It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a writer (or podcaster, or YouTuber, or…) in possession of expert questions, must be in want of an interview subject.
The challenge for most folks is finding those subjects.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction; whether you record a podcast or YouTube channel; whether you want background, knowledge, or quotes, it’s tricky. Creative professionals who work outside the office environment don’t often have the kind of job where they meet lots of new people all the time.
So where do you find that expert opinion to plumb for the voice you need to make your project perfect?
You follow this 4-step guide.
Ready? Let’s go find you some interviews!
1. Focus Your Needs
Determine, with as much detail as you can, exactly what kind of person you want to interview.
Go beyond subject and look into their views and talents. If you’re writing an opinion piece for your blog, you’ll want not just an expert, but an expert who either agrees with you, or disagrees in a way that serves as a foil.
If you’re interviewing on a podcast, you’ll want to avoid an interviewee with a poor speaking voice no matter how impressive the person’s credentials.
Top questions to ask yourself:
- Who has the best credentials to seem like a valid expert for my specific topic?
- Who has a particular focus and viewpoint which will make for the best interview?
- Which candidates are most talented at the medium I will use?
- Who do I read the most or otherwise consult even without interviewing?
2. Check with Your Personal Network
Start with the folks you know. Your personal friends, colleagues, teachers, students, peers, clients, and family.
These make for the best interviewees because the context of your relationship often leads to deeper answers and more considered conversation. This is especially important for live interviews, since a warm relationship shows through and makes for a better show.
Besides folks you speak with every day, remember these people are also part of your personal network:
- Every social media connection you’ve ever had
- Subscribers to your newsletter and blog
- Fellow members at service groups like Rotary or scouts
- Whoever runs any business you patronize
- Your exes
- Co-workers, clients, and vendors
3. Check with Your Extended Network
Your extended network consists of people you don’t know personally, but who know somebody in your personal network.
Maybe you don’t know the foremost expert in thermodynamics on the West Coast, but your old physics professor who you’re connected with on LinkedIn might. This is where professional publicity consultants get their mojo: the long list of people willing to introduce them to other people.
The list of potential sources for extended network referrals is the same as the list for your personal network. The only difference is you don’t ask anybody “What do you know about ______?” You ask “Who do you know who knows about ______?”
4. Use Online Resources
If your extended network doesn’t yield you the interviewee you want, it’s time to start cold-calling.
This process begins by checking online resources and databases which will connect you with people active in the field you want to write about. Those resources come in two varieties:
1. Active Resources
The first type of database is full of people who are actively looking to expand their brand name in a topic.
These are usually clearinghouses where you ask a question or ask for an interview, and interested parties contact you. HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is the most robust and useful of those platforms. Some others include:
The advantage of active resources is that you’re almost certain to get a source for whatever you ask about.
The disadvantage is that those resources are actively building their credentials. They’re likely to be qualified, but they won’t be as impressive as more established professionals.
2. Industry Leads
The second type of resource involves listings of professionals established in their fields.
You use these by finding a name and contact information, then using that information to approach the person for an interview. Some of the better kinds of industry lead resources are:
- Faculty listings at universities
- Industry association contact guides
- Topic-oriented magazines (look at who’s writing and reach out to them)
The advantages and disadvantages of this kind of resources are a mirror image of your active resources. You’re more likely to get in touch with a highly regarded expert, but you’re less likely to get a timely response. These folks aren’t necessarily looking to give interviews, since they’re not as hungry for publicity as their younger colleagues.
All of the above will be much easier for you if you keep your social media platform strong.
In essence, good social media strategy makes your personal and extended networks more robust, which gives you a deeper base for referrals and gives you extra “star power” with online platforms and going for the gold.
Doing this right can fill an entire blog post or book on its own, but here’s a simple formula I recommend when I speak on this topic.
Every day, do three things on your primary social media platform. This should take only 20 minutes, and you should do it early in the day.
1. Repost an Article
First, post something you found online relevant to what you write on.
Since you’re already reading the blogs and news surrounding your topic, it’s just a matter of choosing from the cool stuff you’ve found that day. This establishes your feed as a place where interesting things consistently happen.
2. Boost a Follower
Second, share something one of your friends and followers posted, along with a complimentary and intelligent comment or question.
If you have fans (and we all have fans), make it a fan post as often as possible. This cements your fan base by showing them you notice what they do.
3. Engage with Influencers
Third, make an insightful comment or ask a compelling question on the feed of somebody above you in the food chain of your field.
Use this contact to develop a real relationship with the people you want to be like when you grow up, helping to elevate your status in your career and get you noticed by their fans.
I recommend doing this in the morning, then checking in once or twice in the afternoon to engage with whatever conversation has happened around what you did in the morning.
Make this a regular part of your daily routine, and when you need an interviewee on basically anything, you’ll either know somebody or know somebody who knows somebody. Every step of the process I described above will be easier.
Don’t forget to check out our Complete Guide to Interview Strategies to make the most of your newly scheduled expert interview!
And for even more tips on interviewing and publicity, you’ve come to the right place!