There are dozens of options when it comes to promoting your brand and your online course. One of them is to conduct an interview with someone who has already seen some success and has an engaged online following, a.k.a., an influencer.

Why interview an influencer? A few reasons:

  • You can provide more value to your audience by sharing the influencer's expertise
  • You can kick off a long-term relationship with the influencer
  • You can piggyback off the influencer's success

When the influencer promotes you to their audience, you'll get a boost of traffic and visibility, which can mean more followers for you, and more people interested in your course.

Whatever your niche may be, there’s a good chance somebody else has been dabbling in that space for a while and has knowledge and a reach that far suprasses yours. If you can secure an interview with one of these influencers in your niche, you’ll be well on your way to drastically growing your appeal and your audience.

You might be thinking: Well, I see the benefit for me, but what’s in it for the influencer?

There’s plenty of factors that inspire influencers to participate in interviews with people who have smaller followings. Simply put: In the online marketing world, everybody is constantly looking for more ways to drive traffic to their page and their product. An interview with somebody like you is just one of the many avenues influencers rely on for improving and maintaining traffic.

If you’re an emerging player in your niche and you’ve put in substantial work to build your content and your business, you’re well positioned to use this incredibly effective audience-growing strategy.

Check out this great lesson by Ashley or read the transcript below to learn how to conduct a killer interview:

 

Video transcription

Alright, we're going to talk about how to create killer interviews. The thing about interviews is I think they're actually pretty fun. It’s really a win-win situation: you get to hang out with someone interesting while simultaneously creating this really awesome and reusable piece of content.

If you’re an extrovert like me, an interview is exciting because you’ll get to socialize with someone with similar interests and build a new connection. Introverts might take a different approach and use the opportunity to nudge somebody else into the limelight. Introverts can  prompt their subject with talking points, allow them time to respond, and keep the conversation going with follow-up questions. This way, you’ll remain an active participant in the interview without having to be the star of the show.

My point here is that anybody can enjoy hosting an interview, regardless of their personality type.

The best part in any of these scenarios is that interviews lend themselves to co-promotion. Any time you're reaching out to someone to interview with you, they have the potential to help promote your course later when it's launched by tweeting about it, sharing it on social media, or sending it to email their list.

Interviews are a phenomenal way to get in touch with someone to say, "I like your content so much I want to share it with my audience." Because we as humans believe in reciprocity it's likely that that person will want to share your content later.

There are multiple ways that you can conduct interviews:

  • You can record a live interview with video.
  • You can host a webinar.
  • You can record an audio file.

What to look for in an interviewee

There are a few key things you should look for when you're choosing your interviewee and they should be three things:

Insightful

What I mean by insightful is that they have something to share with your audience that you don't. Maybe you and your interviewee are both photographers but you specialize in black and white and you interview this person on how to develop colored film.

Bringing in someone who can share something new is great for your audience.

Influential

You also want to find an interviewee who is influential. That's someone who has some type of social media following and audience or an email list. By working with them, you can tap into their audience so that their people become your people.

Attainable

Something to keep in mind is that well known influencers are likely to be very busy and so you should weigh this factor with their attainability as an interview subject.

Sure, I love Sheryl Sandberg, I think she's wonderful; she is so intelligent and insightful. She is a complete influencer but I probably don’t have the resources I’d need to get her to  join me for our course.

How to pitch your influencer

The next thing you should spend time thinking about is how to pitch the interview your influencer. This can be kind of a dark art. You're sending a cold email to someone and trying to convince them to work with you.

  • The key to this is to keep it short and simple. People are busy; they don't have time for a long email.
  • You also want to prove that you're trustworthy that you're not someone random who's going to steal content or make them look bad. You want to give background on who you are and point them towards where they can find your content they can make an assessment on the quality of your work and consider whether it aligns well with theirs. look into you to see what you do and the quality of it.
  • You also want to show that you care and this is the one thing that a lot of people forget. Adding in one line saying, "I love this one section of your video, or this one line of your last blog post," is really going to help someone identify with you. It shows that you are actually a fan of  their content and not just faking an interest because you want to gain access to their audience.

All right, let's check out this example pitch email. It's actually something I sent to someone and was successful.

Example-Pitch-Email.png

  1. I said, "Hey Matthew, as a reader of your stuff and a content marketer at Fedora," our previous name. "We're a small start up helping people teach online. I have been sharing bits and pieces of your advice with our audience," which was true, I had linked to him.
  2. "Because all of our customers are starting their own businesses, it's my role to share the best advice out there to help them on their way which is why I'm reaching out to you." Notice how that was slightly flattering? It said what I did but also why I liked him.
  3. "This week I'm talking about influencer outreach. I was wondering if you had any advice?" There's my ask, just generally advice.
  4. "How do you like to be personally contacted? I would love to share your point of view with our audience of 16K (and growing!)" There's my social proof about who I am and why I'm credible.
  5. "Thank you for your time and keep putting out great content." A nice little note at the end.

This email was successful and Matthew ended up Tweeting about us and reposting a blog post I wrote about him. When you write your own email pitches, you could use the one I sent Matthew as a customizable template to get you started.

Do your research

Before you interview, you really should prepare by doing some research. Interviews are something that a lot of people try to skim through -- and it shows.

The first thing you’ll want to do is research the topic you're going to be interviewing someone about and that person's influence.

Say for instance I'm interviewing someone about whiskey. If I walk in without any knowledge of the field, I'm not going to be able to ask insightful questions about it. It would become a lot more difficult to help your audience understand what your interviewee actually contributes to their field.

Say I’m interviewing a Scottish whiskey expert and I pull up a slide with the American spelling of the word whiskey as opposed to the Scottish spelling - this might demonstrate to your interviewee that you haven’t taken the time to research their craft you claimed to have an appreciation for. As a result, this might impact  how they treat you in the future.

You should also probably research a little bit of industry news. Take note if there's something big going on.

For your whiskey example, a few years ago Scotland tried to secede. If I were doing an interview about whiskey and didn't know about Scotland’s attempted secession, this might demonstrate to my interviewee that I wasn’t interested be a big gap in my knowledge.

You should also do a little bit of research on this person's personal background. You don't have to be super creepy and stalk them but do note if they have children, a wife, what their personal life is a little bit like. It just makes for good small talk at the beginning of the conversation and break the ice so people are willing to talk with you.

How to ask great questions

When you're writing the questions there are a couple of things you can do to make sure everything flows.

Imagine a regular conversation: how does it typically progress? You might start with an introduction, a lighter question, move into the hard hitting questions, and come finish off  on the lighter side.

Also imagine the order of the conversation before you write the questions down. If I'm talking to someone about their online course, I'm not going to back and forth between launch and course creation, I'm going to move from ideation to course creation to launch and then results.

I do like to warm up with kind of a soft question about this person's background and only later in the interview move into something hard hitting and always end on a soft note. You want to leave people walking away from your conversation thinking, "That was pleasant, that was delightful, I want to work with them again."

Alright, so this next slide seems incredibly intuitive but I don't know how many times I've seen it messed up.Where-to-hold-the-interview.png

In person interview

When you're doing an interview, find the right place to do it. If you’re hosting the interview in person, you should find a café that's quiet enough for you to record the interview, but not so sterile everyone's going to be sitting on edge. You know, white room, an awkward silence that makes everyone feel uncomfortable and you're not bound to get good answers to your questions.

Over the phone/computer

Far more common these days is that your interview will be done over Skype or the computer and if this is the case it's incredibly essential that you find someplace quiet without people jumping in and out of your small phone booth or your conference room at work.

We've learned this the hard way and let me just say if you're going to have an audio file at the end that you want to repurpose within your course, within your blog post or transcribe it's incredibly essential that you have a clear recording.That means finding a quiet place.

Come prepared

You also have to make sure that you come prepared. You should probably know what your interviewee looks like if you're meeting at a café.

I made this mistake once, I forgot to Google the person and I sat in a café waiting and waiting only to realize a half hour later into the interview that they were sitting behind me. I was so uncomfortable. I really recommend that you at least look up a picture before you sit down with someone.

The other thing to do is to make sure that your technology is right. Say you have this wonderful hour-long conversation with an influencer, or even 30 minutes -- you've taken time out of someone's day. They've given you answers to your questions, it was a delightful conversation and then you realize that your microphone was off the whole time. That information is gone forever, the person you were working with is going to be upset and now you don't have any of that information, there's no way to replace it. Make sure you that your technology is tight.

Here’s my checklist for coming prepared:

First things first, let's get your technology set up to record the conversation and have a backup plan in case that fails. This might sound a little bit excessive, but with so many free apps it comes as no cost to you. Just turn on a recording app on your phone at the same time you have something going on on your laptop.

The other thing I do is make sure my questions are pulled up on screen or I have them right in front of me. I also have a pen and paper for notes, maybe to myself so I remember, “ask this question” or “expand on this”.

A big one: don't forget your laptop charger or headphones if you're doing something over a Skype interview. I also have a phone in case everything falls apart and you need to call someone, your interviewee or a coworker to bring a piece of technology that's broken.

During the interview

Alright, actually interviewing can be a little tough but it gets better with practice. Here's a few things that can help:

You want to find the right balance between reading your questions off the script and going off the cuff and having a conversation with people.

One of the best ways I find to do this is to set expectations from the beginning. Say, "Hey John, I'm doing this interview because of X. I hope to get Y out of it." That way when people are responding to your questions they don't go off on some crazy tangent. You're not herding cats. They know what you want to get from the interview.

Another thing I do is as everyone answers my questions I highlight them off my list. This makes it very easy at the end to see what questions I have yet to ask because naturally a conversation doesn't always go in the perfect order that you planned.

And here's my final advice: Live in the silence.

I realize that sounds a little bit creepy.  What this means is that we as people like to fill in the blanks, so if I'm interviewing somebody and not jumping in each time there is a moment of silence, they are more likely to jump in and , give more information than they may have originally. This is especially a good trick if someone's giving you yes or no responses.

Build relationships

Alright, so: follow up, follow up, follow up! I say it three times because you really should follow up.

One of the great benefits of an interview is that you're connecting with an influencer who can help promote your course later. You've worked very hard to get in touch with this person to do the interview and to start creating content. You want to keep that relationship going and follow up and say, "Thank you." Also, tell the person when the interview is going live and what you're doing with it. It's just the polite thing to do.

If the influencer you connected with is particularly high profile, it's nice to send a little gift, maybe around the holidays or their birthday just to keep the relationship going.

Repurpose interviews

The best thing about interviews is they create multiple pieces of content. One interview for me can turn into:

  • Three blog posts.
  • Transcripts.
  • A pull quote that we use on the front of our webpage.
  • You can use a sound bite or even the full video or recording in your course.

Co-promote

The reason I love interviews is because they're as simple as a quick networking conversation with somebody you share a professional interest with. But you also get to produce and promote multiple pieces of content at once, saving yourself time that you would have to spend researching to get the same kind of insightful information.  

As we've talked, the person you've interviewed can co-promote you. Maybe they send your course to your email list or they tweet about you on social media -- these are all great things.

You can also take it to the next level by doing joint ventures or webinar together. You can even create affiliates or become partners, something more permanent and that says: "I really like you -- come onboard."

Your turn

So there you have it: The “who”, the “why”, and the “how” for conducting killer interviews.

The tips and tricks here will carry you from your first point of contact with an influencer all the way to to impressing your interviewee with your impeccable knowledge of their background and well-developed list of interview questions.

If you’re ready to take your brand credibility to the new level and dramatically grow your following, take a shot at reaching out to some influencers you admire and let us know how it goes!

Remember to demonstrate to them your success so far, your reason for wanting an interview, and the value it can potentially provide to both of you.

If you’ve already got a following, no matter how small, know this: There are even more people out there who would love you and your content -- they just haven’t found you yet. Investing your time in proven strategies like this that drive more people to your business has an incredibly high potential for reward.

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Sonya Gould

Written by Sonya Gould

Sonya works in sales at Teachable. By day, she empowers people around the world to use technology to transform their businesses. By night, she salsa dances her way around NYC.