By: Hillel Fuld (@Hilzfuld)
I love doing interviews, always have. I have done some interviews with some outrageously interesting people over the years. People like Alyssa Milano, Marc Andreessen, Steve Wozniak, and so many others. All my interviews are right here.
Before I go into why interviews are, in my opinion, a secret weapon in the world of content marketing, allow me to answer one simple question I get often: “How”? “How did you pull that off and land interviews with such amazing and important people?”
The answer is both simple and deeply profound. The answer to the question “How” is a fundamental lesson in marketing, sales, and business in general. People like to be on stage. People, all people, have egos. Now, before you misunderstand what I mean, I do not mean ego in a bad sense. I mean everyone, no matter how famous or fabulous, has a mother or a father, or a son or a daughter, or a friend, or SOMEONE they want to impress. Someone who, when that person is interviewed anywhere, yes anywhere, they will send the interview to, in order to make them proud.
Tap into that if you want to get through to a person.
I have approached many amazing people over the years and my sales pitch was always the same. “You are smart, I want to learn from you. May I interview you?” The answer yields a near 100% success rate. Be nice, and you will find that people, most people, will respond and if you want to spotlight them, they will oblige. So that is how, now let’s talk about “Why”?
If you are writing a blog, why should you spend time highlighting others? After all, your goal is to promote yourself at the end of the day, right? Well, no. First of all, that is a topic for another time but if your content is a means to an end of self promotion, you are in for a rough road ahead.
More fundamentally though, if you spend your time giving other people respect, you will find, quite quickly, that you are able to accomplish some pretty outstanding and otherwise impossible things. Let’s break it down, but before we do that, I want to quote from one of my favorite chapters in one of my favorite books. The chapter “The Canvas Strategy” in Tim Ferriss’ new book Tools of Titans.
“There is an old saying “Say little, do much.” What we really ought to do is update and apply a version of that to our early approach. Be lesser, do more.
Imagine if for every person you met, you thought of some way to help them, something you could do for them? And you looked at it in a way that entirely benefited them, and not you? The cumulative effect this would have over time would be profound.
You’d learn a great deal by solving diverse problems. You’d develop a reputation for being indispensable. You’d have countless new relationships. You’d have an enormous bank of favors to call upon down the road. That’s what the Canvas Strategy is about- helping yourself by helping others.
Making a concerted effort to trade your short term gratification for a longer term payoff. Whereas everyone else wants to get credit and be “respected”, you can forget credit. You can forget it so hard that you’re glad when others get it instead of you, that was your aim, after all. Let the others take their credit on credit, while you defer and earn interest on the principal.”
I expanded on this principle in a post called “Stop Being that Guy, Start Playing the Long Game, and How Are We Still Talking About This in 2017?”
If you spend your time highlighting others, paving the way for others to succeed, you end up going down that road as well. So how does it work? Well, let’s dissect exactly what happens when you interview someone. And remember, most of my interviews were conducted over email. Ten questions by email. You know how long it took me? 8 minutes. So what was my “ROI” on those minutes?
Let’s talk for one second about Marc Andreessen. The man pretty much invented the internet as we know it, or more precisely he facilitated access to the previously inaccessible worldwide web. He is widely regarded as the top venture capitalist in the world and entrepreneurs sometimes spend years trying to get in front of him. It took me weeks and 140 characters.
Here is how it went down. I wanted to build a relationship with Marc, I will say it very openly. No agenda, I was not raising money. I just wanted to know him. He is kinda a smart guy.So I followed him on Twitter and began to engage. A few weeks, some corny jokes, and geeky tech thoughts later, he followed back. Why? Because I wasn’t selling anything, I was just being human. Perhaps, I was also moderately interesting.
As soon as he followed back, I wrote him a private message thanking him, telling him how heavily he has impacted my life and career, and asking if by some weird chance, he would agree to have me interview him.
I thought one of the following three scenarios would follow:
- He would totally ignore the message or not even see it.
- He would laugh at me, then proceed to unfollow and kick himself for following in the first place.
- He would respectfully decline.
What happened next will amaze you. (Just had to write those words to see what it’s like to work at Buzzfeed.)
Marc responded immediately and agreed. “Sure, happy to do that interview.”
I scratched my head for a few minutes, may have screeched like a little girl, then went to confirm what I had just read. “Wow, so you are willing to do it?” “Sure.” “Ok, may I email you the questions?” “Na, let’s just do the interview here on Twitter.” “You mean privately here in DMs?” “Na, public. Tweet me the questions and I will reply to you publicly.”
So there I was, some random dude, tweeting the legendary Marc Andreessen questions and him replying, one by one. Mind blown. That is when Venturebeat reached out and asked if they can publish the outstanding interview they had just witnessed. I dropped the mic. That was a good day.
The interview is here and the tweets are below.
Why did he agree? Well, why not? You see, everyone else approaching Marc throughout his day is selling, taking, asking. I was giving, spotlighting, offering. I wanted to give him a stage. Why not? “Isn’t he too busy to answer your dumb questions?” Apparently not.
So after this interview, which was a few years ago, I have corresponded with Marc tens of times, including him introducing me to his absolutely legendary partner Ben Horowitz, as well as giving me many book recommendation over the years. I have sent him amazing companies to meet and he has always found the time. That is called a relationship. We have not met face to face yet but Marc has repeatedly introduced me to others as his friend.
Now, in what parallel universe would a nobody like me become friends with an absolute star like Marc Andreessen? The answer is no parallel universe. Our universe, just a different planet. Everyone else is on planet selling, I am on the planet “You are smart, I want to learn from you.”
Boom. An amazing and impossible relationship. 8 minutes and a few tweets. Incredible.
Just to name one other example, when I interviewed Woz, the founder of Apple, then said on Facebook how unbelievable the experience was, Woz commented the following:
Relationship! Here is me and Woz hanging out in a bomb shelter. I kid you not. That was quite the story!
Validation and Credibility
Let’s continue with the Marc example. What do you think the millions of people who were exposed to that interview thought? I mean between my followers, Marc’s followers, and Venturebeat readers, that is a lot of people. What did they think about me as they read that interview? I will tell you.
“Who the hell is this guy and how did he land this interview?”
My follower count went up that day by many many thousands. The tweets and the article got an insane amount of traction, and I just increased my credibility by an insane amount, all by being human and wanting to spotlight others. I know this sounds somewhat cynical, but remember my goal? To get on Marc’s radar. I didn’t want anything from him, in fact, till today, I have never asked him for anything, other than his book recommendations.
So while everyone around you is trying to sell something in order to increase their influence and clout, try, just once, to give instead of taking, and watch how that small trivial act of selflessly giving, validates you and puts you in a different place, sometimes instantly, and sometimes, it takes a while.
Traffic, Lots and Lots of Traffic
Alright, marketers, I didn’t forget about you. I know what you are thinking and I know what you need. Traffic. Sales. Conversions. Eye balls. I get it. Your CEO is riding you. Ok, let’s talk about that.
What do you think the first thing Alyssa Milano did after I hit publish on her interview? That’s right. She tweeted it to her 3+ million followers. I was happy, my servers a little less. She crashed my site. I kid you not. More than once. That’s right. She tweeted the interview multiple times. I want to see how your servers handle 10,000 people accessing your site at the very same second.
What do you think Scoble did after I interviewed him? Guy Kawasaki? Gary? Emmanuelle Chriqui? That’s right. They all shared it. Why? Remember how this works. Everyone likes to be appreciated. I appreciated them in my interview, so they shared that appreciation with their audience. I appreciated their appreciation when I saw my analytics that day!
Stop reading and just do it!
Some might say, I am giving away my secret weapon here since most people don’t spend time interviewing others. I am cool with that. Interviews are an amazing tool to establish otherwise impossible relationships, increase your credibility, and yes, gain almost instant traffic, with close to no effort.
One more thing… Those interviews I conducted? They were all kinda brilliant and talented people. Let’s not forget all the wisdom I acquired by picking these world-class brains, that is also a huge win. So, the bottom line, you are doing the whole content thing? Stop being like everyone else and talking about yourself. Spend more time talking about others and watch the magic happen!