August 2, 2011
Being a subset of journalism, it is no surprise that blogging shares many traits with its parent. In particular, blogging strongly resembles the feature or editorials pages of many newspapers. Not beholden to quite the same rules of timeliness or AP style guidelines as the news sections, these sections focus on matters of personal interest to the writer, or on a specific topic of particular relevance or human interest.
So, given that blogging tends to be derived from these sections, it is reasonable to look into the tactics that bring traditional journalists such success in their writing and to borrow the best ideas from them. In particular, many bloggers have discovered the value of including interviews in their publications.
An interview is fairly straightforward: a conversation between the blogger and another party, generally about a topic of mutual interest to the blogger, the subject and the readers. Some interviews are scripted, some are more extemporaneous, but at their heart they all have the mission of illuminating the thoughts of the interviewee to the audience of the publication in order to shed some extra light on the subject being discussed.
In the world of blogging, there are generally three approaches to integrating an interview into a blog.
This is the general, news-story style form of an interview. The blogger contacts the subject, does their interview, then writes a story around the interview using the subject’s quotations as a framework. It tends to look something like:
Recently I spoke to branding icon John Doe, asking his thoughts on the importance of personal identity. “You really need a strong name, something people can get a hold of and never forget, that’s the first thing.” When I asked him for details, John commented, “Well, if you don’t have a name that people remember, they’ll just refer to you as ‘that one guy’ or any old thing.”
The structure is easy to follow, and very much suited to blogging as a style of writing. It doesn’t have to be in first person; it is easily adapted to any blogging style. It has the value of letting the blogger do most of the writing. This way, their style remains intact and the interview is presented on their terms to the readers, maintaining a unique voice.
The weakness of this style is that it tends to raise questions. Did the blogger use the whole interview? Are they editorializing in their choice of quotes?… and so on. For example, in the choice above, When I asked him for details could actually have played out as “Well, that’s obvious. Could you be more specific?” and our imaginary blogger simply rephrased to make himself look less confrontational.
The alternative is simply to reprint the entire interview, without editing other than to remove little asides such as “um” and other verbal tics. This tends to look as follows:
BenjaminBrandBlog – Hello, John.
John Doe – Hello. Thanks for interviewing me.
BBB – Glad to talk with you. So, what would you say is the first thing that comes to your mind when talking about branding?
JD – You really need a strong name, something people can get a hold of and never forget, that’s the first thing.
The reprint is rather an unusual choice, very rarely seen in blogging or in print journalism. This is because it has some obvious weaknesses. For example, not every question in an interview ends up being relevant. Not all interviews follow a particular script; some go down tangents, interesting or dull asides, and so on. It is the job of the journalist to edit the content so that the material that stayed on subject gets to the readers.
However, there are some cases in which reprinting an interview is an interesting alternative. If a conversation was purely illuminating, if it covered some amazing ground that people didn’t expect, and the writer wishes to share it, then by all means share the interview itself.
The Podcast or Video
Similar to the reprint, this is the process of using recording equipment to make an audio podcast or videoblog of the interview in question. This has a number of advantages over the simple reprint, because it allows the personality of the two subjects to shine through in a way that text doesn’t always quite capture. Sarcasm and wit come through a bit more readily when tone of voice or body language are added into the subject matter, making the whole process more dynamic and interesting.
The difficulty of these formats is in their complexity. The logistics of getting recording software to work, of cleaning up audio and video for proper use on the net if they aren’t your blog’s primary medium, etc. can all make this a bit out of reach for the average blogger. They require the dedication of actual time and effort to produce, share and refine as a series. Further, not everyone is as suited for speaking as they are for writing; some just aren’t as comfortable in a spoken medium, and a skilled writer isn’t always a stunning speaker.
That said, there is strong value in this type of process, as it can add variety and interest to the usual presentation of a good blog.
Enzo F. Cesario is an online branding specialist and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, articles, videos and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. It makes sites more findable and brands more recognizable. For the free Brandcasting Report go to www.BrandSplat.com/ or visit our blog at www.iBrandCasting.com/.