You’ve identified someone you think you’d like to invite to participate in your video or podcast, but you don’t know them or how to approach them. What should you do?
First, if you’re nervous about approaching an esteemed expert in the field or someone with a sensitive story to tell, know that most people a) love talking about their area of expertise and want to tell their story (especially if it doesn’t often get heard) and b) are flattered to be asked.
If you’re not comfortable contacting the person directly, is there someone who you both know who could set up an introductory email connection for you?
Send the person an email. It’s more professional than a text, and it doesn’t put the person on the spot the way a phone call does. You can talk on the phone or meet via video chat once you’ve established an initial connection.
Keep your inquiry short and to the point. (See example below.) You don’t want to overwhelm a likely busy person with too much information before you talk with them; this can feel overwhelming and intrusive and make them less inclined to connect with you.
Dear Ms. _____,
I work at the Mars Humane Society. We are putting together a video about the feline adoption process on Earth for our staff and the general Martian public. (I’ve attached a document that will give you some background on the project.)
I know you have done a lot of work in this area, and I was wondering if we could set up a time to talk so I can hear firsthand what goes into the process. Do you have any availability for a phone call or Zoom meeting in the next two weeks or so?
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
All the best,
Your name here
Title, contact info, etc.`
Send background materials about the project if you have them so they can get a better understanding of what you’re doing to determine their interest. Again, don’t send everything related to the project, just some basic information that gives them a broad overview of what you’re doing.
NOTE: However, when you do talk to them, don’t assume they’ve looked at the materials you sent! Always give an “elevator pitch” on that first call that introduces the person to the basics of your project. This is just a short description of your project; it doesn’t have to be anything formal or fancy — imagine that you’re describing your project to a friend at a party and you’re excited to share what you’re up to with them. Even if the person you’re calling has looked at your materials this will be a good refresher for them, get them excited to talk with you about your project, and will help focus your conversation in the right places. (Tip: Some people feel more confident practicing their elevator pitch on friends or family members before trying it out on a relative stranger. Feel free to do this if that feels right to you, but rest assured that you’ll naturally get significantly better at it after a few phone calls!)
We recommend structuring your first call with the person as a research or pre-interview call.
This way, if you find out when you talk to them that they’re not a great fit for your project after all, you can simply thank them for their time and helpful input and move on. If they are a good fit, then you can ask them if they’d be interested in appearing in your video and move forward with your planning and scheduling from there.
And that’s all there is to it! Remember, people are usually more than happy to talk about their areas of interest or their life experiences. Nine times out of ten, they’ll want to talk with you. And if they don’t, you can use these tips to move on to find someone who will!