Interviewing experts for your blog is easier than running a guest blogging programme and you’ll see similar results.
A few weeks ago we talked about running a guest blogging programme. There were lots of advantages. It would help you add expertise outside your knowledge base to your site, help you reach a larger and different audience and help you build relationships.
But allowing others to write for your site also came with some pretty hefty disadvantages. Organisation, follow up and that’s just two of them.
There’s an alternative that delivers many of the same advantages with less of the headaches. Interviewing experts.
I’m going to put my hands up and say, I’m not the best interviewer in the world but I’m getting better and learning from every interview I do. What’s more I know my listeners and readers enjoy my interview posts, they always get good traffic and good dwell time.
I’m going to share some of the things I have learned about interviewing people for my podcast and blog.
Your Guide To Writing Expert Interview Blog Posts
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The two types of interview
There are two ways you can choose to interview experts for your blog. You can send a list of written questions by email or you can interview someone in person, by phone or skype and transcribe it.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
These are the easy option, you don’t have to sync schedules with your subject. Just send a list of questions by email and edit the replies when they come in. The disadvantage is that you’re stuck with the questions you send. If the interviewee touches on an interesting topic that you’d like to explore more you’ll either need to send a new email or not explore it at all.
In person interviews
There is a lot more work involved in this type of interview. Not only do you have to sync schedules, set up some sort of recording mechanism but you also need to transcribe and edit the interview to a readable length, in person interviews can span thousands of words.
The upside is you’ll get a far more natural response, a far better picture of the expert you are interviewing. The spoken word is full of quirks and that can help bring your subject to life. You can also entice your interviewee to expand on topics that come up during the interview.
Doing the research
Now you’ve chosen a style make a list of people you’d like to interview and do the research. You are looking for people that will enhance your blog, add expertise and appeal to your target market.
The real key to any good expert interview is to research. You should allocate a big chunk of time reading about your interviewee and the content they have created. If possible listen to podcasts and videos they have appeared on so you can get a better idea of how they speak and what they look like. It can be quite surprising when you hear someone’s voice or see what they look like for the first time.
Look for the things that are important to your subject, you’ll find they will talk about these with passion, their words will flow freely.
What stories do they tell online? Make a note of them so you can refer to them or use them to spark good conversation.
Think about what the benefit for them is to appear on your blog, will it expand their reach or personal brand? Will the inbound link to their site be valuable? And make sure you are following them on their social media platforms. There’s nothing worse than interviewing an expert and then finding out you aren’t following them on Twitter. You can hope they don’t notice when you click the follow button but you’ll always feel embarrassed.
Getting in touch
Now that you know about your expert, it’s time to approach them and ask for that interview. Use your research to send a personalised email. Your email subject line is important here too, try and make it something interesting enough that the recipient will want to open it when it appears in their inbox.
Sinéad Burke who blogs on Minnie Mélange publishes amazing interviews with powerful women and inspirational celebrities. I saw her speak at Bloggerconf in Dublin last year. She described how she approached her subjects and shared some of the subject lines she uses in emails. One started with the words “Totally chancing my arm…” I loved this approach, I’d definitely click and open an email with that headline.
But don’t copy her ideas, your headlines need to ooze personality too but it should be your personality. Ask yourself if you would click it if it landed in your inbox?
Interviewing isn’t easy. As I’ve said I’ve got a lot to learn. But we’re all amateurs when we start out and some interviews we do will be better than others. Even professional interviewers have tough interviewees sometimes. Look at Michael Parkinson’s famous exchanges with Meg Ryan.
One way we can ensure a better interview is to prepare good questions.
All your questions should be open. These are questions where there is no set answer. They could spark a variety of responses. Some interviewees will be more verbose than others but you don’t want to end up with a bundle of ‘Yes’ ‘No’ answers.
Start with some easy questions and build up to the longer ones.
Getting your expert to tell their story at the beginning of the interview will put them at ease and give your readers some good background information.
Then it’s time to get into the topics that you have researched. Focus on the topics that you know will appeal to your audience. Will they be looking for tips and expertise or are they more interested in the expert and the stories they want to share?
Try to keep your questions to a minimum, somewhere between 5 and 10. If you are conducting an in-person interview keep a notebook at your side and jot down questions that are spurred by their answers that you can refer to later.
I find that it’s not until I’ve conducted an interview that I know what the key theme is. Sometimes it goes in a completely different direction than I expected it to.
For this reason, I leave writing the introductory paragraph until last. In it I’ll include some information about the expert and talk about the key learnings that we can expect from the interview.
Transcribing and editing
You may find that you need to edit the words that come from your subject. Maybe it’s a little long or maybe you want to edit for clarity. If you are changing your subject’s words it’s important that you are not changing the meaning of their words. For written responses send your edits on to the interviewee so they can approve them.
For recorded in-person interviews editing is harder work. You’ll need to remove the umms and ahhs and in some cases neaten up the text so it flows well when being read. Don’t be too heavy-handed though, let their personality and quirks shine through. Again, if you are changing their words significantly you should send the edits on for approval.
You’ll want to wrap up your expert interview with some conclusions and a bit more information about your subject. It’s totally up to you how much you promote your interviewee in your post. I like to add a paragraph linking to their online presence and other resources they mention in the post. Remember, these links will be one of the reasons they will agree to the interview.
Now you are ready to hit publish. Don’t forget to tag your interviewee when you share it online and email them a thank you message.
Interviewing experts is a good way of expanding your audience, the knowledge base of your blog and it can help you build relationships with your subjects. They are less time consuming that guest blogging and can offer real value to your audience.
- Make a list of experts you’d like to interview on your blog
- Research each one in full
- Send an email request
- Write a list or questions for your interview
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Diana Koshedzhiyska says
Great one, Amanda. Thank you for laying out the process. I need to make a list of experts I want to interview 🙂
Amanda Webb says
Thanks Diana, I find that writing about a process helps me nail it! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.
Joanne Dewberry says
Great post and excellent tips. I never interview people on my blog but maybe I should start.
Amanda Webb says
If you do let me know, I’d love to read 🙂
Colm Baker says
Great post Amanda, I’ve been considering taking this approach for an upcoming process but the time that would have to be devoted to transcription would be a barrier. I suppose it’s something that could be outsourced?
Amanda Webb says
yes there’s a great tool rev.com that will do it at not too large a cost and quickly.
Colm Baker says
Cool Amanda..thank you!