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A Virtual Interview With Lorelle About Guest Blogging

By Jan of Circular Communication

One of the main reasons for Lorelle asking me to join the excellent group of guest bloggers blogging here on this past month was my way of writing link posts and perhaps in particular the one constructed as a virtual interview. Hence did I decide to round this month off with a virtual interview with Lorelle. To add to the circularity of it all I decided to base it on her series on guest blogging. After all interviewing the person who invited you to guest blog about guest blogging on her own blog is about as circular as it gets I think.

A traditional interview is a conversation between two or more people where questions are asked by one of them to obtain information from the other(s). In contrast the interviewer, when conducting a virtual interview, has to do all the (present) work including picking the topic, choosing the participants, formulating the questions and finding the answers. The participants are separated both in time and space and only connected through their writing. You could thus also call a virtual interview a particular form of reorganizing someone’s written words.

I could have chosen to make a real or traditional interview. I am sure Lorelle would have agreed to. Instead I chose to interview Lorelle virtually, but to do so in the comfort of her own blog. Hopefully will it be something you never have seen before (at least I hope so as Lorelle keep attributing the idea to me). Having established what this is about and how it is done I think it is time to actually get to it, don’t you?

Since I have broken the illusion that I could have made by simply starting with the interview and only subsequently revealing that it wasn’t a real interview (which was actually how I wrote my first draft, which I then dropped as it felt like pulling the rug away from under you) do I ask you to reset your mind and imagine an interview setting including Lorelle and I. This is mine, which probably bears no resemblance with reality whatsoever, but serves its purpose nonetheless:

The Virtual Interview with Lorelle on Guest Blogging

It is the early in the evening and the sun is setting. Having gotten here by driving hours on long and winding roads while the sun was still radiating I savour the moment of arrival. Getting out of the car I am greeted warmly and invited inside. Having dusted myself off and washed my face I join Lorelle on the terrace overlooking the wine fields in the valley. She offers me a glass and we toast to blogging and all good that come of it. I get out my notes, clear my throat, take another sip of the excellent wine and ask the first question.

Lorelle, What are the key questions that a blogger should ask him- or herself before accepting an offer to guest blog? Surely the most important aspect concerns your own blog?

“There are three things you need to look at on your blog to prepare it for visitors from your guest blogging gigs: 1. Does it speak well for me? 2. Is there enough content to let them look around for a while? 3. Is there enough of the right content that makes them want to come back for more?”

So you are saying you should look at what first impression it makes, make sure that it has enough substance to keep people interested after that and of course that it is the kind of content that they expect to find based on your guest post. While I can decide the first two things myself the third one is also a matter of what the hosting blogger invites me to blog about or can I blog about anything I want?

“You blog because of the reason you were considered as a potential guest blogger in the first place: your expertise. … There are many reasons why bloggers ask guest bloggers to blog, be it vacation, wanting a change, or wanting to stir things up on their blog, or maybe none of those reasons. The guest blogger still needs to know the intent, the reason behind the request, to help them narrow down their blogging topics.”

So the host have to help the guest blogger by setting up rules and limitations. I guess that is no different from when you invite guests otherwise. How does blogging my expertise ensure that people visiting my blog afterwards won’t be disappointed though?

“In most cases … a blogger is asked to guest blog because they have shown themselves an expert on a subject, thus the blogger wants that expertise on their blog shared with their readers. So if you are an expert, and asked because of that expertise, blog that expertise.”

I see. As long as you blog what you know and know it well and the host understands that and asks you to do the same on his or her blog the expectations of everyone else should also be met. Part of that equation is however the hosting blog. How do I as a guest blogger make sure I actually do the host a favor when guest blogging?

“Look for topics that are covered, but not explained fully. If people are writing a lot of how to articles, are they writing the “why” that justifies the “how to”? Then write the why. Dig around for a bit and you will find plenty of holes in blogger’s content. Consider filling them with your guest blog post. You will do the blogger a favor in the process.”

Related to this is the question about what I as guest blogger submit. Some would probably be tempted to publish that which they cannot use on their own blog, but that wouldn’t make much sense would it?

“When you guest blog, your blog post is a resume you are putting out to the world that publicly states who you are, what you can do, what you know, why you are good at what you do, and why should people come to visit you for more. If you don’t deliver your best, do you think people will follow? And what does that say about the relationship between you and the host blogger?”

So it is not just a matter of being on topic and at the same time trying to contribute something new, but also about the quality of my writing you mean? What is your own experience in that regard?

“I agonize over every guest blogging post I write. I go over it with a fine tooth comb, looking for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors with a magnifying glass. I have others read it, review it, and edit it if necessary, to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I talk it through carefully, to make sure it says what I want it to say, and makes the points that it needs to make. By the time a guest blog post is published, sometimes I feel like I’ve cut the heart out of it through all of the filters I processed it through, but I know that I’m giving the guest blogger the best I can give. My guest blog post is a picture frame people can enter from another blog to mine. An Alice in Wonderland invitation to visit my blog.”

A beautiful illustration of the point. I guess you would be blessed as a host if everyone could and would adhere to that process, but alas not everyone will. As a host do you then step in and help them out? And is that perhaps also not such a bad thing?

“Having guest bloggers on your blog also gets you thinking about your editing skills. It’s up to you if you choose to edit or not your guest blogger’s posts, but I find it helps them and you in the long run. The nerves that can hit a blogger when they are new to guest blogging can make them easily mistake a “form” as “from” and simple errors like that. So clean them up if you want, which improves your editing skills. Reading what other people write on your blog is different from reading other blogs. You have a vested interest in what these guest bloggers write, so you take more care to make sure they are writing well, thus paying closer attention to how they write and how they phrase their points, which improves your own writing.”

Speaking of your responsibilities as a host. What else is there that you need to be aware of when you invite guest bloggers?

“Every blog has little quirks that you may have learned to work around. You may have to share these with your guest bloggers, along with tips on how to blog on your blog, in order to make their experience comfortable and with no surprises.”

Like handling comments, writing titles, using images etc you mean? I guess that also depends on who you invite and how experienced they are. Not only in terms of blogging, but also in terms of your platform, which (at least sort of) brings me to the next and perhaps most deciding question: Who do you ask people to guest blog and how should you ask to make sure you get what you are looking for?

“Avoid cold calling bloggers, especially the popular bloggers. Not just because they are busy and might have to turn you down, but also because they are often busy but feel obligated to say yes when they really don’t have the time. Some people just don’t know how to say no. The problem with this is that you might get a bit of a half post because they didn’t have the time they could have given the full post. Start with lessor known bloggers to give them a boost, unless you are on intimate terms with top bloggers.”

Apart from whether you contact bloggers you know or those you don’t know and if you cold call or not, what is the most deciding aspect you can think of in terms of paving the way to a great guest blog post?

“I’ve found that giving the guest blogger a theme, a point in the right direction, helps. As I’ve talked with each blogger, I’ve told them what I liked best about their blogging subjects and style and given them a few pointers on the types of subjects I’d love best from them which will work with my readers. They can take these or toss these, it doesn’t matter, but it gives the blogger some sense of direction for where they need to go.”

Which brings us back to the initials questions about what to blog about and how to make it relevant to all involved I guess. Having completed the circle I want to thank you. Not only for participating here, but also for having me as a guest on your blog. I can only imagine how it must be like to have others take it over, but if I may say so do I think your guest bloggers have done a great job thus far. Probably not only because you chose them well, but also because you gave the necessary guidance, while still letting everyone remain their own blogging self.

How the Virtual Interview Works

After having read this far do I hope you agree that the fact that this was virtual doesn’t make the interview less valuable. It is not fake in any way either, if you overlook my word play at the beginning of course. We each wrote the words attributed to us and although it is playing with the context of those words does that not make the words less relevant I think.

Besides are the chances of Lorelle and I being at the same place in either time or space quite limited. We live 9 time zones and about 5000 miles from each other. Surely you can bridge those gaps with technology, but it is awkward. If it had to be done am I sure we would have found a way, but since the alternative is also something I happily do (even if it is a lot of work) was that the route I chose to take.

To preserve the flow have I this time decided not to link each quote to the article from which it comes. Since they all come from the same author and blog do I think this is alright and since you will have to read the entire series of “The Art of Guest Blogging” to get the full benefit of it you are bound to stumble over them anyway. The articles quoted are: Preparing Your Blog, What Do I Blog About?, Blog Your Best Writing, What Do Guest Bloggers Need to Know About Your Blog to Guest Blog, How Does Guest Blogging Work?, while How Do I Help Guest Bloggers Blog? and Learning the Art of Guest Blogging, although not quoted, also belong to the same series.


This guest blogger post is by Jan of Circular Communication, author of the first “virtual interview” featuring Lorelle VanFossen and Liz Strauss.

8 Comments

  1. Posted August 30, 2007 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Wow! I am so humbled! This is amazing. I wish all interviews were this easy on my time and energy. :D

    The description of where our temporary home base is right now is so perfect, I swear I hear the sound of gravel crunching under your car tires as you drive off the farm past the fields of grapes, cherries, apples, apricots, plums, wheat, and corn. Spooky!

    For those who may not know, Jan is also the master of Blogging Relationships – a Virtual Interview With Liz Strauss and Lorelle, an amazing interview done in the same style.

    Thank you, Jan. It was a pleasure to spend time with you. Let’s do it again soon!

  2. Posted August 30, 2007 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    what an excellent idea, Jan – interviewing a blogger who invites you to guest write on their blog.
    I agree, giving a couple of possible topics to the guest blogger certainly helps.

    Question 1: Was this virtual interview conducted over email or IM?

    Question 2: Lorelle, how do you personally choose someone when asking to guest write for your blog? Do you base your decision on your personal favourites, or the ones who you think your readers would love to read?

    Questions 3: Lorelle, have you ever had to turn down a guest post upon receiving it from your chosen blogger, because it didn’t meet your expectations?

    Thank you.

  3. Posted August 30, 2007 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    LOL!

    Jan is a specialist in “virtual” interviews – that means that he makes the whole thing up – well, not really. Jan did not really interview me. He dug through my content and came up with the “answers” that I would give based upon what I’ve written on my blogs. They are a combination quote and editorial license.

    While Jan and I “converse” with each other through our blogs and email, he didn’t interview, on either of the two “interviews” he’s published involving me. That is what makes this techniques so special and unique. I didn’t have to “do” anything.

    I think he looked up my address on Google maps or something in order to find out that I’m living in the wine country of Oregon. I don’t ever recall telling him that, which just proves how great he is at this!

    As for the other questions, I am usually chosen as a guest blogger. I don’t have guest bloggers on my blogs in general. The ones chosen for this event were the ones I’ve admired and respected. I treated this like a party, which continues for another month by the way, and invited the people I would invite to a party.

    People I like. People are who are creative, fun, witty, and great conversationalists. I tend to have “noisy” parties as everyone is talking to each other because they find each other so fascinating.

    Since this is my first guest blogging hosted party, I’m still learning the ropes. I originally thought that I’d want more control over the event, scheduling posts and dictating content. A few days before it started I did a what-the-hell-throw-it-to-the-wind.

    I realized that I was inviting experienced bloggers and party goers, adults, to my party. People I trusted. So other than a few helpful rules, like the byline and the bio to introduce themselves, I just stood back and let it happen. Just like I would at a real party.

    The best parties are the ones filled with spontaneous and creative energy, not the formal, dictator-controlled parties with an agenda, right?

    Every time I check my blog, I’m finding something new added to it. It’s enriching and exciting. Total surprise and delight.

    I just wanted to have a good time. Instead, I’ve totally reengergized.

    Next month, stuffed with WordPress Tips and more guest bloggers, is going to be even more exciting!

  4. Posted August 30, 2007 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    oooh, I see… Now I’m even more impressed with Jan. Great job!
    I’ve had a similar idea of “interviewing” famous writers, and using what they’ve really said about certain topics long time ago (still have that post in drafts though).

    Of course, the best parties are the spontaneous ones, filled with creative energy (sounds just like my daughter’s bday party – children are creative and very spontaneous :-) )

    I personally think your blogging party idea is terrific. Looks like everyone is having fun there. Thanks for answering my questions, Lorelle.

  5. Terry Heath
    Posted August 31, 2007 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Jan, I’m really liking the idea of virtual interviews.

    Do you usually contact the interviewee before pulling the answers from their blog, or have you ever just up and done it without contacting the blogger at all?

    I see you worked with Lorelle to find her “answers”, but is this how you always do it?

    I’ve come up with a twist to this technique which I’m going to give a shot. I was thinking of an “interview” with famous authors, and with the answers pulled from various bloggers’ posts about them.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Posted August 31, 2007 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    First of all thank for the kind comments! :-)

    I did of course look up where exactly Lorelle lived, but intentionally never mentioned where it is nor did I try to give an accurate description. Instead I worked in a couple of elements that I knew would be true of the region in general. It was merely to break the explanatory setting and set the tone of the interview.

    I believe this is where you have to tread carefully because you are drawing someone else into a setting they may not want to be in. So just because I know where Lorelle lives (from the return address of the envelope containing her book btw.) does it give me no right to write extensively about it and I never would without having asked permission first.

    The idea of the virtual interview as form was actually the child of two ideas so to speak. I wanted to try to make a sort of round table post with a handful bloggers giving spontaneous answers to various concepts and I wanted to try a new way of writing link posts. Since it is practically impossible to get 5 bloggers to do anything simultaneously did I consider just pretending they were and hence the idea was born.

    Since it is hard to make a multiple questions post with more people being virtually interviewed without it being way too long and complicated to follow did I settle for two people and more questions the first time. Looking back on it am I not particularly pleased with it, but as a first try was it alright. The second attempt with more people and only one question worked better and hence did I reply the same formula only reversed here.

    Vivien, you should definitely give it a try. It is more work that merely quoting and binding those quotes together, but you can get another flow going both when writing and reading it when doing it this way. I already noted the idea of trying this with the ancient philosophers etc as well, but so far has it been pushed back by other projects and the fact that they wrote less conversationally and hence less appropriate for this sort of thing.

    Terry, the three times I have done this so far I just went ahead and did it. The first time I thought long and hard about it, but decided that I broke whether written or unwritten rules since I don’t pull more than more licenses allow and also take great care in attributing what I used. The reactions have been only positive thus far and if you take great care how you do it and make sure that everyone end up looking good I really don’t see how anyone could mind you doing this.

    Lorelle knew absolutely nothing about this until she read it on her blog. She may have expected it, but I don’t think so as I have made no hint whatsoever to planning it. Since this is a birthday I guess surprises are welcome either way, but if in doubt then ask first. Most of the work and half the joy is actually exploring peoples articles to find answers so I prefer doing that myself.

    Taking an idea and twisting it is what this is all about so I hope it works out. There is nothing wrong with applying what you know works, but sometimes you have to take a chance and try something new. Some of the inspiration for thinking that way is probably one of the first articles that I wrote, which is about Albert Einstein and how his special gifts could be applied to blogging.

    • Posted September 13, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      Hi Jan,

      What a nice birthday present it must have been for Lorelle!

      What you have achieved with the virtual interview is quite brilliant and clever, though the process would have been much harder (whether or not the interview is virtual or real) if the interviewee, for whatever reason(s), had been (far) less articulated, expressive or forthcoming on some topic(s) or craft(s), from which the questions and answers would be sourced, based or derived, and consequently the interviewer would have to be (much) more resourceful or knowledgeable in filling the gaps and smoothing the transitions. Specifically, I am referring to an online interview that I had conducted with an artist.

  7. Posted August 31, 2007 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    It was a perfect surprise. Like getting those “coupons” from your kids or family members that promise to “do things” upon redemption like wash the dishes, take out the trash, rub your feet…that we never redeem.

    I got to redeem my birthday present without any coupons! No work involved. Just sit back and enjoy the love. :D


12 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  7. […] A Virtual Interview With Lorelle About Guest Blogging: In conclusion of his series on creating powerful and unique link posts, Jan of Circular Communication introduces us to his original “virtual interview” technique where he “interviews” a blogger based upon their blog content, not with direct contact with the blogger. He uses me in this wonderful example of the “virtual interview”. […]

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