A good interview can make or break a story. From a good interview, you can get a better sense of the story you’re writing, an insider’s view, and quotes that will give your article power.
There are important things to remember to make your interview successful. Set up the interview by phone. Unless you already know the person that you’re going to interview, it is rude to just drop by and ask them for an interview. It puts them on the spot.
When you ask for an interview,
make sure you clearly identify yourself. Tell them who you are and for whom you are writing the article. It’s not a bad idea either to let them know what the article is about ahead of time so the person will have ample opportunity to formulate their thoughts before the interview.
Let the person know approximately how long you feel the interview will take. Make sure you specify whether the interview will be over the phone or whether you will be meeting the person somewhere. Set a specific time and date. Double check that you both understood correctly. There’s nothing worse then having to call someone back because there was confusion about when an interview was supposed to take place and have the person be upset because they thought you ditched them.
The interview itself is obviously very important. You need to make sure that you don’t spend more time than you told the person it would take. If you run out of time and there is still more you want to talk about ask the person if that is all right to continue or if you can schedule a second interview.
If you are going to record the conversation, check with the person to make sure it’s okay. If you prefer to take notes making sure you catch everything and separate your notes from actual quotes you may want to use.
Make sure the questions you ask are designed to elicit discussion rather than prompt a “yes” or “no” answer. Use follow up questions to clarify confusing points. You can also restate something the person has said to get them to continue the thought or go more in depth.
If you are trying to elicit a specific quote from a person you can say to the person what you want to hear from them in the form of a question. This will sometimes lead to a “yes” or “no” answer, but you should be able to follow up with a question that will earn you the quote you want.
Always remember to be courteous and considerate. Be sure to thank the person for their time. Let them know when and where the story you are working on will be published, in case they want to read it.