How to Land an Expert for an Interview
Interview an expert on his or her topic of expertise is a great way to create a product on a niche topic or expand your reach into a new field. However, some product creators are intimidated by the idea of approaching an expert to start a project together. We liken it to the tale of the prettiest girl in school who everyone is afraid to ask out, so she ends up without a date for prom.
Experts want to interview to promote their books, events and ideas to as wide an audience as possible.
Doing interviews with various sources (you included!) is a great way to do this.
In order to make an interview with an expert happen, all you need is the willingness to do some of the legwork and the strategies below.
Step 1: Find Your Expert to interview
First, pick a category and find people within it who can elevate and escalate your visibility and value. Choose a topic that you find interesting. It will keep your passion high throughout the project. So if, for example, you're interested in weight loss for pets, start by finding experts in the field. Amazon.com is a great place to start. Find out what books have already been written on the topic and investigate those authors as potential interviewees.
You'll also want to Google "[your niche's keywords] + blog" (e.g., weight loss pets cat dog exercise + blog). Depending on the interview niche, bloggers may be more willing to be interviewed.
If you’re still stuck, ask your peers for help on forums such as niche forums related to your topic. Google "[your niche's keywords] + forum" or you may be able to find help on Internet marketing forums like WarriorForum.com
Then, pick your top three experts from that list and target them first. Draft a short email that clearly states in the subject line that it’s an interview request. Identify who you are, include the topic of the interview, when it will take place (try to give at least 10 days’ notice) and how the interview will be conducted (via phone, Skype, email, face-to-face, etc.). Let them know you’ll be promoting and recommending them and their books in your product and program. If applicable. If possible, send a few links to any work you’ve published/posted and a link to your LinkedIn account, Google+ profile or your non-personal Facebook page so that you appear credible.
If you don’t hear anything within 48 hours, send a follow-up email. If you still don’t hear anything within another three to four days, start moving to the remaining experts on the list you created to interview.
If you can't find an email address or a contact form for that person, you might also consider connecting with your through social media. LinkedIn and Facebook may offer good alternative forums for getting in touch with experts to interview, especially if you have mutual friends. Just remember to follow the rules for each site to protect your account and your reputation. Also, make sure you use these sites judiciously. You may not want to send an email, a Facebook Friend Request and a request to connect on LinkedIn within the same hour.
Step 2: Do the interview Legwork
After you get a "yes," get up to speed on your experts before you conduct your interviews. Read their books. Scour their blogs. Become familiar with what they've already put out into the marketplace. Knowing your stuff about their stuff will increase your confidence, boost your credibility and give you great sources to ask questions.
You'll also want to brainstorm questions to ask. The key is to ask open-ended questions. Only ask yes/no questions if you absolutely have to. You also want to make sure you structure the interview so that it follows a linear path with a clear beginning, middle and end.
When we're interviewing experts, we often use the following framework and questions to shape the interview. You'll want to tailor your structure for each expert you interview:
- Welcome: Frame the benefits of the interview to your audience and introduce your guest with a short, personalized version of the main points of their biography.
- Tell us a bit about your story—how you started out and how you got to where you are today. Your goal here is to get them to share both personal and professional details.
- What would you say to someone who is starting out today on a similar path?
- What have been your greatest lessons to date about x?
- What are 2-3 specific step-by-step strategies you can share that anyone listening/watching can use to take action right now?
- What are the biggest mistakes you think people tend to make in the area of x? Or, what are the biggest mistakes that you’ve made along the way?
- What’s next for you? What’s your vision for the future?
- Closing: Give a sincere thank you to your guest and ask them how people can get more information about what they are doing and/or their products or services. This is where you'll give your expert a chance to promote his or her stuff.
Step 3: Prepare for Your Interview
A few days before the interview, it's a good idea to confirm the time and venue with your expert. You'll also want to send over your questions in advance and ask them to add anything they would like to talk about. You should also ask for a head shot and a biography that you can publish with the interview.
You'll also want to test everything in advance to ensure that there are no technical snafus. For example, if you're using a Skype call recording program for the first time, test it out with a friend the day before. You're going to have enough to think about during the interview without having to worry about whether your microphone is recording.
Step 4: Knock It Out of the Park
It’s perfectly normal to be a bit nervous (or excited!) as the interview begins. After you ask the first question, it should feel easier.
Set the tone for the interview by being relaxed, yet professional. Do whatever you can to make your interviewee feel at ease. Often times, it will help them get to a more personal frame of mind, where some of the best interview nuggets lie.
Let your expert do most of the talking. This is not the time to share your experience. You're there to make the person you're interviewing look great. Keep a pen and paper handy to jot down notes for follow-up on anything that needs clarification or elaboration.
Feel free to let the interview flow in a slightly different direction, depending on what comes up. Your structure is there for you if you need it, but you'll want to focus more on keeping your interview conversational and authentic.
Try to stick to your allotted time, if possible. When the interview is over, genuinely thank your guests for their time and promise to follow up with a copy of the interview.
Step 5: Get It Out There
Once you are happy with your final product, send a copy to your expert to review and have them sign off on the final version. When you have their approval, send a personal and gracious thank you for their help. You might also consider sending a handwritten note to express your gratitude.
If you're not saving this interview as content for a product, you'll want to ask your experts to promote the interviews in which they're featured. Ask them to post the link on social media or highlight it in a blog post. Offer to write a guest article or blog to accompany the article. Providing copy to your experts makes it easier for them to promote you by making it as simple as a copy and paste for them. If you don’t ask them to promote the interview, chances are they won’t.
You'll also want to make sure to promote the interview through all of your available avenues as well. Post it on your personal blog, Twitter, Facebook and upload the video (if applicable) to a YouTube channel. Remember: It’s not going to be perfect. The most important thing is to get the first few done, then continue to improve.
If you do plan to use the interview as part of a product, make sure that you have signed agreements in place that detail your ability to reproduce the interviews and sell them as part of a package. You'll want to consult a lawyer to make sure you've got all the necessary permissions secured.
Interviewing an expert can be a fun and rewarding way to expand your knowledge and reach into a new niche. Although it can seem somewhat intimidating at first, once you use the process above to complete your first few interviews, you'll develop the confidence you need to become a top-notch interviewer—and have fun while you're doing a interview.