Featuring niche influencers on your business website has quite a few important benefits:
- First and foremost, it sends trust signals to your readers: Seeing a well-know face featured on your site will encourage more visitors to trust your brand as well.
- Secondly, it engages those influencers with your brand encouraging them to share your content to their social media channels.
- Lastly, it makes it easier to build relationships online as you can always refer to the experts that chose your blog was great enough to get featured there.
You’d be surprised how many of those busy people would be willing to contribute to your website. Because every opportunity to get featured works well for their branding (there simply cannot be too much publicity right?) But where do you start? How do you find experts with original insights in your industry that will also be willing to take that relationship to a new level?
Over time, using trial and error, you will discover and perfect your own methods. But to help illustrate the general idea, I’ll break the process down here.
How to Find Experts to Interview
Start on websites you are reading regularly. Write them down, and then move on to related sites where those you’ve identified have contributed, or people who have contributed for them. Find out where they have been commenting and reading, or check out their public social media accounts to find out where they are sharing content from.
The following tools can help expand your search if you have a specific article idea you need a professional insight into, or if you’re stuck looking for some fresh ideas for your website:
- HARO is the most obvious source of expert opinions. In most cases, you are sure to get dozens of contributors from a single request (make sure to select the best ones and build your relationship further – don’t stop at just featuring them.)
- MyBlogU (disclosure: this is my website) is a newer platform geared more towards bloggers than reporters. One of the cool features of it is that you keep track of all the received pitches and ideas, so you can return to them at any time in the future (even if they don’t seem too related to what you are going to write about at the moment). You can open a brainstorm request to get random ideas or a group interview request to generate a complete article with lots of selected quotes in it.
- BuzzSumo is an awesome content search engine. You can limit your search by “Interviews” and show the most recent ones to discover more experts who are willing to respond to an interview request. Here’s a sample search result.
Crafting The Perfect Approach
Using the tools above, create an “outreach” plan that will accomplish your goals:
- Get brainstorming help. Oftentimes just seeing what niche influencers work in will give you loads of content ideas.
- Gather ideas on how to get more out of each contact. Just getting a quote from a niche influencer is a waste of time. You should see many more ways to engage an expert in the life of your brand. See if they may be interested in becoming regular columnists, a brand ambassador, or an active endorser.
- #BeEverywhere. Find those experts all over the Web (Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.) and add them everywhere using new circles and lists in order to keep track. This way, you’ll be able to really get close to important people in your niche and interact with them on a regular basis.
Make a little list of details for each influencer in a spreadsheet:
- What do they write about most?
- What seems to be their biggest interest?
- What tone do they use?
- How often do they do interviews?
- Who has interviewed them?
- Can they interview you as well?
- Where else do they contribute and how often?
- Are they working on, or have they worked on, a major project recently?
- How can you help each other to co-promote?
- Are they speaking at, or have they spoken at, a major industry event?
Some people wait to gather these details until after they have made contact, but it’s more useful to have it on hand. Besides, if they say no initially, they might say yes in the future to something else like becoming a regular columnist. Having those details will come in handy.
Make Your First Step Sweet and Short
Niche micro-celebrities get a lot of requests, mail and feedback. Many will take the time to skim emails and, if the messages are too long, they may be deleted or put aside. Your job is to give those influcenrs relevant information as succinctly as possible. Your message to them should be between 3 and 4 sentences long. Short, very well personalized, sentences work best.
Introduce yourself and what you do quickly and include a link to your website. Tell them what you want to interview them about, and have a specific topic in mind. Give them a date and time you are thinking of conducting the interview (unless it’s a written q&a). But tell them you are open to other days that work better for their schedule if necessary. Inviting them for a Twitter interview is another option as well.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up!
Some experts will respond, others won’t. Most will at least provide some kind of follow up, whether it is a yes or a no. If it takes awhile, don’t get discouraged. Remember how many messages these people get on a daily basis. It could take them a while to respond to yours.
Once you get a positive response, you can be less succinct in your communication. Use some of your social media channels to thank them publicly as well. You may also want to work out things like links, projects they want to promote, etc.
Here’s a quick checklist my old friend and team member Phil Turner helped me with:
- Find people who have unique viewpoints, rather than just those who will regurgitate the same old topic.
- Prepare open-ended questions that allow interviewees to expound on each one.
- Beware of off-putting questions like, “What makes you qualified to answer this?” Instead, phrase it as, “Please outline your own experience in this area.”
- Narrow down the focus of the interview. The best interviews are highly focused (i.e. SEO for high street retailers rather than SEO today).
- Promotion is easier if you have high-profile interviewees because each one will promote their interview.
- Try to incorporate some visual stimulation. Perhaps an infographic or a video that you request comments on. This makes promotion easier, too.
- Re-connect with your interviewees often to make sure you are developing that relationship into a mutually beneficial partnership.
To find experts to interview is an involved process – but surprisingly simple.
More importantly, it adds that “influencial voice” to your branding efforts that could really sky rocket your website and social media presence (when done right, as always).
What has worked for you when you’ve needed to find experts to interview?
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