How to Score a Celebrity Interview: 7 Simple Strategies

Beautiful blond girl looking like a superstar posing and lots ofIt can be one of the most enjoyable assignments in journalism — interview movie stars! Or music artists, politicians, magicians, authors, dancers, mega-church pastors. Pick your favorite celebrity flavor.

But it’s often difficult to get famous people to grant you an interview. I spent 12 years pursuing CEOs of major corporations for interviews as a staff reporter, and I was a movie-industry secretary for several years, so I speak from experience on both sides of the fence here.

Here’s what I learned: To get household names to slot you an interview time, you have to be wily, creative, and unstoppable.

Ready?

Here are my tips for landing celebrity interviews:

 

1. Start small

Major celebrities want to be interviewed by people with a track record of interviewing public figures. So if you’re interested in this niche, look for ways to get started.

If you’d like to interview Lady Gaga, start interviewing local singers in your town for the local daily or alternative paper. Into politics? Talk to your small-town mayor, or cover your city council for a local rag. If you swoon over actors, interview the star of your local theater production for a start.

Every town has local celebrities — the former Olympian or TV star from the ’60s who retired there. Find them.

It’s common these days for big celebrities to do group phone interviews, where hundreds of reporters might be on the line, taking turns asking questions. Don’t turn these offers down — go, listen, learn what the big outlets ask, and see if you can get in a question. Sure, it’s not an exclusive, but it’s a start at interacting with celebs.

Build up your celebrity-interview track record, so you can show clips that confirm you’re accurate and know how to get lively quotes from busy people.

2. Work your connections

Never assume you know no one who could give you an introduction to a celebrity. The way we’re all connected online these days, it’s six degrees of Kevin Bacon out there.

Remember, you may not need a connection directly to the celeb. An introduction to one of their handlers — manager, agent, publicist — might work just as well. Start by asking if anyone knows who manages your dreamboat (or Google it and see if you can find out). Getting a warm intro to one of the team could be all you need to get your interview idea a fair hearing.

3. Appeal to their interests

Do some research and learn about your celebrity. Do they have a pet charity they love to support? Did they found a charity of their own? Are they a born-again Christian? A Scientologist? A vegan? A motorcycle nut?

Think about publications that might want an interview with your target about that aspect of their life. Celebrities give many interviews, and they like variety. They get tired of being asked the same six questions about their upcoming film, and might love to talk about their new boyfriend, their customized Harley, their backyard organic garden…anything else.

Develop a focused angle for your interview that’s off the beaten trail and interest a magazine in it, and you might get a yes. A pitch like “I want to interview Joe Famous for X magazine” leaves the celebrity nervous about what you might ask.

4. Be where they are

One thing is as certain as the rising of the sun: Celebrities make personal appearances. They turn up at movie premieres and charity events and industry conclaves on a fairly regular basis.

Greta Garbo and J.D. Salinger are dead, and so is the concept of the reclusive celebrity. They all appear sooner or later, and they all want press.

Your job is to learn where they’ll be, and show up there. Yes, you might need to wangle a ticket to an event, or even buy one. But usually, there’ll be a media question time at these celebrity sightings, and you could get a chance to pop out a question or two.

5. Persist

Top celebrities often have multiple layers of protection around them, and it’s all designed to get rid of you. A hot actor may have both a manager and an agent, as well as a publicist and a personal assistant. You watched Entourage, right?

All of these people may need to confer and concur that your interview proposal is a good idea. That can take weeks.

Allow plenty of time. Often, you’ll have to gently follow up, over and over. Never, ever be angry with the team. That will kill your chances dead.

If you aren’t hearing a yes, don’t just sit on your hands waiting. Keep developing thoughts and ideas and questions…and send them over. Try a junior member of the PR staff and see if you can pick their brain for tips. Propose different angles. See what might make the penny drop.

With some celebs, this may be a dance that takes years to complete. Just keep working at it and developing relationships with celebrity PR people.

6. Use social media

Social media has become the great workaround for reaching celebrities with an impenetrable PR wall. Many celebrities are tweeting their little hearts out. You can stalk venture capitalists on LinkedIn — I did that more than once for one of my print business books. I also got one of the biggest interviews in that book by leaving a comment on one very famous company founder’s blog.

If you think a prominent figure won’t return your tweet, I’ll just say that I got every investor on the ABC series Shark Tank to talk to me for one feature article — and I connected with most of them onHerjevec from Shark Tank answers my tweet Twitter.

One thing I’ll note about that tweet on the right: My pitch there also uses tip #3.

What investor doesn’t want to brag about how smart they are, and how their picks did great? So I didn’t just tweet them — I had a question I knew they’d love to answer.

7. Dig dirt

There is one foolproof way to get a celebrity to talk — find out something scandalous about them that nobody else knows yet.

Comb court records for lawsuits. Interview their former housekeeper. Verify nasty rumors you hear.

This approach won’t be for everybody, but it’s the tabloids’ bread-and-butter. Everybody loves an exposé. Even better, if you find your own facts, then you’ve got a story about a celebrity you can do, even if they refuse to talk. But most often, they’ll jump at the chance to spin the negative news their way.

While it’s less common, you can also break stories and get celebs on the line by finding out something good that’s not common knowledge yet, too. That baby on the way, the hot new role they’ve landed — that works, too.

Which comes first

One of the big questions I get asked about celebrity interviews is who to ask first — the publication or the celebrity. The answer is the celebrity.

You don’t ever want to tell a magazine you can deliver a celebrity interview, only to have to come back later and say really, you had no contact with that person and they’re not returning your calls. That can really blow your credibility with that editor.

What you can do is explore with a magazine editor whether they’d be interested in an interview with Jill Rockstar about X topic. You’ll almost always get a ‘yes’ — and then you can take that to the celebrity’s people to show them their star won’t be wasting their time talking to you.

I once cold-called a celebrity magazine to ask if they were interested in a chat with a film star I knew I would be on-set with soon…and they about fell over themselves with excitement. They didn’t even ask to see my clips (which were nonexistent at that point).

If you’ve got access to a celebrity, it can open a lot of doors. It’s worth starting small and building up some celeb Q&A clips to show around.

Ever interviewed a celebrity? Leave a comment and tell us how you pulled it off.

Freelance Writers Den

 

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32 comments on “How to Score a Celebrity Interview: 7 Simple Strategies
  1. Tia says:

    First of all, let me say that this article was really really helpful. I could not have hoped for a better one to help my situation, Carol. But at the same point, I have a question. I wanted to interview a local reality-show star singer for the local newspaper. So I contacted him via his email account given in a social media. To my surprise and pleasure, I was given a reply immediately afterwards. His manager had replied to talk about it over phone. Next day I called and confirmed the interview. He asked me to email me my question set and also said he would make me talk to him (the singer) if needed. I had sent my question set almost 3 weeks ago and had sent a follow up message a week ago. But, no reply. The singer has been busy doing shows all the while is what I know of now. But could he not reply? Or at least confirm? And right now I am wondering if I should send another follow up mail or not? Or what exaxtly to write this time? Or if I should mail him again at all and close the matter right here?
    I loved your article and I’d be really happy if you can help me with this matter…or anyone, actually! Thanks a lot. Take care.

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s a dark side of celebrity life that celebrities are super-busy…in a way the rest of us can’t even imagine.

      I’d definitely circle back and just remind them you’re awaiting the responses on that. It may take some persistence to get an answer.

  2. Janae' Woodson says:

    Thank you for posting. Your post is informative and provides an excellent start for a beginner such as myself. I look forward to reading more from you.

  3. Elke says:

    I haven’t interviewed a celebrity, but I did recently interview a very well-known Australian journalist. I was covering a conference at a uni – and there he was.

    I idly thought how great it would be to interview him. Once the thought entered my mind, I just had to give it a try. I approached him and he said yes!

    I immediately almost wished he had said no. He is revered for his ferocious interviewing of politicians on TV, and here was I – a mere novice – daring to interview him myself.

    I think he must have realised how I terrified I was as he simply delivered up a stunning series of statements with barely a prompt from me.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I once struck up a chat with a well-known journalist I spotted covering an event I was at…and I got a couple tips from him that I still use today in my reporting.

  4. Robyn Downey says:

    I have done a few celebrity interviews. Mostly from my own country and surrounding area. The biggest celeb I’ve interviewed is Irish singer Ronan Keating, formerly of the 1990s boy band Boyzone. I was asked by a major online news site entertainment section to do the interview, which took place personally. I asked the news site if I could try to score an interview with Keating. I felt I could approach the entertainment editor because I was an editor for the parent company of the online site and they knew I was a music enthusiast. Bingo! I was granted an interview. Myself and my photographer were granted about 10 minutes but we ended up spending about half, to three quarters of an hour with him. He was a nice young guy to talk to. I’m not a particular fan, which I guess helped with objectivity! I can’t say it opened other doors though. Where I come from, these kind of projects are not things to get you anywhere in the media world particularly. It’s more about the quality of story and the angle you get rather than the fact you have a celeb subject. But I have tried about 6 approaches, over a 20-year period,(about every 3 to 5 years) to interview or chat to another UK celebrity I won’t name, because I have always found his viewpoint and books inspiring, as well as enjoying his music. But to no avail so far. I think how a person has been treated by the media generally (which sadly has not been good in this case), also has a bearing on how the rest of us get treated. So in this kind of scenario you have to work that much harder to show we aren’t all bad. LOL. The answer has usually been ‘no interviews’ which turns out to be the case to everyone and not just me, so of course you can’t take these things personally. I’ve done everything you’ve suggested and you are right, there is no guarantee that because you’ve talked to one major person, that you are automatically going to be garanteed time with another! I am a journalist of 18 years experience or more and I’ve talked to politicians, medical specialists, leading law enforcers, leading justice representatives, civic leaders, local and national actors and entertainers but I think it is the luck of the draw to a certain extent and as someone earlier mentioned, being in right place at right time. I wish everyone well with whatever projects they have! Merry Christmas:)

    • Carol Tice says:

      You raise a good point, Robyn — some celebrities have been snakebit by the media in the past, and they’re just not gonna talk. I call them “No-talkers.”

      Unless you find their illegitimate baby, institutionalized mother, or some other major scandal they HAVE to comment on, you’re not going to get them.

  5. Hello Carol Tice,
    I know becoming a celebrity takes a bit more than this. But these points are very useful in the beginning. In the middle they can understand what is this.
    I am respecting the major stroke of luck. But in these days luck is nothing because luck is not based on god. It’s based on under current knowledge. If you have current knowledge then you have luck. I hope you can understand.
    And I was thinking about whole world celebrity. I am not focusing on blogging only. And don’t worry madam, we all are your lovers.
    Thanks from the heart for replying.
    Regards
    😛 Monu Kumar 😛

  6. Respected Carol Tice,
    I am not a celebrity. But now after reading this article I will become a popular celebrity. Truly speaking, I will work hard on these strategies.
    In this world every person wants to become popular, but they don’t know the rules of popularity and success. According to me these all are that rules.
    Here I would like to add something for those persons who want to become a celebrity.
    1. Choose a platform.
    2. Learn everything about your platform.
    3. Work hard on it.
    4. Use social sharing site.
    5. Connect with your lovers.
    6. Take some events or seminars with your lovers.
    7. All the best now you are a celebrity.
    I hope Carol Tice, these all are very useful.
    By the thanks from the heart for sharing this good information with us.
    Regards
    🙂 Monu Kumar 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for a laugh, Monu, but I think becoming a celebrity takes a bit more than this, plus usually a major stroke of luck/being in the right place at the right time. (Maybe the problem is that I’m married and don’t have any lovers!)

      But you bring up one of the problems common to bloggers — the idea that *we* should be the celebrity, rather than finding well-known people and featuring them. The latter is a more reliable way to attract attention to your blog.

  7. Anca Dumitru says:

    Ah, my most-liked topic, Carol! Thanks so much for approaching it.

    Interviewing people is my favorite thing to do. The first person I interviewed was an LA-based photojournalist who knows the sports and entertainment industries like the back of her hand. I remember how nervous I was, but she was really nice and chatty. I connected with her on Twitter (she was a friend of a celebrity I was following). After a while I dropped her an email (she was preparing the release of her first book), asked for the interview and she said yes.

    Many others followed, including the said celebrity, which I interviewed on three different occasions. I spoke with many actors I’ve seen on TV shows or movies I liked, including writers and directors. I used to occasionally use my free trials on IMDBpro to find the contact details of the actors’ agents, managers, publicists I wanted to talk to and save them for when I’d need them.

    Some actors have their own websites where apart from demo reels and photo galleries, the email addresses of their people are always listed.

    Sometimes it was easier than I thought to get to them. One of the actors I got to easily interview was Anna Silk, the lead of the Canadian supernatural TV Show Lost Girl. I’d already started to write for Digital Journal (which has a global audience but it’s based in Toronto) and wanted to give the scoop to the Canadian readers before Season 2 finale.

    I wrote to her agent. She forwarded my note to Anna who then forwarded it to the show’s publicist. The result: two days later I was in a press call with Anna and two other cast members of her show. And the day after I had my one to one phone call with Anna.

    I also loved being in a series of press calls with many other celebs, including Angie Harmon of Rizzoli & Isles. It’s good practice for both listening in and asking questions.

    The only actor I was still unable to interview is Jennifer Beals (Flashdance, The L Word), but I’m not giving up hope. I had the chance though to be in a press call with her and Troian Bellisario (Pretty Little Liars) when they were both starring in Lauren, a production of WIGS YouTube channel. I got on the list of WIGS’ PR agency after reviewing some WIGS shows, and their people reached out to me many times after to interview talent and crew.

    Re: writing the interviews, I like the Q&A format, but I noticed the narratives I write based on the interviews (especially for press calls) are better received.

    All in all, over the past years I developed a good network, from agents and publicists to members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. So, by now I know who should I get in touch with and how to approach people depending on who I’d like to talk to.

    Some of my interviews can be accessed here: http://www.ancadumitru.com/portfolio/#interviews

    • Carol Tice says:

      Anca, thanks for sharing all these break-in tips!

      Your story with Anna shows one of the great angles for getting the celeb to say yes — you want to tell a story THEY also want told/leaked out.

  8. Mel says:

    Good tips! I’ve interviewed hundreds of celebrities in person, over the phone and via email in the past few years. It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to get comfortable talking to anyone.

    My bff/biz partner and I wrote a series of posts detailing how to land and execute celebrity interviews for a blog that we’ve sorely neglected of late (buildabetterfansite.com). One of my plans to resurrect said blog is to update that series of posts and turn it into an ebook.

  9. Michelle says:

    Carol I swear it’s like ever since I found this site, you’ve been writing so many articles that are specifically geared toward me. LOL. After purchasing 9 of the e-books you put on sale for $0.99 a couple weeks ago, I’ve read nearly all of them and once I finish those, I’m going to start on the Freelance Business Bootcamp course.

    Getting a celebrity interview isn’t hard for me, but I’ve been working on polishing my pitching/queries (hence all the studying) as that’s something I haven’t had to do before. The more I learn, the more questions I have and this post answered a big one: Which comes first.

    I’ve been given the opportunity to attend a big media event in January, which will also give me the opportunity to chat with some celebrities. I didn’t know how to pitch without the interview, but now I feel more confident. The only trouble is that I may not know who I will be speaking with until it actually happens (some of these interviews are literally done at parties so you grab whoever you see available). But I think I can work that part out as well.

    Thanks again for another extremely helpful post!

    PS: I just remembered you wanted us to answer how we pulled off getting celebrity interviews and I thought my answer might be helpful to others so here goes.

    I started out wanted to write about TV so I started a blog where I reviewed TV shows. From there I was able to get gigs writing for online TV magazines. All of these places are wary of putting just anyone on an interview, so they try you out with easy stuff first. My first interviews were group interviews like you discussed above, with dozens of press on a phone call with one celebrity. After that, I was offered some one-on-one phone interviews and eventually I proved myself and was asked to do in-person interviews at red carpets and events.

    In the beginning, none of these interviews were offered to me but to my editors, who would pass them out to their writers. Now that I’ve been doing this awhile, I am starting to get interviews sent direction to me. Once I proved that I was a professional (meaning I didn’t act like a fangirl and ask for pictures or autographs during interviews) and that I do publish the interviews I get (you’d be surprised how many people don’t), I started to get more offers.

    I hope that helps!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yes, I’m using my special mind-reading powers mwahahaha…actually no. 😉 It’s just that you’re not the only one who has these questions.

      Thanks for sharing how you broke in — and I really should have talked about the fangirl issue. There ARE concerns that people could pose as interviewers but turn out to be inappropriate or stalkerish, or people who just want to lay a copy of their latest screenplay on the actor. So you do have to prove you know how to behave.

  10. Williesha says:

    I used to interview celebrities regularly when I worked at the paper. Most notably a lot of comedians who came to town Chris Tucker, Larry the Cable Guy, Caroline Rhea, Carrot Top, Charlie Murphy, Ray Stevens. And a lot of musicians – Hilary Duff, Ryan Dusick, formerly of Maroon 5, Here’s a list -http://williesha.webs.com/fullcelebpage. Gettin a yes was easy but finding then wasn’t, but I worked backward. Because they were appearing somewhere I generally had a good “in” – the event promoter who’d get in touch with the celebrity’s agent. There was one time I just Googled the name and kept looking at page after page until I saw the info, but it was behind a membership wall. So I tried clicking on the cache to see if it would work and it did! That was to find Jean Paul Gautier the fashion designer who wasn’t appearing himself but his clothing was. Fun times!
    Williesha recently posted…12 (More) Blogging Lessons After Year Two (Part 2!)My Profile

    • Williesha says:

      I know you say there’s no judgment with errors, but I apologize. I was typing this from my phone at first! 🙂

      Getting the yes was easy because I worked for a major newspaper. Getting the scheduling however, was a pain. For example, I had to interview Hilary Duff in a hotel business office because she was only available at a time when I was in DC. Carrot Top called me from his car LOL. He was really nice.

      Sometimes I only had like 2 minutes because they were literally appearing at that moment (Chris Tucker) or had to just email them if they weren’t available (yes, email interviews suck, but they were few and far between.)

      • Carol Tice says:

        Yeah, I’ve had all that. I think when I interviewed Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts, for my How They Started book, he was at his kids’ soccer game the whole time!

    • Williesha says:

      Yikes, I really messed up in that first comment, LOL.

      Here’s a list of all the celebrities I interviewed while I was working at the newspaper. http://williesha.webs.com/fullcelebpage.htm

      • Carol Tice says:

        What a great idea, to compile a page of all your celeb interviews, Willi! Great way to attract/impress celebrity PR people.

        • Willi Morris says:

          I never thought about using it to impress people – I just have a really bad memory. Hahaha, I don’t remember half of those interviews, and I no longer have access to the interviews, unless I dig in the physical morgue.

          I will totally do that! Thanks, Carol! And no, problem, Michelle.

      • Michelle says:

        I’m going to comment more below but just wanted to say a quick thanks to you, Williesha for posting this link to your celebrity interview page. At this point I’ve interviewed easily over 100 celebrities and it never occurred to list out all their names (or at least the top ones). I am totally going to be stealing this idea. 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      Great story Willi, which shows how you need to use your sleuthing skills sometimes to land those celebs. But it’s worth it!

  11. Cheryl Rhodes says:

    I’m on the media list of a PR firm and I do have an in with their media relations coordinator. Last summer they sent out a bulletin asking writers who wanted interviews with musical acts at the PNE – a 2 week fair in Vancouver – to put their request in along with the publication they’d be writing for. For the most part these would be well known performers, maybe most or their hits are from another decade. Would this be one of those situations to ask the editor ahead of time? When the PR firm sent out the email this past August, it was within 2 weeks of when the first celebrity was available to interview. That would be cutting it close for an editor to give the OK, which is needed before getting on the PR list to speak with the performer.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Cheryl, anytime you get offered a celebrity opportunity, you want to hop on the phone to editors right away! Let them know you have this access, who do they want you to talk to?

      You’ll be surprised how magazines’ usual timelines get bent when there’s a celebrity they’d like to shoehorn into an upcoming issue.

  12. Rob S says:

    I interviewed Mark Richards, who held the most world surfing titles until Kelly Slater beat him the year I interviewed him. May not be a big deal if you’re not a surfer, but it was a big deal to me. I got the gig straight after I got my first freelance assignment for a surfing magazine. The guy I interviewed, who was a friend, suggested I interview MR next. When he saw the look on my face, he laughed and said, “Don’t worry. He’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.” He was, too. Later, when I took my son to meet him, he said, “Isn’t it cool to have a Dad who writes for Tracks.” When we left, I said, “It’d be cooler to have a Dad who was 4 times world champion.”
    Rob S recently posted…Overcoming Fear Part Three: The Anatomy of FearMy Profile

  13. Amel says:

    As you mentioned near the end of your post, a coveted interview can be a newbie writer’s ticket to publication. When I was the managing editor of a small local family magazine, we regularly cleaned up and published Q&A-style interviews with interesting people whose insights and opinions our readers wanted to know more about. The quality of writing did not necessarily matter as much as the transcript of the interview itself. If necessary, we (the editorial staff) would write our own introduction to an interview and then pare down the Q&A to present the points of most interest to our readers. Of course, we preferred writers who could do this on their own, but we dealt with it regardless.
    Amel recently posted…155+ Markets that Pay Freelance Writers 10 to 15 Cents per WordMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Good point — many 1-person interview stories *are* in Q&A format, which is one of the easiest ways to write a piece. You’re basically just cleaning up your questions and what they said, and writing a little intro. They’re a great newbie article type to do — hard to screw it up.

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