The Art of Landing Influencers: How to Interview Someone (Anyone)
Ever wonder how so-and-so got Oprah Winfrey or Gary Vaynerchuk on their podcast? It’s easy to blow it off and say they got lucky or they knew somebody. But why can’t you do the same thing?
It turns out you can. It just takes some know-how and a little perseverance. We know because we’ve done it.
Today, we interview the likes of Arianna Huffington, Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, and Mark Cuban. Sure, we’ve gotten lucky (and unlucky) from time to time, and we’ve made a connection here or there that’s helped us land an interview.
That’s how it works. And you can do it, too.
Landing interviews with influencers and celebrities doesn’t require a bag of cash or a super-connected mother-in-law (though those things could definitely help). Instead, follow our simple 6-step process for how to interview someone (anyone) you’d like.
It’s worked for us, and it’ll work for you.
How to Interview Someone for a Podcast, Article, Course, or Anything
1. Identify Your Someone
Who do you want to interview? A celebrity? An influencer? A professional athlete?
It might be easier to start with your goals. Who you bring on for an interview will be largely dependent on what you want to get out of it. Want to build awareness for your podcast and boost traffic? Get a high-profile celebrity or influencer in your industry. Want to provide top-notch how-to advice? Bring on a professional or an expert.
Think about your audience. Who do they know? Who would they be excited to hear from?
A running podcast might be thrilled to hear from the legendary Eliud Kipchoge, but an entrepreneurial audience would probably say, “Who’s that?”
For us at Foundr, the likes of Richard Branson and Tim Ferriss stand out as the pinnacle for entrepreneurs—that’s why we chased them down first.
For you and your audience, it might be someone different. Your audience might want to hear from Bobby Flay or Rachael Ray. Or they might want to hear from Simone Biles or Michael Phelps.
One audience’s influencer is another audience’s nobody.
So, how do you identify the right influencers? Good question.
How to Find the Right People
Let’s look at a few ways you can identify the right influencers, celebrities, and professionals for you to interview:
- Ask Your Audience Who They Want: Let your audience submit names for guest speakers or vote on a list if you have some ideas. This will ensure you land the people your listeners or viewers want.
- Think About Who You Want: Who would you be excited to hear from? If you consider yourself a part of your niche market, your customers would likely be interested in similar people.
- Look Around Your Industry: Who are people always quoting or getting to speak at events? Who’s publishing books or getting tons of shares or retweets? These individuals likely have influence within your audience, too.
2. Find Out How to Contact Them
Now that you have a name, you need to figure out how you’re going to contact them. This step is perhaps the trickiest. If you have a friend who knows a friend who knows your target influencer, then you’ve got an in—if that’s not the case, you’ll have to get creative.
(A) Identify the Gatekeepers
Believe it or not, most high-level influencers aren’t answering all their emails or doing all their tweeting. Nope. They have people for that.
If that’s the case, you need to find out who these people are—they are the gatekeepers.
“Treat handlers (assistant, publicist, manager, associate) with respect. Not only is this the right thing to do, but this could be the hand of the king—and they’ll later whisper into the king’s ear.” – Marc Ecko, founder and CCO of Marc Ecko Enterprises.
You can usually find the gatekeeper for your someone through LinkedIn. Let’s say we wanted to connect with John Donahoe, Nike’s CEO. Here’s how we could try and do it:
- First, let’s start with the simplest approach. Let’s type John Donahoe’s name into the search function. Now, we can see that John is a 3rd+ connection, which means he is connected to one of our 2nd-degree connections. That’s not going to work for a referral. However, if he was a 2nd-degree connection, we could possibly ask that 2nd-degree person for a connection. On to the next method.
- Let’s search Nike’s LinkedIn page. These results will tell us all the employees and connections that work there. Here, we can see that we have 1 connection that works at Nike. Depending on his role, he might be able to help with an introduction. There are also 4 other Nike employees who live locally—we could potentially take them out to coffee and pitch the interview idea.
- If we don’t have any connections, we could look through the list of Nike employees and try to see who’d be the gatekeeper. Let’s search for an executive assistant. When we do, we find a person whose job is the executive assistant for the CEO—bingo. That’s the connection we need to make.
(B) Search for Email Addresses
Another method is to go straight to the source. You can bounce around the internet looking at LinkedIn profiles and blog post author bios looking for email addresses, or you can use a tool like Hunter.io to do the scraping for you.
With Hunter.io, you can type in the domain search to receive a list of public email addresses for employees there.
Or you can use the email finder tool to type in someone’s full name and company—it’ll then try to scrape the internet for that email address or extrapolate based on other employee email patterns.
3. Nail Your First Impression
After you’ve found the right email address or made it through the gatekeeper, it’s time to make the introduction.
You only get one chance at a first impression, and in the entrepreneurial world, that’s the difference between a multi-million dollar opportunity or a door in the face.
From the very get-go, you need to start building a relationship of trust. Trust is not “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and let me spend the next 4 paragraphs telling you why you should help me.”
Trust is about providing value instead of extracting value. Your influencer doesn’t have to be selfish to think, “What’s in this for me?” We all do it, and you need to be answering that question from the very beginning.
Here are a few ways to provide value.
Come Bearing Gifts
When you reach out to an influencer, it’s already implicit that you want something from them. After all, it’s very rare in the business world to start talking to someone new unless you want something.
There’s no need to draw attention to that fact just yet.
Don’t ask. Give. At Foundr, we have reach with a massive social media following, email list, and blog viewership—influencers can get in front of a lot of eyeballs by chatting with us.
What can you offer to your influencer that’ll make an interview worth their time? Do you have a free subscription to your software or an exclusive product? Or do you have knowledge or a skill that they’d find valuable?
For example, we’ve built Instagram accounts from nothing to millions of followers in no time. If an influencer wanted help doing the same thing, we could offer to mentor them.
“The basic idea is to provide something of value to the people who might be interested in something from you. It could be an industry report, a product comparison, a how-to booklet, an instructional video, an educational white paper, or a free trial. Anything that provides real value to the prospect is a shortcut to building trust.” – Michael DesRochers, CEO of MicroArts.
Polish Up Your Domains
Rest assured, when someone is curious about what you’re saying, they’re going to Google you and your business. They’re going to find your websites and your social media profiles. It’s your job to ensure those domains make a good first impression.
Your website doesn’t need to be the best-designed site in the world, but it needs to look professional and legit. A great homepage makes or breaks any potential interest.
4. Trade Up One Red Paperclip at a Time
There’s potential that you don’t have anything valuable enough to make an interview worth your celebrity or influencer’s time. Well, not yet, anyway.
To get there, you have to trade up the chain.
Have you ever heard about the One Red Paperclip? If you have time, this short recap is worth the watch:
For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s all about blogger Kyle MacDonald and how he traded one red paperclip for a pen, which he then traded for a doorknob, then he traded that for a camp stove. 11 trades later (within a single year), he had successfully bartered his way from one red paperclip to a 2-story farmhouse.
That’s exactly what you need to do if you want to connect with big-name influencers. You need to treat social proof like it’s a red paperclip, and you have to barter and leverage your way up to something greater.
It’s not an overnight process, but it works. We did it, too.
We interviewed entrepreneurs for months to establish enough social proof to eventually land Richard Branson on the cover of our magazine. It was a grind, and it took time to generate enough value to essentially trade up the chain. With his name behind the brand, we could then pursue the likes of Arianna Huffington and Fabio Rosati.
Start with your teeny-tiny red paperclip and start trading up the chain. It’ll take time, but Kyle’s story shows us that anything is possible—and there’s a good chance you can start with a lot more than a single paperclip.
Where to Find Your First Someone
If you’re looking to land an interview with a big-time influencer, you’ll likely need to score smaller ones along the way. Start by looking for micro-influencers or even recent book authors.
These are authority figures with audiences of their own (albeit smaller than you’d like) that’ll be able to add value and help you work your way up the chain.
5. Network Like a Pro
Another way to meet influencers is through networking events. Look for events they might be attending or even speaking at.
You might not meet them at the event, but you might meet someone who knows them—or you might meet someone who knows someone who knows the influencer you’re after.
That might sound convoluted, but it’s similar to trading up the chain. It’s all about who you know.
On that point, Tim Ferriss is an absolute genius and shares a few secrets to getting it right.
“You want to go an inch wide and a mile deep” with networking, Ferriss said. You’re not trying to network with as many people as you can—you’re trying to meet the right people. It’s all about quality over quantity. However, Ferriss has a few tips for his networking approach:
- Don’t rush: It’s not about meeting the right person, grabbing their business card, and splitting from the party. Real networks require relationships, and relationships take time. Be willing to invest hours, days, and months into nurturing those relationships.
- Don’t be a jerk: Meeting new people and networking isn’t a transactional event. Remember, you’re first and foremost a human—second, you’re an entrepreneur. Be kind and genuine, or people will see right through you.
- Don’t dismiss people: “Treat everyone like they’re important because they are,” said Ferriss. Don’t shrug off conversations with people you don’t think are the right person or good enough. That person could turn out to have the connections you need for your breakthrough. Give everyone a chance, and someone might just do the same for you.
All these tips apply to the online community, too. You can build quality relationships through Instagram and LinkedIn. It takes time, but it’s certainly doable.
Contribute meaningful content. Respond authentically to comments and direct messages. It might seem like a tiny thing, but with an internet full of bots and silent browsers, a small conversation can make a big impact.
6. Land the Interview
This might just be a 6-step process, but it can take months or even years. Brace yourself for polite rejections, flat-out refusals, and the devastating sound of crickets.
You’ll have victories and defeats along the way, but you’ll eventually get your opportunity. When that comes, you need to be ready to capitalize and seize the chance.
Add Value First
During your pitch, provide value first. Remember, your influencer needs to know what’s in it for them. After they can visualize the benefits, then they’ll entertain the idea of considering your request.
Stay concise and to the point. Time is valuable, so don’t waste yours or anybody else’s. Cut the fluff and skip straight to the point. Pretend your email or even brief networking conversation is an elevator pitch.
Remember, there is a difference between writing a complimentary email and a pitch. Don’t combine the 2. While you should always aim to be genuine, never sacrifice your professionalism.
Work on Their Time
You’re making the ask, so don’t set all the parameters. Be willing to be flexible and accommodate their demands. If that means hosting the podcast interview at 1am your time because they’re in a different timezone, so be it.
Don’t Be Afraid of “No”
When it comes to “the ask,” a lot of people are afraid of being rejected. They believe that somehow being told “no” means the end of the road. In the entrepreneurial world, “no” could very well mean “try again later.”
You may need to trade further up the chain, or you might need to add more value. In the meantime, keep hustling and doing your part—you’ll get another opportunity.
There are a lot of influencers out there. You’ll never get them all, and that’s not the point. Remember, you really only need 1 to get the ball rolling. Things will start to accelerate after that.
Master the Art of Landing the Interview
Knowing the step-by-step process is 1 thing—making it happen is another. Now that you know what to do, it’s time to take action.
Don’t push this off. If you want to bring high-profile individuals to your podcast, show, or magazine, you need to start the process now. It will take months or even years, so start putting in the effort now to reap the rewards later.
Regardless of what you plan to build, we can help. Our free masterclass training will show you the proven roadmap for turning your skills into an online side hustle in 30 days or less (without quitting your 9-to-5). Join now to start your journey.