April 6, 2012

How to give a good interview

I’ve really enjoyed being a business reporter and I love hearing all about small businesses.  Just think about it.  A small business person has created a job where there was none.  I think it’s great to have a job and work for a company.  Those businesses need people to work for them to succeed.  But, it really takes a special kind of person to create a business.  They have a passion and drive that makes them want success.  They have creative ideas and vision.

If you have a business, chances are that at some point you may get the opportunity to have an article or story written about you and your business.  I would like to share some advice with you about making the most of a great situation.

An article or story is NOT an advertisement.  If you want an ad, place an ad.  When you place an ad, you are in complete control of the message.  When you are the subject of a story or article, the writer and editor are in charge of the story.  Keeping that in mind, there are lots of ways to make sure that you are represented well.  If this story is about you and your business, relax.  The reporter only wants to get a well written story and is not out to get something juicy about you.

What’s the story?  What’s the news?  As a business reporter, I’m focused on writing about some event or change.  New business, anniversary, a new location, etc, are all news.  And, then, what is the “story”.  What will make this interesting for the reader to want to read the entire story.  I always ask myself if “I” would read it.  I always want to know the human interest part.  The people part of the story.  If the entire article is just a list of products and services, well that’s not interesting, is it?  If you are not sure if you have a newsworthy reason to contact the press, just do it!  You never know when they are looking for something to write about!  If you just have a small thing to announce, please read my article “How to write a press release”.

The interview.  Are you more comfortable with writing your answers?  I personally prefer to send a list of questions to my subject before I meet with them so that they have an opportunity to think about their answers.  This is great for background information for my story.  Often there is more than one person involved and having questions ahead of time can be a chance for all the partners to have a say in the answers.  If a list of written questions sends you running, let the reporter know.  I am always happy to do the entire interview in person or over the phone.  I try to be as accommodating as I can.  But, that may not be the case with all reporters, so remember, if you want to get a good story, you need to supply good information.  When writing answers to questions about you and your business, be candid and open, but don’t say anything that you don’t want to see in print.   More information is better than not enough.  The writer can sift through and get the good stuff.  PLEASE don’t go to your website and just cut and paste the copy from it.  That is so frustrating.  Sure it’s well written.  But, if you only want to say the same thing as your website, why wouldn’t I just be tempted to say, go to www.abccompany.com and read all about it?  And, it’s nice to have a copy of past articles for background information, but I, personally, am still going to want to write my own story.  So be prepared to start from scratch.  During the interview, I always read back any quote word for word that I am going to print.  If you give your okay, you may just read it in the paper.  So, if it doesn’t sound right, it’s perfectly fine to change it.  I am only trying to tell your story.

If you get the option to have a photograph taken, jump on it!  A picture really IS worth a thousand words. Feel free to ask to see it first.  Most camera’s have a way to view it right away.  You may not like something simple about it and it’s easy enough to take another.

Can I read it first?  I get that question a lot.  The answer is simply, no.  Again, this is not an ad that you will get final approval on.  I send my story to my editor and she may change it as she sees fit.  My editor is the final say in what gets printed.  It’s an awkward question.  Please don’t ask it! <smile>

Thank you.  I love it when people thank me for their story.  It feels great to know that they were happy with it.  As a freelance writer, I don’t get a lot of feedback.  If you liked it, let the writer know.

Don’t procrastinate.  The reporter does not work for you.  The reporter works for the publication.  And, publications have deadlines.  If you do not respond, the reporter will be forced to move on to another subject to fill that space.  I can’t tell you how many times I have contacted and contacted a business person and not received a response.  It’s free!  Why wouldn’t any business want to be written about?  And, sometimes, they wait until the last minute and expect the reporter to somehow get the story in.  Think ahead and get your information in early.  You will have a much better chance of getting your story in print.

Be nice.  Most reporters write because they love to!  Be co-operative and you will get a much better story.  That just makes common sense,right?  Don’t worry…if I have already interviewed you, I’m not talking about YOU…everyone has been so very nice to me!

Show off!  If you were lucky enough to have an article written about your business, share it!  If you can link it to your Facebook page, do it.  If you have a website, post it under your news section.  Frame it and display it in your place of business.  It’s just one more way to advertise your business and get the word out.  You can say, “As seen in the ____________(publication)”.

Take advantage. If you have a business, promoting it is a large part of building it. Take advantage of all the opportunities that are out there.  Send out press releases and let your local publications know about what’s new in your business.  If you are having an anniversary, have a new product or department, some new wonderful machine or gadget, new location (get the picture?), send it in!!

Good luck!

 

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