my blog and take one interview
    again thanks

  26. Pasang Bola says:

    a good post of tips kerry, i always want to make a interviews in the field, it’s a good for starting, thanks for the tips… :)

  27. hello darren, i read your post i am searching about this topic on google many times but today i finally got good and right knowledge about this topic on your blog thanks darren update more information about this topic thanks once again……..your article is awesome its help me a lot …

  28. Abdul Rahman says:

    I have been looking to create an interview template for conducting a series of interviews on my blog and this post has allowed me learn new stuff. Hopefully I’ll apply the tips to convince renowned personalities in my field to agree in giving me an interview.

  29. siya sinha says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing nice topic on interview. Nice concept describe you to helpful to people who start your career and want to know how to prepare for a interview and get success in interview.

  30. Komal Singh says:

    I’m very glad and I feel confident after read your article you giving me great information I must use your tips and thanks for sharing this amazing post.

  31. Eashan says:

    hello darren, Thanks for the awesome topic post on interview, it is very helpful for interview it’s a good for starting thanks for the tips, keep it up i am waiting for your next stuff.

  32. Tom says:

    YAYAYAYAYAY Finally I found an answer for my problems. Thanks Problogger. Good work

  33. suman singh says:

    I am happy to read this article, this is a good post for all blog reader and who people are unemployed, this article will be helpful to preparing to get the job.

  34. Aaron Diaz says:

    Hey Darren, I am very glad to come here and read your article, its inspirational post for me and I must say I follow your tips thanks for sharing with us.

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