Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Writers Craft Online: Email Interview Tips For Bloggers

Are you running a blog and looking for some publicity? Over the next 6 weeks I'll be talking about common issues that are worth thinking about. This first one offers basic tips.....

I interview and quote about 100 people every year for newspaper and magazine articles. About half are bloggers and web site owners whose writing interests me. But I approach about double that amount. Want to know why 50% don't get into print? Let me tell you...

When interviewing people for a feature where I need to meet up, talk for a while, and then use lots of quotes, I ask for a face to face interview. But when it comes to one sentence quotes, spending hours and hours on the job just isn't feasible. For short quotes like this I often turn to bloggers.

Bloggers are fun to quote because they often have great things to say. Also, blogs are fashionable. So for me, I make a beeline for my fave people whenever I can.

Typical approaches to online writers are done via email (as most bloggers quite rightly keep their phone numbers private).

I say who I am, what sort of piece I am writing about, for what publication, and invite the person to contribute one top tip or one comment on a very specific issue.

If you run a blog and hope for publicity, are contacted in this way, and reply, yet don't get your quote in the press, chances are you are making one of these top 3 mistakes:

Error 1. You don't answer immediately. Writers work to deadlines. If your quote isn't in on time, you don't get in. Also, email is not always delivered instantly. Email can be delayed on servers and by firewalls for several hours. If you leave it too close to the deadline, and your mail is delayed, you miss out. Also, if your answer isn't quite what we wanted, getting in early means we can talk to you again - before the deadline.

As a rule of thumb, it always pays to answer as quickly as possible. Even if we tell you our deadline is in 10 days, do answer immediately. If your reply is really cool, you may be upgraded from a tiny quote and be invited to play a bigger part in the feature.

Error 2. You answer the question you think we asked, not the question we actually asked. If we ask you for your top tip on how to save $$$ at Christmas, don't tell us you think spending a little extra is fun. It's not what we're looking for. If we ask you about your favourite meal, don't tell us about your favourite restaurant: talk about the food you love!

If you don't answer the question right first time, you may be invited to reply again - if the deadline allows, and if the journo hasn't already got enough quotes from others for the piece.

Note: Consider that writers know that email approaches often don't work out. We always ask several people for quotes at the same time. If all the people we approach give great answers, we feel lucky and quote the lot. And if we get some off-topic replies, we ignore those and move on.

If you want free publicity, answer the question and do it fast and we'll come back to you again and again. Honest. It's because we love a hassle free life!

Error 3. "I don't see why you are asking me about...." Always answer all the questions, even if you think it's silly. It's fine to say, "I don't know" to something, but don't refuse to answer normal questions about yourself.

One of the main issues writers face is that our bosses/clients want a particular type of introduction/accreditation for people we quote.

For example, ladies magazines typically want a line like, "I spread my holiday expenses by buying one present a month throughout the year for my kids," says Deliah Tee, 22 year old mum of Theresa, 5, and Matthew, 3, who blogs at XXX.

Or they might want something like, "I spread my holiday expenses by buying one present a month throughout the year for my kids," says Deliah Tee, a 28 year old Financial Consultant with 5 years Debt Management experience.

Because of this we need to know your real name, not your blog nick, and probably your age, your profession and something personal like the names of your kids or the place you were born. It's all stuff that helps readers connect to you - and saying who you are also inspires trust in what you are saying.

We don't ask you this stuff because we want to figure out how old you are, guess at how much money you're making, or anything else. We do it because it's part of the deal. If we don't give this info, we get upset editors nagging at us. Or people think we make it all up.

SO: if you don't want to give up your age, your name or whatever, that's OK. Just say so and pass on the opportunity to be quoted.

By the way, I am looking for short email quotes from Malaysian food bloggers for a Star newspaper article. If you're interested in being quoted and having your blog mentioned in the newspaper, drop me a comment with your blog URL and email or send me an email at ellenwhyte AT and I'll tell you more about it.

NEXT WEEK: how to tell if you're being approached by a "real" writer over email! And what sort of info not to give them!

If you are in Malaysia, don't forget that there is still time to put in your entry for the Weekender Star Katz Tales competition.

As published in The Star last week, check this post for entry guidelines.

Remember, participants must live in Malaysia.

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1 comment:

Amy & the house of cats said...

Wow those are great tips. Coming from the other side (as a person who might be asked) it is great to know. Thanks!