Are you blogging your heart out, but not getting a lot of readers?
Do potential clients seem unimpressed by your blogging portfolio?
Well, here’s one way to really grab some eyeballs and get the online traction that brings clients to your door:
Deliver an exclusive, fascinating interview with a prominent person.
Wait, wait, I hear you say — how will I ever get anyone to talk to me? Worse, what if someone does talk to me and I get so nervous I blow it?
You’d be surprised at how easy it is.
As a journalist by training and a former staff reporter, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people. If one person you want to talk to won’t say yes, I can promise you, there’s someone else who will.
And with the 7 tips I’m about to share, your nerves won’t matter.
Why interviews? Having fresh information in your posts is key to driving traffic. Most blog posts just recycle things we’ve all seen 100 times before, so when you have exclusive interviews, you immediately stand out.
In fact, when writers ask me how they can earn more in 2015, I tell them to learn article writing. And the big thing that makes articles more interesting than the typical blog post is the interviews.
Of course, once you get someone to talk to you, you have to be a great interviewer to get some really juicy comments. Here are my tips for how to ace your interview and create an attention-getting blog post:
1: Be prepared
Before your interview time, do some research on your subject.
Learn about their point of view, their personal life, their hobbies. Fortunately, the Internet makes this a snap.
You can use some of this knowledge to break the ice and get your source chatting. You want them relaxed and gabbing with you. That improves your odds that they’ll say something truly provocative and quotable.
See what they’ve already said in print or online — and think about how to move that forward. Is there a new book, speaking tour, political campaign, retail store, charity they founded? (Doing this research and showing you know what your target is doing can also help you get a “yes” when you’re pitching the interview.)
2: Talk live
Based on the many requests I get to be ‘interviewed’ by typing answers to a few emailed questions, many bloggers don’t know that emails are not interviews. You’re not going to get anything great this way.
Instead, set up a phone or Skype interview time — or meet them in person, if they’re local.
With a live interview, you’ll have the chance to shift on the fly, and ask follow-up questions if your subject says something intriguing. This is how you draw out exclusive info.
You also have a chance to build a relationship with your source, so that you might grow this connection. Maybe you’ll guest post on their blog in future, include them in a roundup, or interview them again. That’s a big way to grow your blog audience.
3: Get the facts
Kick off your interview like a pro journalist and ask those five “W” questions — who, what, when, where, and why. You may think it’s obvious, but if you don’t have practice at this, it’s easy to leave without some of the basic info you need to make your interview seem legit.
To flesh that out for you, be sure to get things like:
- Who are you? And who are you collaborating with?
- What are you doing right now that’s newsworthy?
- When is it happening? All year? A week from Tuesday?
- Where is it happening? Online? In Los Angeles? In space?
- Why should readers care? Why is this important?
To that I’d add a “How” question too, such as “How long ago did you start blogging?” or “How are you going to fix this problem?”
And always: “How can I best get back in touch with you if I have more questions when I’m writing this up?”
4: Shut up
Great interviewing is all about being quiet and letting your source talk. Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered “yes” or “no,” and then just sit back and take notes. (Use a recording device for backup if you’re not a fast typist or note-taker — I like Call Recorder for Skype.)
When your subject gets to the end of a thought, don’t jump in right away with your next question. Just sit still. Chances are, within about 10 seconds, your source will add something else. This is where they think a bit more, and add that one fresh fact that gives you a scoop.
People abhor silence, so they’ll jump in and tell you more. Sometimes, they’ll even tell you things they really shouldn’t, just to fill that silence.
If being quiet doesn’t get results, you could take another tack:
5: Be a bomb-thrower
Want to get something really buzz-worthy to put in a blog post? Ask a hot question. Be provoking. Make it controversial, incendiary, aggravating, personal, contrary.
Don’t make nice-nice. Get in your source’s face. Call them on their B.S.
See if you can prod your source into saying something wild. This is the tabloid journalist’s stock angle.
How do you know what the hot topic is? Do some more research — and dig for dirt this time. Check for lawsuits, signs of a checkered past, financial irregularities, unhappy past customers, disgruntled former employees, competitors, bitter ex-spouses.
Google “[person name] sucks” and see what you get.
One key tip about asking bombshell questions that I learned from legendary muckraking journalist Jessica Mitford: If you’re going to go for the jugular, save those questions for last. That way, you’ve already got something usable, in case they refuse to answer and walk out or hang up on you.
You may not want to try this on the blogger you idolize and want to build a relationship with, but asking the hot question can give you the dirt you need to create a blog post that goes massively viral.
6: Hand it off
Don’t just read off your question list and wrap it up. Instead, put your subject in the driver’s seat. It may surprise you, and take your interview in new directions.
Two questions I like to ask: “Is there anything about this topic you wanted to say that you haven’t?” and “Is there anything else you wanted to talk about? If there’s something else in your sector that’s a hot topic that I’ve missed, I’d love to hear.”
Many times, this cracks the interview wide open. “Hell, yes — people need to be warned about this dangerous, emerging trend!” is the type of response you often get. And now, you’ve got a better story.
When you get to the end of the interview, ask a leading question about the future, too, such as, “What’s next for you?”
They may not have thought to tell anyone yet about the upcoming conference they’ll be presenting at, the new class they’re about to introduce, or what their next book will be titled. Your question will draw that out, and help you have a scoop for your blog.
7: Sculpt your quotes
Judging from what I read online, a lot of writers don’t seem to realize that not everything your source says belongs in quotation marks — only the tastiest, most memorable, pithy remarks.
You get those tweetable quotes by cleaning up what your source said. It may seem like sacrilege to alter their words, but in fact, your sources expect you to piece together their ideas into the most coherent form and take out all their side trails, “um”s, and stumbles.
Don’t quote a mile-long paragraph of what they said — big blocks of text send online readers away. Paraphrase or sum up the bulk of what they said, and just include a few snappy quotes to make it a livelier read.
Besides the chance to grow your own blog audience by writing magazine-article quality blog posts — now, you’ve got fantastic writing samples you could use to break in and write for top blogs, or for print magazines, too.
Bonus point #8: Win free training!
To help you get your article writing skills up to high-earning journalist standards, we’re giving away ONE free place in the Article Writing Masterclass. 🙂
For your chance to win, read the training info page and then come back here to leave a comment, telling us: what will be the biggest benefit of this training for you?
Sophie will choose one winning comment on December 25th, 2014. Good luck!