14 Tips Joel Brown Taught Me For Contacting And Interviewing Influential People

14 Tips Joel Brown Taught Me For Contacting And Interviewing Influential People

by -
Tim Denning

Before I became an author on Addicted2Success, I didn’t really know much about contacting influential people. Joel Brown taught me the art, and now I am teaching you. Most of what Joel told me made sense, but I just wasn’t consciously aware of it. Having done hundreds of interviews now, Joel has mastered the art of contacting people that are normally quite hard to reach, and he is at a world-class level.

Below are the fourteen tips Joel Brown gave me on how to contact influential people.


1. First contact is crucial

Always try a warm introduction first

– Before attempting to contact any person of influence, it’s always best to see if you know anyone in common first. When someone is in common with the influential person you are trying to contact, you can ask for an introduction. What this does is almost guarantee you a response and provides leverage. When someone who you know asks for a favor, you feel obligated to at least hear them out even if you can’t meet their request because of the connection you have. Reaching out cold doesn’t work because there is no leverage or obligation for the influential person to respond to you.

The best way to find out if you know anybody in common is to have a look on LinkedIn. If you haven’t already learned yet from previous articles, LinkedIn is the key to almost any form of networking or connecting. Once you identify someone in common, reach out (ideally via phone or worse case, email) to that person and ask for an intro. Try and offer something in return if you can and always give them an out in case they’re not comfortable.

Don’t forget to ask them how well they know the person. I had a situation recently where the person introing me hadn’t spoken to the person of influence in a while, and it was awkward. Given how famous the person, was though, I was willing to take the risk.

If the mutual connection says yes, then get them to send an intro email and CC you.

Ring their personal assistant

If you can’t get a warm introduction because you don’t know anyone in common, try and find the number of their office so you can talk to their personal assistant. Always be respectful and acknowledge the influential person’s time and then do your spiel about why they should get the influential person to be interviewed by you.

If all else fails, write to them in this format

Typing On A Apple Air LaptopOnce you have tried the above methods, if you haven’t been successful, try and write to them via LinkedIn or email. Like with previous methods, make sure you mention anyone that you know in common.

The subject line should is very important and should outline the opportunity and grab their attention. Something along the lines of “Exposure for your new book Sales Mastery in front of an audience of 5000.”
In this short sentence, you have explained how you can help them and what your reach is which is the most important thing. It’s a good idea to mention their name or product title in the subject so that it doesn’t come across as a generic message.

In the body of the message, you should keep it to three short paragraphs. In the first paragraph, you explain who you are, and your audience reach. In the next paragraph, you mention a few names of people that you have interviewed before to help build credibility. It’s also a good idea to give them a link to a recent interview that you feel best represents your work.

In the final paragraph, you mention your ask and state the time commitment. You will find that if you start out asking for 20-30 minutes, you will get a lot more responses. You can always ask for more time later, but a small amount of time (like twenty minutes) is almost rude to decline someone who wants to promote your brand. Out of the entire paragraph, the thing you should spend most of your time articulating is what’s in it for them.

Be clever and write something like “I saw you have a new book coming out in a few weeks, and I would love to line up our interview in line with that so we can promote the book and help get you more readers.” The key is to tie the interview into something they are doing that’s important to them. They may not necessarily be selling something; it could be simply helping them to get exposure for a charity they work with. You then finish the paragraph with “let me know if this is possible and I look forward to your response.”

In your email signature, you must clearly list your full name, email address, direct phone number and ideally a link to your website or Linkedin page to give some further credibility. Write the message a few times and get a friend or partner to look over it for you to make sure it reads well.

Tell them why you do what you do and what inspires you

Throughout all your communication with a person of influence, it’s important to articulate why you do what you do and what inspires you. If a person of influence believes that you just want to talk to them because they are famous or so you can promote yourself, they probably won’t be that interested.


2. Your first reply needs to have the detail

In your first reply you can be a lot more detailed with your response. Often at this stage, your request may have been forwarded to a PR person or marketing firm so you have to communicate with that in mind. Highlight again the benefits in more detail and send more of your previous work.

The purpose of this second message is to secure a topic for the interview. I will usually put forward three topic ideas and then ask if they like any of mine or whether they had one they were keen to do. Ultimately, it’s important that you make the final decision on the topic. Tell them that the wording of the headline might change later but the topic won’t.

You then want to end this second message with a request for a date and time to do the interview. Make sure you find out where they will be on the date in case the local time is different to yours. There are lots of websites that will convert the time for you to your local time.

Tell them the means in which you will do the interview (phone, Skype, Facetime etc) and request for their contact information. The moment you get their contact details make sure you save them in your phone so that you are pre-prepared for the interview and not looking around at the last minute to find their details. Some of the people you contact might be a bit more old school and expect a face to face interview, so consider doing this if they are local to you.


3. Your second reply is the interview confirmation

Now that you have your final reply from the person with a topic and time, send them back a third and final message thanking them for doing the interview and make sure you reconfirm the time. It’s a good idea to send them a calendar invite as well so they don’t forget about your interview. A day or two before the interview, you can choose to send them another message to reconfirm the time. I generally don’t do this but if they are really famous, it’s a good idea.

It’s good to consider telling them what they need to do on the day of the interview. I tell them that I must call them so that the conversation is recorded and that they need to be in a quiet area with a strong Internet connection. While talking about Internet, mention that it’s always best to be hardwired rather than use wireless, to get the best possible quality audio.

4. Send them the questions in advance

You will still need to send one final message to them with the questions that you want to ask. This is quite important because it helps give them some background on what you will be talking about. I find that when you send the questions before hand you get much better responses. The other reason you need to do this is that depending on how famous they are the questions may need to be checked with a marketing or PR team beforehand.

The other reason you need to do this is that depending on how famous they are the questions may need to be checked with a marketing or PR team beforehand.

5. Use the right tools

To conduct interviews Joel taught me to use these tools:

– Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype or Facetime
– A lightweight laptop so you can do interviews on the fly
– A Blue Snowball Microphone
– A pair of comfortable headphones so you can hear the other person
– A quality internet connection with a major provider

One tip that I will give you after doing lots of these interviews now is that Facetime quality is a lot better than Skype, and it’s much less likely to drop out. Always try and use Facetime if you can.


6. Be prepared on the day

Make sure on the day of the interview you are prepared. Have your laptop battery charged, do a sound check, make sure you have their contact details and know exactly which quiet spot you are going to be doing the call from. It’s also critical to be on time to the interview so be ready to hit record five minutes beforehand.

Have a bottle of water with you in case you get something in your throat, you don’t want coughing to end the interview – this happened to me once before.

7. Research beforehand

It almost goes without saying that you need to research the person before the interview. What you want to find out is the basis of their story so that the person does not have to tell you the basics, which they will expect you to know already.

I like to listen to other interviews that they have done so that I can try to cover things that haven’t been mentioned before. There is nothing worse than an interview that covers exactly the same ground as previous interviews.


8. Ask great questions

I usually have three paragraphs of questions. The first lot of questions is about them and the massive success they have achieved in their field, the second is the questions for the topic, the next lot are questions around the particular thing they want to plug and then finally, I ask them their favourite book and their favourite quote.

Joel taught me to have one final killer question that is the best question you will ask. His is “if you were to deliver your last 30-second speech to the world, what would that last 30 seconds sound like?” Try to narrow your questions down to a few gems rather than lots of short questions that are not interesting. Keep them as open as possible so the person you’re interviewing has a chance to direct their response in their way.

David Letterman Interviewing Conan O'Brien


9. Think on the fly

Joel taught me that the best interviews are the one’s that occur on the fly. There is nothing worse than a pre-rehearsed interview. Even though I have the questions ready beforehand I always change them on the day and think of a few on the fly. You will also find that sometimes more than one of your questions gets answered in a response, so nothing ever goes to plan. It’s this spontaneity that makes the interview interesting.

10. Keep the interview on time

As the interview is occurring make sure you keep an eye on the time. If you find that you’re halfway through and haven’t even got onto to the topic questions, politely get things back on track. Assume that if the person has told you that you only have 45 minutes that you must stick to this.

If you get some bonus time at the end, that’s great but often they will have another meeting straight after so be conscious of the time otherwise you will have no good content at the end.


11. Try and get one light bulb moment

During every interview I aim to get one light bulb moment. Some that I have had so far are – when the person I was interviewing didn’t know their age, when I learnt that you had to be truly dedicated to social media for it to work and respond in real time, to when Andrew Morello taught me that sales is even more human than I thought it was. When you have found the light bulb moment in the interview, it’s best to highlight this later when you write your article and perhaps put it as your first, most important point.

“The key to good interviews is to try to think of yourself as a gold miner looking for golden nuggets that you can bring back to your audience”

The interview should be a reflection of what you have learned. I often like to ask things that I know the audience will be interested in or even just information that people haven’t had presented in a logical way before.


12. Request the interviewee to post on social media

Get Influential People To Post Your Interview On Social MediaAt the conclusion of your interview you should ask the interviewee to share the final result on all of their social media platforms. One piece of advice I will give you is make sure that you double check they actually post it as sometimes they can forget. The other thing I have found is that sometimes they only post it on one social media platform or the one that doesn’t haven’t a very large following.

It’s important to insist when you’re setting up the interview that you get them to agree to post on their company page, not just their personal page.


13. Ask for original photos

To top off an excellent interview you need to have great visuals to complement the article. At the end of the interview ask the person how you would go about getting photos of them that haven’t been used before. If you want to be really bold, ask them if it’s possible to get a photo of yourself with them (if they live locally to you) to use with the article. A photo with you in it makes the content just that little bit more original and shareable.

I usually ask for a few photos of the interviewee, a photo of their office and one more photo of a proud moment in their life. The last thing I do after asking them for photos is to end the interview with, “is there anything you want to ask me?” Sometimes they will be dying to ask a few questions about you so make sure you let them do that if they choose and then say thank you and let them move on.


14. Send them a first draft

I don’t do this for every interview but if they are someone that is well known and have a very high profile brand, you are really best to send them a draft copy of the interview before you release anything. It’s very easy to get a few things wrong about their life, and you want to give them a chance to remove anything they don’t like. Surprisingly, I would be lucky to get more than three changes on the times that I have had to send a first draft.


***Final note – what I get out of it

I wanted to share with you the best part about interviewing other people. What I have found is that you get to learn things that you would never of known. By the end of the interview, you find that you have a bond and a permanent connection with the person.

The interview also helps you to believe that things that you thought were impossible are actually possible. Unconsciously you start to pick up new ideas and new beliefs, and it begins to change you as a person. You start to find the roadmap to success, and you now have references to back up your new beliefs.

If you would like to read the result of some of my interviews visit my Facebook Page and please Retweet this article.


Tim Denning is a former entrepreneur turned intrapreneur, working daily with fast-moving tech companies. He is passionate about what makes startups successful and is a thought leader/ game changer via the use of social media. Tim uses personal development and success as a platform for greatness. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net or through his Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Thank you Tim for paying it forward what you learned from Joel. There are some principles in it that we can all use, even if we do not want to conduct interviews. My key takeaway is that let the outreach be about them, what they could benefit from the interaction.

    What I see is that people often are held back by limiting beliefs from reaching out to influencers. They often do not see themselves as valuable and do not think they can offer something.

    What is your take on that? How can someone find out what to offer to an influencer?

    Thank you,


    • Esther always happy to pay it forward and I’m sure you will do the same. Everyone has something offer. Think to yourself all of the things that people tell you you’re good at and whether any of them might be relevant to the influencer. As well as that, think to yourself about the community around you and people that you might know in common or that could be valuable to the influencer. If all else fails, just reach out, nine times out of ten the influencer is dying to give their advice and happy to help others. You just need to believe that you have something valuable to offer everyone. Hope that helps.

      • Tim,

        Thank you so much for your answer. It makes absolute sense. You write
        “You just need to believe that you have something valuable to offer everyone.” This doesn’t happen automatically for everyone. It depends greatly on the narrative we tell us about ourselves. I help people to change that narrative so that they can finally take action. Like implement the action steps you gave us with your article.

        Keep up the good work!


  2. Thanks Lawrence. I agree that the sharing of value between two people is the best way to secure an interview with someone influential.

  3. These are truly some great tips that can help someone who is podcasting, doing a youtube show, or just recording an interview with an influential person. The key things that you mentioned that stood out to me was to first find some leverage between you and the person you want to interview. This sounds very logical and like a very good idea because cold-calling rarely works with anyone. You have to have some leverage and trust built up and using someone you both know who can introduce you is a great tactic, but can be hard if you dont have a common individual in mind. Also, providing value for both you and the interviewee is the key to this whole thing. Great post will be coming back to read often.

Leave a Reply