Interviewing Tips for Writers: The Perks and Pitfalls of Chatting In-Person, by Phone, on a Video Chat or by Email With Your Sources

Interviewing Tips for Writers: The Perks and Pitfalls of Chatting In-Person, by Phone, on a Video Chat or by Email With Your Sources

Adding original human insight and expertise to your articles creates unique, one-of-a-kind content. As a former newspaper journalist, I’m often asked if I’m willing to interview experts. Sure! I’m a talker and love to glean information directly from a source.

So, how do I do it?

Back in the local newspaper days, I called the potential interviewee on the phone to set up an in-person conversation. I loved my interview-packed schedule flanked with parsing notes and crafting informative articles.

Today, working primarily online in marketing with editorial teams located around the globe, I creatively gather this information across time zones to meet deadlines. Here are four ways I conduct interviews to make brand journalism, editorial content and content marketing pieces shine.

Disclosure: This blog is reader-supported, which means this post contains affiliate links and advertisements. I earn a small commission if you shop through them, which helps fund this website so I can continue to bring you amazing content. Thank you! ~Angela

Grammarly Writing Support

The Good Old In-Person Conversation

Sometimes, the original way is the best. If time allows to connect with a local source to get together to chat, I will.

There’s nothing better than adding color to a story by sharing details about the person’s verbal tone, natural mannerisms and real-life actions. For example, if we’re visiting a garden while talking, I might mention how they’re pruning roses while explaining the importance of seasonal plant maintenance for an article about gardening. This adds a visual element to help connect the reader to a written piece.

Visiting in person also helps build authentic connections with people. I really enjoy this approach if the person will become an on-going source whom I will meet with regularly.

Having a Chat on the Telephone

The next best thing to sitting down with someone in person is talking on the telephone. I still get to hear their voice clearly, snag authentic quotes and make that valuable personal connection.

Phone calls work well when the person I want to interview lives in another state or country. A few years ago I worked on a series of employee profiles for a credit union. I regularly chatted with their staff members on the phone and even connected with one person working remotely from New Zealand! The call quality was crystal clear.

Scheduling a Video Chat Call

Since the pandemic, more and more people use video conferencing and video chats to connect. I don’t mind this way to interview. It’s nice to see people, and their expressions, while also hearing their voices. However, sometimes this method can become glitchy with audio and visual lag, making for a frustrating conversation.

I enjoy video chats when interviewing a small group of people. It’s harder to do this on a phone call, especially if all the voices are from the same gender and age group. Once I had four people chiming in a phone interview call and it was difficult to go through my notes later to determine which of the three females was which. I had to ask a few clarifying questions after the interview to sort it out. The article turned out great, but it took extra effort!

Sending Questions Over Email

I know this last method — email — will strike a hot spot for some readers. I’ve heard that sending questions to a source over email isn’t technically an interview and you never know if they (or their public relations rep or office assistant) complete the answers for them.

It’s true. There are drawbacks to email interviews. You also don’t get the fine details noticed in a verbal connection, such as laughs, or pauses.

However, when you’re on deadline, and you’re connecting with busy professionals, sometimes email interviews are the only way you’ll get first-hand expert insight. I’ve found this to be true in the medical community including veterinarians, doctors and nurses. They work long shifts and it’s easier for them to reply to an email during their downtime than to schedule a daytime call with me. I respect that.

When you need to gather information directly from a subject matter expert or other human source, how do you go about it? I’m curious! Feel free to comment below or send me a message.

Never miss a post from Web Writing Advice. Get email updates by subscribing HERE. As a thank you, I’ll send you my free e-book, 18 Ways to Increase Online Writing Productivity and Earnings.


Comment Using Facebook


Let me know your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.