Art of the interview

Your blog is growing and you have landed your first interview. What do you do? Let’s assume you are a blogger who has a full time job, a family and a limited (to no) budget. You want to give this brand or person a worthy interview but how does it work? What do you ask? How can you make this exciting for your readers? There is an art form behind interviewing.

It is no secret that no matter how big or small the business, brand or person is, they will be excited about this interview. It is free press for them and what they are producing or doing and they get to reach a new audience, yours! This is exciting but this means something else, they want to be interviewed and soon! You have just reached out and you do not even have the right interview questions together, quite frankly, you have never interviewed someone before. Some brands and businesses and people are interviewed regularly and expect certain criteria.

I have always held the firm belief whether the business or brand is popular or a Mom and pop shop, a new blogger or a celebrity, that they deserve to be treated well, have engaging questions and have their point set across while entertain or educating our audience.

So how do we do it? How do we get started on our interview? The first step is research. Go to the brands or persons website. What is it you are interviewing about? If it is a product, research the product. What are the key words the company is using to identify the product? For example:

Jane Doe is a professional Grammy Award Winning Singer who has been entertaining children through her folk music for over 20 years!

This may not be a lot of content but this sentence alone is enough to conduct a full interview for Jane. Jane has accomplished a lot! She is a seasoned singer with a major Award under her belt.

Jane is now promoting her new Album: ABC Songs for Families, set out for release this year.

Let’s make this a difficult case study and say that this is the only information that you have been given about Jane. Her PR person may have reached out to you for an interview because they saw a post that they liked from you about music and thought that Jane would be a good fit for your blog. Jane’s album is being released next month and the PR firm needs you to come up with an interview to correspond with her album’s release. Here is how you keep the ball rolling…

You have less than a month to conduct an interview, get the information back, put it together and have pictures to accompany the article. It seems like a lot of time but it is not. The PR person who contacted you has contacted hundreds of blogs just like yours and you need this information. Some PR people provide everything at once while others do not, waiting to hear back from bloggers and give them the information when they ask.

To keep the ball rolling, respond to the PR company and ask for corresponding hi resolution photos to accompany the article. Be sure that they also send you all of Jane’s social media links so your readers can connect with Jane. Lastly, ask for some samples of music on youtube that you can put within your article (for other brands, ask for links where your readers can buy the product and for other bloggers ask for links to some of their favorite posts or something that they are currently promoting). If you have a limited budget and a terrible phone plan, let the PR person know that you will be sending the questions via email. If you do the interview by phone, generally, it is expected that  the interviewer (you) calls the interviewee (them). Sometimes, this can go differently, sometimes, you may call a 1-800 number to be connected to a celebrity, but generally this is the rule of thumb.

While the PR Company takes time to get this information together with you, it is time to get the interview together.

Remember, here is Jane’s information:

Jane Doe is a professional Grammy Award Winning Singer who has been entertaining children through her folk music for over 20 years!

Jane is now promoting her new Album: ABC Songs for Families, set out for release this year.

Let’s get Jane to talk about herself. Some people you interview can be candid and share lengthy stories while others will give one word answers. What is the mood of your blog? Do you like short and sweet or long and lengthy? Try to ask questions that will get those types of answers. For long and lengthy, dive into Jane’s past, like this:

At what moment did you decide you wanted to be a children’s entertainer?

What did you think when they called your name in 2004 when you won the Grammy?

Why is it important for children to have positive messaging in music?

What was your inspiration behind ABC Songs for Families?

What projects will you be working on in the next year?

This gets your interviewer talking about feelings, sharing stories with your audience and giving them a hint of what they will be doing next. This could lead to a second interview!

If you want a short and sweet interview, which some bloggers prefer, you have to cater your questions to short and sweet answers. Here are some questions that may inspire short answers…

What is your new album called?

Who is the audience for this album?

When is the release date?

How does this album appeal to children?

These questions will inspire shorter answers. Be warned, many people being interviewed want to talk, so you may find lengthy responses from some! If you want to keep it short, see what they are trying to convey, whether it is positive messaging for children or that this album will be one in a series of albums coming out in the next few years. Write back and cater to that need to get that information out in another short answered question. Get creative to keep the integrity of your blog but still give an excellent interview!

Your PR Company or the person you are interviewing will now have that information ready for you. Expect it anywhere between 12 hours and five business days. Generally, it will be a shorter time frame but every PR Company, brand, business and person is different.

If you are doing an interview on the phone, prepare for at least a half an hour of talking.

Be candid, be yourself but speak professionally. If you are speaking to a celebrity, do not geek out! Speak professionally and stick to the interview.

Have your questions ready and be ready to write down key points or have your laptop handy. If you feel that the person you are interviewing is going off topic, listen to them and gently guide them back to the interview. Make sure you ask questions by saying, “Our audience would like to know” Or “What would you want our audience to think about…” So that you are certain that what they are saying is ‘on the record.’ Some people in interviews may find you personable and share private stories with you that are not supposed to be in an interview. It is not your time to be a blogging sleuth and reveal a big secret to your audience. Be professional, leave gossip to the gossip sites. Spilling the beans about a celebrity or brand could result in ramifications, including but not limited to legal ones.

Some PR companies want to review your work before you put it out. We as bloggers try to avoid this because it is time consuming. If the person or PR Company has read your blog, they should be aware of the type of content you put out, the questions you ask and the voice you portray. You do not contact a comical parent blogger for a serious interview. If they insist, kindly send it to them but with a time constraint, you have a business to manage as well! Remember you can refuse, it’s your blog.

Your interview now must be spell checked. You cannot edit someone’s words in terms of commentary. You cannot change what someone has said! If their words are confusing or just poorly written, contact the person or PR Company and ask for clarification or to have it rewritten to avoid confusion. Your interview needs to flow and make sense! However, if you do not like someone’s answer or you do not agree with the answer, you cannot rewrite it.

You have now learned the art of interviewing strangers! Look for the key words, ask the person or brand what key points they want to drive home with the interview and see how that works with your blog. An interview can bring in new readers and get your audience excited about a brand or person!



Dealing with criticism/commentary

Drawing inspiration-key words, Pinterest,

How to write an advertorial

Your blog has been asked to produce an advertorial for a company! You have received a product and now you are to write an article that has an advertisement inside. There are different types of advertorials and we are going to give you some great tips on how to write each one!

Advertorials have quick turnaround dates. They can be as soon as three days or as long as three weeks. You will be required to share the article on social media with your readership. Make sure that this is a product or service that flows well with your blog. You certainly do not want to have a gambling post for a miscarriage awareness blog.

Once you and the brand have connected, expect a free product or service and a paid fee in exchange for your post. It is normal to be paid after you have written the advertorial. We have seen bloggers paid anywhere from a few days after the company has verified that the post is up to a few weeks. If it is taking time, kindly send a reminder email to the company sending a link to the advertorial. Establish ahead of time payment plan so you can properly write it off on your taxes later.

The first type of advertorial is one that you write an article with an advertisement inside of it. This means that you have to have valuable content for your readers and mention the product that you believe in.

Be sure to establish what the advertorial must contain. The company may want two “do follow” backlinks. Check the links and make sure they come from reputable sites. If they are from unsafe sites, you may be penalized from google. You want to link to good healthy sites.

A Do follow link is a link that someone can click on your advertorial that will send them to the product, service or article that you have mentioned.

Make sure to find out the key word messaging. What should you mention verbatim in the article? Let’s use ABC Soap as an example.

ABC Soap wants you two write an advertorial about their organic soap company. They want a do follow link to their main page and another do follow link to their online store somewhere in the article. They have sent you some samples and want a turnover in a week.

ABC Soap wants you to use the hashtag #organic soap and #ABCSOAP in your social media tags and they want the same words as keyword messaging.

This means that they want you to write on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram “Insert Your Title Here #ABCSOAP #Organicsoap

They also want you to use organic soap and ABC Soap in your key words when you are preparing your article and they want to see these words (without hashtags) throughout your article.

How do we write an advertorial? You have received ABC Soap and you like it! It smells good, its soft and it is a hit with your family. You decide to make an article called “Five Great Ways to Get Your Kids Ready for Bed.” You want to include ABC bath soaps in step #3, give your kids a bath.

What information do we know about ABC Soap? This fictitious company gave us a little bit of information:

ABC Soap-Organic Chemical free with a light lavender smell that is great for people who suffer from eczema, redness, dry skin and rashes.

What we see here is some keywords. You will have to emphasize in your interview about ABC Soap being chemical free and that it is organic. This is what they want to portray to their audience. This means the messaging must go into your article, subtly. Can you change around some words? Could you skip the word organic and say safe? Absolutely not. There are laws that surround words. Certain chemicals must be mentioned even if they sound bad. Certain words like BPA free, no parabens etc. are integral to the sale of this product. You do not want to cause brand confusion, misrepresentation of the brand or flat out say something that is not true. Do not use the word ‘organic” if it is not organic. Even though this could be an innocent mistake, it can result in big problems for you and the brand. Represent them well. They have had marketers and lawyers look over the wording. Copy their wording in description so the readers get the right information. This is not a time to use synonyms, or what you think is a synonym.

Our ABC Soap article is complete! You write five points about Getting the Kids Ready For Bed and your Advertorial is in number three. Point three looks something like this:

Step #3- Bath time! Bath time is a great bonding experience for your children. It allows them to play but the warm water relaxes them. As they get clean form a day of play, use (insert link on these words) ABC Soap. Its light lavender smell relaxed our children (make sure this is true!). We loved that this organic product helps children with sensitive skin and has become a staple in bedtime. Done! On to step 4!

Now, say that ABC Soap asks you to provide other backlinks, any backlinks you want. They want two other backlinks so the advertorial is advertising for other things as well and their advertisement does not look so blatant. Feel free to link some of you other steps to products that you believe in and that are safe, healthy backlinks. How do you find a safe back link? It could be as easy as coming from a reputable website like a well-known brand, or a site that sells products like Amazon.

A second type of advertorial is more obvious. A company will ask for an honest review. They want a minimum of 350 words about the article. Sometimes they provide you with a list of information. Take this very seriously. They want you to list some key ingredients and put some important messaging in your article.

Some PR companies or brands may not give you this information. Go to their website and see if they repeat key words and phrases and don’t be afraid to put it verbatim into your article.

Your article is now centered on the product. Do you like or love this product? An article for ABC Soap specifically can look like this:

ABC Soap: An Essential for Our Kids Bedtime

Talk about what bedtime was like with the harsh chemically soap you used to use and how it is better with this new organic soap. You could talk about how the soap does not cause your child to break out. What do you like best about the soap? What could improve? Provide the link where to buy the soap at the end. Why at the end of the article? That is when the audience has decided that they are interested in buying the product. They have read your article, listened to your case and they want to buy. They will not want to buy a product at the beginning of the article, they are just curios at this point. At the beginning of the article, link the main page of the product or service. “We have tried many soaps before bedtime, but ABC Soap (insert link on ABC Soap) was what treated our child’s skin best with its gentle feel and it left no residue on little Johnny’s skin.”

When writing an advertorial get the facts:

When would you like this article out by? (Time frame)

Will you send a sample of the product or service?

What is the compensation for the advertorial?

What is the method of payment? (PayPal, cheque/check etc.) You are also aware you must show that you have published the article before you are paid and it would be in your best interest to send a link of the article to your sponsor.

What are the key words or phrasing you would like me to use?

Do you have a hashtag you would like me to use?

What social media outlets do you want me to post?

What approximate word count are you looking for?

Do you want personal pictures or can I use yours? If you want personal pictures, how many of us interacting with the product?

These are the facts the PR company must know before choosing to work with you…

You must put #ad or #spon (short for sponsored) in social media so your audience knows its an advertisement within the article.

You must put a disclaimer. Stating that you were compensated for this article and/or you received a product in exchange for a review.

You cannot let a PR company or a brand sway you out of your disclaimer. They would do this because they want your audience to think it is an authentic article and not an advertorial. This disclaimer is here to protect you and depending on the country and more specifically the province or state that you are living in, this may be the law. We must never falsely advertise to our audience. We must provide honest information and let them know that our articles may or may not contain ads. If your country, state or province does not have a law against this yet, it may in the future. It is safer for you to put this in now. Speak to a lawyer about the laws behind advertorials in your area.