Five Ways To Rock Your Interviews With Bloggers

A “blog” can be many things. Strictly speaking, a blog is defined as an online web log with posts that appear in reverse chronological order. But given the broad range of blogs in the “blogosphere,” that definition isn’t particularly helpful.

Some blogs appear as polished online newspapers, while others consist of little more than incoherent rants. Some operate with the same professional standards of a well-run newsroom, while others spread baseless gossip and innuendo. Some have access to top government and business executives, are read by world leaders, and have larger audiences than many traditional newspapers and television networks. Others have little impact and few readers outside of immediate family and friends.

Altogether, there were more than 181 million blogs worldwide by the end of 2011, according to NM Incite, a social media research company. Although no one-size-fits-all advice can apply to all of those blogs, these five rules of thumb may help:

1. Know Who You’re Dealing With: Before agreeing to an interview with a blogger, visit the blog to get a sense of the blog’s standards and the blogger’s tone.

If the blog appears to use objective journalistic standards, you can treat the interview the same as any other described in this book. If the blog or blogger relies more heavily on opinion and analysis, read several stories to help determine the site’s ideological leanings or biases. For example, is the site liberal or conservative? Is the tone respectful or dismissive of differing opinions? Oftentimes, knowing a blog’s viewpoint can help you anticipate the blogger’s questions and shape your argument in advance.

2. Decide Whether or Not to Agree to an Interview: Although I generally advise spokespersons to accept interviews for stories in which they’ll be mentioned, there are exceptions to that rule. Here’s one: if the blog or blogger has little regard for fairness and accuracy or represents a fringe view, you might pass. You may also have to turn down (or delay) interviews for logistical reasons. For example, if you’re barraged with press calls during a crisis or have a small communications staff, you might have to prioritize larger news organizations and blogs over smaller ones.

3. But…Don’t Blow Off Smaller Blogs: Some blogs have small audiences but are highly influential and rank high on search engines. Don’t let a blog’s small readership be the sole determinant of whether or not you agree to an interview, especially if it reaches one of your core audiences. And even “unimportant” smaller blogs that don’t reach a key audience can represent a good opportunity to practice your interviewing skills.

4. Communicate in Writing: Most interviews with bloggers occur over email. That’s especially helpful if you’re unsure of the blogger’s commitment to accuracy, since it allows you to maintain a paper trail. But don’t be afraid of picking up the phone or meeting a blogger in person, particularly if he or she appears to be fair.

5. Consider Participating in the Comments Section: If the blogger gets a key fact wrong or misrepresents your views, consider posting a response in the comments section. Before jumping in, review what other commenters are saying and assess whether your comment is more likely to be perceived as helpful or inflammatory. If you leave a comment, be transparent about who you are and who you work for.

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