Yesterday I began a short series of post on ‘Blog Interviews’ that started off by looking at some of the benefits of using interviews on your blog and why it’s good to be interviewed on other people’s blogs.
Today I want to swing my attention to the topic of how to get people to agree to be interviewed on your blog. I’ll also include a few tips on how to conduct them.
1. Introduce Yourself
One of the dangers of reading another person’s blog everyday over time is that you can easily become overly familiar with them, to the point where you feel that you know them very well when in reality they have no idea who you are. Don’t assume that the person you wish to interview will know who you are unless you’re sure that they do.
Get in touch with your potential interviewee with a friendly, polite and brief (see below) email that outlines your request but which also gives them a brief introduction to who you are and how you know of them. If you’re a reader of their blog mention this (don’t lie – I’ve caught people out), if someone else recommended them mention that etc.
Don’t get into false flattery but if you genuinely admire them or something that they’ve done mention that briefly. All of this puts your request into some sort of context.
2. Outline How and When the Interview Will be Used
One of my most frustrating interviewee experiences was when I put numerous hours into being interviewed by another blogger (who asked too many questions and was very demanding along the way) only to find that he never published my interview until 9 months later.
Tell the person who you wish to interview where it will be used (give them a URL to check out) and an approximation of when you’ll publish it. This gives them an idea of what type of site you run, the style that the interview might happen in and what type of deadline they’ll be under.
If you’ve done interviews with others you might like to point them to an example as this can help them see what you’re asking of them.
3. Give Incentive
While you might get an interview out of sympathy or because the interviewee is feeling in a good mood – you’ll probably find that most interviewees have some self interest when it comes to the motivation for doing interviews.
Tell them what’s in it for them. Often with interviews it will be largely about publicity and exposure but there could be other reasons for them to give you their time. However – don’t use false incentives or build it up to be bigger than it really is.
4. Don’t Overwhelm With Questions
I was asked to do an interview recently by a fellow blogger and in the email that they sent asking me to consider it they included 42 questions that they had for me. Yes – 42!
Now some of those questions I could have answered in a word or two – but when I’m interviewed I like to give something of myself to the process and make it worthwhile for those reading the interview. That takes time and when you’re confronted with a long list of questions it’s just easier to say no – especially when you’re already under the pump in terms of your schedule.
My approach to asking for interviews is to send a quick introductory email to the potential interviewee that includes no actual questions. I generally outline the scope of the topic I wish to cover and tell them how many questions I’ll try to keep it to. I mention that there may be one or two follow up questions if I need clarification.
This way the interviewee knows whether they can handle what you’re going to give them but is not overwhelmed by it all coming to them at once.
5. Give Different Options for Medium
Another strategy that I often use is to give interviewees a choice of the medium for the interview to take place in. I generally offer email or Instant Messaging but if you’re up for it you might also offer to do it as an audio interview.
You’ll find that each interviewee will have preferences for different medium. Some like the idea of having time to mull over the answers with an email interview while others like a more conversational style of IM or audio. Some like to prepare while others like to do it on the run. Let them decide what form it will take and you’re giving them a little more control over the process.
6. Do some research First
Before you do an interview you should have done some research into the person you’re questioning (in fact I’d do it before you even ask them). This will help you to ask intelligent questions that are in the scope of their expertise.
If they are a blogger, build on ideas that they’ve been exploring recently in their posts (referencing them in the interview with links to their posts is a good idea). If they’ve been interviewed before make note of what they’ve been asked previously, what they answered well, what they were passionate about etc and try to build on these areas. Don’t just ask the same old questions they are always asked but attempt to take it into new ground. This will not only give your readers something fresh but will also give the interview energy and will hopefully inspire your interviewee a little also.
7. Don’t be Offended if ‘Rejected’
The fact is that a certain percentage of those you ask for interviews will say no. Another percentage will not even respond to your request.
The reasons for the knock-backs will be many and varied but don’t let it get you down.
The main advice I can give if you’re rejected is to not take it personally, to politely thank them for considering it and moving on. You might ask them if they mind you asking them again in a few months time (if you sense it is because they are busy) but don’t push too hard or you’ll just end up ruining future chances for interaction.
8. Notify them When You Hit Publish
If you get an interview and all goes well and you come to the point of publishing it, always give your interviewee the courtesy of letting them know when and where the interview is published. Send them a URL and thank them again for their time and insights.
You might find they link to the interview on their own blog as a result and you might even find they are happy to interact with your readers if they leave comments on the interview (in a sense the interview can continue for some time in your comments if they do).