We’ve already talked at some length about the importance of getting interviewed as a writer, and some of the details about how to look your best during the conversation.
But for most writers, understanding the importance and speaking (reasonably) well aren’t the first challenges they encounter. The first challenge is…
…drum roll please…
Getting the interview in the first place.
Booking an interview is a lot like querying your manuscript or article when you start writing. It’s a three-step operation:
Step One: Identify Likely Interviewers
Step Two: Submit an Interview Query
Step Three: Follow Up Until You Get Interviewed
In this article, we’ll look at each step in detail and talk about what to do, what not to do, and how to make the best of your particular set of skills.
1. Identify Likely Interviewers
You know how, when you have a manuscript to sell or an article to pitch, you go to your list of publishers, agents, and editors and figure out which ones are the best targets?
You do the exact same with interviews, only it’s a different list.
To start making that list, run through these potential sources of interview opportunities:
- Blogs you read: bloggers love interviews and guest posts, because that’s less work for them.
- Podcasts you listen to: most live and breathe on their interviews, meaning they need to talk with you.
- Online clearinghouses: sites like HARO, which make their bones by introducing journalists who need interviews and experts who want interviewing
- Local radio: stations in your area are surprisingly open to interviewing local professionals, celebrities, and authors.
- Friends, family, and colleagues: these folks either know somebody who conducts interviews on the regular, or know somebody who does. Sometimes they are that somebody.
- Associations: trade association chapters, hobby groups, and service organizations like Rotary all have journals or websites where they sometimes interview people who work in the fields they represent.
- Local events: if you’re up for a live interview, or want to speak with somebody as part of the event’s promotion, looking at what’s going on in your area can land you an interview with an opportunity for a signing or other live engagement later.
- Social media: if you’re doing your social media right, this will be the easiest area to find potential interviews in.
If you dig deep enough, you’ll find three to five opportunities in each line item. That’s a total of 21-40 opportunities. You’ll easily land a handful of interviews if you complete the next step correctly.
2. Submit an Interview Query
There are two ways to ask for an interview, depending on what you’re aiming for.
- If you want an interview now about a specific thing, you’ll send an interview query.
- If you just want to make yourself available for general interviewing, you’ll send a letter of introduction.
In both cases, you’ll write an email with the same basic format. The difference lies in the second full paragraph.
I recommend using the following template.
Make absolutely certain you know what goes in _________. Screwing that up is the easiest way to never get invited onto anything.
“You are awesome.”
Spend two to three sentences talking about why you’re a fan of that particular program, blog, or whatever you want to appear on. Do some research so you’re saying something meaningful. It’s only polite.
“I have this awesome idea.”
Here you spend two sentences on what you want to talk about. Sometimes I use a bullet list, but that’s optional. Make certain you touch on what makes your interview interesting and special as compared to the other emails the interviewer got that day.
End with an invitation sentence. For specific interviews, say you would be available to talk about subject X any time in Y timeframe. To make yourself generally available, use a sentence that says “I wanted to let you know I’m available for interviews about this and related topics any time you have a need.”
Here’s where you list the reasons you are uniquely qualified to be a great interview on this topic. Three to four sentences that set you apart. If you have previous media experience, name-drop the biggest appearances in the final sentence.
“Thank you, (Your name).”
Don’t get fancy here. Nobody pays attention unless you screw it up.
3. Follow Up Until You Get Interviewed
The space between steps two and three is another place where this process is a lot like querying a publisher, because the wait can be long and you don’t usually know whether that means they weren’t interested or they just got busy.
I recommend creating a schedule of follow-up emails to keep your name on the interviewer’s mind. Even if they weren’t initially interested, your topic might become vogue or otherwise urgent. When that happens, guess who the interviewer’s going to call?
- One Week Later: Find the decision maker on social media, and send a request to friend, follow, connect, or whatever verb their social media platform uses for networking with one another.
- Two Weeks Later: Send a brief ping: a one-sentence email asking for confirmation they received your letter.
- Three Months Later: Send a short email reminder. Make it polite, themed around “I’m still available if you have a need.”
- Six Months Later: Revise your letter and send it again, making any revisions you need to stay up to date.
Also, and more important than the items on this schedule, pay attention to the news. Any time something breaks that’s remotely related to your topic, send a little note reminding the interviewer that you’re available to speak on it.
Conclusion: The Bonus Step
Once you finish step three, you’re not really done. After your interview drops, you will get a lot more traction from your efforts if you tell as many people as possible about it. Share a link (or the time for a traditional broadcast) on every social media channel you can. Mention it on your blog, and in your newsletter. Tell your friends. Have them tell their friends.
You do this for two reasons. First, interviews aren’t just for finding new readers and fans. They’re also a way to service existing followers by letting them celebrate your success. Second, sharing an interviewer’s work improves that relationship, making her more likely to invite you back or to refer you to other interview opportunities.
Do not skimp on this last step. It can make the difference between a good interview experience and a great one.
For more on doing great PR and building your brand, read on:
- 5 Reasons You Absolutely Need an Author Press Kit
- Influencer Marketing Strategy: How to Reach Influencers and Their Audience
- Public Relations Strategy and Building Better Relationships with Media and Influencers