Deborah has interviewed Hillary Rodham Clinton, former New York Governor George Pataki, Stedman Graham, William Shatner, Sylvester and Jennifer Stallone, George Foreman, Jillian Michaels, Orel Hershiser and more.
Scoring top-name interviews adds some serious clout to your portfolio and helps you obtain assignments with better pay. But, at times, it can feel like well-known people live in an ivory tower slathered in Crisco. Here’s how you can scale those slippery walls.
Bait a hook: what you can offer the famous person? Remember, it all comes down to business. He’s already famous, so just dangling the hope of an interview in front of him isn’t enough. Though the small fish will snap at that bait, the big ones won’t.
Pinpoint why you interviewing that person for a particular periodical would help him. Research his website for press releases. Look for things such as a new book, new charitable work, or new business endeavor. Most famous people have several irons in the fire.
You need a hook to pique an editor’s interest, too. News that dovetails with timeliness for a general periodical or that fits well with a niche publication almost guarantee a sale.
When writing on a celebrity, I usually pitch the idea only to editors with whom I’m on a first-name basis since they will respond to my email more quickly while the news is still news. I make sure they realize I have good chance at getting the interview, but there’s no guarantee. Once I get approval to pursue the interview, then I contact the celebrity’s rep.
Go through the proper channels. Of course, there is the rare person who secures an interview by sending a celebrity a pizza with a note inside or another wacky scheme, but if you want people to respect you as a professional, then act like one. Contact the person or agency representing that golden interviewee.
Obtaining the rep’s contact information is sometimes as easy as visiting the celebrity’s official website and looking for the media contact info. Avoid using contact information from the website that is meant for fans. It’s usually easier to find, but it’s not the means of contact you want.
Sometimes, media links can be hard to find because PR people don’t want fans bugging them for autographs. Search for press releases on the official site and reach out to the contact person on the latest release, even if it doesn’t directly relate to your article.
Sometimes, the website has no media contact information readily available. In these cases, finding the newsy hook can also help you get in touch with the famous person. For example, if he’s taking part in a celebrity fund raiser, you can contact the organizers of the event.
If you want to call the media rep, write a script of what you plan to say. I prefer emailing since I’m not putting the person on the spot and I tend to get better results that way.
The email (or script) you write to the media rep should read somewhat like the pitches you send editors. You must state for whom you write, the hook of the article, what you want (a twenty-minute phone interview and a headshot photo, for example), the timeframe you have and links to samples of similar types of articles you have written. It also doesn’t hurt to tactfully mention how you would benefit the famous person, such as, “I’m sure XYZ Magazine readers would enjoy learning how Miss Important’s childhood inspired her recent book, ‘Tales of Why I’m So Important.'”
Sound pleased to have the opportunity without gushing. Know something about the person’s accomplishments and relevance to the topic. But never, ever, mention you’re a fan. You’re not a fan; you’re a business person.
Once you land an interview through a media rep and complete the interview, follow through with the rep. Mention how well the interview went and thank him for his help in securing the interview. Then ask for a list of other people they represent or if they can recommend someone else for a similar type of article. This strategy often leads me to more interviews. After all, when your leg is over the wall of the ivory tower, you don’t want to slide back down.
Name dropping in future emails to media representatives will help you secure more interviews, but do so tactfully, such as, “I have pasted below a interview with Mr. Famous that appeared in XYZ Magazine to give you an idea of the tone this article would take.”
This approach will help media representatives know you’re a professional and not just a fan trying to speak with a famous person.
Deborah Jeanne Sergeant has interviewed numerous well-known people in politics, business, entertainment and sports, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, former New York Governor George Pataki, Stedman Graham, William Shatner, Sylvester and Jennifer Stallone, George Foreman, Jillian Michaels, Orel Hershiser and more. Visit her online at www.skilledquill.net.