Have you ever wondered how interviews can help your business grow? We’re not talking about job interviews. Every entrepreneur is aware of their importance during the hiring process. We’re talking about interviews that can give you unique stories for brand promotion.
What is a good interview, anyway? It’s not a publication in a Q&A format. It’s more like a meaningful conversation with an influencer, which leads you to expressing strong and authoritative opinions. You, the writer of the interview story, are just as important as the person you’re interviewing.
Take this story as an example: Kino’s Hip: Reflections on Extreme Practice and Injury in Asana. It starts with the trigger for this interview: an injury. The writer explains the background behind the injury. Then, he interviews the influencer with meaningful answers that open new perspectives to the trend of practicing yoga. He turns these questions into a story, which he connects with an interview with another influencer.
That’s what we’re talking about: interview stories. They give you great content for the visitors of your site. When you post links to these stories on social media, they will attract clicks. First of all, your audience will want to read what this important person had to say. However, they won’t expect a boring questionnaire. They want something more. We’ll tell you how to make these stories great by asking the right questions.
1. Focus on Explaining an Idea, Event, or Situation:
In the interview story we mentioned above, the writer is focused on explaining an event (and situation). If you read this interview with George R.R. Martin for Time, you’ll notice the same thing. It’s focused on the fact that the show is about to come to an end. That’s a big event. It’s in the Q&A format, but it’s still an interview story.
You’re putting the focus on the individual you’re interviewing, and that has to be a narrow focus. You’re not conducting an interview about their life. That’s too much. Find the trigger for that conversation. Mention it in the beginning of the interview and turn it into the main theme of the talk.
2. Prepare Well:
Once you have that interview story trigger, you should do your research. Familiarize yourself with as much background as possible.
“To a certain degree, also, it’s so intertwined, tragically and unfortunately, with the character histories. Daenerys doesn’t get to where she is unless she’s sold as a child bride, effectively a slave.” That’s one of the “questions” the interviewer from Time had for George R.R. Martin. You notice he’s well informed about the writer’s work.
This doesn’t look like a dry interview with previously-written questions. It’s more like a conversation, where the interviewer is responding to the author’s answers. That’s only possible when you do your research.
3. Be an Active Interviewer:
Carol Roberts, career expert and writer from Resumes Planet, explains that job interviews and interview stories are pretty similar: “There’s one main rule to keep in mind: listen and observe. Be an active participant in this interview. Turn it into a conversation. You’ll be the master of interviewing techniques when you prepare well, but you’re flexible with that plan.”
Interview stories seem to consist of a lot of background and observations. The interviewer comes prepared. If you read them closely, however, you get the impression that this is just a normal conversation between two people. The questions and answers intertwine. That’s because the interviewer is flexible. Instead of leading the conversation under any circumstances, he lets the other party to set up the course, too.
Yes, you’re doing your research. Yes, you’re coming prepared. That’s not because you want to write precise interview questions. It’s because you want to show this person you took the time to understand their work. For the flow of the conversation, you’ll remain flexible. You’ll let the answers determine it.
4. Understand the Types of Questions You Can Ask:
When you ask questions, you have to make them non-threatening. As an interview host, you have a responsibility to establish a nice, relaxed atmosphere.
There are few types of questions you can ask:
Check out this interview with John Sculley. The theme is Steve Jobs. The interviewer gets right to the point from the very beginning: “You talk about the Steve Jobs methodology. What is Steve’s methodology?”
Open- and closed-ended questions:
The question above is an open-ended question. Although it’s direct, the interviewer leaves space for a long answer. He allows Sculley to express an opinion.
If you continue reading the interview, you’ll find this question: “But the motivation for this is the user experience?” Here, the interviewer wants to clarify the answer Sculley previously gave. To do this, he needs a brief explanation for the readers. That’s why he asks a closed-ended question, which leads to a short, direct answer.
Sometimes the interviewers want to get a piece of privacy from the people they are interviewing. It’s not because they are too curious. They are doing that to give the audience what they want. You won’t find many intrusive questions in the work of top reporters. It’s best to avoid these, unless you get this person to agree to talk about certain issues before the interview starts.
What questions are you going to ask during the interview? It depends. If you asked a direct question and you got a lengthy answer, you have to think: will the readers understand it? If there’s something you’d like to clarify, ask a closed-ended question. If you want more of this person’s honest opinions, stick with the open-ended questions.
5. Make an Outline:
By now, you surely understand: you can’t write specific interview questions. You can plan to a certain extent, but an interview is cohesive only when you’re flexible and you follow up the person’s answers with logical questions.
You can’t plan everything if you want to interview someone like a journalist. However, it’s still important to make an outline. Plan what you’ll ask this person about. You’ll focus on recent, current, or upcoming events. You can also focus on a person or situation. The important thing is to have a focus and make a list of issues you’d like to tackle. When you have such a list, it’s easy to make it flexible. You’ll just listen to the answers and connect them with your next questions. You’ll stay focused on the theme while allowing this person to freely express their opinions.
These tips are great for writing interview stories that will get you a lot of traffic to the official website. Just pick an influencer from your niche and ask them for an interview. Then, prepare well! This approach also works for job interviews. If you’re trying to make the participants relaxed and open-minded, keep the above-listed tips to mind.
Micheal Gilmore is an entrepreneur and blogger from Dallas, TX. He loves writing about business, marketing, productivity and personal growth. Micheal is also a passionate career advisor and facilitator. His mission is helping people achieve perfection in anything they do. You can catch Micheal on Twitter.