How to Conduct Interviews for Your Real Estate Blog
By Matthew Bushery
About Inbound Marketing
Leveraging the influence of other people for your real estate blog — whether they’re local housing market experts or nationally recognized industry pundits — is one of the best ways to boost traffic to your website. Successful real estate blogging necessitates thinking outside the box with your content, and interview posts offer just that: an intriguing alternative to your standard mix of content, like evergreen posts featuring home buying and selling tips, news articles about the latest happenings in your market, and lists highlighting the best schools, hospitals, and businesses in your area.
Unless you’ve mastered the art of the interview by regularly watching “60 Minutes,” though, chances are you could use some tips regarding things like outreach, creating questions, setting expectations, and, of course, actually writing the blog post based on your one-on-one discussion, so continue below to learn how to become a proficient and polished interviewer.
Identify real estate blog interview subjects your audience would want to hear from.
Think of everyone in your social network, and consider who stands out as someone your audience would like to hear from. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas: Do they typically want to know about local housing conditions, or are they more concerned with lifestyle elements of your market, like knowing where the best pizza places are and what kind of community meetups take place? The best way to discern their interests is to take note of what types of blog posts they check out most often on your website and the conversations you have with leads and clients via email, phone, and in person.
From there, narrow down their preferred topics and match any themes with people you already know. For instance, if you find many of your discussions with leads revolve around the safety of nearby neighborhoods or crime in general, think if you know anyone in law enforcement or in the local government who could speak about the topic with you. The subjects that matter to your audience are what will dictate whom you should reach out to for potential interviews — whether the possible interviewees are people you already know is entirely up to you, but don’t be afraid to connect with people outside your network.
Get to know your subjects, then formally request an interview with them.
Next, narrow down your list to a handful of potential interviewees you could contact. However, before you find their email addresses or connect with them on social media, read up about them: Look for content they’ve published online (through their own websites and blogs or external ones), accomplishments and accolades they’ve received (the more they have, the more authoritative they will seem to your readers), and general areas of knowledge (this can be discovered through reviews of their businesses online, among other means). Those who pass your test — in other words, ones who seem to know their stuff on subjects of interest to you and your audience and seem willing to be interviewed — can be added to a spreadsheet with their contact information and notes about their topical proficiency. Then, get in touch to propose dates, times, and places for the interviews to take place. If they need some convincing to partake in an interview, use flattery to get them on your side:
- “I noticed you’re the preeminent source on [topic here]. I’m very impressed, and I know that if you speak with me for my article, my audience would be too.”
- “I’m looking for someone to speak with on [topic here], and when I discovered you through, I was positive you were the person I wanted to interview about it.”
- “I’ve spoken with [shared connection] and they had nothing but wonderful things to say about you and your detailed knowledge of [topic here].”
Don’t view this as manipulation, because it’s not: If you truly think they would provide value to your audience, then a compliment here and there is warranted and may just be the thing that persuades them to speak with you further. Should they accept your request, then it’s on to scheduling and finalizing the specifics for your conversation and, most importantly, formatting your interview questions and structure.
Arguably the best way to convince a potential subject to meet with you is to offer value in return, as growth marketer Sujan Patel aptly notes on his blog. Tell possible interviewees you’ll join their podcast soon to offer real estate insights or help them promote a piece of content they just released. It’s a two-way street when leveraging influencers.
Draft questions for your interviewees by taking into account their area of expertise.
This entirely depends on the intended focus for the real estate blog posts you plan to produce based on the answers provided by your interviewees. For example, if you talk to a local food blogger who knows where the best bars, cafes, and restaurants are, then most of your line of questioning should zero in on foodie culture.
When it comes to the total number of questions to ask, that will vary for each interview, due to time constraints or the subject at hand. If you only have a half-hour to chat with a personal finance expert, then make a short list of questions that gets right to the point (e.g. getting information about how home buyers can save for a home purchase, finding out what home sellers should do financially before listing their property, etc.).
Longform Founder Max Linsky relayed some sage advice in this Columbia Journalism Review article:
- “Do your research and write down tons and tons of questions. Only bring 15-20 questions to the interview. Only ask 10 of them. If you need to ask all 20, you’re not having a conversation.”
Similarly, if the topic you converse about is about an upcoming event or a reaction to a single housing market trend, the chance are slim that your discussion will last long and yield a great number of usable responses, so maximize your questions to ensure your subject relays everything you want them to.
Determine how, when, and where you and your subject will conduct the interview.
Honestly, you likely won’t have a say regarding the medium for your interviews: Whichever works best for your subject is the one you’ll likely have to use, so be flexible with how you actually converse with your interviewees. No one discussion format is really best — each simply requires a different approach to make sure you get the most beneficial feedback:
- If you correspond via email, just send your subjects all of your questions and tell them the depth of answers you’d like. Remember they have lives as well and likely don’t want to spend hours answering your queries, so be mindful of their constraints when requesting what you’re looking for in return.
- If you talk over the phone, ensure you have plenty of time to get all of your questions answered. Ask when your subject needs to get off the phone and then take that time into account with how quickly you run through your questions and notes. Worse comes to worst, you can always schedule a second call.
- If you meet in person, find a quiet place — for example, the interviewee’s home, your home, a serene cafe, a conference room at your or their office, etc. — where you can have a lengthy, uninterrupted discussion. The worst thing you can do is go to a loud, overcrowded place to chat, as neither of you will likely be focused and/or able to hear one another.
Just have a normal, everyday conversation with your subject — one that you record.
If you’ve watched TV, listened to the radio, or tuned into podcasts, then you — whether you realize it or not — have been exposed to thousands and thousands of interviews over the course of your life. Each requires a different approach based on a variety of circumstances (e.g. time constraints, potentially touchy subjects, one interviewee vs. multiple interviewees, etc.), but what pretty much all interviews share in common is they’re conversations — ones that just happen to be recorded.
Don’t force anything in the interview. Understand it may take a different direction than initially intended. That’s more than okay. In some instances, you may end up with a far better results from your discussion than what you planned for, so adapt accordingly and just go with the flow of the conversation. If you feel things are getting off-track, just pause the chat and go back to a previous point you need more clarity on or bring up a new subject you feel obliged to ask about.
Once the interview is complete, shake the interviewee’s hand, head back home or to your office, and listen through your talk. If you find you didn’t get all of the responses you hoped to obtain, you can always reschedule a second interview or email follow-up questions.
Begin drafting your post around the real estate blog topics discussed by your interviewee.
Assuming you’re satisfied with the replies you got during the interview, you can immediately take your answers and head into your digital document system of choice or even directly to your content management system (CMS) to begin writing and structuring your post.
As with any other content type, there’s no perfect formula for crafting an enticing, educational, and entertaining post: It simply comes down to thematic elements — that is, what the interviewee talked about most — and personal preference regarding length, style, tone, and formatting. If you were lucky enough to get lengthy answers to all of your questions and don’t think anything can or should be cut, include every last word your subject said.
Conversely, if they really only provided a few great responses that weren’t as wordy, then a quick-hit, Q&A-style article is your best bet. Be reactive to what you’re given by your interviewees and go from there. If you find your first handful of interviews lead to a lack of constructive quotes and sound bites, then a change in your interviewing style may be needed to secure more and/or better answers.
Edit your own copy and interview subject’s answers for grammar and clarity.
There are times when half, or even more, of your copy for your interview posts will come from you, not the subject. That’s because these articles require a set-up: an explanation of why you’re discussing the topic at hand (i.e. what relevance it holds for your audience) and what your subject knows about the topic and makes them an authority.
Moreover, while typing out your subject’s responses, you may find their conversational language doesn’t translate well to the written word, meaning you might have to adjust their answers for coherence, grammar, and structure so they make as much sense as possible. The important thing to consider when altering their responses is to maintain the meaning they intended.
At the end of the day, if you simply can’t make sense of something the subject stated, it’s best to leave it out of your blog post. The last thing you want is for them to read the article and ask why one of their sentences was refashioned or changed entirely.
Optimize your post with keywords, photos, tweetable quotes, and/or other similar additions.
It should go without saying, of course, but as with every one of your website pages and blog posts, search engine optimization (SEO) needs to be taken into account when formulating your content. Head to your favorite keyword research tool to discover what the most popular terms and phrases are pertaining to the subject discussed in your interview. If the topic relates to your market, then you likely already have a keyword group you can use for the article. Then, add the most relevant keywords to a real estate SEO spreadsheet you can track for your interview articles.
It’s not just search engines that require attention when crafting interview posts. Images, videos, SlideShares, infographics — any multimedia included in your blog content can increase the traction it receives enormously. Including video in their marketing collateral, including their websites, has helped countless professionals improve their brands’ ROI and awareness markedly.
So, whether it’s snapping a few photos of your interviewee to include throughout your article on them, shooting video of your interview and editing it down to the highlights, or creating graphics featuring the most important tidbits they offered during your conversation, your post will benefit greatly from visualizations.
After publishing, get your interviewee to share the post with their network.
One of the main reasons you chose to speak with your interviewees is their grasp on specific subjects, but if they’re renowned in their jobs or fields, chances are they have substantial social networks — people who would very likely read and re-share your real estate blog posts with their networks. Promotion isn’t a one-sided deal for your online marketing. It requires others to help you. In this case, working with interviewees who have hundreds (or even thousands) of Twitter followers, blog readers, newsletter subscribers, and general connections can escalate the consumption of your content and make you a more well-known commodity in your market.
Ask your subject for feedback on the interview and for interviewee recommendations.
After it’s all said and done, make sure you continue the relationship with the interviewee if the content they provided is valuable and there’s potential for further interviews with them down the line. Don’t forget, they may know others with equally valuable insights who may be amenable to sitting down for an interview.
Without sounding demanding, ask your interview subjects if they have anyone in their networks who is worth speaking to. Just like you get referral leads from friends, family, and past clients, you can just as easily get them from interviewees.
Once you have all of your responses from your real estate interviews, it doesn’t have to take long at all to produce and publish your post — just follow these expert real estate blogging tips from our Academy.
What do you think about interviews for your real estate agent blog? How do you get the best answers from your subjects? Tell us about your interviewing adventures in the comments below.
Published on August 14, 2015
Written by Matthew Bushery
I'm the Sr. Content Creator for Placester, where I educate real estate professionals about modern marketing and, in turn, help agents and brokers make the most of their online presence, earn more traffic, and generate more leads and business.