Wick Communications

Better phone interviews

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Alexander Graham Bell placing the first New York to Chicago phone call in 1892.

Last week, I introduced Luz, our summer intern at the Half Moon Bay Review. Predictably, she’s been teaching me more about myself, our newsroom and our business than I could ever impart to her.

Today, she and I were talking about an unsuccessful phone interview she suffered through. She called a world-renowned science museum looking for information about the whale migration that is making its way off our beaches. It didn’t go well.

As we talked about why that might have been, Luz guessed it was because she wasn’t confident enough and therefore didn’t speak up with her questions. The result was that the expert on the other end wasn’t comfortable and ultimately didn’t provide any useful information for whale-watchers.

As Luz found out, it’s not enough to call an expert and ask them to talk about whales. That is probably obvious to the professional reporters reading these words, but it wasn’t obvious to her. That’s because I didn’t properly prepare her for the call.

It got me thinking about all the reasons phone interviews fail.

Lack of preparation. It’s easy to find someone on the internet who seems like a great source for just about anything. In fact, it’s much easier to find a source than it is to think about what you want to know from that source. Luz and I would have done well before her call to brainstorm ways to make the best of it. That requires some reading, which would have opened us up to questions like, why do there seem to be more whales migrating close to shore in the last couple of years and what are the rules governing human interactions with endangered species? …

Lack of understanding. When you call someone out of the blue, you are interrupting their day. Be gracious. Offer to call back at a better time. I always ask if I have caught a source at a bad time.

Lack of professionalism: Pay attention. Don’t be so wrapped up in your next question that you fail to listen. Don’t interrupt. Politely ask sources to repeat things you didn’t get and to spell names and so forth. “Yes sir” and “no ma’am” might be appropriate. This isn’t your best friend, but rather your best chance to tell a great story.

Lack of technology: I sometimes find out too late that my cell connection is spotty. Or our headsets don’t work. It’s best to conduct a phone interview at your desk, where you know you’ll have a good connection.

Today, I ran across some reminders for better communication that might also bear mentioning. They are worth seeing for the GIFs alone.

I know this sounds rudimentary, but we all have trouble with phone communication from time to time.

— Clay

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