How to Successfully Interview a Source

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Content marketing may be marketing, but it is built on solid journalism. It’s delivering an important story backed by solid facts and observations, balanced with both sides of that story. The end result should be a story; not a press release.

One important way to collect this information is to simply ask your subject about it. The questions you ask, however, determine what information you receive.

Have a genuine conversation.

Have questions and topics prepared in advance that you don’t want to forget to ask, but avoid reading the questions verbatim. Instead, let the interview unfold organically. This often leads to better quotes and information they might not have thought of during their preparation. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence if your subject tapers off, let them finish their point or idea. Sometimes the most valuable information comes at the end of a thought.

Re-direct them

if they don’t answer the question or move off-topic. This is effective if the interview runs long and you’re not getting the information you need. Steer your interviewee back to the question or topic at-hand.

Probe for details

by asking for specific examples and anecdotes. This is a great way to capture the original idea and thought that no other article would contain. People don’t always give as detailed of an answer as you might expect. A little probing goes a long way in getting the response you were looking for.

Be accurate.

If something is unclear, ask them to explain it until you understand. Nothing is worse than reporting something based on a guess. At the same time, you should always check their facts. They may be the experts, but it’s not uncommon for someone to mix up dates and important details. Write the article and then check the facts against reputable websites and double check with them.

Play devil’s advocate

and let them know you’re doing this on purpose. This safely challenges their points and perspectives without making them feel attacked. This is an ideal way to make your interviewee feel comfortable and encourage them to speak candidly. If the topic is of a sensitive nature, allow your subject to decline to answer if they are uncomfortable.

Once you’ve gathered all your information and prepped your questions, start the conversation off with the most interesting item to grab your interviewee’s attention and let the story evolve from there.