I started blogging in 2004, before blogging became a popular way to add content to websites. Back then I had to create a web page for each new article I wrote and format everything manually. It was a tedious process, but I was motivated by the opportunity to educate my audience and build what I called an “online magazine.”
It wasn’t long before I realized that each new piece of content helped to attract and grow my audience. I monitored website traffic statistics and couldn’t argue with facts—traffic numbers grew at a steady pace week after week.
At the time, I was writing articles about small business topics. I had quit my Silicon Valley job, opened a 2,800 square foot bookstore in Sacramento. I was getting hands-on education in marketing, business growth, hiring and firing, managing financials, and so much more, and turning that new-found knowledge into articles.
Eventually, I wondered if my readers would like to see stories about themselves and others just like them. So, I started adding typed interviews to the blog. These became hugely popular for several reasons. It turned out that fellow business owners loved seeing their stories on the site, and they would in turn share their stories with their own audiences, driving even more traffic to my site. And readers enjoyed the content too, so it further cultivated loyalty with the target audience.
Years later, I began interviewing people for our weekly podcast at the Nonfiction Authors Association. I decided to keep the interviews to 30 minutes or less because we’re all so darn busy, and I wanted listeners to know they could learn something with just a brief commitment of precious time. These interviews air every Wednesday and are available for anyone to listen, and then the recordings go into our member archives. The recordings have been one of the most popular membership benefits because interviews are content-rich and succinct. We make good use of every minute of airtime.
Interviewing people for your blog, podcast, or videos is a fun way to cultivate a loyal audience while connecting with new people. Here are some tips on how you can create your own interviews.
How to Conduct Podcast and Video Interviews
The first key to any kind of interview series is consistency. I recommend setting a schedule and sticking to it. You may want to post one interview a week—or five a week. Just be sure to plan ahead. Here are some steps to help you conduct your own podcast and video interviews:
- Plan your airtime schedule in advance. We host ours on Wednesdays at 10am PT / 1pm ET. This never changes.
- Brainstorm a list of interview topics and people you’d like to interview. Then, prioritize the order in which you will proceed. When you’re just getting started, lean on friends and peers who will gladly support you by being your first guests. Once you have some experience, you can begin reaching out to others in your industry and inviting them to be guests on your program.
- Be strategic when choosing guests. You want people who will deliver value for your audience, and that doesn’t mean you need to aim for New York Times bestselling authors or celebrity influencers right out of the gate—or ever. In fact, name recognition has never been a primary factor for me when choosing guests. I simply want to connect with industry experts who have value to offer. It doesn’t matter to me how much notoriety they have as long as they meet the goal to deliver content-rich interviews.
With that said, inviting guests to your program is a fantastic way to connect with peers in your industry. Take the opportunity to chat with your guests after the interview and develop a rapport. You never know where these connections can lead. You might in turn get invited to be a guest on their podcast or speak at one of their events.
By the way, don’t be afraid to interview your competitors. I strongly believe that there is plenty of business to go around. There is no reason to fear or avoid the competition. Isn’t it better to work together?
- Get your equipment ready. For audio and video interviews, Zoom is a great tool, along with a good microphone. I use a Blue Yeti microphone, and another solid brand is Audio Technica. If you’re going to be on screen, invest in a decent web camera since the one that comes with a laptop isn’t always the best quality. Logitech sells excellent web cameras for under $100.
You may need to do some editing of your recording files. Camtasia is popular software to help you accomplish this. Or you can hire it out to a freelancer on Upwork.
- Get your marketing materials ready. You may want to have a professionally recorded introduction created, along with a recorded thank you message that airs at the end of interviews. These typically feature professional announcers and some music in the background and last just a few seconds but can put an added professional touch on your program. You can find inexpensive voice talent through Fiverr.com and Upwork. These freelancer sites also have graphic artists who can design images to promote your program, or you can try to create images yourself with Canva.
- Schedule interviews in advance and give yourself plenty of lead time. I try to schedule recording sessions at least a month ahead of airtime so I’m not scrambling at the last minute. When I send out invitations to guests, I batch them up and record on the same days—often on Tuesdays or Thursdays. I like to get two or three interviews done on the same day.
- Ask guests to provide a headshot and brief bio so you can post the event on your website. You can create a blog category on your site for interviews and post them there. Ideally, you should post it two or more weeks in advance so you can promote the upcoming event, and your guest can too.
Once the post is published on your site, send the guest a link and invite him/her to share. We take the extra step of asking guests if they would like to contribute a guest blog post on the subject of the interview and most are happy to do so. This gives us all an additional piece of valuable content to promote the event and give value to our audience.
- Prepare a script for each interview. Include an introduction to the interview topic, your guest’s brief bio, and some interview questions. I like to prepare 8 to 10 questions in advance and provide them to the guest a few days ahead of time. I rarely stick to the exact script, but it gives me—and the guest—a good plan for the flow of questions.
If you remember just one tip from this article, please let it be this:
When preparing questions and conducting your interview, put yourself in the shoes of your listeners.
I always consider what I would want to know as an up-and-coming author. I’ve been in this business for a long time and can anticipate 95% of guests’ answers to questions. But my audience members (you!) need to learn something new, and that is what I focus on with every single interview. It’s never about what I care about; it’s about what my audience wants to know.
- Be a good listener during the interview, but still drive the bus. I enjoy listening to podcasts, but it’s frustrating when the host breezes past guest comments and sticks to his own agenda. Or worse, the host is too focused on talking about himself. Another pitfall is using repetitive phrases. I was once interviewed for a podcast and after every answer I gave, the host said, “Uh huh, I agree, I agree.” She must have said it a dozen times!
It all gets back to putting yourself in the shoes of your listener. Don’t be so married to your prepared questions that you avoid asking follow-up or clarification questions. And keep in mind that your guest should be the star. When Jimmy Fallon interviews Beyonce, he doesn’t try to impress her with his own knowledge of the entertainment industry. He makes her the focus.
Ultimately, you don’t want to leave your audience confused or frustrated. And rest assured that conducting interviews gets easier with time. If you want some inspiration, listen to some of the top podcasts on iTunes and see how it’s done. Brené Brown is an excellent interviewer.
- Treat your podcast like a business. Commit to building your skills as an interviewer and attracting interesting guests while growing your audience. Put a form with Submission Guidelines on your website and make it easy for guests to pitch themselves to you. Then, share that form across social media and with email subscribers. This way you don’t have to be on the hunt for guests all of the time. Let them come to you! You can also submit your request for guests through our site. We share media leads with members of the Nonfiction Authors Association every week and your show can be featured there!
A Note on Video Interviews
To interview people by video, you should follow many of the steps outlined in the podcast steps above. The difference is that you will need to be camera-ready. These interviews can be conducted by Zoom or other web conferencing service, or done in person if the opportunity arises.
If you create video interviews, I recommend saving an audio-only version and syndicating that as a podcast. The goal should be to get as much mileage as you can out of every piece of content you create!
How to Conduct Blog Interviews
Blog interviews are easier than podcast interviews for a bunch of reasons. You don’t have to worry about recording equipment, editing software, and all the other details that go into hosting a podcast. For your blog, I recommend simply creating an interview form that guests can fill out.
As I mentioned previously, I have been hosting guest interviews on my blogs for over a decade. Readers love them, as long as they are tailored to the interests of your target audience. When coming up with questions, ask yourself what your visitors would want to know. Or better yet, ask them!
You should also ask the interviewee for a headshot and brief bio to include with the post. Once it’s published on your site, send him or her a link and invite them to share with their networks. Easy peasy!
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