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Interview Like a Journalist

Posted on the 04 September 2014 by Marketingtango @marketingtango
  • September 4, 2014
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Interview like a Journalist

Storytelling is the key to creating compelling content that engages and informs readers. Brand promotion is no longer the focus because readers aren’t as interested in canned information that sounds like it came straight from marketing collateral. To tell an interesting, accurate story, you need to interview like a journalist; and to do that, you need to get your sources to open up by applying good ol’ Journalism 101 tactics.

Dawn Papandrea, a contributing writer for, offers the following advice:

  • Be prepared. Do your research and prepare for the interview in advance. Nothing irks a subject more than an interviewer who has no idea what he’s talking about. Think of it like homework and write down questions and notes as you do your research.
  • Keep it flowing. Shoot for a casual conversation, asking open-ended questions. Try not to leave room for one-word answers. “Tell me more about …” is a good approach. You never know the direction an interview could go when you get a source talking.
  • Be creative. Ask your source uncommon, original questions so you’re less likely to get canned, sound-bite responses. You might also ask questions about somewhat-related current events to get them talking.
  • Be here now. Actively participate and listen, so you can ask your source follow-up questions, anticipating what the reader might like to know next. Add color to any canned responses by asking questions that go deeper than the initial answer, such as “Was that the result you expected?” or “What drove that approach?”
  • Add some color. Consider lightening up the interview by asking a not-too-far-off-topic fun question like “What’s your favorite app?” This way, the reader can get a glimpse of the source’s personality, connecting with the source on a deeper level.
  • Employ tested methods. Don’t let your note-taking overtake your participation in the interview process. Find a simple, but thorough method that works for you and stick with it so you can easily collect information and stay engaged.
  • Get it right. Be perfectly accurate. It’s imperative to check all your facts – verify names, spellings, titles, etc. Then check it all again.

The more experienced you get interviewing like a journalist, the more comfortable you’ll feel, and the better your interviews are likely to go. Some sources make interviews easy; others will present a challenge. Focus on applying the key journalistic practices and you’ll be telling accurate, engaging stories like a true journalist.

And where can you apply your new journalistic skills? By interviewing customers for case studies and white papers. Our guide will get you started on how to develop sharable content.

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