Interviewing people for press articles or blogs can be an intimidating experience. Whether you are speaking to a CEO or a sports star, the sheer charisma and presence of the interview subject can send plans awry, even for the most confident and experienced writers.
The temptation for too many journalists is to trot out the cliched questions which everyone asks. Sports stars will be asked how they felt, for example, or a politician will be asked an anodyne, unchallenged question which allows them to retreat into bluster. Such questions make for poor blogs and articles.
Good interview questions, on the other hand, are gold for good writers. A question needs to produce something new and different from the respondent. Readers crave insight, rather than reading cliches, and all questions should be targeted and focused.
Creating good questions ahead of an interview is therefore a matter of some priority for anyone who wants to produce interesting and enticing copy for their blog or article. Like many things in life, it requires thoughtful planning and preparation. However experienced a journalist is, simply ‘winging it’ and relying on momentary inspiration for questions is risky.
It pays to have a plan of attack. Research the subject of your interview and see how they have reacted to certain questions in the past. See what subjects they like to talk about, so that they you can make them feel comfortable. But also look up which topics they struggle with, as these can often provide the most telling insights.
Research is a crucial part of this. It is important that anyone hoping to conduct an effective and insightful interview knows as much about their subject as possible. Only then can good and challenging questions be formulated.
Interview subjects respond in different ways to being challenged by unexpected questions. While some subjects undoubtedly do have a tendency to retreat when faced with something challenging, many more respond in a positive way. They may become angry, which can lead to passionate and emotional responses, which can often be great copy for writers. Or they may respond more thoughtfully, enjoying the challenge of being compelled to justify their views and arguments. Either way, good questions will help the writer create memorable articles.
So next time you are tasked with creating an enticing article from an interview, be prepared to plan and put some legwork into researching your subject. It will almost certainly pay off.
Roland Cross writes for Broadgate Mainland, specialists in financial services PR.