You know that interviews are one of the fastest, easiest ways to create content that your audience loves. They also build valuable marketing connections. Moreover, interviews with influential thought leaders in your space can help position you or your brand as an expert by association.
Some of the most popular podcasts follow an interview format—one of the big secrets of their success. Podcast downloads are on the rise, with as much as one-third of the US population having listened to at least one episode.
Though we can't all interview Barack Obama, as Marc Maron did earlier this year, interviewing a high-profile thought leader in your industry is possible, and it could be truly beneficial for your brand.
So how exactly do you secure an interview with an influencer for your blog, podcast, or other content needs? Here are five simple steps.
1. Get incredibly clear on your audience and the topic for your interview
The more focused you can be with the topic of your interview, the more relevant you can make your pitches and requests. More relevant requests are more likely to get accepted. And if you can create your interview questions at this stage, you'll have an even bigger advantage.
2. Determine your audience reach
Reach is the No. 1 metric that interviewees and thought leaders will look at—after having determined that your pitch is courteous and relevant. To estimate reach, first consider your email list, existing blog readership or podcast audience, and social media followers and fans. Add in the audience size of any other promotions, including sponsors and other speakers you have secured who will be promoting the event, podcast, blog post, etc. Add up the total size of the audience you can offer to the interviewee.
It is important to be honest. Even if the number you come up with doesn't seem impressive, it may be enough to secure a thought leader in your space if the interviewee and audience are highly relevant to each other. If you promise exposure to 100,000 people and the expert gets only three visits to her website, you could end up sacrificing a potential long-term relationship.
3. Focus on 10 'Perfect Fit' influencers at first
There may be hundreds, even thousands, of potential influencers and thought leaders in your space. Focus on finding the 10 experts who best fit your interview topic—those who will give the most value to your audience. Read their blogs and books, scan their social media accounts and profiles, and get a good sense of who they are and the types of interviews they regularly do to be sure yours will be a fit.
4. Formulate your pitch
Experts, thought leaders, and influencers are short on time. More than anything, they appreciate when people respect their need for brevity. You need to include only four things in a solid pitch email:
- Personalization. Use their name, pay them a compliment on their work, be a good human. Use all that research you did to your advantage!
- What you want. Tell the influencer that you're looking for an interview. Tell them how long it is, what it is about, and when you want it.
- Why you think they'll be a fit. Why are you pitching them? What is it about them that makes this relevant? How will they benefit? How large of an audience will they be exposed to?
- The ask. Actually ask for the interview. Request a call to discuss the details; you can book the interview on the call once you've answered their questions.
That's all you need. Here is an example of a pitch that we've successfully used to secure interviews with everyone from NY Times bestselling authors to television hosts, successful entrepreneurs, and others.
Subject: Do you do interviews?
You know, I've been following you for a while and I really admire your work. I forwarded your recent piece on ___________ to a client—it was very helpful.
I am organizing an online training event for January, and I'm looking for some amazing entrepreneurs to do a 30-minute interview about _________.
Your accomplishments tell me that anything you have to share would be incredibly valuable. We anticipate exposure to ________ entrepreneurs for this training event, and we would be happy to share your upcoming _______ with them during the interview.
Do you do interviews? If yes, when can we connect to discuss details?
5. Send your pitches, and follow up
Start by sending your pitch to the top 10 influencers you listed at the beginning of this process, personalizing your pitch for each one. Be genuine, not slimy. Respond to all emails quickly, and keep your replies short. Schedule your initial calls at their convenience, and try to develop some rapport during the call; that makes for better interviews later on!
If you don't get a response within a week, it is acceptable to send one email asking whether there are any questions about your pitch. Be sure to include your original email in the follow-up message so they don't have to search for it!
Bonus step: Be prepared for the influencers to say 'yes'
There is nothing worse than accepting a pitch for an interview, and then finding out the host is completely unprepared. At a minimum, you'll want to...
- Have a "Speaker's Agreement" prepared that lays out who retains the rights to the interview content, what compensation is available, and what each party is responsible for.
- Create a series of tweets, social sharing images, and posts for the expert to use if they choose to share the interview; have them at the ready.
- Leave room in your schedule to actually record the interview.
Securing interviews with influencers is all about making sure this interview is relevant, offering them beneficial exposure, and being respectful of their time. If you can do those three things, and do them well, you shouldn't have too much trouble securing the types of interviews that will help build your brand.