Email Interviews: 3 Tips to Make Sure They Don’t Suck

Carol Tice

Email Interviews Don't Have to Suck. Makealivingwriting.comLet me say this up front: Email interviews are not really interviews, from a journalistic point of view. I’ve shared my view on that repeatedly.

But writers are increasingly relying on this method of extracting quick quotes from experts.

Often, they’re either scrambling for blog-post fodder.Or they’re simply scared to call people and conduct real interviews.

I see posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Help a Reporter Out, and other places, nearly every day for sources to “send your best tip on email for inclusion” in roundup posts for blogs large and small. Sigh.

In a typical week, I dozens of requests asking me to participate in email interviews of 6-10 questions. They’re usually idiotic.

And it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m always going to choose picking up the phone over email interviews. But if that’s your only option to connect with a source, here’ how to make sure it doesn’t suck.

If your email interview looks like this…you’re in trouble

I’ve received hundreds of email interview requests like this over the years. Usually, I just send them straight to the trash. But sometimes I take a minute to share a few thoughts about lazy journalism, lame questions, and basic communication skills.

If your email interview questions look anything like this you’re in trouble. Here’s a recent email I received. Let me break it down for you, and provide some commentary about why the typical email interview doesn’t work.

The introduction of suck

Most requests for email interviews I’ve received go something like this:

Hi Carol,

This is [NAME] from [a startup blog you’ve never heard of], a blog that intends to interview top successful bloggers that have made it big in the world of blogging and share their incredible and inspiring success stories with my readers.

I read your blog regularly and very well know that you’re a successful blogger and freelance writer and it’s my belief that  you have a blogging success story to tell.

I would be very grateful if you share your success story with us by responding to the following interview questions:

Now let’s take a look at the rest of this email request for an interview, and you’ll see how this approach can put a wedge between you and the person you’re trying to reach.

Q1: Get to the point…what do you want?

Email: Welcome to the blogging success stories interview series.

Me: Um, that’s not a question

Q2: The false-assumption failure

Email: Many people know that you’re one of the most successful bloggers on the web. When and how did you stumble upon blogging and how has it changed your life so far? What doors of opportunity has blogging opened for you?

Me: Actually, I’m not one of the most successful bloggers on the web. Not by a long, long, shot. I don’t recall stumbling. And if you really wanted to know how I started, read my About page and find out.

Q3: Get the facts straight, please

Email: I know you were in employment before you started being a full time blogger, how do blogging and having a 9 to 5 job compare? What opportunities and challenges are there in blogging than having a full time job and vice versa?

Me: Actually, I was freelancing for three years before I started blogging.

Q4: Everybody knows the path to success is never a straight line

Email: What has been (and still is) your biggest secret to successful blogging? In other words, what strategies and measures have you put in place to make your blogging venture an absolute success?

Me: Oh sure — I’ve got one big secret nobody else uses and that I have yet to share with anyone, and once I tell it to you, you’ll make millions. Does floundering around until I figure it out count?

Q5: When a stranger wants your site traffic data…run!

Email: Lets talk traffic. What percentage of your blog traffic comes from what source and how do those visitors convert in terms of buying?

Me: Seriously? Why would I share that with you, total stranger?

Q6: Oh, how naive you must be about freelancing

Email: How many hours a week do you spend on your blog and does working more on your blog equate to getting bigger rewards? 

Me: You really don’t want to know how many hours I work a week. Will working on my blog pay off? I sure hope so…otherwise I’m going back to watching lotsa TV.

Q7: The question no source will ever answer by email

Email: I know you’re a very established successful blogger, but what has been your biggest failure in your blogging journey and what have you done about it? 

Me: Um-hm…tell me something I don’t already know. If I have to think about all my failures and then try to decide which was my stupidest move, I’m gonna cry.

Q8: Never expect a source to give everything away

Email: I believe there are certain blogging tools and resources that have helped you do things on your blog in one way or another. Can you please share some of your favorites with us?

Me: I’m not really a tool expert…but if I wanted to list them al,l I’d do it in a post on my own blog.

Q9: This is supposed to be an interview, not a commercial

Email: Bloggers starting out would always be interested in learning from more established and successful ones like you. Can you recommend products that you have created that may be helpful to anyone starting a blog and where they can be found?

Me: Not comfortable making one of my answers a flog for my classes or mentoring…doesn’t seem like useful information for readers.

Q10: Everybody knows you never ask a stranger this

Email: And finally, how much money do you make from your blog? Give us an estimate if you’re not comfortable sharing the exact amount you make.

Me: Stranger danger. See my response to Q5.

Most email interviews, in my experience, are just like this one. They ask uninformed, stock questions in a vacuum.

They suck. And now you can see why.

Usually, the questions either don’t apply to me, or they’re requesting answers that would run thousands of words — I think one of those questions above is the focus of my old 200+ page Make a Living Writing ebook — or they’re asking stuff I wouldn’t want appearing on some strange startup blog I’ve never heard of.

The big problem with email interviews

The downside of email “interviewing” goes deeper than not getting an interview, or at best getting canned answers.

This blogger not only didn’t get an interview from me, he blew a chance to start a relationship with me. I think he’s a jerk now, and I’m never going to help him with anything.

BUT…all that said, I have to admit there are ways to make email interviews work. I’ve recently had a chance to see these methods in action, and they resulted in interesting, unique responses.

  • How can you use email for interviews and still get some tasty info for your article or blog post?

Here are three tips:

1. Only ask connections

Don’t ever make your first reach-out to an established blogger something along the lines of, “Hey, would you give me some of your valuable time for free?” That’s just not a good icebreaker.

Build a relationship first. It’s more important than this one interview or that one blog post.

2. Be like freelance writer Mary Jaksch

Write to Done editor Mary Jaksch came up with a wonderful approach to email interviews, in part because she lives in New Zealand and it’s hard for her to interview many top bloggers live due to the time-zone problem.

She used the approach years back to interview top blogger and business consultant Liz Strauss, and it worked great. What’s her technique?

She asks one question, then waits for the reply.

Then based on that response, she emails out another question. And so on.

This makes the email interview much more like an interactive conversation. Her followup questions are guided by the subject’s answers. Which means the questions are more informed and the answers end up way more interesting than the usual canned email replies.

3. An even simpler interview approach

When I got an email from pro marketer and friend Danny Iny, and Michael Agene, someone I didn’t know, they had a completely different approach.

They both got my buy-in to participate in a roundup post with data collected via email interviews.

Their secret? They each asked just ONE question.

Danny asked for a 1-3 minute audio recording of my answer, and Michael just wanted an email response. Their questions were fresh, intriguing and didn’t require me to fax them my tax forms or reveal other highly personal information.

Quick, simple, bang, I did them both and I’m done.

Bloggers are always interested in spreading their information and links to new audiences. But the process has to be easy, comfortable, and quick.

Realize that even modestly popular bloggers like me get a lot of requests — more than I can fulfill if I’m going to keep my own writing commitments. Why should I answer yours? Think of a way to make your question more interesting than most others.

The simple alternative to email interviews…

One even better solution to the email interview request — ask if you can chat for 10 minutes on Zoom.

I know! That means it’s a live interview. But take the plunge. It saves time, creates a virtual-interview environment, and helps you build a better relationship with the person.

Another writer I know had a short deadline and asked me for a quick email — but I was able to talk her into a Zoom call. I know my answers were way more lively in that live conversation than they would have been in an email. And we had fun getting a chance to see each other live, even briefly.

Before you fall back on email interviewing, consider how much more valuable it would be to your career to really get to know that person.

It’s the right thing to do, instead of just grabbing a short, emailed answer to your question and going on your way, still strangers.

How do you handle email interviews? Share your tips in the comments.

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  1. Michael Agene

    Oh My God… I couldn’t stop laughing at those questions. They are actually full of repetitive gibberishes. Well, I personally use to wonder how one will achieve the goal of a ‘good interview’ via email, without coherence. As.Carol rightly said, It just doesn’t work that way. That was why I came up with only one question for her. You might say that’s not an interview, but I got what I wanted.
    Albeit, I recently concluded an interview without seeing or talking with the person and guess through which medium? Definitely not email. I tweeted at him and from there, got his BB pin and we chatted out the interview. Of course, it was pretty interesting. That I think is another way of getting an interview done.
    Thanks for the mention, Carol.

  2. Jennifer Gregory

    So that was hilarious and gave me a much needed laugh. I totally agree about email interviews. I try my best to get a phone interview if at all possible and tell the sources that I only need 10 minutes of their time, which usually helps convince them to do a phone interview.

    The only time I will do an email interview is if the source requests it, they provide a unique perspective and that is the only way I can get them to agree to an interview. I usually keep it to 1-2 questions as well and they are usually something like “What is your best tip for businesses on reducing time for social media?”.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry…but most of the requests I get are pretty much like that. Guess I chose to laugh. 😉

      And you point out something basic in interviewing — ask open-ended questions! When you start your questions with a bunch of assumptions…well, we all know what happens when you assume.

  3. Donnie Law

    I started a blog about one month ago and get emails like that already. It’s insane!

    • Carol Tice

      Everybody has seen the content-curation strategy now where you get 10 top bloggers to say something, wrap it all into a post, and then you get great backlinks, so they’re trying to do it. Or even 10 any kind of bloggers. But I think you already have to do it in a creative way if you want it to work…kind of getting overdone.

  4. Ruksana

    I’ve had to resort to email interviews recently and much as I would like it to be an in-person, Skype or phone interview, most times I’ve found that the responder just doesn’t have the time to commit to blocking out a half hour from their schedule for this. In other instances, I have sent across the questions for them to prepare and am looking forward to our call, but I’d get the response back over the weekend maybe saying – Hey, I had a few minutes to spare so here you go! Its a different deal when I choose my sources and can strike some off the list if they don’t have the time to talk to me, but if the sources I must quote are provided by the outlet then any which way I can get responses from them is good for me!

    • Carol Tice

      When you have sources who won’t talk…it’s time to find better sources. There are plenty of experts in the sea.

  5. Lorraine Reguly

    This was a very entertaining post…because it’s so true. I like how your personality shines through.

    The tips were really good, and something I never thought of doing before. I like the idea of asking one question at a time when multiple questions are to be asked. I’m going to try this in my next few author interviews.

    In prior interviews, I sent a list of questions to my interviewee. The results, while not necessarily stale, could have been spiced up if the interview was done “live” or done via Mary Jaksch’s approach.

    As a blogger who’s only about nine months old, I’m still learning different ways of doing things. I like trying new things, and will definitely be using this approach in the near future!

    Thanks for the tips, Carol! 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Well, that’s the thing – if this blogger knew anything about me, they could have asked better questions and maybe gotten a useful interview out of the deal. But clearly they were mass-mailing this.

      Glad you’ve already seen the down side of emailing questions…really, live works better every time. Because you build a relationship.

  6. Benard

    That was great for this blogger! hahaha – However i have never interviewed via email and i think it would be a good experience. One thing am sure about is that it gives time to the person being interviewed.

  7. Luana Spinetti

    Uhm… do I feel echoes of our last comment chat, Carol? 😛 Hehe.

    But hey, those tips you shared ROCK! I’d use instant messaging instead of emails if I could, but I don’t think many sources use common chat tools like Y!M or Gtalk. I guess Skype really is my only alternative.

    I’m trying to adopt a different approach since we had that comment chat— warm up on the topic via email (one or two messages in all) and then set a short talk via Skype. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Scared to talk to people on the phone? You bet… I hate my panic attacks and the feeling I’m being a bother to that person. 🙁 But I understand I’ll have to face these issues sooner or later. They make life miserable…

    In any case– THANK YOU. 🙂

    ~ Luana

  8. Dava Stewart

    In order to educate myself about publishing in general, and self publishing specifically, I started a series on my blog called Independent Writing. It focuses on many different aspects of the publishing process, from cover design, to writing, to choosing a traditional, hybrid, or independent route.

    I’ve been lucky to get to interview some really talented people, and when I reach out to them, I ask if they would like to participate, and if so, would they prefer to write a guest post or interview. If they answer is interview, I ask if they prefer by phone, Skype, a Google Hangout, or email.

    The majority have chosen email. My biggest tip for a successful email interview is to really know something about the person you are asking questions. Read past blog posts, interviews, articles, Linkedin discussions – whatever you can to learn something about them. Then tailor questions that are original and that will likely get a passionate response.

    I also always include a disclaimer that reads something like “If you don’t like one (or more) of these questions, feel free to ignore it. And, if there is something I didn’t ask that you would like to address, please do so.” In-person or phone interviews are optimal, but approached carefully, an email interview can work.

    • Carol Tice

      My tip: Don’t offer the option of email interviews.

      Yes, if you must email, having questions that reflect knowledge of the subject helps. But it’s still never going to be the quality of a live interview…and once again, you’ve blown a chance at a relationship.

  9. Elizabeth Mitchell

    Fantastic – love the dodgy questions, I think my 10-year-old could do better!
    I must say, I’ve only just started my blog so interviews are way off my radar just yet. Everything else is so new and scary, I feel I need a bit more experience under my belt before I start down that sort of route.
    Having said that I think I would be inclined to just ask for permission to do an interview first via email or Twitter or whatever, mentioning the angle and subject matter (in a manner similar to your suggestions for guest posting queries.)
    Then if the subject accepts, that would be the time for questions, anyway something for me to think about in the future methinks!
    Thanks for this though, gave me a chuckle.

    • Carol Tice

      But after reading this you still think what you’d want to do is ask for an email interview?

      People really won’t bite. Through the phone. Or Skype. And you might grow your relationship network…which would make your blog be successful. Which is what you want, right?

      • Elizabeth Mitchell

        Yes, of course I know you’re right ( mutters humbly into coffee cup) . Are you really sure they won’ t bite though? ( Must resolve to grow some boy-type dangly bits!)

        • Carol Tice

          I promise. You’re giving me yet another chance to appreciate that I came out of songwriting and live performance. After shaking my butt live and having to deliver my writing to an audience in person, putting up a blog post just isn’t scary!

          • Elizabeth Mitchell

            See, how daft am I? It doesn’t take much to persuade me to sing in front of people but I think that’s probably because it is someone else’s words. Having to use my own ‘on the hoof’ is the bit that scares me; I’m always worried I’ll sound like an idiot and stumble over things.
            So I think I still need someone to push me over the ‘public speaking’ cliff but I’m continually trying to make myself jump. Wow, weird analogy – think I got up too early this morning!

  10. Joseph Rathjen

    I like the “start a relationship first” approach. I found, recently, that it works. For instance, I started commenting at a well-known journalist’s blog. This man is very respected in the political world as well for his journalistic achievements. After responding to a few of my comments, he actually offered (without me asking) to help me along in developing a proper, ethical and research approach for future articles. Since then, he has answered a few, important questions for me (via-email) and seems to have taken a “mentor” type approach with me. If you first present yourself in a responsible, respectful and professional manner, and bait the hook the right way, help will come to you without even asking for it.

    I like the Skype idea too. I never thought of that. Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      It’s amazing how much more of a bond you’ll form with contacts if you can see each other.

  11. Tom Bentley

    Carol, your answers to those inept questions were hilarious.

    Phone interviews are clearly better than email for many reasons, but sometime email is what you have to work with. I’ve done email interviews for a number of magazine pieces that required multiple questions, and I’ll echo Dava’s point above that you must know your subject: research your interviewee so that you can ask open-ended, provocative questions that can’t be answered “yes” or “no,” (but don’t force them to write an essay for each question either).

    It helps to always suggest any follow-up questions (prompted by the answers) be conducted by phone, because that can usually be done quickly—and of course make the timing at the discretion of the interviewee if possible.

    You can show some personality in your emails to put the subject at ease (and to make it more of a conversation), and of course always be polite, responsive and thankful for their time. (And if you have their emails, they won’t be able to sue you for misquoting them.)

    Email interviews can be clunky and don’t bring the spontaneity and open-endedness that a conversation can, but sometimes they give the interviewee a chance to reflect deeply on a question, which can also be a big plus.

  12. Ruth

    Hi Carol,

    Nice post. I happen to be a fan of the email interview, esp. when living overseas (I’ve left Cameroon and moved to San Jose, Costa Rica, btw!!) because of the time diff. And I think some sources are phone shy just like journalists. Here’s how it works for me:

    I like email quotes better for secondary sources. Sometimes you just need one or two more quotes to break up a wall of text and it’s nice to have a few extras on hand at the 11th hour.

    I almost always email people to schedule interviews. I get a better response that way than calling and leaving messages, esp. from executives. Also, you can often figure out email addresses for higher-ups by looking at the format of other company email addresses, but you can’t do that with phone extensions. So email works well to reach people w/o having to go through assistants.

    Anyhoo… when sources write back, I can usually tell from their writing styles whether an email “interview” would work or not.

    If I have a quick turn-around, I put the questions (well-researched ones, of course!) in this first email with a note like…

    “…I’d love to hear your thoughts on Topic. Call me at # if you’d prefer to chat in person for 15 or 20 min. or simply email back answers to the questions below. If email works best for you, no need for formal writing, just keep in conversational. I’ll be filing my story by Date, so I hope we can connect before then. Thanks in advance for your input!”

    Another way I use email is to follow up on phone interviews. PR/Marketing people esp. love their numbers! I like to fact check them just in case I got $3.45 billion in sales or whatever figure wrong while I was typing out their responses (I type as I go with phone interviews and usually don’t record them). I also tend to think of the most insightful questions AFTER phone interviews, so I often follow up with extra questions via email.

    One SUPER IMPORTANT thing, though, is that many editors feel like Carol: an email isn’t really an interview. Depends on the editor, the pub, their audience, their age, their training… So I put email quotes in my article using a format like…

    “We generated $3.45 billion in sales for 2013,” Source X confirmed later via email. OR “We had a great year,” Source X told [name of pub I’m writing for] in an email.

    Most of my editors haven’t cared about this — especially if the quote is good and/or it’s a *secondary* source — and I’ve had a few take the “by email” part out. Still, some have, and I feel like it shows integrity and due diligence to include it in the first place.

    Hope this helps and sorry if this was the longest. comment. ever.

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve brought up the citation problem in a previous post — thanks for reiterating it. Any legit magazine would probably require you to cite your interview as coming from an email…and that’s sort of awkward. Which is another reason you only want to do email interviews if you absolutely HAVE to.

      The usual justifiable scenario is that the source is refusing to speak to reporters, but has jotted a quick email response to you. And that is all you are going to get. And they ARE the story, and there’s no way to do it without noting their response.

      That would be my normal use of email interviews. Hesitate to use them for anything else. Because it’s just lazy. IMHO.

      And BTW, I have had to interview people all over the world in my staff writing jobs at all hours — got up early, stayed up late…made the phone interview happen.

  13. Ruth

    PS The number of questions ranges from 1 – 10 for me. I let sources know that they can feel free to answer as many as they want/have time for. Also many of the questions piggyback on the previous in the “If so, why?” kind of style.

  14. Mridu Khullar Relph

    Great points, Carol, but I do think it depends on the subject and style of the piece being written. For instance, I wouldn’t do e-mail interviews for the business and environmental pieces that I regularly write, but a while ago, I did a lot of health how-to features and there wasn’t enough room in the pieces for anyone to have a personality. E-mail was my choice of method due to location (I’m in India), but also because these stories were of the straightforward “Eat less, exercise more” variety.

    The bulk of my income still comes from newspapers and magazines and I have to say, I can only think of one publication I write for that would have issues with e-mail interviews. (Yes, that would be the NYT.)

    As for the guy who sent you the questions, I think he’d be just a big of an idiot on the phone. I’m not sure it’s the e-mail to be blamed here, as much as it is the lack of skill of this guy. The e-mail interviews I send out are personalized and the questions written after I’ve done my research on the person. Plus, there’s always the option to follow up over the phone.

    • Carol Tice

      So you disclose to all those daily paper editors that you’re doing email interviews? I’d be fascinated to hear the reactions.

      • Mridu Khullar Relph

        Yep. It’s a rare editor that bats an eyelid and they’ll usually take out the “said in an e-mail” bit as well. The only ones that don’t often laugh at themselves and say they’re “old school.”

        I don’t see e-mail interviews as evil at all. Everything about the way we report stories has changed, from research to making contact to recording to even the note-taking. Why wouldn’t interviews? With all the information available about us online, I’d actually say that it’s easier to catch a person’s lies online now than it is if you met them or interviewed them by phone. So if you’re doing due diligence, which you would anyway, why does it matter HOW the interview was conducted? It’s just another tool.

        What concerns (and annoys) me more is how the fact-checking process is changing. I’ve just finished locking horns with an editor (one of my regulars who I love) who would simply not accept the primary sources of information I brought to him (three different sources interviewed independently saying the same thing) but insisted that I find a published article available online that would verify the information in my piece. I eventually had to send him a link to a national newspaper here known for making up stories and printing falsehoods, and of course, that was acceptable to the fact-checher because “it’s published and online.” You’d be surprised at how often this has happened with publications that are household names in the US. The NYT has never once fact checked any story I’ve written for them, which was a huge surprise. TIME magazine does it for the print publication but not for the stories that go up online, including news reports.

        Anyway, my point is that e-mail interviews are a tool just as anything else and that smart reporters will do what they always do while the people who misuse e-mail are often also the ones who waste a source’s time over the phone with the kind of questions you listed above. (I speak from experience.)

        • Carol Tice

          Well…call me old school, but I’m going to continue to encourage writers to avoid email interviews whenever humanly possible. The advantages of live interviewing are many.

  15. Ansie

    As always, very informative and spot on, Carol.
    I also do email questions, but then only with people I’ve already met in person and we have both agreed on them answering email questions. Some people like to have time to think about their answers. Sometimes I will follow up on an in-person interview with a few extra questions via email. The important thing is that we have an existing relationship before I send email questions.
    But I agree, sending generic questions to someone you have no relationship with is a big no-no.

    • Carol Tice

      The investigative journalist in me says — you don’t necessarily want people to have a lot of time to think about their answers. Great interviews come from what they say off-the-cuff, before they have time to self-censor, spin, or sculpt their response. 😉

  16. Sarah L. Webb

    This is such great advice! I’d always heard that email interviews were generally bad, but there’s never been a clear explanation of why or what to do if email is truly the only option. I’ve been guilty of suggesting crappy email interviews, and now I can see why those two people never responded back. I can honestly say I will NEVER do that again! Thanks. 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Well, now I feel this post has not been in vain! 😉

  17. Chris Roman

    Never done an email interview in 20 years of writing. I can see how I might try your one question at a time approach if I lived overseas, but here’s the rub: Even in phone interviews, I find that some people are great, and others not so much. I’ve interviewed people who I could write a book on after 5 minutes of pithy conversation and others I could spend 2 hours with and end up with nothing I can use.

    Seems to me like email would lend itself to even more people falling in the latter category. I like the opportunity to probe deeper or redirect on the phone. I used to do focus groups back in the day so maybe that’s why!


    • Carol Tice

      I think we’ve all shot over a quick follow-up question on email. But I think people who are bad interviews probably the mode doesn’t matter. 😉 Just need to find another expert!

  18. Rhonda

    I wish I could say I’m surprised that people would waste time with such inane questions!

    I’ve done both phone and in-person interviews. I would consider asking follow-up or clarifying questions by email if I knew the answer would not take much time or effort. Otherwise, I plan to do my best to continue with live interviews.

    I was recently interviewed for a profile about my non-traditional career. Since the interviewer knows me and knew something about my story, she did the interview via email. We are both super busy and she had a short deadline so she sent me a set of questions. She did such an amazing job of developing the questions, that you wouldn’t know we weren’t sitting down face-to-face.

    This only worked because we already have a relationship. Even in a situation where the other party is willing, doing an interview when you know nothing or little about the other person seems like a recipe for disaster!

  19. Jessica

    Wow! Those interview questions would have totally gotten my back up. And some of them are so repetitive and pretty clueless. I’ve never done an email interview– I much prefer live responses, either via Skype or in person. But these are some good tips in case it ever becomes necessary. Thanks, Carol!

    • Carol Tice

      I have done them, because as a blogger, you’d miss out on a lot of promotional opportunities if you never said yes. But they do need to be intelligent — and I do usually ask if we could do Skype instead.

  20. Jackson Anderson

    Awesome tips Carol!

    I think it really shows how hungry people can be for traffic to their blogs that they’d rather skip over the best part about blogging and miss out on connecting with REAL people.

    It’s a true shame and especially for people like yourself who have achieved so much who definitely deserve more then just a blind email saying “hey give me an hour of YOUR time that will really only benefit ME and my blog, Cheers”

    Definitely something to avoid no matter how much you want to become successful especially within a short time frame.


    • Carol Tice

      Maybe a lot of newbie bloggers think “This well-known blogger would never take the time to talk to me,” so they don’t ask. But they should. You could be surprised. I like friends and can always have more of them!

  21. Shawn Gossman

    Great post!

    If I were to conduct an email interview, I would want each question and answer of the interview to be beneficial to the reader who views the interview. Asking questions like “How are your favorite sports?” would just be a downer, IMO. We need to see questions we can relate to and we need to finish the interview with some new found knowledge.

  22. Alina Bradford

    I’ve had a lot of successful email interviews, but the major key is to research the person beforehand. Cold interviews (as I like to call them) never works well.

  23. Kay

    I would have to disagree with the comments that email “interviews” are desperate and shameful and self-serving. I interview celebrities and common people for my blog. I always give the option of choosing email, in-person, Skype, or even video. If they choose email, and many of them do, then that’s what I give them.

    My next interview is with someone I’ve actually met in person, but she chose email. So is life.

    I do, however, research my subject and always ask relevant questions. Contrary to what some have stated, I don’t interview them for traffic; I truly want to introduce them to a new audience. One of my site’s mission statements is “to offer exposure for new and veteran naturals like.” And I mean that. Also, I always let them promote their latest project and provide all of their social media links.

    Even when I conduct a phone/in-person interview, I always take the main points and post it as a blog. Not everyone likes to sit and listen. I almost never listen to podcasts on a blog. If I go to your blog I want to actually read something. And it’s quicker and easier for me to scan than have to sit through an entire audio session.

    The second option, asking one question at a time, is brilliant. I would like to try this but I’m afraid I’d never complete the interview. I’ve found that when dealing with celebrities (and some “regular” people) you need to strike while the iron’s hot. Mail one question back and forth and who knows how long that would take.

    Case in point: It took me over a month after a CONFIRMED date and time to conduct a phone chat with one of my interviewees. There’s no way I would risk emailing her one question at a time.

    Thanks for posting this, Carol. It made for good dialogue. I discovered your blog through and have already found some helpful info. I’ll be back. *insert evil laugh*

    • Carol Tice

      I’m not familiar with bloggingbasics…but cool!

      I think there are so many excuses we can come up with for falling back on the lazy habit of doing ‘interviews’ on email. Oh, celebs are too busy to talk to me.

      Baloney. I’ve talked to celebrities on the phone. Yes, it’s a bear to set up, but you can do it. And of course what you’re going to get is way, way better than a few hastily typed email answers.

      Agree that the ongoing email interview idea probably doesn’t work for time-pressed celebs.

      But if you really want to make your blog stand out — get real interviews.

      Also…lots of blog readers LOVE multimedia. Spice it up a little and post a podcast. You might discover you grow your readership.

      Why give them the option of email? Tell them you want to talk, and see if you can make it happen. If they ASK for email and say it’s the only way they can do it, that’s something you have to decide on. But hinting that you’ll take their pre-digested written answers means many will take that route.

      It’s not that they’re desperate and shameful…they’re just substandard. Not as lively or interesting as actual interviews. Don’t your readers deserve the great stuff?

      • Kay

        The person I mentioned that took a month to catch up with is a celebrity. So yes, it can be done, but you need patience.

        I do turn my phone/audio interviews into YouTube videos and post them on my channel and blog. But I admit I’ve never done a podcast. Good idea.

        I always thought offering more choices made it more convenient and more likely to get a yes but I’m going to try your suggestion. The next time I reach out to someone I’ll specifically ask for a phone or video interview and see what happens.

        I think I’ll also take a survey and see which interview method my readers prefer. I may have been shortchanging them all this time.

        Thanks for the ideas.

        • Carol Tice

          I think the question to ask yourself is — why are you so concerned with making it easy for sources, instead of more concerned with delivering ripping hot interviews for your readers?

          I think you’re there to serve your readers and to make your blog exceptionally valuable to them…or at least that’s how I feel about my blog readers, and the readers of every magazine I’ve done interview pieces for. Which is why I’ve always taken the time to set up real, live interviews.

          And there are always more people to interview if a source is unwilling to talk.

  24. Nadia

    I love skype interviews! they are so much fun and more things come out of it in the conversation, the interviewee could say something and it would just be the perfect quote! I also love booking interviews in advance. that way it’s all set to go!

  25. karen

    Hilarious, Carol! The other problem with email interviews is that people always want to hedge answers, so they end up sounding like a corporate annual report.
    I have an unrelated question re how to find the right people to speak with — fast — at staffing agencies. Any tips? Thanks! k

    • Carol Tice

      Karen, you’d find them the same ways you find all your other sources. Call the company, Google them, look on LinkedIn, use tools like or Contacts+, etc.

  26. Sue Chehrenegar

    This was helpful to me. I am hard of hearing, so I do not like giving telephone interviews.

  27. Charlotte Addicott

    This really gave me a chuckle – I can’t believe anyone would ask such awful questions! I’m with you, phone call or Skype all the way. It’s much more fluid, natural, and you can usually come up with some more interesting questions on the spot based on the interviewees answers.

    • Carol Tice

      Exactly, you completely miss the natural back-and-forth that happens in a conversation, and the article suffers for that.

  28. Hailey

    Great tips! I’ll be circling back to this for future reference. And I also want to add that email interviews are more accessible for a lot of writers (such as the one you mentioned who lives overseas). As my health has been deteriorating for the last several months, I haven’t been able to commit to phone calls, so email interviews have been hugely helpful for me.



  1. 10 Commandments for Interview Sources - […] shalt not insist on email. I have conducted interviews by email in a few circumstances, but some editors consider…

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