Great interviews mean great newsletters

Heather Denkmire

Faced with finding articles for a newsletter or press release?

The mission of a nonprofit lives through its staff, volunteers and clients. Keeping an organization’s story compelling and current requires constantly searching out new personal stories. When you identify a staff person, client or board member willing to be interviewed, follow these steps for a successful interview:

Focus. Before the interview, develop in your mind a single phrase that sums up the purpose of the discussion. For example, “find a story highlighting how many people we’ve served,” or, “describe our new executive director.” If the conversation lags, call on the guiding statement to bring your thoughts back into focus.

Easy does it. There’s no need to take the interviewing job too seriously. Consider yourself in a conversation, a casual chat, and your thoughts are more likely to flow around the subject at hand. When the subject wanders away from your focus statement, let it go, you might find the story you’re seeking as you go off course. Refer to your focus statement if it wanders too far.

Follow the leader. Don’t fret about your note taking. Concentrate on really, really listening. Key words on your note pad will be enough to recall the conversation if you absorb what the interviewee says. If your mind wanders or you fall behind in your notes, recall your focus statement, breathe and just listen.

Sum it up. Immediately following the interview, find a quiet space to fill in your notes. Now is the time to identify special parts of the stories you heard. For example, if you are writing an introduction of a new executive director, you’ll find the pieces of the theme in the recollections and notes from the interview if you consider the content immediately following the interview. The stories will be fresh, your scribbles will still make sense, and you’ll even get big chunks of the article finished as you flesh out your notes.

Interviewing someone is just like chatting with a friend. There is no need for stilted formalities or awkward “Q&A” sessions. Consider the subject of the article (focus), relax and enjoy yourself (easy does it), listen-listen-listen (follow the leader), and spend time with your notes immediately following the conversation (sum it up). You’ll be interviewing like the pros in no time.

Heather Denkmire runs She can be reached at or through the website.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.