The following piece is co-authored with John Corcoran, who is an attorney, business advisor, and creator of SmartBusinessRevolution.com. A former writer in the Clinton White House, he works with small businesses and entrepreneurs primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Everybody knows informational interviews are important. But getting a busy person to give up an hour with you is another matter.
But there’s a modern solution: instead of meeting someone for an informational interview over coffee, try meeting them over Skype, recording it, and publishing the session on a podcast. Podcast interviews are thus effectively becoming modern-day informational interviews — and you don’t even have to pay for the drink.
“Interviews are the best way to meet people who you care about and who you want to meet. It’s good for both for the guest and the audience,” says Andrew Warner, creator of the interview show Mixergy.
Cliff Ravenscraft, a podcasting coach and consultant who has done over 3,000 podcast episodes, says podcast interviews give people a much greater chance of making a real connection with someone they admire.“These people may not give you the time of day if you just called them up and said ‘Can we chat for 30 minutes?’” says Ravenscraft. “But they’ll easily give you an hour of your time if you have a platform where you can help them gain exposure to their brand and their message.”
The change is one of degree, not direction. Most the traditions of the age-old, time-tested informational interview remain. The change is simply that the conversation is being recorded and broadcast later. And that makes all the difference.
At the same time, podcasting is booming. According to Edison Research, more than 90 million Americans have listened to a podcast, and 1 in 6 report having listened to a podcast in the last month. The rapid proliferation of smartphones has spread podcasting further.
The interview-as-podcast strategy is good for many reasons. Here are three benefits to recording and publishing podcast interviews:
Your Listeners Get Good Content. No one will listen if your content is bad, so focus on asking relevant questions that will be interesting and informative for your audience. And take a few steps to ensure the quality of the listening experience; getting a professional intro and outro and investing in a good microphone will help make sure your audience keeps tuning in.
You Gain Knowledge and a Connection. Use the time with your guest to learn as much as you can. Equally as significantly, you get to form a personal bond with your interview subject. Warner credits one interview with giving him the knowledge he needed to turn his company from a time drain to more of a lifestyle business. Having recently read Derek Sivers’ book, Anything You Want, about how he built and systematized his company CD Baby, Warner invited Sivers for an interview. “It was basically just me firing my objections to systematization at him and he just calmly answered.” With the help of other interviewees Noah Kagan and Jason Calacanis, Warner created a company manual and freed up much of his time to focus on interviews. “Now I’m in Lake Tahoe this week hardly working but the company keeps going,” he says.
Your Interviewee Benefits From Exposure to Your Audience. The person whom you’re interviewing will also benefit from having their message, product or services introduced to a new audience, says Ravenscraft. “You’re giving them access to your community which you’ve been building.”
One common initial problem is how to get an interview if you don’t already have a podcast with hundreds or thousands of subscribers. No problem, says Ravenscraft. “Start out with C-level interviews,” he says. Get your feet wet with a couple of interviews with people who you feel comfortable talking to. “Then move quickly into someone in the B level.”
Before long, you will find yourself interviewing big names. John started his podcast in September 2012, and with just 30 interviews in the can, he has interviewed tech guru Guy Kawasaki, bestselling author Dan Pink, and Help A Reporter Out founder Peter Shankman. Once you have experience under your belt, you should be able to move quickly up the ladder.
Unexpected Benefits of Podcasting Interviews
There may be additional benefits of creating podcast interviews. As long as a podcast is available online, it will reinforce your personal brand to a worldwide audience, much like a blog post or YouTube video.
Podcasting also lets your own professional development do double duty as marketing. You’re improving your know-how and skills, but the time will benefit you later as a potential magnet for new clients, customers, or even employers. (Even our collaboration on this article was thanks to a podcast interview; John interviewed Dorie when Reinventing You was published earlier this year.) The key difference, says Warner, is being able to talk through ideas with knowledgeable guests. “In the old days [before the interview show], I would just think these things through in my head,” he says. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to about these ideas.”
Ravenscraft is a prime example of the difference one interview can make. He told his podcast listeners one day that his dream was to interview Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, a book which had inspired Ravenscraft to quit his insurance industry job and support himself with podcasting full-time. Before he read the book, “I thought you always had to hate what you do to make money,” joked Ravenscraft.
“I’m thinking this guy’s an untouchable. He’s an extremely successful guy. He’s not going to take a minute out of his day to talk with me.” It turned out one of Ravenscraft’s listeners was a close friend of Miller. Within a week, Ravenscraft was interviewing Miller for his podcast.
After the interview, Miller hired Ravenscraft for podcast coaching to improve Miller’s own podcast and began recommending Ravenscraft to others. “I tripled my income within 12 months of meeting Dan Miller,” says Ravenscraft. “He’s since connected me to other people that I’ve had the opportunity to interview and work with. All of that just because of the one interview.”
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on May 11, 2013.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.