3 reasons to avoid email interviews

Reporters and bloggers commonly conduct interviews via email. The author says it’s a practice you should avoid.


When a reporter or blogger is looking for a source, it’s important to recognize there are significant disadvantages to participating in an email interview instead of a phone interview.

Many media requests listed on HARO (Help a Reporter Out) stipulate interviews will be conducted via email. It seems a growing number of people skip the human element of exchanging pleasantries and instead hide behind their keyboards.

For me, it’s simple. I prefer to talk rather than type.

RELATED: Is the phone interview dead?

Sure, in our busy worlds, there’s a certain convenience to receiving information electronically. But email interviews lack a critical communication dynamic that’s present when a reporter takes the time to speak with a source.

Without dialogue, the art of give-and-take doesn’t exist at a deep level.

Nudging our curiosity

Curiosity plays an important role in the interview process. Even if 10 rounds of emails are traded, the content will never match that of a human conversation, because email deprives a reporter or blogger of the opportunity to spark their own curiosity and possibly uncover new insights and content.

Nudging our curiosity is essential in developing content and learning new things. Curiosity and education go hand-in-hand.

Email interviews detract from the fundamental news-gathering process because they:

1. Lack the human exchange and conversation that give life to interviews.

As a former journalist, I have interviewed thousands of people, from homeless individuals to presidents. I conducted each interview in-person or on the telephone. Each response typically sparked a follow-up question or slight tangent that I could never have anticipated.

This is why scripted Q&As doesn’t compare with live interviews. Email misses our communication nuances, speech patterns, and vocal vitality. Live exchanges—fueled by a natural curiosity—improve the quality of information that simply cannot exist in an email interview.

2. Fail to capture the essence of the source that’s being interviewed.

When a reporter or blogger is finished gathering material and is ready to sit down and write, can he or she truly capture the essence of a story in the same way a counterpart could who spoke with a source. Of course, any reporter can miss the mark and fail to truly “get” the story. But why increase the odds?

3. Prevent people from using their communication skills.

Typing responses to a series of questions limits our verbal communication and rapport building skills. We have all sent and received electronic messages that were misconstrued in some way. In phone interviews, tone of voice, rhythm, pacing, pauses, and enthusiasm help reporters grasp a story and the person behind it.

Some reporters even prefer to Skype with sources, as the visual adds an additional layer of valuable communication. Skype and in-person interviews enable the reporter or blogger to observe a source’s body language, which is a significant factor in our verbal and nonverbal communication.

Do you agree or have an experience to share? Your comments are welcome.

RELATED: The best—and worst times—to send an email

Susan Young is author of the e-book, “The Badass Book of Social Media and Business Communication.” A version of this story first appeared on her blog.

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