Interviewing - it's a juggle!

Writers and journalists on our training courses often struggle with the art of the interview. There's no doubt it's a difficult beast. No longer is a grubby notepad and half-chewed pen all you need. If you're lucky enough to have time to do a face-to-face interview you'll probably be wielding a flip camera, digital camera and smartphone for starters. However you're conducting it, there's a jumble of things you need to think about before, during and after your interview.

A checklist seems like a sensible option. Here's what we've come up with.

Interviews checklist

Whether you’re the interviewer or the interviewee, interviews are nervewracking. This handy checklist will help you put your interviewee at ease and get a good story or case study.

Before the interview – be prepared

If you can meet the interviewee in person that’s best but if not you might need to settle for a phone interview. Make sure that you’ll have somewhere quiet where you can freely have your conversation. If you’re meeting them in person, try to go to somewhere they’ll feel comfortable and where you might pick up some more information about them.

· Think about how and where you’re going to do it.

· Research the person and their organisation.

· Find out the facts of the story.

· Write your questions beforehand.

· Make sure your camera/dictaphone batteries are charged, make sure you’ve got a pen and notepad.

· Start with something easy.

· Build on it, reflecting back some of their answer in your next question.

· Put the tricky questions in the middle.

· Try to have a ‘wildcard’ question that will be different from everyone else’s.

· End on a light note or ask about the future.

During the interview

· Introduce yourself and say what the story’s about and who it’s for.

· Build a rapport, look for something in common.

· If you’re going to record, tell them you’re going to record it.

· Turn camera/dictaphone on.

· Ask your first question and LISTEN

- nod, use open body language

- make eye contact

- Make positive noises (but only if you’re not recording).

· Try to get your next question to flow from the previous answer.

· Be natural.

· Probe – if they haven’t answered fully, ask again from a new angle.

After the interview

· Check their details – full name and spelling, name of organisation, job role (if appropriate).

· Get their contact details (mobile, email, website) in case you need more information.

· Tell them what’s going to happen next. When and where can they see the story?

· Think about the most interesting/exciting thing. What was the one thing that stood out or stuck in your mind – this is what you should lead with.

· Write it up/edit as soon as possible, while it’s still fresh in your mind.

· Check any facts and get any missing information.

Good luck!

Find out more about Poached Creative's training and communications services.

Does small social enterprise have a chance in the Work Programme?

The Government launched its much-talked-about Work Programme today - "probably the biggest payment-by-results scheme in the world" according to Employment Minister Chris Grayling - and one that aims to help 2.4 million unemployed people back into work over the next five years.

The big idea is for what's been described as a giant dating agency, where people who are out of work will be matched to suitable employers. The focus, we're told, is on specialist provision and sustainable employment.

The money has already been allocated to the tier 1 and 2 contractors who hold the risk if they are unable to match the required number of candidates to jobs to make ends meet. See today's Telegraph article and Thursday's Guardian piece, which does a good job of explaining payment by results.

And this is where it gets interesting. It is up to these big players to decide how best to achieve the results that will win the more lucrative payments, such as more than £13,000 for getting an ex-incapacity benefit claimant back to work.

Some of them will, no doubt, try to build success with these clients in-house or with a small range of preferred providers who they've worked with before. How much of it filters down to the small specialists, like Poached Creative, will remain to be seen.

Where are the jobs?

Results would be all very well if there were jobs enough for everyone. But the two main areas where Poached Creative works - Hackney and Haringey - have been name checked by the Work Foundation in the top 10 areas of the UK where it is likely to be difficult for the Work Programme to be delivered profitably.

Hackney has the second-highest ratio of out of work residents to job vacancies in the UK, an unemployment rate of 19.6 per cent and one of the highest rates in the country of entrenched long-term unemployment. According to analysis published on Touchstone Blog it is also one of the areas that has been hardest hit in the recent round of government spending cuts. Even if the Work Programme manages to reach and help these people, it could be that the jobs simply aren't there.

Taking a chance?

The creative sector is one of Hackney's growth areas and, as a specialist service helping long-term unemployed people to get jobs in media and the creative industries, organisations like Poached ought to be the perfect candidates for Work Programme subcontracts.

But Rob Greenland at The Social Business is sceptical.

"There is potential for difficulty when a big company (the Prime Provider) is tasked with collaborating with lots of smaller providers. Government would have us believe that they’ll all play happy families, nurturing the young’uns and small’uns so that together they can share the proceeds and make the contract a success. I’m afraid I just don’t believe that it will turn out like that in a lot of cases."

It's worth reading his full blog.

I'll be happy to be proved wrong, but my fear is that we're too small, too untried and, frankly, too innovative to prove an attractive partner for providers trying to make ends meet in a difficult economy.

Find out about Poached Creative's training and work experience and read the concerns about how the Work Programme might affect people claiming benefits from In My Shoes.

Ten tips for effective writing

“Writing, to be effective, must follow closely the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which these thoughts occur.” Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, 1979.

The tips below are mostly drawn from Strunk and White’s brilliant little book, The Elements of Style. Its language seems archaic now but the principles it sets out are still spot on. I took the liberty of translating these principles into today’s language for my colleagues at the NHS Confederation.

They've served me very well in my communications career (first as a journalist and later as a writer for charities) and I firmly believe that every writer who aims to be read should apply these simple principles to their work.

1. Put your audience first.

2. Plan before you write.

3. Introduce only one idea per sentence/paragraph.

4. Use active voice.

5. Use concrete language.

6. Make every word count.

7. Say just the right amount.

8. Avoid jargon and complicated words.

9. Express similar content in a similar way.

10. Be wary of opinion and speculation.

I plan to expand on each of these points, with examples. Keep an eye on this blog and feel free to post questions in the comments field. I’ll do my best to answer them.