Here’s the interview and here’s what happened next:
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How to get an interview with almost anyone
Don’t be afraid to ask
The first hurdle you’ll have to overcome in the interview process is getting the courage to ask. This is especially true if you’re a fan of the interviewee, like I am with Guy. It can be daunting putting yourself out there and asking for a favour, offering nothing in return. Sure there’s maybe putting the word out about their new book, or adding a link in a written interview to their website but generally speaking the interviewee isn’t going to get a lot out of it. It’s going to be down to their generosity. I haven’t done the calculations but I’ve hit a ratio of about 50/50 when it comes to getting interviews when asked. That’s pretty good in my book.
If you’re going to be asking someone with a big name, a lot of social followers and a big fan base to be your interviewee you might think you’ll have a harder time of getting them to agree. Though that may be the case with some, I’ve only found it a problem when it comes to actually tracking down their contact info. The big players don’t seem to be any less inclined to talk to you. In fact, I’ve found that it’s often the other way around. And I think that’s quite telling.
How to track them down
This is often the hardest step when asking highly popular names for an interview. Tracking down contact information can either be as easy as googling for their email address, or as difficult as pulling it from a golden apes hands and trying to escape the cave of wonders. My first point of call is always LinkedIn for this information as many people will display their contact information here. If not, there’s usually something on their website, whether to a PR representative or to their own private address for fans and networking.
Of course you won’t always be able to find everyone’s email addresses or other contact information online but for the most part you will. I for one, am still yet to find Richard Branson’s email address and it’s not for a lack of trying. One day I will get that interview though! Branson, I’m coming for you…
If all else fails, try chatting with them on social media instead and build up a rapport. This helps show you’re serious and genuinely interested in what they have to say.
Make it easy to say yes
One of the biggest mistakes when asking for an interview is making the interview process hard on the interviewee. Think about how this is just one more to-do on a probably already gigantic to-do list for them, so don’t make it easy for them to say no. Make it easy to say yes by ensuring they will be comfortable during the interview process, whether you want a face-to-face interview, a phone call or an email response. I usually opt for the last option because it will be the easiest on your guest. They can reply in their own time (make sure they know when the due date is if there is one) and they have a chance to really think about their responses. Not only does this make it easier for them to say yes to, it also makes for a better interview, as the answers will be thoughtful and well written. If on the other hand you’re trying to catch someone out with your questions, then move along please, that’s not my style.
Make it short
Short and snappy. Short but sweet. Make sure you get to the point of your email or call straight away. Be polite of course but hold some of the niceties, your email should be short and straight to the point. This will give your email a much better chance of actually getting read, not mistaken for fan mail and allow the interviewee to get back to your question quickly and without fuss.
If you’re a fan…
This is doubly important. If you have to, gush for one sentence only. Be sincere and genuine but professional. Make it known if you’re a fan but don’t go overboard!
Example pitch letter
Below I’ve written out an example of the perfect pitch letter. It’s short and snappy, straight to the point but personalised. NEVER EVER send out copy/paste pitches. That’s bad form. Always make sure you’re genuine when asking for an interview. Don’t blow it by asking everyone and being cocky about it.
Interview pitch letter example:
My name is _________ _____________ and I work for __________, I’m currently working on ________ and found your information on _____ really valuable. I was wondering if you’d be interested in doing a quick interview with me on the subject. I would simply ask you a few questions over email to which you could respond in your own time. I find this is usually easier for most interviewees and makes for a better interview. Either way, I’d love your feedback on ____________.
You can respond directly to this email or find me on twitter @_______, I’m already a follower over there.
Thank you so much and I appreciate any thoughts you may have.
PS: BIG FAN!!!
Let’s break it down:
- Introduce yourself, explain who you are
- Explain why you’re contacting them
- Ask for an interview
- Explain your interview process concisely
- Ask for feedback
- Show you’re genuine
- Thank them
- Sign off
What to do after you’ve asked
Once you’ve asked for an interview make sure you give them plenty of time to get back to you. I’m talking weeks here, so plan way in advance if you have due dates.
If they don’t reply
If they fail to reply after a couple of weeks of waiting, send a follow up email. Just a brief, one or two sentence email asking if they received your letter and whether they’d be interested now or in the future.
If they say no
If they say no, thank them kindly and ask if they’d be open to doing an interview with you some other time. Often the answer will turn to a yes if you give them enough time in advance.
If they say yes
If they agree to be interviewed make sure you prioritise the interview and put it straight to number 1 on your to-do list. Your interviewee will expect you to get back to them with questions or a time for the interview right away. Don’t wait more than a couple of days to do this or they may change their minds or have other things scheduled in that take precedence because you took too long to get back to them. This is now your priority.