10 Tips for Scoring a Great Guest Interview
Want to avoid boring guest interviews? Are you new to interviewing experts and need a process?
Running expert interviews is a nice win/win for all parties. Your expert gets exposed to a new audience, and you get awesome, thought-leader content that drives links and gets shares.
Sadly, it’s not always as easy as that. Your expert may not be available. Your interview may come across as boring or downright awkward. If this has happened to you, know that you’re not alone.
Fortunately, weird situations can typically be avoided.
There’s a method to the guest interviewing madness.
Here are ten tips to get you started:
Do send a good pitch.
A good pitch makes all the difference. If you want your email to get trashed, send something that says, “Hi, my name is Bob and I run the XYZ blog. Can I send you some interview questions?”
Ain’t nobody got time for a pitch like that!
Most guest experts are happy to help, but they also need to make sure that it’s worth their time and fits their audience (which sounds harsh, but it’s true.) If you want a fast yes, you’ll need to send more details. Consider adding information such as your blog’s readership numbers, your target audience and a brief idea of the interview topic. This information will help. Trust me.
Don’t get offended if someone says “no.”
Even the best pitches get rejected. Maybe your guest expert is traveling and doesn’t have time. Maybe your readership doesn’t fit their target market. Maybe she’s just completed six interviews and doing one more seems daunting. Whatever the reason, take it in stride and don’t bash the person on social media. Heck, I’d keep the interview door open – I’ve said “no” to some folks only to say “yes” a few months later.
As a side note: If you send an email and don’t hear back, send another “check-in” note. I recently missed an interview opportunity because I accidentally trashed the original message. My bad. But had the person emailed me back, I would have been happy to help.
Do research your guest, read their bio and check out their site
It goes without saying that you should know your guest’s work, their background and what their site offers.
Believe it or not, this doesn’t always happen.
From the interviewee’s side, it’s weird when the person who is interviewing you seems to know nothing about your work. Yes, it’s happened. Yes, it’s awkward, especially during a podcast. And yes, this will alienate your guest and ruin your podcast.
Don’t ask “how did you get started?”
“How did you start your career” is a valid question. But I promise you unless the expert is brand new to their field, there are already 10+ interviews with him or her that outlines their career trajectory. That information is already out there.
Over my career, I have answered that question at least 100 times (and I’m probably estimating low.) Unless you can put a different spin on the question, asking about the expert’s past will do nothing but bore the audience and your guest expert. Try another lead instead – you can always summarize your guest expert’s achievements somewhere in the interview.
Do ask thought-provoking questions.
To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, why let your post blend in when it can stand out? The key to conducting a strong guest interview is to ask the questions nobody else has thought to ask before.
James Altrucher is the master at this. Whether he’s interviewing Coolio or Tony Robbins, he throws in a question (or more) designed to make his guest think. It’s obvious that James isn’t looking for a canned, “this is what your handler said is OK to say” response. He’s looking for something deeper. And his interviews are fascinating because of it (this is from a person who hates listening to podcasts.) You don’t need to make the entire interview sound like a therapy session. But a couple of deeper questions is good.
Planning a podcast? Do send the questions ahead of time.
Want your guest to love you? Send your questions a few days in advance and ask for feedback.Sending the questions early ensures the questions you’re asking are in the interviewee’s “sweet spot” and your guest can provide great information. Otherwise, you may ask them about a topic they aren’t as comfortable with, and the interview may take a very weird turn.
Conducting an email interview? Work out the deadline ahead of time.
You’ll want to confirm with your expert prior to sending the questions that he can meet your deadline. If you’re on a tight deadline, tell them immediately – and promise only to send a few fast questions. Otherwise, you may slave over your interview questions only to learn that your expert can’t meet your deadline. I’ve been there and the situation is no fun for either party.
Don’t lay out a strategy question and then ask,”Can you outline what you would do, step by step?”
I’ve received some very detailed emailed questions that have made me think, “Is this person asking for their readers, or are they asking for their site?” Strategy questions take a long time to answer. There are a lot of moving parts that make providing a specific answer impossible. Certainly, your guest can provide an overview of the process. But asking them to “dig into” a site and figure out how to handle something is consulting, not an interview.
Give your guest expert a lot of social love.
Now that the interview has posted, it’s time to promote it to the masses. Let your guest expert know that the post is live. Tag them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Re-promote the post to your followers. This technique not only drives more traffic to your site, it also gives your expert a lot of well-deserved social love. Plus, your expert will (hopefully) promote the post on her network and drive more traffic to your site.
Say “thank you.”
It’s amazing how rarely this happens. Thank your guest expert for their time. You don’t need to send a long email. Just a short “thank you,” just like Mom taught you. It makes all the difference.
What tip would you add? Please leave it in the comments below!
Great tips, Heather! I especially like the one about doing your research on the interviewee before sending questions. Not only does it help you generate interesting questions and show the interviewee that you care; it also helps you avoid questions that have already been answered.
One thing that’s really helped me secure experts for interviews is mentioning in the pitch that it’ll be 10 questions or less if you plan to make it short. That’s helped me win over busy experts more than once.