“We’re not looking for quotes. We’re looking for stories.”
Who we ask matters. What we ask matters. How we ask matters, and when we ask matters. Donna Talarico, editor of Hippocampus Magazine, talked about tips that we can use when we’re creating content for the web:
The type of story you’re writing will dictate the types of questions to ask; your interview should start with research. Find your angle, and that will boost your confidence and credibility. When you come into an interview comfortable with the subject and the topic, it helps both sides open up.
Donna notes that it’s important to “go the distance.” Go along for the ride! Taste test! Participate in your story. Doing this builds trust with your subject.
It’s important to ask “why.” Dig deep when you’re asking questions, but don’t be confusing! Don’t ask a three-part question just to ask it — remember, the point is to get the story, and your interview subject will appreciate the ability to answer what’s asked without having to focus on what’s coming next.
“Be quiet.” Don’t step on the silence; let your subject get their answer right, and it’ll allow you to get a sense of the non-verbals. It’s okay to have your head down to take notes, but make sure you’re clear and you’re acknowledging what your subject is saying. Clarifying and reorienting questions can be helpful, too.
The interview isn’t just about your subject — you don’t want to be hangry during your interview! Make sure you’re in the right space, physically and mentally, too.
Some people will lean toward the email interview; Donna calls those “surveys.” Don’t email if you can avoid it. It can lead to sloppy work if you’re copying and pasting, too. We don’t talk in numbered lists or giant blocks of text, but we might do that on email; you need to then massage that into content that actually flows. (Plus, you don’t know that you’re “talking” with the right person!) If you must, make sure you take your time. Do it one question at a time if you can and make it a true “interview.”
Once you’ve got your content — what do you do with it?
Did you find your angle? Change your angle? Write your story, and then DIG again. Do more research and make sure you’ve got what you need; this allows you to create an amazingly rich story. If you’ve done all this well, it lowers your margin of error.
Ultimately, good stories need respect and time!