How To Write a Profile or Interview-based Article

How to write a profile, two people sitting in an interview.
How to write a profile or interview-based article. Getty Images

Learning how to write a profile article will translate into a great new skill for freelance writers. This is because profile or interview-based articles are one of the main types of pieces published in magazines and newspapers.

In this type of article, the person (subject) usually fits a special niche of the magazine or has a new program or product to promote. Generally, the person--their achievements and personality--is the focus of the article.

So, how do you let their personality and voice come through in your writing?

Following is a simple method you might want to try when writing profiles. This method not only builds the article around your subject's voice, but it also tends to get from transcript to rough draft fairly quickly, which is a bonus when time is money.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 1-3 hours

What You'll Need:

  • Assignment from an editor 
  • Interviewee
  • Notepad, MP3 recorder or smartphone app to record
  • Transcriptionist, or time to transcribe the interview yourself
  • Word processing software

 

How to Write a Profile or Interview, Step-by-Step

  1. First, deal with conducting the actual interview. I've got several articles on the process of interviewing here. You'll leave your interview either with a set of notes, a sound recording, or (preferably) both. While the interview and interviewee are still fresh in your mind, you'll want to tidy up any written notes and double check any special spellings or names.
  1. If you have time, and your deadline allows, wait a day or two after the interview was conducted. This should allow you to clear your mind of any preconceived subjects or storylines. You want the interviewees's words, ideas and actions to set the agenda- not your own. If you use a recording device, you may want to consider hiring a transcriptionist to put the recording into writing for you at this time. They are surprisingly affordable, and the cost is deductible as a business expense. Otherwise, you'll need to transcribe the recording yourself.  
  1. With a pen and paper in hand, read the transcript or your notes. Write down any broad subjects that stick out to you-- are there any items, events or ideas that the person seems to be going back to? Anything mentioned twice, or with great passion? Try to gather at least three to five broad subjects from this first reading.
  2. Narrow down these broad items. This is a good time to re-read the assignment from your editor. Did she ask for a specific slant, such as concentration on the subject's recent accomplishments or to promote a certain service? Compare your broad subjects to your research on the person (conducted before the interview even took place, right?). Compare them to your editor's wishes and perhaps even to your own interest in the person. Pull out and refine these broad subject areas, and place them (temporarily) in your transcript as your subheads. If you like, you can rename them to catch subhead titles now, or, see where the article goes.
  3. Using Word's cut and paste function, pull the interviewees quotes about each topic into the appropriate subhead area. You are now pulling the subjects words out of the chronological order that they occurred in during the interview, and placing them, instead, under subject heads. It is not necessary to pull whole paragraphs. At this point, you'll have a feeling of the direction your article is going in. Get the best quotes sorted, and leave the rest.
  1. This is where you practice your craft. You'll now have three to five subtitles, depending on your target length, and some great quotes about those topics. It is now your duty to go in and introduce the subject, the history, the research and why each idea is important. Then, use transitional phrasing such as "Mr. Blank agrees..." or "Mrs. SoAndSo makes this clear when she..." to move into your subject's quotes. Finish out the paragraph, subtitle or idea with more research or exposition, and wrap it up or transition it to the next subtitle.
  2. With the middle of your article done, it's time to write the introduction and conclusion. For some help with the introduction, consider reading "Ways to Start Your Magazine Article." The introduction should reflect on the article in general, and also frame the interviewee in some way. The conclusion often refers back to the introduction, or to some interesting part of the interview, and sometimes gives a look ahead to the interviewee's future plans.
  3. Re-read. Revise. Re-write. Repeat. This area of the site has several tips on editing best practices.

Tips:

  1. Conduct research on your subject prior to interviewing.
  2. Follow your editor's specifications and listen to their take on the interviewee's interest points.
  3. Allow yourself a day or two after the rough draft before editing, if possible.
  4. Be aware of the word count assigned as you're writing. Here are some writing tips regarding word count.

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