Strong personal connections and successful businesses go hand in hand. And one of the most effective ways to build strong connections is through interviewing small businesses in your area.
Regardless of your position within the community, interviewing local businesses in your area are an exceptional way to support your community. The interview is mutually beneficial, as it gives business owners in your area much-needed PR, exposure, and advertising. It gives you the chance to demonstrate that you care about their business, community, and the people within it.
And finally, it positions you in the stronger frame as you build a relationship. As someone that is caring, giving, and dedicated to service. Considering that people do business with those that they know, like, and trust, if you’re having this impact on the businesses in your area, how do you think this will in turn impact their perception of you?
Interviewing business owners is one of, if not the most effective way to grow your brand, build relationships, and generate leads in your geographic area. So, how do you write a great interview?
How to write a great interview?
Now, if you’ve never formally interviewed someone before, it can feel daunting. After all, even professional writers sometimes struggle with how to write a great interview. But at the end of the day, if you come prepared, an excellent interview is simply an excellent conversation.
Now, actually writing the interview is a whole other challenge. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to make the writing process as simple and enjoyable as possible.
Before you start writing down your questions, you’ll need to do a little background research on your interviewee and their business. Start by checking out their business’s website and social media accounts and read any interviews or press they’ve done in the past.
This research allows you to ask more personalized questions that your interviewee will be inspired to answer. It also demonstrates that you care enough to look them up beforehand. And remember, your interview questions shouldn’t focus on getting “yes” or “no” answers. You’re wanting to ask an open question, where their answer may span a few sentences.
The best interviews have quality questions. And there are a few key questions that you should always aim to get answers to when talking to a small business owner.
What does this person do?
In every interview, you want to identify, what does this person provide? What services do they offer? What makes this business unique? How did they get started?
This is a fundamental element of your interview. If you don’t have it, the interview can often lack context. Especially if you approach the business owner offering free PR. If you didn’t talk about their business, they’re going to come out of the interview wondering who it was for.
What does this person like?
An often overlooked element of an interview, discussing your interviewee’s personal interests can really bring out the person behind the profession. Again, people do business with those that they know, like, and trust. This applies to the business owner too!
Find out their interests. What are their favourite spots in the area? How do they spend their time outside of work? Is there anything that they’re really passionate about?
This also serves to give you both ideas of who to interview next as well as the context for how you can follow up in the future. Say your interviewee regularly visits a restaurant for date night? Go and interview them! Find out if they’re running any deals, specials, or promotions that you can share with your original interviewee. This second interview gives you the context to follow up with an item of value to your original interviewee.
What does this person need?
A strong finish to your interview will include discussing what the interviewee wants in the future. Ask them about their goals. Where do they see their business in the next 1-2 years? Or in the next 5? What challenges are they facing? What do they need to overcome them? What do they want from their customers, and the greater community?
This provides insight into what the business is facing. And can also build excitement about where the business is heading. Use this information to better serve the business owner in the future. Do they need an accountant? Connect them with one that you know already. If you don’t know one, well there is your next interview idea.
These types of questions will often be focused on their business, as that’s the main focus of the interview. After the interview, it’s extremely beneficial to ask them “So I know you want ______ for your business. What about you personally? Are there any goals, milestones or landmarks that you want to achieve in the next few years?” Common milestones someone will have will be looking to purchase their first home with their partner, finding a larger home for their growing family, or potentially downsizing as their kids will be off to college. It’s about building context for future conversations. Your interview questions set the stage for this.
Conducting the interview
So you’ve done your research and compiled a list of useful questions. You may start to feel a little anxious. Don’t worry, that’s normal. It’s new, exciting, and different. But trust me, it’s a lot of fun!
First, you’ll just want to make sure you and your interview are comfortable. Whether you’re sitting down in person or in front of your respective computer screens, make sure everyone has a glass of water and a cozy spot to sit.
Outline how long you expect the interview to run and let your interviewee know that you will be recording the interview to refer back to later. This can be done via recording the video, or just by recording the audio.
We recommend that you take notes during the interview for a backup plan, in the event that technology just isn’t cooperating. This is fine, as long as it doesn’t become too distracting. No one wants to talk to the top of your head while you furiously scribble away, writing everything down word for word. If you’re taking notes, they should be short, and only include the key words from the interviewee’s answers. You’ll want to write them under each question’s heading, so that you’re clear where to put the answers later.
Keep in mind that good interviews are just good conversations, so keep things as light as possible. It’s okay to stray from the questions a little bit, as long as you circle back eventually, always being mindful of your time.
Should I use a transcription service for my interview?
Now the interview is done, and the tedious work of transcribing your interview begins. While there are plenty of transcription apps and services on the market that you can use both during and after the interview, their accuracy will vary.
While the act of writing out the interview yourself will take up more of your time, it will help you identify tone and themes within the conversation that will help shape your final product. If you want to transcribe interviews like a pro check out the golden rules of transcribing.
How long should my interview be?
There’s no right or wrong answer here necessarily. Your interview should be as long or short as it needs to be to properly answer those key questions we identified earlier. Within reason, of course. If you’re asking 100 questions, the interview will likely be too long to read through, take too long to conduct, or both!
When it comes to writing your interviewee’s answers in the article or blog post, try to keep them between 1-3 sentences long. An answer of this length should allow you to convey the message of your interviewee without losing the attention of your readers. Shorter length answers, can also mean that the content you’re creating is not going to be optimized for search engines.
How to write the interview for SEO
You probably know how powerful it is to appear on the first page of Google. But knowing how to get there is a different story. When writing your interview, you will also need to focus on search engine optimization or SEO.
For this, you will include focused keywords within the title, and throughout the body of your copy as well. These keywords should be something that people in your community will be searching for on google. For example, if you interviewed a local bike shop, your focused keywords could be the name of the business, or “bike repairs + area name.”
There’s lots of information available that will help you rank higher on Google by using SEO. If the idea is to get more local traffic on your interview, be sure to read this simple checklist before you publish your post.
To get you started here are a few focal points.
- Make sure your specified keyword or phrase is in the heading of your interview and in about 50% of your H2 or Subheadings
- Make sure that you include your focus keyword or phrase appears at least 6 times in your text
- At least 70% of the images, or video that you add to your interview should be named after your focus keyword or phrase.
- The text must be longer than 300 words. If it’s not, google deems this “thin content” and is highly unlikely to have it appear in a search engine at all. Our recommendation is to aim for at minimum, 500 words, which would likely be around 50-100 words per answer.
Do I need images or videos to accompany my interview?
Absolutely. Visual elements, especially video, are more engaging than text. This means that viewers are more likely to stay on your content for longer periods of time. Adding quality video content alongside your interview can help optimize your content for search engines.
If you are unable to provide video, photos are a solid alternative. Showcasing the business owner, and providing a glimpse into their life helps readers connect with the interviewee’s answers. After all, if this is the impact that a viewer has after engaging with your interview, the business owner you featured is going to feel the same way and remember you for it.