Scoring an interview with a source is often a practice in the art of seduction. When you see the perfect source – knowledgeable, great credentials and possibly a star in whatever world your article focuses on, your heart skips a beat. You rejoice in finding ‘the one’, but at the same time you worry that you won’t have what it takes to woo your prey. Your source may be reluctant or even hostile to your advances. They may have a reputation for being a tough interview, a tough ‘get,’ or media shy. A writer has to figure out how to get the prom king or queen.
How you approach your target can make or break an interview opportunity.
- Use a wing man. Do you have a friend, associate or a friendly, former source that can introduce you? Work your connections.
- Be different. Go beyond the standard voicemail/email script and show the source you know something about them.
- Stay professional. Show them professional courtesy, take care to use their earned and acknowledged titles. Avoid being too casual and cheesy.
- Name drop. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but if their old research/work buddy suggested you contact them, mention it. Avoid the temptation to lie.
- Conduct advanced research. Well before you ask for the goods, send an email to the source about their previous work. Compliment, ask questions.
- Give advance notice. You wouldn’t ask for a Friday date on Wednesday, so don’t ask for an interview at the last minute if you can avoid it. Recognize their time is valuable.
There are times the smoothest, most professional, well-connected introduction won’t break through a source’s defenses.
- Confront the elephant. Simply ask why a source is hesitant or unwilling, they could have been burned before by a media person. Learn the cause, formulate your cure.
- Make your intentions known. If you just need a quickie say so, some are more open to a no-strings contributing quote.
- Do what you say. If you say you’ll email a follow-up on Friday, you better be true to your word. If you want a quickie, don’t come to the interview with luggage and intentions of staying for a while.
- Get on the same page. If you want an open interview, don’t agree to taking things off the table. If they are expecting a chaste after date kiss, don’t whip out the handcuffs at the last minute.
- Display your plume. You don’t have to be a cocky peacock, but mutual respect is a great equalizer. Writing for a well-known publication or having an impressive line of credentials backs up your pitch. Kind of like being an investment banker with a house in the Hamptons.
Got any tips for landing a reluctant source? Who do you think is best source seducer right now? Tell us below. I’d place my bet on Barbara Walters.