Vox pops – either in video or audio format, or transcribed – are a lively form of crowdsourcing views and opinions that can add quite a lot of pep and sparkle to your articles and blog posts. Here are some thoughts on how to do it well.
These vox pops consist of very short interview clips of “soundbite” length and format which, when edited together, can be a very effective way of illustrating a point you’re making in the main text of your article or blog post.
Set up and edited correctly they can be used as mini-testimonials in a way that’s usually much sharper and livelier than the longer kind – but of course only giving a taster of the subject matter rather than anything in-depth.
Because you need a good few to make a vox pop edit interesting, you’re likely to find these most suited to articles or blog posts about events where there are a number of people you can interview easily and quickly.
Some examples of how you could use vox pops for an article or blog post
…A particular trade show or exhibition – why they found it useful, inadequate, better than last year, etc.
…The opening of a new local store or restaurant – giving their impressions, how they feel the new place will impact on local jobs and business
…Review of a new local business networking event – how they feel it compares with its competitors, if they plan to attend again
…Review of a local concert, arts and crafts show, gardening event – overall impressions, what they liked best, what they felt could be improved
…Sports or social event, perhaps connected with a business or company – how people feel about the organization concerned, their experiences
…During social networking after a large conference/convention – informal impressions of the event, speeches, seminars, etc.
…and many more.
Video vox pops
Given that you can achieve excellent quality results with the video facility on your phone these days, you don’t have to go to any trouble or expense to do video vox pops … especially if you’ve got the software and know-how to edit and upload the finished product to your article or blog post.
A few tips for video …
When you approach someone for a video vox pop, be sure to tell them why you’re doing it and get their permission to “film” them.
Don’t hold your phone in front of you if you can help it – hold it slightly to one side, with the speaker’s head and shoulders in full frame. Make sure you’re out of shot completely (this is not a time for selfies…) Standing – in effect – beside your phone, ask your question and then shut up so the speaker will be seen in shot speaking to an unseen interviewer.
Vary the way you shoot the vox pops so you can cut between right-facing and left-facing speakers.
Ask speakers to answer your questions in a statement if they can, so when you edit yourself out that statement will make sense on its own.
Audio vox pops
As for video, be sure to tell people what you’re doing and why, and get their permission.
Don’t gallop up to someone and shove the microphone end of your phone in their face. Reporters sometimes do this and it often results in their being told two words, the second of which is “off.” Be polite and discreet.
Also in the same way as for video, ask speakers to answer in statement form if they can, but don’t insist on it if it makes them nervous. Ask your questions and shut up – don’t talk over the speaker, so when you come to edit the vox pops your voice isn’t in there too.
Written vox pops
Written vox pops have the obvious advantage of being suitable when you’re writing articles for print!
But they can also work online, too.
Trying to write down what someone says, whether with a pen and paper or on a tablet or other device, is usually hopeless. It’s far better and easier to audio record the vox pops and transcribe them later.
Obviously you need to tell people what you’re doing and why, just as in the other formats.
If appropriate you can offer to name them in your final text with a link to their URLs if you want, but this can backfire. One, it can make the text-based vox pops look a bit lumpy and lumbering and two, if you have some quotes named and some not, readers may wonder why those without a name and link didn’t want to be identified! That’s probably a can of worms you don’t want to open.
Written vox pops by email
If for any reason you find it hard to record live vox pops, emailing questions to the people of your choice is an alternative. This article of mine shows you how to do that.
Editing vox pops
With video and audio vox pops you certainly can’t make any changes to what people have actually said – only cut out sections.
With the written variety you mustn’t change anything, either, although it’s OK to cut bits out of a longer sentence and form the reconnection with ellipses, e.g.
(ORIGINAL) I think this year’s conference was the best ever, or at least the best one I’ve ever attended, and that’s because there was a much better variety of speakers and seminars.
(EDITED) I think this year’s conference was the best ever … because there was a much better variety of speakers and seminars.
It’s considered courteous to offer the speakers whose vox pops you want to use, the chance to watch / listen to /read the draft before you publish it. Realistically though, people aren’t normally bothered one way or the other.
Further reading on vox pops for your articles and blog posts
I found a very good article by Rachel Murrey on WannabeHacks, a British journalism site, where she shares some very good advice on vox pops for journalists. Well worth a read if you want to try vox pops yourself.
For interviewing techniques, you might like this article of mine – especially the section where I show you how to phrase questions so you get the fullest and most interesting answers.