“Puliendo diamantes: el arte de descubrir personalidades”: A Profile Workshop

Her Campus at Inter SG writers are always looking for ways through which we can all improve our writing; for this reason, my fellow co-correspondent and I talked to our counsellor, Dr. Graciela Tesan, with an idea for a profile workshop. Dr. Tesan then reached out to Prof. Carmen Cila Rodríguez, M.A, PhDc with the proposal for a workshop. 

On Wednesday, November 13th 2019, Her Campus at Inter SG held a profile workshop titled: “Puliendo Diamantes: El arte de descubrir personalidades” (Spanish for: “Polishing Diamonds: The Art of Discovering Personalities”). It was given by Carmen Cila Rodríguez M.A., PhD.c; a Spanish professor at the Department of Languages and Literature at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, San Germán Campus. Prior to being a professor, Mrs. Rodríguez was a journalist for fifteen years for the Ponce newspaper “La Perla del Sur” and a few other publications. During her time as a journalist, Mrs. Rodríguez wrote profiles on people opening their own business, public figures, survivors of diseases, lawyers, politicians, exceptional people, and others. 

During the workshop, her expertise on the subject shone through. Mrs. Rodríguez titled it “Puliendo diamantes: el arte de describir personalidades” because diamonds need to be polished, just like writing. Furthermore, writing is an art and so is being able to describe someone’s personality and exceptional abilities through a profile. When looking for someone exceptional to interview, it’s important to take into consideration their history, their social actions, and their morality. 

Young writers usually feel intimidated by profiles, as they do not know how to formulate the questions. To begin, writers should investigate a little about the person, so that they do not go in to interview a complete stranger and to not know the basic background of that person. The important thing is to focus on the five W’s (Who, What, When, Why, Where) and two H’s (How, How much) and to cater those questions to specifically fit into the interviewee’s experience. For example, if a writer is interviewing an author about their new book, they can ask the author questions like: “What’s the theme of the book?”, “What does the title mean?”, “What inspired you to write it”. Furthermore, great profiles result from letting the interviewee take the lead in talking during an interview. They are the ones with a story to tell and having an in-depth conversation with them is a great way to get to know them a little more. In addition, in the words of Mrs. Rodríguez, exterior beauty is secondary. Focus on the person’s work, their struggles, and their values; do not focus on their physical appearance, as this is irrelevant to the profile.

Mrs. Rodríguez emphasised the importance of being clear and empathic with the person you are interviewing. If they are not a public figure, then they might be intimidated by the interview process. It’s important to reassure them by explaining to them what you will be doing and what someone’s writing process is. If they are a public figure, then it’s important to keep in mind that they have been coached by a public relations expert and that means they’ll know how to generally act in an interview. Resulting in them having a firmer hand during the process because a profile on a public figure will have more public scrutiny. Additionally, writers, generally, do not show their work to the person until it has been published. Showing them beforehand could result in censorship and many tweaks that would take away from the written work.

When it’s time to write the profile, writers should keep in mind that profiles are, usually, to spotlight a person’s human values, their work in the community, their struggles, among other things. They are usually relatively short because they focus on one action of a person, but they can be longer if need be. The most relevant and important fact should serve as an attention getter for the profile. That will be the hook for the audience and will ensure that they are interested enough to keep reading. At first, Mrs. Rodríguez recommended to use the narrative voice, then, as the story progresses, writers should intercalate between the narrative and the person’s voice in an organised manner. Quotes should always have quotation marks in order to distinguish the person’s voice from the narrative. When writing a conclusion, writers should write what they want readers to take away from the profile. 

After the profile is done, the next part is to edit. Every publication has editors, but writers should always check for typos and other things they might be able to fix before sending them to their editor. 

Lastly, Mrs. Rodríguez spoke about the photographs that should accompany profiles. Profiles are highlighting a person, so of course they should include a flattering picture of the person. Mrs. Rodríguez suggested to use the “rule of thirds”. This means that images should be equally divided so that the subject is better presented and so that it creates more interest. For example, if the profile is about a baker then the picture should show them baking or holding their baked goods. 

Mrs. Rodríguez ended the profile by thanking us for letting her share her knowledge in profile journalism with us. 

On behalf of the team members at Her Campus Inter SG, we want to thank Mrs. Rodríguez for a very helpful and insightful workshop that will definitely help us when writing profiles.