Landing Your Source – 5 Tips on Getting the Big Interview

In the magazine, newspaper and ezine world, interviews with experts and newsmakers are key to producing great articles and building a solid reputation as a journalist. But before you can write your masterpiece, you have to be given access to sources who will make your work shine. Unfortunately, for many writers, landing that ‘big interview’ is a major obstacle. But with a little advance work and the right approach, you too can win access to the experts, celebrities and newsmakers who will make your work irresistible. Try following these 5 proven rules:
1 – Do your homework. Before contacting your desired interview source, find out something about him or her. What is this person’s background? Where did he or she go to school? How did this source become involved in the field you’re asking about? A quick online search can often reveal such details, then when you do reach out to request the interview, use some of that information as part of your pitch. Mention anything you have in common (i.e. being from the same state, attending the same college, sharing an interest in a hobby, etc.) to show that you are serious about your work and have done your research. This will also help you avoid such ‘rookie’ questions as “so where are you from?” or “how did you get into this line of work?” These amateur inquiries reveal a complete lack of experience and can send the message that you have little respect for your source.
2 – Practice before making contact. Take the time to do a few “trial runs” of what you plan to say to land this interview. If you will be calling or asking in person, go through your pitch out loud to see how it sounds. Evaluate your tone and demeanor as well as your words — do you sound timid, intimidated, angry, anxious, confident, giddy? Are you stuttering and stumbling over your sentences? If you plan to request the interview via email or letter, go through several rough drafts to hone your message. Then ask yourself, ‘shat would I think if someone was asking for my time and expertise in this same manner?’ Keep making adjustments until you’re satisfied that you’ve found the perfect formula.
3 – Have your questions ready. Before contacting your proposed source, know exactly what you want to ask, and have a list of your questions in order of importance. It is not unusual for a source to tell a prospective interviewer, “I have a few minutes right now — what do you want to know?” If you get that opportunity then hem and haw or ask if you can call back later, don’t be surprised if the answer is ‘no’ — and that you’ve lost that potential source for good.
4- Listen and react. Having a list of prepared questions is essential, but be prepared to go off in another direction if the person you’re interviewing says something you didn’t anticipate. Many of the best quotes come when a source makes an offhand or casual remark that opens new possibilities for the writer. And if your expert says something you don’t understand or are unsure about, be sure to follow up immediately. It’s much better to say, “can you clarify that for me?” at the time of the interview than for you to misquote or misinterpret a comment. That can destroy your reputation as a journalist and make it much harder to land good sources in the future.
5 – Always follow up after the fact. Be sure to send a ‘thank you’ via mail or email after the interview, and when your article is published, send the source a printed copy or link to the website where it appears. This shows that you truly appreciate your sources’ time and that you are proud of your work. It will also come in handy if you want to reach out to the person again either for another interview or to help find a new source. Though it takes just a few moments, this simple acknowledgment will go a long way toward helping you build a network of reliable sources who see you as an esteemed journalist and a dedicated professional.
Use these 5 tips and you’ll find that you’re able to land more interviews, and that each becomes easier to arrange. Before you know it, you will have an impressive network of sources and a stellar reputation! The rest is just details!