This is Part 8 in a 12-part e-course about the types of blog articles.
On the hit CBS show, “Criminal Minds,” an elite team of FBI profilers analyze the country’s most twisted criminal minds. Relying on research and investigative skills, the team attempts to identify and nab wily “unsubs” (unidentified subjects) before they strike again.
You, too, can be a profiler. Like the members of the show’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, you’ll interview people (we’ll call them “subs”) asking probing questions that pinpoint their motives. Your interviews will morph into personality profiles—blog articles that paint word pictures about your subs’ defining characteristics. Let’s explore a few tips to help you craft first-rate profiles.
The bulk of your profiling will take place before you interview your subject.
Side note: your subject does NOT have to be a celebrity. Just an interesting person, or perhaps an influencer in your industry. Your profile will detail one slice of that person’s life.
Visit your sub’s Web site, skim his or her work, obtain a press kit if one is available, and read articles and public records about your sub.
Contact others who know the sub well: relatives, close friends, colleagues, agent, pastor, etc. Armed with information, you’ll be prepared to ask pertinent questions that plumb the depths of your sub’s psyche.
Spend time observing your subject, if possible. That doesn’t mean staking out her house on the sly, but rather, obtaining permission to “shadow” her during her work day.
As you collect information, jot down questions:
- What would my blog’s readers want to know about this person?
- What are this person’s likes/dislikes, dreams/goals?
- Who or what are the main influences on this person’s life?
- What puzzles you about this person?
- What obstacles has this person overcome?
- What makes this person special?
- What is interesting or intriguing about this person – right now?
Conducting multiple face-to-face interviews with your subject in multiple settings will give you the best fodder for a profile. However, it’s not always logistically feasible to interview your sub in person; you’ll likely speak on the phone.
When you begin the interview, agree on a time frame and stick to it. Your subject is a busy person and it’s critical to respect her time boundaries.
Acquaint your subject with the purpose for the interview. If you’re planning to repurpose your blog article and sell the profile to a magazine or online publication, ask the sub what media outlets have already published stories about her. Together, brainstorm publications the sub thinks would be most appropriate for her story. Discussing logistics for a couple of minutes creates a relaxed, amicable atmosphere.
Inform your subject you are recording the interview. But don’t rely solely on your recording device or your memory (authentic profilers don’t get “vibes” or experience psychic flashes). Jot down key information and “quotable quotes.”
During the interview, your job is to listen. An interview is not a conversation or a debate. Ask a question and shut up. Maintain regular eye contact with the subject, smile occasionally, nod in agreement, and insert the occasional “uh huh…I see.”
Use your written questions as a guide and follow up on interesting tangents. If the sub reveals critical information, ask her to repeat it to ensure accuracy.
Surreptitiously note tidbits that will help you flesh out your article:
- What the sub is wearing
- Color of her eyes and hair
- Approximate height
- Pitch of voice
- Specific gestures
- Facial expressions
Your last –and most important — question should be:
“Is there anything you would like to add that I didn’t ask?”
Ninety-nine percent of the time, you will obtain your best quote after asking this question.
While the interview is fresh in your mind, read your notes and transcribe the recording, highlighting key information and pertinent quotes. Decide on a point of view (first person or third person), an angle—a theme that will echo throughout your profile—and outline your article, plugging in direct quotes throughout.
It’s time to start writing! Compose two or three leads (the story’s opening paragraph), and ask yourself, “If I was reading this article, which lead would compel me to continue reading the story?”
Always keep your readers in mind; they should experience an emotional connection with your subject as they read the profile. Focus on what your subject does and how she acts, not just on what she says or thinks.
Write short paragraphs (1-to-3 sentences each), interspersing direct and indirect quotes with narrative. Include boldface section headings, bulleted lists, and sidebars. Finally, write a headline and subhead that captures the essence of your profile.
When you publish the profile on your blog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you granted an author, artist, musician, politician (or an interesting everyday Joe or Josie) a few minutes of well-deserved fame—and you didn’t even have to join the FBI to do it.
- Who are the movers and shakers in your industry or niche? Build a list.
- Investigate how you can get in contact with those industry influencers. Via Twitter? Facebook? Their blog? E-mail? Phone? Add their contact information to your list.
- Set up an interview and go for it!
- In the Comments area, share one person in your industry you’d like to profile.
Previously in this Series:
- How to Write a Calendar Article (E-Course Part 1)
- How To Write a How-To Article (E-Course Part 2)
- How to Write Case Studies (E-Course Part 3)
- How to Write a Review (E-Course Part 4)
- How to Write a Roundup Article (E-Course Part 5)
- How to Write a List Article (E-Course Part 6)
- How to Write a Link Article (E-Course Part 7)