The Art of the Interview


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Spacetaker is developing a comprehensive series of Arts Marketing workshops providing practical marketing guides and exploring best practices. The series focuses on assisting artists and arts organizations effectively market their art and programming: engaging the press, creating effective press releases/collateral, utilizing online promotional tools, pricing strategies for artwork, etc.

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Ever heard or read an interview that piqued your interest and illuminated an exhibition, performance, or art project in such a way that it suddenly became must-see? Alternately, have you ever heard or read an interview that killed your interest? How did those artists get those interviews anyways? Spacetaker hosted an informal seminar with tips on securing interviews, as well as tips on maximizing your air-time or print coverage from two of Houston's best loved arts interviewers: Chris Johnson of KUHF 88.7 and The Front Row, Andrea Grover of Glasstire and Nancy Wozny of CultureMap and Dance Magazine.

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The Art of the Interview

  1. 1. The Art of the Interview Spacetaker ARC Workshop: Featuring Andrea Grover of Glasstire, Chris Johnson of KUHF 88.7 & Nancy Wozny of CultureMap
  2. 2. <ul><li>How to approach the media in order to secure coverage and interviews </li></ul><ul><li>How to prepare for media interviews </li></ul><ul><li>Tips for participating in a successful interview </li></ul><ul><li>After interview, what is the proper etiquette? </li></ul><ul><li>How to ensure it’s not your last </li></ul>Basic Goals
  3. 3. Interviewing for radio With Chris Johnson (KUHF and The Front Row)
  4. 4. About “The Front Row” <ul><li>The Front Row exists to showcase the arts.   </li></ul><ul><li>We are interested in everything that is arts related   </li></ul><ul><li>We want to say “Yes” (It hurts to say no)  </li></ul><ul><li>The Front Row supports the 300+ arts organizations in the greater Houston area  </li></ul><ul><li>Producer Bob Stevenson receives about 100 emails per day </li></ul><ul><li>Bob’s Front Row triage </li></ul><ul><li>Must-Do </li></ul><ul><li>Really Like to do </li></ul><ul><li>Could do it if there is time </li></ul>
  5. 5. Continued… <ul><li>TFR only works with professional/semi-professional groups (University orchestras, like Rice and UH, are considered semi-professional  </li></ul><ul><li>EXCEPT choral ensembles, since there are so many good ones who do interesting programming in Houston.  </li></ul><ul><li>No community theatre  </li></ul><ul><li>TFR wants to talk to artists , NOT curators, PR people, Producers, and ESPECIALLY NOT members of your board!  </li></ul><ul><li>TFR tries to do at least one quirky/wacky/different thing each week  </li></ul><ul><li>Please don’t pin your every hope on TFR. Meet them half-way  </li></ul>
  6. 6. How do I get booked on a radio show (like “The Front Row”)? <ul><li>Be aggressive but, polite </li></ul><ul><li>Be persistent but, unattached </li></ul><ul><li>Be clear and concise </li></ul><ul><li>Be interesting and, if possible, inspiring </li></ul>
  7. 7. Send a personalized email to the producers <ul><li>For KUHF, send requests to [email_address] . </li></ul><ul><li>May send to multiple contacts, but be careful not to play them off of each other. </li></ul><ul><li>Send initial release AT LEAST 2-3 weeks in advance; BUT do NOT send a release more than a month in advance, unless there are special circumstances. </li></ul><ul><li>Offer tickets, tours, copy of book or CD— it’s expected! </li></ul>
  8. 8. Contact information for “The Front Row” <ul><li>Send requests and inquiries to “The Front Row” </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Producers </li></ul><ul><li>St. John Flynn, Executive Producer </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>713-743-1821 </li></ul><ul><li>Bob Stevenson, Producer </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>713-743-1820 </li></ul><ul><li>Catherine Lu, Associate Producer </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>713-743-8436 </li></ul>
  9. 9. Functions of Email: <ul><li>Informs the reader (Should I consider this for my show?) </li></ul><ul><li>Should be user friendly </li></ul><ul><li>If release is attached, body of email should include some basic information: Hooks to interest reader without opening the attachment </li></ul><ul><li>Should include some form of a press release </li></ul><ul><li>Release should serve as primary resource material for interviewer’s research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Include all pertinent facts (time, where, who, title, etc.), as well as synopsis or description of events/exhibition and players/characters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Include short biographical information, website, collaborators’ info, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Should be thorough, but brief </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Phone Calls <ul><li>In 2010, most business is done via email. </li></ul><ul><li>Please respect the producer’s time by not leaving excessive/long voice mails. </li></ul><ul><li>Do follow up if your email has gone more than a week without being answered </li></ul><ul><li>If the answer is no, it doesn’t mean we’re not interested— may just be question of timing. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not call between 11:00AM and 1:00PM unless it is regarding that day’s broadcast </li></ul>
  11. 11. During the Interview <ul><li>Don’t be interesting, be interested </li></ul><ul><li>Listen </li></ul><ul><li>Be in the conversation (NOT in your head) </li></ul><ul><li>Be articulate </li></ul><ul><li>Be concise </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Be prepared to answer certain fundamental questions. </li></ul><ul><li>Why? (What’s the point?) </li></ul><ul><li>How? (Craft?) </li></ul><ul><li>Context/Big Picture </li></ul><ul><li>How is this piece/project/performance consistent/inconsistent with your body of work? </li></ul><ul><li>How is it consistent/inconsistent other “similar” bodies of work? </li></ul><ul><li>To appeal to the most people, keep it fairly broad (Details will fascinate some, but bore the rest— find a balance.) </li></ul><ul><li>Approach interview with a few “hooks” in mind </li></ul>
  13. 13. Share your STORY!! <ul><li>Avoid using generalities/talking ABOUT concepts. </li></ul><ul><li>Share your experience of what it is like to be you!! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For visual artists, you HAVE to be able to say something articulate about your art! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your job is harder because you’re not talking about something external, like a play. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid the type of language you’d use in an artist statement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anecdotal information helps </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dancers, be careful not to focus too much on the mechanics of what you do. </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. In radio (and TV), the chemistry is evident! <ul><li>Best to create a mutually engaging conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Be curious about each other! (When interviewer has seen work, be curious about the feedback or opinion of the interviewer.) </li></ul><ul><li>If there’s something you really want to point out, mention it in advance— but don’t try to dictate the direction of the interview! </li></ul><ul><li>Danger in working off script: not listening to interviewer, but waiting for opportunity to insert points </li></ul>
  15. 15. To have in the back of your mind: <ul><li>A successful interview is a successful conversation </li></ul><ul><li>If walls come down through art, leave them down (connect at a meaningful level, like Claire Dyson at DiverseWorks </li></ul><ul><li>If you’re concerned about remembering to mention sponsors, etc- don’t be (it typically gets edited out!) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Interviewing for print Nancy Wozny (Arts Coverage with CultureMap)
  17. 17. Remember : People are reading the interview, so it needs to be an interesting piece of writing.
  18. 18. How to approach about press/interviews: <ul><li>Welcome to email/call Nancy Wozny to talk about upcoming projects: </li></ul><ul><li>Email: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Phone: 832.326.5234 </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t ask writers to help you get general press: Interviewers aren’t press consultants! </li></ul>
  19. 19. What to send to your interviewer : <ul><li>Send a press release, bio, and a website before the interview </li></ul><ul><li>Send images with captions and credits: Don’t make them hunt for those details! </li></ul><ul><li>Exert control by which images you send- send the ones you like the best: Don’t send images you feel so-so about. </li></ul><ul><li>The details of the collaboration, performance dates, times, and locations, etc. should be in the introduction: make sure that data is readily available </li></ul>
  20. 20. Approach interview knowing : <ul><li>The reader has not seen your show yet and has no visual reference </li></ul><ul><li>The audience may not know what you do </li></ul><ul><li>Too much detail can be uninteresting due to the lack of visuals </li></ul><ul><li>Subjects will typically be broad, i.e. what inspired work, issues around work </li></ul><ul><li>The interviewer may ask questions you’ve answered a million times over </li></ul><ul><li>The interviewer has an agenda or reason interviewing you: may have interest is one aspect of your work over another </li></ul>
  21. 21. Methods of interview : <ul><li>Email interviews are discouraged, because they sound dead: Better to have a phone conversation </li></ul><ul><li>When scheduling phone interview, be ready by phone: Don’t make them track you down. </li></ul>
  22. 22. To prepare : <ul><li>You can ask for sample questions to know boundaries </li></ul><ul><li>If you have things you won’t discuss, let them know (the interview might go away) </li></ul><ul><li>You can ask about general confines to prepare </li></ul><ul><li>In the case of celebrity interviews, press people can also be on phone and answers are protected for no curve balls. </li></ul><ul><li>If you or your organization has a press manager, they can attend… but not other people! </li></ul>
  23. 23. During the interview : <ul><li>You, as interviewee, need to control the situation as much as you can </li></ul><ul><li>The interviewer may not be asking the right questions or be familiar with your work; answer the question you “wish” they would ask </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Steer the answer where you want to go </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It’s important that you’re lively: Don’t sound like a press release! </li></ul><ul><li>The interviewer may not have a background in what you do and require more explaining than what you anticipated </li></ul><ul><li>Take the opportunity to get the message out </li></ul>
  24. 24. Things you’ll inevitably be unhappy about: <ul><li>Interviews are getting shorter and shorter </li></ul><ul><li>Your comments will be edited to be made more succinct </li></ul><ul><li>There’s always something in an interview that’s not quite right and which will make you cringe </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do not ask to see edited version before it’s published! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Editing process can throw artists for loop </li></ul><ul><li>Read Deborah Solomon in NY times: her work serves as a good model for how a great deal of info gets cut down. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Expectations once the interview/press piece is out : <ul><li>The writer expects you to help get the word out </li></ul><ul><li>Post to social media and do your part to get a piece read </li></ul><ul><li>You can repost stories on blog, but you need to link to publication website FIRST to drive traffic. (Most traffic is from links, not random website visitors.) </li></ul><ul><li>Your network and peers are going to be the most interested in reading about your work. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t expect random readers to materialize </li></ul><ul><li>Respond promptly to interview questions or request for quotes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The quick and responsive get most press. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t be afraid of self-promotion </li></ul>
  26. 26. Reframe promotion! <ul><li>Put promotion within the context of your art— don’t have the used car salesman syndrome! </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing news about your event: </li></ul><ul><li>Shows you care about your work and about people seeing your work </li></ul><ul><li>Shows an investment on your part </li></ul><ul><li>Advocating for your art form </li></ul><ul><li>Keep in mind that EVERYONE is selling— your interview is to sell your work/exhibition! </li></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>Things out of the interviewer’s hands: </li></ul><ul><li>Stories get canceled or get put off </li></ul><ul><li>Story headers/headlines generally have nothing to do with writers </li></ul><ul><li>Be at ease! </li></ul><ul><li>Interviewer is typically there b/c they’re interested in what you do </li></ul><ul><li>Writers either pitch story ideas or are assigned: know how your interview came about </li></ul>
  28. 28. How to promote arts coverage: <ul><li>Don’t expect magic contingent to appear or to read your interview. </li></ul><ul><li>The promotion of a press piece has to be a partnership between writer, publication, and subject of coverage. </li></ul><ul><li>If arts pieces don’t get read, there are going to be fewer arts pieces: do your part to promote arts coverage! </li></ul><ul><li>Make a practice of sharing peers’ press coverage! </li></ul><ul><li>If you want a bigger audience, be a better audience! Go to shows from groups that are new or unfamiliar to you! Be a good arts citizen! </li></ul>
  29. 29. On Being Interviewed Andrea Grover (Glasstire)
  30. 30. <ul><li>Have your boiler plate down to one sentence: </li></ul><ul><li>What would you say to persuade a friend to attend something? </li></ul><ul><li>Go with what you know: </li></ul><ul><li>Speak from experience and first hand knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Don't try to become an expert on a new subject. </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>Speak conversationally if you're on the radio (don't try to sound like a person being interviewed) </li></ul><ul><li>Be yourself, less formal </li></ul><ul><li>Talk with, don't talk back  </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>Use visual descriptions (as if you're walking the listener/reader through the event, exhibit, performance, etc.) rather than speaking about the work in the abstract. </li></ul><ul><li>Tell stories and anecdotes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Creates a familiarity that attracts listeners/viewers/readers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Humor as a gateway to interest. </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>When asked a question you don't have the answer to, don't hypothesize! </li></ul><ul><li>Answer a different but related question. Politicians do this all the time! </li></ul>
  34. 34. <ul><li>Example of an excellent interview: Studs Terkel interviewing Maya Angelou (audio only) </li></ul><ul><li>Example of a terrible interview: Oprah interviewing Cormac McCarthy (video) </li></ul>
  35. 35. <ul><li>Very special thanks to the workshop’s contributors: Andrea Grover, Chris Johnson, and Nancy Wozny and for the continuing support of KUHF 88.7, Glasstire, and CultureMap. </li></ul>