Note from Nick: If you’re interested in building your platform online, it’s important to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking. One of the things that’s started to become more and more prolific is the “blog interview.” In this post, Shen talks about how to perfect your blog interviews for maximum exposure and readership.
Take it away, Shen!
So you’ve met your dream interviewee, conducted the interview and bought him/her a nice cup of coffee to top it off.
Now you’re back home, with your notepad of scribbles or your tape-recorder by your side, wondering how on earth to transcribe that amazing conversation you had into a coherent blog post.
You sit back on your work chair, adrenaline courses through your veins and you psych yourself up to write an amazing piece. You stare into the computer and your mind goes…blank.
You have all the material you need but you just can’t seem to translate it into that perfect blog interview that’ll do both you and your guest justice. There’s no flow, no structure and a whole lot of rambling.
What went wrong? Wasn’t writing a blog interview supposed to be easy?
Unfortunately, many bloggers take to writing an interview the wrong way. They place the responsibility of the material entirely on their guests, completely forgetting that while their guests provide the insight, the onus of creating a post that reads well and caters to their audience still falls on the blogger’s shoulders.
Writing a great blog interview isn’t that different from writing a great blog post. There has to be a good blend of content, structure and voice. And similar to every great blog post, there are a few key points you need to have at your fingertips when you’re drafting your article.
This is single handedly the most important part of your article. It’s your first impression on a prospective reader, and usually the deciding factor whether your interview gets read in the first place.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to go into detail on how to write proper headlines (That’s a course by itself) but for interview purposes, they can be kept relatively straightforward.
The “How To” format is a classic and one that I often use.
Examples That I’ve Actually Used:
- How A Self Taught Programmer Developed A Hit App That Reached The Top Of The App Store
- How A PhD In Neuroscience Develops iPhone Apps In His Spare Time
Depending on how famous your interviewees are, you may also want to leverage on their celebrity by mentioning their name in the headline.
Examples of Leveraging Celebrity:
- Creating Gratitude Journal While Working A Day Job: The Carla White Story
The most important aspect of a headline is to get the reader hooked. Once you’ve gotten them intrigued, it’s a lot easier to reel them in.
While the headline acts as a ‘hook’ to get readers interested enough to read your article, your introduction should serve as a lead-in to the actual interview itself. Your readers are primed, they’re intrigued and they want to know what your interview will reveal.
Don’t let them down just when you’ve whetted their appetites! Make bold claims, introduce a little controversy, and contradict their expectations. Grab their attention with a vice grip and don’t let go until they’re foaming at the mouth just waiting to read what went down between you and your guest.
You can give them a taste of what to expect in the article. List a few bullet points or include a sentence or two explaining what they’ll get if they continue reading.
However, don’t reveal your hand right from the start! You want readers to move on to your interview, and they won’t do that if you tell them everything that happened beforehand.
Look for images that can enhance your interview. Find images of the work your interviewee has done that are relevant to your interview and add them in.
I frequently look for screenshots of the iPhone apps my interviewees have developed and incorporate them into my article. It helps to break up the monotony of text and adds another dimension to wordy interviews.
- Section Headers
Section Headers help to structure your answers, and can be especially useful if you have interviews that are pretty lengthy.
They should be fairly direct and categorize a group of questions. For example, if you were writing a piece on a Thai chef for your Thai food blog (this is purely hypothetical by the way), your sample section headers could look like this.
- A group of questions relating to how he became a chef
Definitions of Thai Food
- A group of questions defining the chef’s stand on Thai food.
Differences Between Thai Food and International Cuisine
- A group of questions on the finer points of Thai food.
You’ll most probably have to edit some of your guest’s responses so that your article flows more naturally and is easier to read.
There should be proper segues from question to question. It’s a good practice to link the beginning portion of a follow-up question to the last part of an interviewee’s response.
Interviewee: … and that’s why I’m worried about the general decline of fresh ingredients in Tom Yum soup.
Interviewer’s Follow Up Question: The proliferation of artificial ingredients in most Tom Yum hawkers is a concern that most of our readers have as well.
Can you tell us more about how fresh ingredients affect the taste of Tom Yum soup?
Remember, it’s your blog and it’s your audience. You can curate questions and answers, leave out responses if they’re repetitive or inconsequential and combine/split answers if it makes sense.
The conclusion for an interview isn’t quite as important as the introduction. I don’t usually include a conclusion but some bloggers like to use one to summarize the interview or to add their own insights on the topics discussed.
It boils down to your personal preference but I feel that not having a conclusion doesn’t detract from the article in any way.
It’s also considered good form to email a draft of your article to your interviewee. You can follow up with some points you may want to clarify and your guest has the option of ‘self-censoring’ his words.
Blog interviews are a great way of spicing things up for your audience. You get to unlock unique insights from people in your industry, increase your network and possibly boost your traffic at the same time. It’s win-win-win.
So if you’ve never conducted an interview for your blog before, step out of your comfort zone and pitch the idea to someone you admire in your industry. It may turn out to be one of the best blogging decisions you’ve made in a while.
Shane Lee writes Beginning iOS Development, a blog revolving around interviewing iPhone developers and marketing iPhone apps.
He also writes for selective clients, and has a largely unpronounceable Chinese name.