On Conducting an Interview

Because you are an ambitious Freelance consultant, you regularly provide content marketing that showcases your expertise and reinforces your brand with current and potential clients and, when good fortune intervenes, motivates them to give you some much-needed billable hours.  As you plan your activities, you may at some point reach out to a fellow Freelancer, a good client, or another expert and ask to include that individual in your content marketing by way of an interview.  Featuring another perspective every once in a while keeps your marketing content fresh and more interesting to the audience.  I’m thinking of doing exactly that sometime soon, if my target interview guest is willing to speak with me on the record.  Stay tuned.

At some point in your professional life it is likely that you may decide, or be asked, to interview someone, so you would be wise to learn the process.  Successfully conducted interviews hinge on good preparation.  While some of us may feel that interviewing is an intuitive skill and that we should be able to manage the process spontaneously, that will not be the case.  You could probably muddle through, but why not take a couple of hours and learn how to get it right?

Think first of an interview guest to invite.  Who do you know who might tell a good story, or share some useful information that will be appreciated by your audience and does it seem possible that you’ll be able to convince that person to speak with you? 

Second, consider the basic interview format. Will your guest agree to a face-to-face Q & A that will be required for a video, or will it be a phone interview that is suitable for your podcast, blog, or newsletter? Email interviews often do not produce the best results according to many journalists. 

Third, brainstorm questions or topics that might be interesting to your audience and play to your guests’ strengths. You may want to write up a list of potential questions, or make note of possible topics. Visit the Twitter feed, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and conduct an internet search to find out what may have been written by or about your proposed guest.

Invite your potential interview guests in a phone call. Some requests require a more personal approach than email.  Immediately upon reaching an agreement with your guest, send a confirmation email.  Two or three days in advance of the interview, send a second email to confirm the interview time and place and specify whether a phone call or in-person meeting will take place.

In all formats, introduce the guest to your audience and give a brief bio. If your interview will be video or podcast (audio), welcome your guest warmly and thank him/her for agreeing to appear. Your audience needs to hear, and see, this greeting. If the interview will appear in text you will still give a warm welcome and thanks and that exchange will appear in print.  

As you ask questions be friendly and upbeat, to help your guest to feel comfortable and safe.  Avoid “gotcha” questions designed to make the guest feel judged. Keep your mouth shut and practice active listening as you take notes as the guest speaks  (you can record as well and if you plan to do that, ask permission).  If you hear a particular word, phrase, or aspect of the topic that piques your curiosity or seems to give unexpected insight into the question, enter it into your notes and then ask a follow-up question. In this way, your interview will become a conversation, rather than a stilted Q & A session.  The best interviews are what seem to be a relaxed and intelligent conversation between the host and guest.

FYI, it is sometimes necessary to ask the same question two or even three times, in different ways, to persuade your guest to give a complete answer. It’s important to build rapport throughout the interview to make the subject feel comfortable sharing information.

You may need to nudge the interview back on track if your subject goes off on a tangent, in particular if this is a video or podcast conversation.  A useful phrase could be, “How does that relate to the big picture”? Conversely, you might draw out more information from a reticent guest when you ask, “Do you have a story that will illustrate your point”? At the end of the interview, thank your guest for participating and enlightening the audience.

If the interview will appear as a podcast or video, your guest may appear for 15 – 20 minutes, unless his/her topic is especially compelling.  If you are interviewing for your blog or newsletter, 15-20 minutes is probably still a good time limit for the conversation. Overwhelming your guest or audience is to be avoided.

Interviewing a guest for your chosen content marketing platform will build your audience and enhance the brand of your guest as well.  Create a win-win situation for you and the guest by carefully considering the benefits that will accrue to each of you through the proposed interview and be sensitive also to the interests of the audience.

Thanks for reading,



Media Training Gives You Media Savvy

Journalists are constantly on the lookout for interesting and engaging stories that will become the relevant content that consumers of their visual, print or online outlets seek out. Freelance consultants must always encourage the existence of confidence in our abilities and media exposure may be employed to help us to achieve that aim. We must become adept at the art of selling ourselves, that is our capabilities, to target audiences through various media channels. When we make ourselves available for commentary tin the media, we position ourselves in a very powerful way and assume the mantle of authority in our subject.

To maximize the benefits derived from your media exposure, explore ways that you might receive some media training.  Media training will make you much more effective in your interactions with journalists and the technology and teach you how to get your message across succinctly and with impact.  You will be on your way to becoming an effective spokesperson and journalists will return to you again and again for expert commentary on issues in your field.

Speak in a way that builds confidence in your expertise

Our body language, tone of voice and vocabulary help us to deliver our message in a positive and powerful way. When speaking on television, facial expressions and body language can overtake the value of verbal content. As example, think of political debates, televised or not. Many politicians have been declared the winner of debates primarily on their communication style. That their action items were noticeably weaker than their less glib opponent gets lost in the shuffle.

Learn how to best define and communicate your key messages

Being savvy with body language and facial expressions and knowing how to look into the camera are all good, but it’s even better when we have a relevant message or information that is communicated clearly and concisely. Media training will teach you how to speak in “sound bites” : short, easy to remember statements that focus on outcomes and information that concerns the audience, spoken in language that resonates with the audience. Three points seems to be the magic number that audiences will recall in days that follow the interview.  Once you’ve enumerated your messages, you can loop back and reinforce them throughout the interview.

Anticipate difficult questions and learn to design a clear and credible response

Journalists often take a perverse pleasure in throwing interview subjects a question that might stop them cold or undermine their message. The journalists want to maintain credibility with their audience by showing that they’ve done their homework and demonstrating that don’t traffic in powder puff interviews. Media training will prepare you for challenging questions and help you learn how to anticipate the difficult questions that might be asked and to finesse your way out of tight spots, whether or not you expected that line of questioning. This skill above all others will help you to feel confident as you step into the interview.

Learn how to control your interview

The interview subject is always in control. Media training will teach you how to assert your dominant position, graciously. First, those who have clear answers that are communicated well are able to steer the interview in a direction that benefits them.  This is a subtle and yet hugely important skill. One can never stop practicing. A very close second is that through media training, one learns to maintain composure, which is a defining element of trust, the appearance of competence and professional stature. S/he who maintains composure can create the outcome that is desired.

Reduce the chance of being misquoted

Under no circumstances do you want your message to be misinterpreted in any way. Being unprepared for an interview leaves one in a very vulnerable position. Credibility and reputation are at risk. Learning, practicing and perfecting the skills of defining the most important points of your message; delivering the message in “sound bites” that help the journalist as well as the audience to understand your position; learning how to control the interview;  and learning how to finesse difficult questions, all the while maintaining your composure, will make you an in-demand media darling whose brand and billable hours will be greatly enhanced.

Thanks for reading,