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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Four More Tips to Better Interviews

Blogathon, day 12. (And if you're reading every day, what do you think? Are you finding the posts helpful?)

Yesterday we talked about some simple, effective ways to get better interviews from your sources. Here are four more: 

Talk market. Make sure you tell your source what market (and audience) you're writing for. If you're asking for tips on how to simplify your life from a clutter expert, for example, her advice will be different if you're writing a piece for a magazine for small business owners as opposed to a parenting publication. When your source knows who your audience is, you'll get better quotes. 

Drop a nugget. At the beginning of an interview, I let the source, especially an expert one, know that I've done some research on him or her. Saying something like, "I know you've been studying music's impact and exercise for years," or "I understand that you have a new book coming out" can set the tone for a better interview. 

Toss a softball. At the end of the interview, say something like, "is there anything you want to add that you haven't asked yet?" Then shut up and listen. Often your source will have something smart and insightful to say that you didn't think to ask.

Ask for a referral. I do this a lot with expert sources--I'll ask, "is there anyone else you think I should talk to for this piece?" Researchers know, for example, the other researchers in the field, and I may get a lead on a source I wouldn't have come across otherwise. 

In all, you have eight great tips for better interviews. Your assignment: Try all eight techniques next time you conduct an interview. 

**Want more advice about everything from interviews to pitching new markets to making money as a freelancer? Check out Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets is aimed at brand-new freelancers in search of their first clips. Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition is a freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line. And my latest book,Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, shows how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field. 


  1. Great post. These are great techniques for getting more out of an interview. I've found that how successful you are at getting good material from a source comes from thinking ahead about how you want to manage your time with them. These tips all contribute to that process.

    1. Great point, Randy. I usually write out my questions beforehand, based on a rough outline of how I plan to approach the piece. Knowing what you want/need from a source is key.

  2. You know, asking if there's anything else you'd like to add that we didn't already cover is one of the best questions ever. The source always says, "I think we've already covered everything," then they reiterate what they've said, then they start to give you some really great sound bites and info they actually didn't give you before. It somehow always works out that way. I've got to try asking for referrals to other sources more. Great ideas!

    1. I agree, Margie; asking the same question a second time (in a slightly different way) can produce amazing quotes. And sometimes it is all about getting that "sound byte" for a story. Thanks for your comment!