Contacting Influencers: A Case Study – Episode 1
When I was preparing…
to launch this webiste, it was a busy time. I was writing detailed blog posts, taking photographs, creating graphics, and creating lessons for my Podcast Mastery Course.
It was a busy time. But I was loving it. I still am.
During that period, one of the articles I was hoping to showcase for my site launch was an Expert Roundup — a series of quotes from podcasting thought leaders.
There were a handful of guys (all men at the time) who are active and fairly well-known in the world of podcasting education.
I won’t name them here. If you choose the right keywords, they’ll all show up on the front page of your first Google search.
I picked four of the experts I’d been following for a while and wrote each of them (i.e. individually addressed and named) what I felt was a respectful and articulate email.
Can I Ask A Favor?
Here’s the content of that mail:
I admit, I’m biased. But I honestly feel this was a well-written note acknowledging the fact I’m new and don’t have a lot to offer the recipient in return for their participation.
My rationale was, “As long as I present a professional image through my website and my email, they should have no problem agreeing.”
Note: At the time I wrote this email, my website had the following pages: Home, Start Here, Ask DP and Resources. It also had three fairly detail blog posts — one of them with an embedded video.
A few hours later, I received a response from one of these gentlemen. Here’s his email:
It was a fair question. Without prior knowledge or contact, I could be competition for this guy’s business.
Here’s my response:
Again, I felt this response was articulate and clearly communicated the fact that even if we are (or will be) in competition on a product or service basis, we’re likely not going to appeal to the same type of customer. (Trust me on this last point — this guy and I have totally different vibes.)
That wasn’t lip service. I honestly believe it be true.
Who Are You?
A little while later, I received this reply:
Now, I’m not sure I’d call a missing “About” page on a work-in-progress website painful but his point was valid.
Note: It sounds convenient, I know — but I was working on my About page that very day. Really. I mean it.
I replied as follows:
Short. To the point. I acknowledged the page was missing and let him know it was on its way.
A little over an hour later, I received the following:
And there it is… the point (I think) he’d been trying to make for a couple of hours.
But his criticism was valid. And I acknowledged that fact in my response:
I’ve hit on a couple of additional truths here.
Online reputations and relationships are very rarely one-sided.
Links, references, quotes, interviews, photographs, etc., etc., etc. — as long as others are using these in a flattering way AND have asked permission AND have proven themselves to be respectful and thoughtful AND have a professional-looking website with solid content (even if it’s a work-in-progress) — these are always good things.
And not just from a professional perspective. They’re also really valuable when it comes to SEO (i.e. Search Engine Optimization). Legitimate links to your website from pretty much anywhere are signs to Google that your content is valuable. And it pushes you upward in the search rankings.
But I do acknowledge that — as a newbie to the niche — experts, industry leaders and/or minor celebrities put more at risk by associating themselves with a newbie than the newbie does.
Leaders have spent years building their reputations. I’m at the very early stages of building mine
A little more than 10 minutes later, I received this response:
I continued to work on my About page. I even went so far as to scan and touch up a kindergarten photo and clean up the website where I showcase my recent film work PowerOutletProductions.com.
The result is pretty much what you see right now at: My About Page
When the page was in a condition I considered fit-for-consumption, I sent the following note back to the distinguished gentleman:
I never heard back from him.
Attack is a strong word but…
The next day, my friend pushed an episode of his weekly (I think) podcast out to the world in which he said the following:
… The other thing of course that’s going to be coming out is more and more people teaching people how to podcast.
Those people I lovingly refer to as… uhm… competition.
I mean, I think there’s like a new course coming out like on the hour at this point.
And, I would say this… uhm… like somebody came out with one and they had no About page. There was no, like… who am I learning from?
And what was interesting was they asked me to like… can you give me a quote? To kind of like… It was weird. I’m not sure how I feel about that because: a) you’re kind of my competition. And they kind of said “Oh, no… I’m going after a completely different audience. I’m going after people who want to podcast.”
And I’m like… “Okay.”
So, look at the About page. Uh, make sure they have a podcast. That sounds kind of weird.
I mean I wouldn’t hire like… Let’s say I own a horse. I don’t know that I’d hire a jockey who’d never ridden a horse.
That’s just me. But anyway…
You can argue with his analogy but his principals are fair. I’ve acknowledged those principals in my emails with him. I won’t repeat them here.
The point of this article is not to paint this gentleman as wrong and myself as right. Not only do I not view this as a black-and-white / right-or-wrong issue, but I’d risk pissing the guy off — and maybe even pissing off other industry leaders who are often (I’m sure) approached by newbies like me for favors. Don’t piss off the big dogs!
I acknowledge the fact that Nameless Guy could just as easily publish this exact series of emails on his site and take the opposite side of the argument: “Here’s how not to approach someone for a favor.”
I wanted to share this experience as neutrally as possible because it’s something almost all podcasters and online business owners will have to deal with at some point in time — being asked for help by someone they’ve never met.
So here are the lessons I’ve taken away from this experience:
- Have your About page ready to go before asking anyone for a favor! It’s a big part of your introduction. Include a link to the page in your mail.
- Be truly and honestly familiar with someone’s work before approaching them for help. Visit their website. Read their about page. Listen to their podcast. Subscribe to their newsletter.
- Consider what you can offer the person you’re writing. They’re a lot more likely to agree to help if there’s tangible benefit in it for them. That’s not greed — it’s human nature.
- Before asking for an industry leader for a favor: Follow them on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, Subscribe to their YouTube channel… You get the picture — truly be a follower and fan before asking for help. (PS: I did this. I don’t think it made a difference. But I still recommend it. Personally, I’d think twice before helping someone who wasn’t a fan of my work.)
- Don’t be offended if someone you write doesn’t respond — they’re likely being asked for favors a dozen times a day.
- Be professional and open-minded in all communications. With everyone. You never know when your emails are going to end up being showcased in someone’s blog post. (PS: If you decide to showcase someone’s email, always, always, always protect the identity of the sender.)
- If you want to teach people to podcast, learn to ride a horse.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you see any obvious problems with my approach?
Have you ever contacted a celebrity or thought leader to ask for help? How did you approach it? Were you successful?
Let me know in the comments secton below.
On the same day I had this well-documented exchange with the gentleman (who shall remain nameless), I wrote three other podcasting experts. One of the three wrote me back. I’ll document that in Case Study – Episode 2. I never heard from the other two.
So on that level, I respect the guy who did write. He engaged me, asked reasonable questions and made valid criticisms. His notes made me think about what I’ll change the next time I reach out to experts in the podcasting (or any) niche. I’ll ensure they have more information about me before I ask them to do me a favor.