One of the main reasons for Lorelle asking me to join the excellent group of guest bloggers blogging here on Lorelle on WordPress 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:
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.
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.