How to start your own interview blog.
I was asked this week while lunching with a current PULSE participant, what advice I'd give to recent college graduates who want to explore future career and life options.
My answer was simple.
Start meeting new people weekly.
Start an interview blog.
Today, Elizabeth Collura of Beezuskiddo, posted this interview featuring yours truly. At the end of the interview, she mentioned she was worried that I'd feel she was copying me if she set off on an interview quest of her own.
As you'll read in her post, my response is that I'd love to see more people initiate interviews.
But then it dawned on me that I haven't shared much on what it takes to start your own interview blog/series.
Today I'm laying it all out and I'm giving you a behind-the-scenes tour of what I did to get Yinzpiration off the ground.
So here they are, 12 steps for anyone who wants to do this interview thing yourself.
(And hey ... don't be afraid to put your own spin on it! )
1. Choose an angle.
Decide on who you want to interview.
When starting Yinzpiration, the people I wanted to get to know and highlight were young (20 and 30-year-olds) Pittsburghers who were/are doing awesome things. Setting this parameter from the start made it really easy for me to stay on a consistant path.
So when choosing your interviewee pool, don't be afraid to get really, really specific. Niche right on down.
There's nothing wrong with interviewing everybody under the sun, but it makes it difficult for readers to know what to expect from you.
Val Head recently started an interview podcast "Ladies in Tech" which is dedicated to celebrating and supporting women speakers in technology.
Get the idea?
2. Decide on an interview medium.
Do you want to make videos or use Skype? Do you want to meet in person? Exchange questions over email? Create a Podcast?
Personally, I use a combination of in-person and email questions. I find it's much more memorable to get together face to face, but I also enjoy giving interviewees the opportunity to use their own voice and write when it comes to Yinzpiration's standard questions.
I suggest you play around with a few different mediums and see what you like the best. Then roll with it!
Just a note: no matter what approach you choose, your skills will no doubt improve greatly over time. There's a HUGE difference between my first interview and my most recent one.
It's just another fun aspect of pursuing a quest like this ... you get to see how things change and grow over time.
3. Decide how many interviews you want to do.
This one is pretty straight forward. You don't have to set a number goal, but it helps to keep the project moving and others get excited about the countdown.
My number is 100. But maybe 25 or 50 feels more attainable to you.
Once you complete your goal, it's a great excuse to have a party with all of your interviewees, friends, and family!
4. Make an interview schedule.
It may sound crazy but the most challenging thing about completing Yinzpiration interviews is scheduling them!
I've started using a Doodle Poll to make date selection options easier for interviewees, and it has saved me a ton of time on my end. (I can recycle the poll as I continue to ask new people for interviews.)
If you don't use an interview scheduler and want to take the old school approach, always include three potential dates in your initial email. (I'm sure many of you do this already, but this will cut down on future back and forths.)
There are also several scheduling services that a few friends and clients use and have had good results. I just haven't gotten around to trying one of these yet.
My goal is to have an interview once a week. Since life happens and schedules often get rearranged, I found that I need to schedule out at least 4 at a time or there will be big breaks in my blogging.
Honestly, completing 100 interviews has taken me much longer than I expected, and if I were to do it over again I would get much more strategic about scheduling. Hopefully you will not have the same challenges!
5. Accept nominations
Once you have put the word out that you are looking for a particular type of person to interview, let people help you out with nominations.
I use a simple form and it has been so helpful! Whenever I'm not sure who to interview next I take a look at these entries.
I also ask each of my interviewees to pass along 2 or 3 names they think would make excellent interviews. Even from the start I've never had a loss for who to talk to, and now I have a bank of about 300 nominations to choose from.
6. Decide on a name.
I think much of the initial buzz around Yinzpiration came because people (especially Pittsburghers) were resonating with the name.
My suggestion to you is to come up with something that has the energy as well as message you want to convey.
I love the name Yinzpiration because it makes people smile and says exactly what the blog is about: finding inspiration in the life and stories of others ... aka yinz guys!
Disclaimer: a catchy name isn't 100% necessary. If finding the perfect name is holding you up, choose something more generic like "Pete's Interview Blog" and roll with it. Authors use working titles all the time you can change it if you want to later. The important thing is to start interviewing!
7. Register your URL and choose a blogging platform.
I'm not going to get too technical here as there are many sites out there that can help you with this stuff. (Use your masterful Google skills!) But once you have some name options, go to a URL registry site like Namecheap and see if it's available.
Next decide on a platform. Many bloggers I know like Wordpress. I use Drupal. You can also check out Tumblr or Blogger.
Here's a list of 10 free blogging platforms for you to check out. Choose what feels right for you!
8. Secure your first four interviews.
I use a standard invitation email (I keep it in the "canned responses" feature on Gmail. It literally changed my life!) and then add a personal opening for each potential interviewee.
I lay out all the logistics of the interview in a bulleted list, as well as a set of sample questions and how my interview process works. Be specific on where you suggest to meet and how long it will take.
Don't get discouraged if you receive a few people decline your interview. It's definitely happened to me. There are plenty of people in the world to talk to ... just move on to the next.
9. Use pictures.
You can take your own pictures (my preference) to add to your interviews, or you can ask your interviewees to provide you with a headshot.
I recommend at least 600 pixels in width. The picture is what initially draws in the readers (and it's super helpful to have a picture to share for social media purposes) so be sure to make having nice pictures a priority.
A few interviewees provided their own photos when I first started the project (major regrets here!), but I later decided that I wanted the rest of the interviews to feature my own photos. Most of my photos are taken with an iPhone 5. I did use a DSLR for some sessions, but a fancy camera is not required.
Another route to take is to team up with a professional photographer who is looking to reach a larger audience. That was the case for this Style Line interview I recently did with Propelle partner Emiliy.
Unless you are famous or have built a huge readership over time, just posting on your blog isn't going to get in the hands of many. Utilize Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Think about creative ways to present your interview content that is intriguing that makes people want to know more.
Everyone and their mother has a blog these days, so just posting a link and telling people to read your interview is not enough. Tell them WHY.
One of my favorite ways to communicate with my readers is through my weekly email list. It's an opportunity to feature recent interviews and also talk about some more personal growth/inspirational/community stuff. I highly recommend starting to build your email list early on and staying in touch. It's super fun and effective!
11. Follow up and say thank you.
Duh. But really, send a thank you email or note card to your interviewee afterwards. People are busy and they just carved out time for you. Be thankful and let them know it.
Also, don't be afraid to get specific with suggestions for how they can help promote the interview. Some people get really shy about sharing things about themselves on social media. Make it as easy as possible for them. You can give them a sample tweet or Facebook posting, and encourage them to share.
12. Stay in touch
Not everyone you interview will become your best friend, but you never know how your lives will cross again in the future. Some Yinzpiration interviewees I've never seen again, others have become collaborators, business partners, friends, and clients. It's also not uncommon for past interviewees to get in touch out of the blue with a fun idea or proposal.
When I reached the 50 interview mark, I organized a potluck dinner for all the interviewees and friends of Yinzpiration. This was a super fun event, and a great way for interviewees to meet each other.
Think about ways you can engage your interviewees past your initial meeting. You connections will become stronger, and more fun will happen.
So that's basically it!
I just have one more piece of advice:
Don't let the nagging voice in your brain tell you you aren't ready. Or interesting. Or qualified. Or a good writer.
I remember mentioning my concept for Yinzpiration before it's launch to one of my friends and she asked, "Do you have the credentials/experience for that?"
My response? "Well, no."
I had a college degree in fine art and business, and most of my professional experience at that point was in retail management and massage therapy.
Did I have interview experience? Not in a traditional sense.
But I was really just out to ask questions and get to know people.
And I haven't come across a certification program for that. :)
So you're ready ... right now. Just as you are! You can do this if you want to. You can start today.
Let me know how it goes.
P.S. If I missed anything, feel free to ask more questions below! I'd love to help in any way I can.