3 Written Formats for Oral Interviews

You’ve just recorded an insightful conversation with an executive, subject matter expert, or thought leader. How do you turn it into compelling written content you can share on your website, in your email newsletter, or as a printed handout to give to clients?

The first step is to have the interview transcribed. Once you’ve got some raw written material, the next step is to transform it into compelling content.

Here are three formats my company recommends to clients:

1. Question and Answer

INTERVIEWER: What is the Q&A format?

JOHN Q. SUBJECT: It usually looks something like this.

So it follows the format of the underlying transcript, showcasing the voice of both the interviewer and the subject?

Well said! But don’t let the format fool you. You can’t just copy and paste the transcript into a blog post. It takes deliberate effort to get the conversation into shape.

Why do you need to edit the transcript?

Most of us talk differently than we write. Phrases that convey meaning partly through tone of voice may not make sense when printed on the page.

Raw transcripts may include undefined jargon, vague promptings, and meandering ideas that can obscure meaning.

The conversation must flow logically on the screen and provide enough context, in both questions and answers, for readers to fully understand it.

Plus, only parts of a raw conversation belong in a finished piece.

That’s right. A transcript of a 30-minute interview can be several thousand words long. Boiling that down to an 800-word blog post requires critical decisions about what is and what is not worth the reader’s time.

2. Third-Person Report

In this style, the subject’s key quotes are surrounded with third-person contextualization.

“This is the format you’re most likely to see when you read the news,” says John Q. Subject. “It offers readers the best of a subject’s insights so that readers don’t have to hunt through a whole conversation.”

The Subject also added that writers can also paraphrase quotes to create a smoother reading experience.

In fact, the third person voice can expand on the subject’s ideas with a sense of objectivity. It can also serve as an efficient bridge between quotes.

“With a third-person narrative, you’re free to select the best from the transcript and write the rest to suit your specific needs,” Subject notes. “And if you can end on a killer quote? It’s simply magical.”

3. First-Person Perspective

By John Q. Subject

Before I understood how interviews can create written content, I was just another executive with too much to do. I knew that publishing my insights was important for my company and personal brand. But for one reason or another, I just never seemed to get the writing done.

Today, I know that with just a thirty-minute interview, a professional can gather plenty of material to compose in my voice. Each draft incorporates my own words and phrases into a clear structure. When changes or additions are required, I get to approve them.

Social media sage Gary Vaynerchuk uses a similar strategy to write his books. He works with a ghostwriter named Stephanie Land, although, according to a profile in Contently, she “prefers consultant or collaborator.”

That makes sense to me. Working with a content expert to turn my thoughts into content helps me present the best version of my ideas.

Conclusion: More Than Words

While you’re considering the above formats, keep in mind that you’ve got other options beyond the written word. You can also package interviews into podcasts or videos, giving each conversation more than one way to make an impact.

If video is your medium of choice, check out 5 Interviewing Tips for Case Study Videos.