Interviews are a fantastic way of gathering raw content for case studies, news stories, testimonials and other business copy.
Interview know-how is an essential tool in a journalist’s kit of tricks. Whether you prefer a good grilling by Jon Snow or the comedy banter of Graham Norton, people develop their own technique, yet the basic skills are the same.
So if you are considering interviewing a local business leader, a high profile customer or long-serving staff member, take a few tips from us. We can help you transform a list of questions into a story that is personal, authentic…and legal!
Never go into an interview without doing your background research so get to know who you are interviewing. Not only does this influence the questions you ask, but it also shows the interviewee that you know your onions and you’re taking the interview seriously.
Put your interviewee at ease
When your subject is feeling relaxed, they are more likely to open up and give you a better interview. We are not talking about spilling the beans on the hottest industry gossip, but they are more likely to reveal their true personality, which you can use to give your story more depth. Help your interviewee relax by asking about their day, or a project they are involved in. And, of course, the topic of the ‘great’ British weather always helps break the ice! For quality (and reputational) purposes, we strongly suggest not going into full ‘Fleet Street’ mode – avoid interviewing in a bar or anywhere equally distracting.
Best practice means getting someone’s permission to use their interview and photo for any internal and external communications for the next few years. Ideally, get their signature on a form, or ask them to confirm in an email that they are okay with everything.
The Big Six
Using the ‘Big Six’ – who, why, where, when, how and why – encourages deeper responses than closed questions such as: ‘Are you happy with what you achieved at the conference?’. This will probably get a yes or no answer, forcing you to prompt for more information. Knowing how to frame questions (i.e. think about what you want to know, and how you elicit the answer) will enrichen the interview.
Although you are writing for business, your content can still be emotive. After all, most people like to feel a connection with someone’s experiences. So ask your interviewee about their reaction to an event or news to bring their story to life. By creating content with depth, you will get readers coming back to read your other stories in the future.
Avoid sticky situations
You are not reporting on celebrity scandal, so, as a general guide, avoid reporting on any rumours. Your business content should inform and engage your customers, not titillate and provoke. Journalists learn about avoiding defamation in their training – take a leaf out of their notebook and watch out for anything that is potentially sensitive or claims that are unproven.
Make it quick
If you are interviewing someone in a rush (at an industry event perhaps) keep your questions short and to the point. When you are preparing, focus on what you absolutely must get out of your interviews, and plan accordingly.
Some journalists use shorthand to take interview notes, so out of necessity they need to translate their shorthand into full copy while it is still fresh in their minds. Although you might not use shorthand, it is still wise to write up your notes into clearer English before you forget details.
Need help carrying out an interview? Call Red Ruby Copywriting for some friendly advice.
About the author: Elma Glasgow
Based in Cambridge, UK, I am a freelance copywriter creating quality business copy that engages and inspires.
I work in partnership with customers to bring their stories to life. I help people identify core messages and discuss business objectives to produce clear, concise copy.
Throughout my career I have worked on campaigns for brands including Sony Music, 20th Century Fox, Comic Relief and the British Red Cross, and I also work with small and medium-sized enterprises in Cambridge, and beyond.
My approach to producing copy is underpinned by qualifications and professional training including:
· Diploma in copywriting
· News journalism post-graduate certificate (from the National Council for the Training of Journalists)
· German degree studied in London, Heidelberg and Berlin
· Certificate in teaching English as a foreign language
Get your project off to a sparkling start – call Red Ruby Copywriting today!