Over the years, I have media trained over a thousand authors, guiding them on what to say and do – or not – during an interview with a television or radio show, or with a newspaper, or magazine. All of these interviews were done in person, via studio satellite, Skype, or phone. In all cases you heard someone’s voice, had a back and forth dialogue, and were able to have a sense of how it was going. But with digital media, where most interviews take place silently and distantly through email exchanges that don’t even happen in real time, there’s a huge challenge for the interview subject. How do you deliver a great interview when no one is there to interact with?
The first challenge with online interviews is that they create a perfect record of things. If you fear being misquoted, that won't happen here, but everything you type can and will be used for the interview, so make sure you don’t reveal something you think is “off the record.” Someone recently put down their true opinions in parenthesis in an interview she did for my blog, expecting me not to reprint her comments. I chose to honor her wishes, but I didn’t have to, and others wouldn’t think twice about using such material if they think it’ll make for a better interview.
The next challenge is voice inflection – there is none. Therefore, people will miss jokes, even sarcasm, and certainly could take something for anger or rudeness when that wasn’t how you meant to sound. Re-read your answers to remove any doubts as to your “voice” and the impression you want to leave.
Third, often people like to use body language and eye contact to get a point across. You only have words to do your talking, so use ones that give your comments some character and emotion. Humanize the process.
Length is a big issue with online interviews. Some give answers that are way too long, leaving the blogger or media to edit things down, which could get tricky if they edit the good stuff and leave a choppy answer in place. Writing too little is even more problematic. Your answers appear to lack substance or depth and sound empty. I have had to go back to people that I’ve interviewed, including recently the head of a major organization in the book industry, because the answers were missing some meat.
Fifth, online interviews are great opportunities to insert links to things, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to look like an infomercial or advertorial. Some people overpopulate links in their interview. Save it for the end and just give the most important link – otherwise the interview gets cut short when readers leave to click on your links.
The online world seems like a huge universe, but when it comes to doing interviews through a screen, be aware of the pitfalls and limitations. Good luck!
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015
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