Today we’re going to walk you through how to conduct an interview for your blog – from the moment you decide to interview someone, all the way to publishing and marketing your blog interviews.
How interviews can revolutionize your blog (and your life)
Once you’ve set up your blog, and started writing articles, it’s time to look for other content ideas. Interviews are a great way to increase your blog’s authority and diversify your content. They can be published in their own right or used as source material for other articles. Interview quotes from multiple experts can be compiled into a single, in-depth article (like this one).
They’re some of the most versatile content around. And they’re also one of the easiest ways to get your work in front of a new audience. Most interviewees have fans of their own, and you can bet they’ll share their interviews with those fans on social media, and possibly even with a permanent link on their website.
Last but certainly not least, every interview is an opportunity to expand your network. The best people to interview are the same experts and influencers in your field who can help your business grow. Interviewing them is a great way to start a relationship. I’ve started several amazing professional relationships through interviews, most notably with Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games, a company I’ve now done several projects for.
Blog interviews are only as interesting as the people being interviewed. And they need to be interesting to your audience, not just to you.
Build a framework for choosing interviewees
For the series of Pirate Interviews on our partner blog, ThemeIsle, the team came up with the following criteria:
First of all, the interviewees need to be part of the niche we’re writing about – in this case, WordPress.
Second, we make a list of people who are more or less known in the community or who work for a company that people have heard about before.
Another criterion is the reply rate because not everybody answers to our invitation. We try to decide on people who seem more reachable and likely to accept being interviewed.Adelina Tuca
In other words:
- Their work has to focus on the right niche – Your interviews must be related to your blog’s main topic.
- They need to be known in your industry – Your readers need to be interested in what interviewees have to say.
- They need to be approachable – People who are responsive to fans on social medias are more likely to be responsive to you.
Create your own list of interviewee essentials, starting with the factors mentioned above. Other factors to consider include the interviewee’s primary social media channels, their audience size, and their overall brand.
You’ll probably get a few ideas for your initial interviewees as you outline your mandatory criteria. Write these names down in a separate document as you go. You’ll use them to complete the next step of the process:
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Create a list of potential interviewees
Now that you understand what you’re looking for, it’s time to find specific people to feature. Some people won’t respond, so it’s important to create a list, even if you’re only doing one interview. A good rule of thumb is to have at least twice as many potential interviewees as necessary. If you get more interviews, great, but if you only get responses from half the people, you’ll still have everything you need.
How do you find those names? There are two main strategies you can use when you’re starting out: brainstorming and searching through social media.
Chances are pretty high that you already know (or know of) some great candidates for blog interviews. You’ve noticed, consciously or not, names that come up time and time again in your industry.
These are the best people to start with for two reasons. First, you can authentically say you’re familiar with their work, and a genuine compliment makes them more inclined to help you. Second, if you’ve already heard of them, they’re important enough to be worth interviewing.
So grab a timer, open a notebook or Word document, and brainstorm names for 5-10 minutes. You’ll eventually want to track interview candidates in a spreadsheet, but blank notebooks/Word documents encourage your mind to think more freely.
Don’t think too hard about these names, and don’t start crossing people out. You want to get as many names as possible — you can narrow the list down later.
👍 Using social media
Social media is an ideal tool for finding people who are both interesting and influential enough to make excellent interview candidates. One glance at a person’s social media profiles can tell you how big their audience is, why they’ve attracted that audience, and how responsive they are to that audience.
There are several ways you can do this, depending on your preferred social media networks:
- Watch popular hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, paying special attention to people whose posts are regularly listed in the “Top” category
- Check out Twitter chats relevant to your industry. Note who runs the chats and any special guests they have
- Search for popular YouTube channels related to your niche. Add the creators, and any special guests, to your list
- Take note of people featured on top blogs and podcasts in your industry
- Take a look at the top LinkedIn publishers who write about topics relevant to your audience
- Ask your social media audience for suggestions
Once your interview series is established you’ll also be able to put out calls for interview subjects on your social media, but this isn’t a great tactic for beginners. Most of the people worth interviewing are sought out by media outlets on a regular basis. They won’t come to you unless they know who you are – and think your blog is worth the time.
How to approach people about blog interviews
Creating your list of potential interviewees was the easy part. Actually reaching out to these people can be nerve-wracking, especially if they’re people you admire. But it doesn’t have to be. Remember, you’re inviting them to come talk about their work on your platform. They’ll be flattered that you thought of them, even if they can’t do the interview.
How to write interview requests
Your request should be as short and succinct as possible. There are four pieces of information you absolutely need to include:
- Who you are
- How you know who the interview candidate is
- Why you’re reaching out to them
- How they can move forward with the interview process
You can simplify this process by creating an interview request template. This is the template I used for interviews on my author blog:
Dear (name), My name is Dianna Gunn and I'm a huge fan of (your work). I'm also a writer myself and a blogger at http://www.thedabbler.ca, where I publish author interviews every week. I'm reaching out today because I would love to feature you and (your work) in this interview series. Interviews are 8-10 questions long and can be conducted over Skype or by email, whatever you prefer. If you're interested in participating in this interview series please send an email back with your preferred interview method and any writing related topics you're particularly interested in discussing during the interview. Thank you for your time, Dianna http://www.thedabbler.ca
This template works for a few different reasons:
- The recipient sees who I am immediately
- It shows that I’m familiar with their work, and pay them a compliment
- It includes specific details about the interview, so candidates can make an informed decision
- It explains exactly how to respond if they’re interested in the interview
You’ll need to change the details, but you can use a similar format for your own requests.
Approaching interview candidates via Twitter
Twitter is actually where the team found most of the participants in the ThemeIsle series of blog interviews, but it requires a slightly different approach.
First of all, you want to make sure you’re following them on Twitter before you reach out. This marks you as a fan, giving the interview candidate more reason to respond.
You also need to change your approach on Twitter. Your initial request should only include two pieces of information:
- Why you’re approaching this person
- How to respond if they’re interested in the interview
Who you are is already visible on Twitter; if they want to know more, they can check out your profile. Since you’re already following them, they can also assume that’s how you know them.
How to conduct an interview for your blog
Now that you’ve found some people willing to be interviewed for your blog, it’s time to get through the interviews themselves.
Follow these five steps to ensure a great interview:
1. Prepare the questions
The questions you ask can make or break an interview, so you want to choose the right ones.
Brainstorm possible questions for five minutes, writing down every question you can think of. Then narrow the list down to the 5-10 most interesting questions. You want enough that you’ll have all the information you need, even if no new questions arise.
Some bloggers also like to send interviewees the questions in advance, but I find that asking questions for the first time during the interview gets more authentic responses.
2. Choose the time and the tech
There are several ways you can actually conduct the interview. The most common methods are phone, Skype, and Google Hangouts. You can also conduct blog interviews via email, or do a live interview if your interviewee is local.
Try to offer multiple options when possible, so interviewees can choose what they’re most comfortable with. You’ll want to do the same with scheduling; give them a variety of possible time slots. Make this as easy for them as possible.
3. Get into the interview mindset
Note: Skip this step if you’re conducting an interview via email.
Set aside half an hour before every interview to freshen up, go through your notes, and practice your questions. Consider meditating for two minutes before the interview to clear your mind. You should also make sure you have a glass of water on hand, as talking that much will make you thirsty.
4. Conduct the interview
The technical details vary depending on how you’re conducting your interviews, but there are a few ways to ensure an excellent interview on any platform:
- Try to match your interviewee’s energy levels and use similar language to help them feel comfortable
- Practice active listening – your focus should be on what the other person is saying, not your next question
- Wait an extra few seconds after you think the interviewee is finished speaking before answering new questions; you might be amazed by what comes out with some extra space
- Be prepared to drop your original questions entirely and pursue more interesting topics if any come up
If you’re doing an interview by email, simply send your questions and wait for the interviewee to respond.
5. Optional: Send follow-up questions
Sometimes when you’re editing an interview you’ll realize that you’re missing a vital piece of information. At this point, you can send a follow-up email asking if they’re willing to clarify a few things.
Send the smallest number of questions necessary to get all the information you need. You want to be mindful of your interviewee’s time.
How to use blog interviews
The easiest, and often most effective, way to use blog interviews is to post them directly on your blog as articles.
Live interviews are trickier. You’ll need to go through your recording at least once, probably more, to find the best answers. You’ll also need to decide what to paraphrase, and what you want to quote directly, as you edit the interview into article format.
You can also use parts of your interviews as sources for other articles, like the quotes in our article about local WordPress development tools. This gives your articles a journalistic feel and lends your blog an extra level of authority.
For another example of how to do this, check out our article/interview with David Braun from TemplateMonster.
The best interviews can be used in both of these ways – just make sure your interviewee is comfortable with you repurposing quotes.
How to market blog interviews
Once your interview’s edited and published, you can market it the same way you market your other articles.
You can also leverage your interviewee’s platform for marketing. To maximize your chances of reaching your interviewee’s audience, create pre-made messages they can share on social media. You should also send any images you created for the article.
When you share the article on your own social media platforms, always tag the interviewee in your posts. They’ll almost always be happy to share your post with their own following, and it might remind them to promote the article in other places. You can automate these social media messages and count on a boost from your interviewee every time they go out.
Conducting and publishing excellent blog interviews can be exhausting, but it’s also one of the best ways to improve your blog.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, use this checklist to guide you:
- ✅ Choose an overarching theme for your interviews, either your overall niche or something more specific
- ✅ Brainstorm a list of people you want to interview
- ✅ Search for interview candidates on social media
- ✅ Optional: Ask your audience who they want to see interviewed
- ✅ Follow candidates on social media
- ✅ Optional: Create template messages for approaching interview candidates
- ✅ Approach candidates
- ✅ Choose questions
- ✅ Negotiate when/how the interview will be conducted
- ✅ Get into the interview mindset
- ✅ Conduct the interview
- ✅ Optional: Send follow-up questions
- ✅ Edit the interview
- ✅ Publish
- ✅ Send pre-written marketing messages / social media update texts to your interviewee
Over time, you’ll get used to the rhythm of interviews and it will get faster; when I did my last round of blog interviews, for instance, they were my easiest content to publish.
What do you think of making blog interviews an integral part of your content offering? Willing to give it a shot?
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