For many freelancers that are just starting out, conducting an interview can be a nerve-wracking experience. What kinds of questions should you ask? Will the source realize that this is your first interview? What if I run out of questions and there's that awkward silence? What if I miss what they said?
Conducting an interview is an important part of a freelancer's career, and something that ought to be done now and again on ing business blogging. Editors are always going to want expert testimony and anecdotes for assignments, so if conducting an interview is something you're nervous about doing, you're going to need to get over that quick. Here are a few thing to keep in mind that might make this whole process just a little bit easier:
- Prepare questions before initially making contact: This is particularly important if you're calling the person. I've had it happen where I called the person up, and they were ready and willing to do the interview right then and there. If that's the case, you'd want to have a few questions ready so you don't appear flustered or disorganized.
- Remember the five Ws, and the H: Who, what, where, when, why, and how. Make sure that your questions asks each of the five Ws and the H. Especially make sure you get in a few whys and hows. Those often lead to the best quotes.
- When making contact, confirm if its still a good time for them to talk: Although the interview may have been scheduled beforehand, always ask if it's still a good time for the source. Not only is it polite, but you never know if something has come up last minute for your source.
- Use a Reporter's Notebook: Even if you're going to record the interview, I would suggest using a reporter's notebooks, which are 4x8. It's really easy to take notes in those notebooks, and their size makes it easy to fit them in a purse or back pocket. Their also spiral-bound, making room for you to carry a pen as well.
- It's okay to share quotes, but not the story: Sometimes, the source will ask that they get to see the story before it goes to print. That's an absolutely no-no, as it's unethical on a number of grounds. It gives the source a chance to alter the story toward his/her favor. It also gives the source the chance to see who else you've spoken to for the article. Depending on the source's feelings on the others, seeing the story gives them a chance to discredit your other sources. If the source asks this, tell them that the most you can do is share his/her quotes and have those approved. That's ethical and fair.
- Always ask if the source has any suggestions on how to do x, or in what else should be considered with y: I ask this one because I interview a lot of company executive and PR folks, and I want to get them out of the rut of "buy my product and it will solve all your problems." Everyone knows that's not the case, so don't put that sort of BS in your articles. For example, I interviewed an executive of a video presentation software company. Obviously, having the software won't automatically make anyone's video any good. I asked the executive if he had any suggestions in how to make a good video. He delivered nicely.
- Always ask the source if there's anything that hasn't been discussed that he/she ought to let you know about: Even if the source doesn't have anything else to say, it's a great way to close the interview and to get some excellent closing quotes. If the source does have a few things to add, then you'll be glad you asked the source in the first place.