The fun (and highly profitable) part of freelance journalism is getting to interview the rich and famous. But how do you get to do it? I’ve interviewed everyone from political figures to world famous musicians and writers. Here’s how you can too:
A publication’s backing helps. Saying “I’m with People Magazine and I’d like to interview you” carries more weight. Pitch an interview first and see if you can secure a reputable publication’s backing before approaching your source.
Official websites are step one. I’ve interviewed people like Jeffery Deaver and the CEO of Roman’s Pizza by just sending an e-mail and asking. Be polite, be brief and ask if they have time for a short interview.
Build contacts. Network: Attend gigs, or just introduce yourself ahead. Musician Chris Chameleon and I spent hours talking after a performance, and it turned into an interview for Vrouekeur. Contacts can also point you in the direction of who to speak to.
Get in touch with agents. Where you can’t contact someone directly, speak to their agent, PR or company representative first. Introduce yourself and your idea, and ask for some of their time. Wait for a response, then try again: Follow up via phone if e-mail doesn’t get an answer.
CEO’s and famous people are busy, so be willing to fit their schedule and keep it short. Many interviews have to fit into the ten-minute gap between shows, meetings or road trips. For one ghost-written interview with an important political figure, I had to do the interview on the move during my afternoon walk – with no working call recorder or pen – but it worked.
Explain yourself! Many personalities are wary of the press, so be clear when requesting the interview exactly who you’re working for and what it is you’re writing about: Their new book, the recent sex scandal or their thirteen Pomeranians?
Offer to send questions ahead. This can reassure some interviewees who don’t have a lot of time, or – believe it or not – find themselves caught off guard when “put on the spot.” Also, offer to send a draft of the article for approval afterwards: This reassures difficult PR people and nervous celebrities alike. (Occasionally, be prepared to make small changes to, for example, quotes.)
Special arrangements can be part of interviews. Be prepared to consent to background checks for some, deal with bodyguards and searches for others. Sometimes a special arrangement is as simple as an appointment at their favourite restaurant.
Confidentiality matters, and people will tell you things – juicy things, hilarious things, tasty things – off-the-record. For the sake of a good reputation as a journalist, keep things that way, no matter what. Confidentiality extends to their personal contact information: Imagine a stalker in a ski-mask admitting that they got Kevin Kline’s personal number from you.
What’s the biggest fish you’re eyeing to interview? Go out and get ‘em.
About the Author: Alex J. Coyne is a freelance journalist, author and language practitioner who has written for international publications like People Magazine, Great Bridge Links, Moneyweb and more.