Interview Questions for Article and Script Writing: Yes, There is a Wrong Way

A quick heads up about being a copywriter: there’s more to it than hiding behind a laptop. You’re signing up for all kinds of writing (and even “not writing”). Journalism, reporting, concepting and advertising, which means *gulp* interviewing people — writing about them, or for them, and sometimes even trying to use their own words. Gasp!

Welcome to the world of interviewing … as an interviewer, that is. Even though you’re not in the hot seat, it can be just as sweaty and awkward. That’s why I try to learn something new every time, so that the next one will be even less awkward. Here are a few tips to help make that happen. I don’t have any advice for the sweating though. 

  • Check Your POCs
    • If there is a point of contact between you and your interviewee, make sure they do their due diligence. If your POC didn’t prep your interviewee, it’ll be ugly. Everyone should know the overall topic, a few basic questions, the allotted time (which should always be respected!), and any off-limits subjects. Send a framework of questions ahead of time so interviewees can prepare. A great POC will even give you a glimpse into their personality so you can adjust questions accordingly.
  • Prep Like a Pro
    • Before your interview, immerse yourself in the brand/person you’re interviewing. If you can sell yourself on them, you can sell others on them as well. Do your own digging. The client may want to send you their own info, but that should just be an addition to what you’ve already researched. 
  • Open the Convo
    • Introduce yourself (and your company), then do some jibber jabber if it feels appropriate. If you are robotic, than you can only expect robotic answers, so overall, just be cool, man. Then set the stage by reiterating what your POCs should have told them already — a brief rundown of your interview goals and questions to expect. Leave time for them ask questions before and after yours. 
  • Write on Your Feet
    • The ability to ad lib and have a real chat with folks will always render the best writing material. It can be vomit-inducing a tad nerve-wracking at times, but with a little practice — and deep breaths — it’s a very doable art for even the most introverted of introverts. Doing your homework is key. Which leads me to...
  • Ask Intelligently
    • Don’t waste valuable interview time telling them stats or accomplishments they already know. That’s rookie, and reeks of someone trying to prove their research. Instead, work it into a smart question that proves you understand their situation, and are inquisitive of how that may factor into their future. Don’t settle for rehearsed answers, but also gauge when it’s appropriate to push beyond that. And if you do add in some extra questions on the spot, don’t meander with them. Ask clear and concise questions, then zip it. 
  • Avoid Hypotheticals
    • They are confounding questions that trip people up, seek to create unnecessary drama, and don’t have a lot of value. Not to mention, they kinda piss people off. An example being: “If you could go back and change one thing in your life/that game/your career, what would it be?” Barf. If your question starts with “If” just nix it altogether.
  • Don’t Recycle Generic Questions
    • If you can insert {xyz brand/person} into your question and it still makes sense... don’t ask it! Period. You will immediately turn off your interviewee and put them into “generic answer mode.”
  • Never Trust Your Tech
    • Check, double check and triple check your recording equipment. I had a double check that failed me one time, and ever since then I settle for no less than two recording devices at every interview. Also, duh, but always ask if you can record them first. 
  • Push for IRL
    • If you have the option of a phone or in-person interview, always opt for the real thing. Not only does phone reception/technology present its own “is this gonna actually work when I need it to” challenge, but there is a certain trust and level of conversation that comes with being face to face. Plus, you’ll get super-mega bonus points if you can visit their environment and work that into your writing. 
    • Your IRL Do’s:
      • Wear deodorant.
      • Go there to scout it out in advance (because GPS sometimes lies).
      • Call your POC to confirm parking and get wifi info.
      • Bring pen, paper and business cards.
      • Dress like you’re pumped to be there (wherever “there” might be).
      • Be prepared for surprises on set that may make recordings tough.
      • Be familiar with other people/contacts you might see.
      • Thank them for their time.
    • Your IRL Don’ts:
      • Be late.
      • Talk about yourself.
      • Read questions verbatim.
      • Hold recording equipment in their face.
      • Forget deodorant.

Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed with interviewing some really incredible folks. Many times, I had no idea what I was doing. But a nice framework of questions and a genuine interest led to some really great material. It still might get sweaty and weird. But, if you can have a real human chat, that’s all a good copywriter needs to retreat to the safety of “behind your laptop” and craft some killer content.

Written by Anna Morgan on July 11, 2019


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cyberflix says:

I will definitely write a detailed script that has various twists and other important scenes to watch after reading this guide.

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