9.2 Purposes of the Interview

Communicators share a number of goals in their information-seeking interviews irrespective of whether they work in news, advertising, or public relations positions. For example, a corporate official of a firm that manufactures street-sweeping equipment might be interviewed on a given day by a news reporter asking questions about unusual capabilities of a new piece of equipment being marketed, by a member of the firm’s public relations staff who is working on an article for the employee magazine, or by a staff member in the advertising agency that handles the advertising for the firm.

Many of the questions they ask will be similar but some will be distinctive, reflecting the differences in the ultimate use of the information. Their common goal is the gathering of accurate, factual, and comprehensive material that will contribute to an appropriate and interesting message.

Sometimes the content of an interview is used strictly as background or just to inform the reporter or strategic communicator and only small portions of the actual interview content will be seen in the story, ad or PR piece. In other cases the interview itself is the story.

For instance, in the verbatim interview, the dialog of the interview is reproduced for the reader.  The interviewer’s question is printed as it was asked, followed by the response. The technique is used principally in magazines, usually with a source who is very newsworthy or who is a recognized expert. The interview itself is preceded by a short introduction that establishes the context of the interview and gives background material on the interviewer and the topic. (Example:  Keith Richards interview in Esquire.)

The goals of the interview may vary by the intended use for the information (for advertising, public relations, or journalistic purposes) and by the type of story that is being told (business, human interest, civic issues.)

Here are some different types of interview goals and how they may fulfill different information tasks.