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  • Nicoleta Hubscher

INTERVIEWS: THE DO'S AND DON'TS

Interviews have long since ceased to be just a journalist's thing. They are also becoming increasingly important in PR and media work. On the one hand, in content production for clients, on the other hand, the media are also increasingly grateful recipients of ready-to-pour content. But how do you actually conduct an interview? How do you get the most out of your interviewee? And what rules apply? We asked a professional journalist, and reveal the most important do's and don'ts here.




Interviews enjoy a rather dubious reputation among many people who have to face them regularly. And even those who are hardly ever interviewed usually have prejudices. No wonder, after all, no one likes to be "poked with holes" - as Wikipedia suggests in its definition: "questioning with the aim of ascertaining personal information, facts or opinions". You can sometimes feel like you're being interrogated. But that is exactly what an interview is not supposed to be. Even if the question of what constitutes a "good" interview is in the eye of the beholder, the ideal case is clear: an interview that is fun for the interviewer, the interviewee and the audience. And that's not a merciless question-and-answer game, but a lively and stimulating conversation. Here are the most important things in a nutshell:


DON'T: Always consider the interview as the right form

Does an interview make any sense at all for the purpose it is intended to serve? Because often it doesn't. Is there enough to tell? Can the interviewee tell the story in such a way that no long explanations are necessary? Or would another form make more sense? Rule of thumb: If it's about a specific event, a reportage usually makes more sense. If it's about a person, a portrait makes sense - nothing is more tiring than someone talking about themselves for what feels like hours. Interviews are a good form if it's about a specific thing that the interviewee either knows a lot about, or if his or her opinion is particularly interesting.


DO: Preparation is the key

Interviews are often seen as an easy, time-saving form of journalism because you don't have to create your own text. But exactly the opposite is the case. No journalistic form is as time-consuming as an interview - regardless of whether it's a print, audio or Moving image. And with no other form is preparation so important. Because if you have little idea of what the interviewer is talking about, you will hardly be able to ask meaningful questions. Speaking of which: In contrast to portraits or reports, it is a must to prepare formulated questions for interviews. You can always add or omit some during the interview.


DON'T: Don't explain anything

Especially if the interviewee is not so experienced, he or she appreciates it if you explain the basic conditions. In the case of print, for example, this includes proofreading. In this way, the interviewer knows that he or she can make changes afterwards and that he or she does not have to constantly pay attention to what he or she should or should not say during the interview. For audio or moving images, it makes sense to point out that something can be repeated or edited (unless it is a live interview). It also makes sense to map out the areas of conversation in advance. That means: What will be talked about approximately? Often interviewees want to see the questions in advance.


DO: Being human

If you want to get the most personal information or opinions out of the person you're talking to, you can't hide behind an impenetrable poker face. Of course, it depends a bit on who you're dealing with, but a statement like "I'm (also) a bit nervous" or even "I'm very much looking forward to the interview and am curious to hear what you have to say" loosens up the atmosphere right from the start. It's also okay to make a personal remark during the interview - "Oh yes, I know the feeling" - but please do so in moderation. After all, it's not the interviewer's show, but the interviewee's.


DON'T: Beat around the bush

They exist in almost every interview: The questions or topics that you absolutely have to or want to address, but don't quite know how. In fact, there is only one solution: take a breath, close your eyes and get through it. There are two ways to do this: without batting an eyelid, out of the blue, or with an announcement. The former is suitable for interviews with celebrities who are practiced in such situations. In addition, celebrities are often told in advance by their management what they are not allowed to talk about ("no questions about their private life"). But: Interview-Profi does not always stick to it. Because the prominent one is professional enough, in order to say, that does not concern anybody something or around itself practiced rausreden. Besides one could then still deal, whether one can generalize for example something. Variant two makes use of a kind of forewarning: "You know I have to ask this...".


DO: Just say what you want to hear

Especially with Content productions with clients, and especially when it comes to moving images, it's okay to put words in the mouth of someone who may not be quite as rhetorically skilled: "I imagined it to be something like this and this. Would that be realistic for you to say?". But be careful to remain flexible. The interviewee must be allowed to express his or her opinion, and it doesn't have to be the same as ours. Nevertheless, it is important to question the opinion of the interviewee at any time, especially if your own research has revealed other facts.


DON'T: Go through with it at any cost.

A good interview is like a good relationship - it takes two to make it. If someone dodges every question, answers in monosyllables or not at all, it's totally legitimate to stop an interview. It happens very rarely, but it does happen. If you realize that you could hardly deliver something halfway satisfactory with the material you have so far, you are allowed to say in a friendly and firm manner that any further questions would probably be a waste of time.


DO: Follow the rules

The interviewee has a right to his/her own word. This means that the interviewee may read print or online interviews before publication and change his/her answers. However, this does not apply to the questions. In the case of audio recordings, there is also the right to have certain statements edited out. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this - but compromises can usually be found. Especially since the interviewee is also interested in coming across as open and honest as possible.

Whether it's a celebrity reveal, expert tip or the latest gadget must-have, every story has its place and the same vessel isn't always suitable for telling the story. If an interview is the right shape, there's not much that can go wrong with our do's and don'ts - whether on camera or face to face with a celebrity.

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