How can you drive new visitors to your blog and create unique content that no one else has?
Interviewing experts in areas that relate to your blog topic is a smart move for several reasons.
First, if you're having trouble coming up with blog ideas, you can easily throw out a line to some of the PR websites like ProfNet and father up any number of people willing to be interviewed on a topic. Second, they will let their fans, family and friends know about the interview, which in turn brings new visitors to your site.
Finally, an interview is an exclusive talk with another person. No one else will have your exact questions, the exact answers this person gave you, or the same content on their site. Readers must come to your blog to get this.
How to Find Interview Subjects
No matter what topics your blog covers, there is likely an expert or two out there. There are several places you can find interview subjects:
ProfNet comes from PR Newswire and is a way to connect experts with people who want to interview them. You can sign up for a free account and post what topics you want to interview for. You can even limit how long you'll take interview requests. PR reps and individuals will then contact you and pitch their product, expertise, or person. It works for a quote for a larger article or as a source for interviewees.
Blog tours were once the land of authors. What better way to promote a new book than visiting different blogs and talking about said book? However, you can turn this concept on its ear by looking for an author who has written about the topic you want to cover and then contacting them to see if they want to be a guest on your site. You can then interview the author, allow him to submit an article and get him to interact with your readers. It's a win/win for both you and the author.
Just Google it. Whatever topic you want to cover, go to Google and plug in the topic. There will be at least a few “experts” who pop up on your list. Check these people out and see if they fit the profile of who you might like to interview. Then, send a similar letter to the one below and request an interview with the person. Also, if you see an article that is particularly well written, look and see who the writer is and if it is someone you can contact for an interview. Sites like ExpertClick can also help you find experts in a given area.
Local businesses can be a great source as well. Let's say you want to add an article about the best time of year to plant begonias. Contact local nurseries and see if there is a master gardener or expert on hand who might like to be interviewed about this topic.
Social media is also a decent source. With most businesses these days having at least a slight social media presence, you can plug nearly any topic into your social media of choice's search bar and come up with a number of experts.
HARO and Media Shower are two other sources for finding experts. HARO is similar to ProfNet and connects experts with media; Media Shower, on the other hand, run expert interviews regularly.
Once you've located one or more subjects to interview, you'll want to send a letter or message explaining the project. I've included a sample below, but you'll want to tweak it to match your topic and blog.
Dear Mr. Smith [Use a specific name to greet the interview subject.]:
My name is Lori Soard [Replace my name with your name] and I own a website called Rat Race Mutiny [Replace my blog's name with yours]. I am looking for an expert to interview about small business security cameras [share the topic you are writing on] and your name came up in my Google search [Be honest about where you found their name].
I would love your input on this topic and hoped I could send you a few questions. I am posting a couple of links below to samples of my other articles on the site, so you can get an idea for the tone and nature of my blog posts [I find that this is vital so they can see that my intent is not to attack them or their business].
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Lori Soard [Your name]
Prepare for the Interview
I recently wrote an article about using the five Ws that journalists have used for decades to help you write a blog post. Using Who, What, Where, When and Why is vital to helping you prepare interview questions. It will also help you during the actual interview, because if you need to ask follow-up questions, you'll understand how to insert those “how” questions.
Live, Phone, or Email Interview?
Your first step is to figure out how you'll conduct the interview.
Serious journalists will tell you not to conduct email interviews but to do them live or over the phone. However, I have found that for many topics it is better to conduct an email interview. It allows you to think through your questions, the interviewee to think through his responses (thus, those responses are often much more detailed and give you better clips to use), and you have the exact words as your subject spoke them. Anyone who has ever tried to transpose a tape recording of a live or telephone interview knows what a challenge that can be. People also naturally speak differently than they write. There will be pauses, dropped words, sentences that end in the middle of a thought. You will have to fill in thoughts with brackets and maybe even do more follow-up.
That said, some subjects don't want to do an email interview. They want a phone interview. In those cases, when it is an expert that you really want to interview, I say to concede to what the interviewee wants. If he or she feels more comfortable, then that person is more likely to open up to you and give you great information that you can share with your readers.
Type out and print out your questions in at least a 14 point font. You want them to be easy to read. You'll also want to separate them with lines, asterisks, different colors, or bullet points. The important thing is that you can see each question clearly so you don't lose your place.
Cross Out Asked Questions
I like to also cross out each question after I've asked it, so I don't stumble. I learned this during my radio show days and it has served me well. You can simply cross a line through it with a pen or use a highlighter to highlight the questions you've already asked. Also, there are times when an answer from the interviewee will lead you to skip a question or move to one farther down the page. By crossing out what you've asked, you will be able to hop back up to the question you skipped without losing your place.
There are a few bits of interview etiquette that you'll want to remember.
Don't hound a potential subject. If the person has not responded after a couple of emails or a phone call, move on. Some people are leery of cold calls from email or the phone from people the don't know and rightly so. There are many scams out there these days. The contact may or may not get back to you at a later time. You can always write a second piece on the topic if they contact you after it is already written.
Do include a link to their website if you are able to. It is a nod to them for taking the time to answer your questions. It adds value to their backlinks and it shows them that you want to help them promote their business.
Do include a short bio or introduction that tells the reader about this person.
Thank them in the post. I usually do this at the end, but that isn't a rule. I just like to wrap things up by saying thank you to the person for taking the time to talk to Rat Race Mutiny.
Send the interviewee an email or card thanking them for the interview. This is an expert and not only should you thank them for their time but you want to keep them on file for possible future questions you might have for other articles.
Pulling Together a Stellar Post
Once you've asked your questions and you have fabulous, or sometimes not so fabulous answers, it's time to pull it all together into a post your readers will love. Here is the basic outline I use for Q & A interviews:
Introduction with bio of person being interviewed
Conclusion with thank you and link to the person's website as well as any concluding thoughts
On the other hand, you might be pulling in quotes to a topic you're writing about instead of doing a Q&A type article. If that is the case, then you will want to read through the answers you've received from the interviewee and choose the very best ones to use. If there are typos, clean them up. If there are phrases that don't make sense, fix them if you can. However, if you have to do massive rewriting, rework it and then run it past that person and ask if that is what they were saying. You don't want to put words in the mouth of an interview subject, but the quotes have to make sense to the reader.
If there is a single missing word, you can usually just add it with brackets and the reader will understand you are assuming this is what the interviewee meant. For example:
“Security cameras should be small, hidden and offer [night] vision capabilities.”
You'll find that interviewing people for your articles adds another element to your blog posts that you may not have yet explored. The benefits include new visitors who are already fans of the person being interviewed to your regular readers getting excited over new information.
About Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.