The Simple Favor That Wins You Powerful Friends Online

The Simple Favor That Wins You Powerful Friends Online

Ah, love.

It’s such an elusive thing.

You want more of it, and yet it’s so hard to find.

We all want those droplets of love that come in the form of more readers, social shares, comments, and emails. As bloggers, we can’t get enough.

But one type of love trumps the rest. It’s the love you can only dream about.

The love of an A-List Blogger.

You’ll have heard the stories…

One minute a blogger is chugging along, churning out great content day after day, but with little to show for it.

Then, suddenly, they catch the eye of a big-name blogger. An “A-Lister.”

And now they’re in the spotlight. They’re getting more traffic, more subscribers, more revenue. Everything is straight through the roof.

So how do you do it? How do you catch the eye of a big-name A-List blogger? How do you become the next hot new thing?

Read on.

Why You Haven’t Caught the Eye of an A-List Blogger — Yet

First, let’s have some tough love.

One simple reason likely explains why you haven’t caught the attention of an A-List blogger yet.

And it’s not because you’re “new.” It’s not because you don’t update your blog five days per week. It’s not because you don’t have a lot of traffic. It’s none of those things.

It’s because you aren’t even on A-listers’ radar screens.

Quite simply, you haven’t done anything that would cause them to notice you.

You’re swimming in a sea of black and white while wearing a tuxedo.

You need to do something different. You need to break out. You need to get their attention.

But to do that, you’ll need a shift in mindset.

The Totally Wrong Place to Focus If You Want to Get Noticed

Nearly every blogger makes this mistake when they start a blog — they’re too focused on themselves.

It’s not that they only care about themselves. It’s just they figure that nobody else will focus on their goals, so they better do it themselves.

As a result, all they think about is how they can get ahead, build more traffic, get more subscribers, and retire to a beach in Mexico.

But if you want to catch the attention of an A-List blogger — the kind of blogger who has a fire hose of traffic they could aim in your direction — you need to start thinking about them instead.

In fact, you need to think about how you can help them.

It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

You’re the one who needs help the most, and yet I’m saying you should go out and help these big-name bloggers? Why would an A-Lister need your help? What could you even do for them?

To understand that, let’s look at what typically happens.

Successful bloggers get hit up with requests for favors from aspiring bloggers they don’t know all the time.

Imagine if you had dozens or even hundreds of people each day asking you for a favor without ever having done anything to deserve it.

I’m far from an A-list blogger, but I am shocked at how frequently I get asked for a favor by someone I don’t know.

Just recently, I received an email from a subscriber who was very upset I didn’t respond to his request that I introduce him to Steven Spielberg and Matt Damon. (I am not making this up.)

I don’t have a close personal relationship with either of them, and I have no idea why he thought I did. Him getting upset is like me getting pissed at Jon Morrow because he refused to introduce me to Justin Bieber. (Damn you, Morrow!)

And even if I did have a close relationship with Spielberg and Damon, why would I do this sizeable favor for a total stranger?

You wouldn’t walk up to a random person on the street and ask them to help you move a heavy couch up six flights of stairs, would you? And yet people will approach an A-List blogger and immediately ask for a favor.

That’s utterly the wrong approach. You need to help them first.

Zig Ziglar famously said, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.”

But how do you actually put that approach into action?

The Big Favor You Can Do For A-List Bloggers That Helps You Too

Want to know the secret to getting on the radar screens of A-List bloggers?

Start doing interviews.

Interviewing is an amazing strategy for building relationships with successful bloggers who you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

But how is doing an interview with a blogger helping them out?

Here’s how: when you interview a successful blogger and publish it somewhere — be it on a podcast, or on your blog, or in a guest blog post — you are giving them something. You are giving, not taking.

Namely, you are giving the A-List blogger publicity and exposure. You are helping their business. That’s why it’s actually far easier to get an A-List blogger to agree to an interview than you would think.

Every successful blogger wants more new readers and followers, especially when they have something to promote, like a new launch or a new product. Interviews can provide that.

The Mistake That Makes A-Listers Run the Other Way

However, you have to understand one important distinction. We’re not talking about a purely informational interview, the kind a lot of career experts will suggest doing with someone you admire.

For example, imagine if I had called up Pat FlynnMarie Forleo, or Danny Iny in the past year and said, “Hey, I’m going to be in your neck of the woods tomorrow. Want to meet me at a Starbucks for coffee for 45 minutes so I can pick your brain?”

They would each probably say, “Get outta here, weirdo.”

(They’re all much too nice to actually say that, but you get the idea.)

Because an informational interview is asking someone who is busy to take time out of their day to do you a favor with no benefit whatsoever to them. Blech.

By comparison, a recorded interview — for the specific purpose of publishing the content on a blog, newsletter, or podcast — is doing that person a favor. You’re helping them get exposure for their ideas.

It’s a subtle shift, but it makes a huge difference.

In the case of Pat, Marie, and Danny, because I asked each of them to meet me on Skype for 40 minutes, and because I recorded it and said I would later publish it to the Interwebs where it would live forever, they each gave me their time.

Why the Size of Your Audience Doesn’t Matter as Much as You Think

Now, you’re probably thinking, “How can I get A-List bloggers to do an interview with me if I don’t have a huge audience?”

But actually, you don’t need a huge audience. You’d be surprised how many big-name bloggers will say yes to an interview without asking about traffic numbers or download stats. I’ve never been asked about my traffic numbers and only rarely been asked about my download stats. It’s flattering to be asked to do an interview.

Sure, you won’t get everyone to say yes. But you can work your way up and establish credibility and social proof as you build up a track record, interview by interview.

So let’s look at a four-part formula for doing exactly that.

Phase 1: Establish Your Foundation

The first decision to make in Phase 1 is how you will use your interviews. Sometimes it makes sense to have a single destination for all your interviews. Other times you’ll want to mix things up a little.

I generally prefer to publish my interviews to my podcast, but it’s not essential to have a podcast to benefit from this strategy.

The following are additional ways you could use an interview:

  • You could quote from the interview in an article you write for another site.
  • You could quote from the interview in an article on your own site.
  • You could incorporate it in an e-book that you sell on Amazon.
  • You could transcribe the interview and post it to your site or email it to everyone on your list.

You could also do a combination of all of these things. I’ve done them all, and I discovered that publishing to my podcast was the quickest and the easiest method, allowing me to get more interviews done in less time and allowing me to build more relationships.

The point is to pick whatever works for you, and make sure any technical barriers don’t get in your way.

For example, if you decide to use a podcast for your interviews, you will need to get comfortable with podcasting. Like any new skill, it takes awhile to become proficient with the technology, software, systems, and procedures.

Pat Flynn has an amazing tutorial on how to get your podcast set up for the first time that should help.

Your goal here is to work out the kinks with lower-profile interviewees — maybe just friends and family right at the start — before reaching out to A-List guests. If you forget to hit the “Record” button one time, make sure it doesn’t happen when you’re interviewing an A-Lister!

Once you have a few interviews under your belt, you won’t are less likely to make these kinds of mistakes, and you’ll also be a more polished interviewer.

Phase 2: Build Your Credibility and Experience

Now that you have your foundation in place, you need to take some time to build your credibility in your niche. You can do this by getting consistently bigger and bigger “names” to interview.

Once you get a few well-known bloggers to do an interview with you, you can get other A-Listers more easily. Your credibility and reputation will grow.

When I first started, I posted a note on Help a Reporter Out that I was looking for people to interview for my new podcast, and I got flooded with emails from qualified candidates who were interested. You will be surprised how many people are itching to be a guest on a podcast.

I also invited friends and other bloggers who didn’t have huge audiences yet to come on my podcast. They got experience being an interviewee, and I got experience honing my interviewing chops. You could also ask around in communities you belong to, such as Jon’s Serious Bloggers Only.

Today, Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy, has interviewed hundreds of successful entrepreneurs. But when he was starting out, no one knew who he was.

Warner says before you contact the big shots in your industry for an interview, you should start small. “Start out with someone who trusts you,” says Andrew. “Start out with someone who wants you to succeed.”

Andrew did this by making his friends and former work colleagues his first interviewees. By interviewing friends and former colleagues first, Warner gained experience and created sample interviews to show future interviewees.

Will you do everything right immediately? Of course not. You will stumble over your words, your questions will ramble, and you will have technical glitches. But the point is to get experience, and only with experience will you be able to improve.

Phase 3: Start Approaching Big Names

Here comes the fun part. You’ve gotten comfortable with the technology, software, systems, and procedures of conducting interviews. You’ve built up your own credibility and experience by getting some low-stakes interviews under your belt.

Now it’s time to start approaching the A-List bloggers you’ve admired from afar for so long.

It’s so exciting, isn’t it? I get all tingly on my insides.

The thing to remember here is that you’re probably still not on the bloggers’ radars. The first two phases have been all about making sure you’re prepared and look credible when the time comes.

At the same time, you should be slowly building connections with the A-List bloggers you want to interview so that they become more aware of who you are, and when it does come time for you to reach out for an interview, it’s not your first contact.

The following five elements will help you approach A-List bloggers with ease.

1) Grease the Wheels

The first step before approaching an A-List blogger is to “grease the wheels” — meaning, you need to take steps that will help them begin to know you long before you reach out with an interview request.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Leave insightful comments on their blog.
  • Share their content and connect on social media.
  • Purchase one of their products (preferably one that involves direct contact.)
  • Join the blogger’s affiliate program, and promote their products and services.
  • Write a blog post or a guest blog post in which you mention them (here’s me mentioning Jon on The Sparkline).
  • Record a two-minute video of yourself giving a testimonial about one of the blogger’s products.

For example, awhile back I co-authored an article in Forbes withStand Out author Dorie Clark in which I interviewed Andrew Warner, the Mixergy founder.

He mentioned AppSumo and Sumome co-founder and OKDork blogger Noah Kagan in his interview — a successful entrepreneur and A-List blogger who I had long admired — and I included that quote in the article.

Afterwards, I used this interview to “grease the wheels” with Noah:


Consider how many favors you’re giving out here:

  • Dorie is grateful because I wrote good content she could post to her column.
  • Andrew is grateful he was quoted in Forbes.
  • Noah is grateful he was mentioned in Forbes.

It’s a win all around. See how much better that is than asking someone to come do an informational interview?

And it worked out: a few months later, I had Noah on episode #50 of my podcast.

2) Keep it Brief

Over 100 years ago, Call of the Wild author Jack London wrote, “Just a tip of advice. Never write on both sides of the sheet when you are sending a letter to a busy man.”

Unfortunately, today we are not even limited by the amount of space on a sheet of paper. We can send emails that are 5,000 words long, and we don’t even have to pay for the cost of extra paper or postage.

As a result, people do not hesitate to send run-on, extraordinarily long emails to A-List bloggers who have neither the time nor the inclination to read them. One of three things usually happens:

  1. The blogger opens the email, reads it quickly, and decides to respond later when they have time to write an equally long response. But they just forget to come back to it.
  2. The blogger opens the email, sees how long it is, and closes it immediately with the intention of coming back to it, but they never actually do.
  3. The blogger opens the email, sees how long it is, calmly closes his email program, and then throws his computer out the window. (Or that least that’s what he feels like doing.)

In any case, you get the same result: no response.

That’s why you should take a different approach: be brief in your initial email to a busy A-List blogger. It is your best chance of getting a response, and you can always communicate later any relevant details you left out.

Here’s an example of a great brief email:


Be sure to include hyperlinks in your emails so that if your recipient does want to know more, they can simply click on the link.

3) Clearly Articulate the Benefit

Another area where people tend to screw up when sending emails to A-List bloggers is they fail to explain any benefits to the A-List blogger.

Keep in mind that probably every A-List blogger you look up to receives hundreds of emails each day. They are drowning in requests, demands, questions, and opportunities. So to stand out, you really need to use power words and clearly explain how you intend to benefit them.

Most people care primarily about their own success, and A-List bloggers are no exception.

So what are some benefits you could offer an A-List blogger?

Just look again at the email above where I recommended some possible podcast guests to Andrew Warner from Mixergy.

High-quality guests are the lifeblood of any interview-based podcast, and finding them is challenging, so my suggestion was actually helping Andrew out — the benefit of getting an excellent guest is clear. I also made it super easy for him to decide if they were right for Mixergy — I did most of the research for him. Another benefit — less research.

Additionally, my email was likely a refreshing change from the many emails Andrew must receive from people suggesting themselves as interviewees. Proposing someone else immediately builds trust.

So you can offer to make an introduction, or you could refer a potential consulting client, or create a testimonial for one of their products.

Or you can casually let them know that you already did them a favor. Maybe you wrote a glowing review in iTunes or in Or maybe you positively reviewed their product on your own blog from your perspective as a happy customer.

Don’t worry that you will be perceived as manipulative or opportunistic by doing one of these things for a successful blogger. As long as you are being sincere and reaching out to people who you genuinely admire, I think nothing’s wrong with providing value to the successful bloggers you look up to.

4) Make It Fun

Imagine getting the opportunity to meet your all-time hero in person. Do you think you’d be relaxed and confident? Or nervous and tongue-tied? It would be the latter, right?

It’s the same with A-List bloggers. The emails they receive are probably more uptight than a sailor on a submarine who has been at sea for six months.

Why? Because people get nervous when reaching out to someone who is successful, and they tend to clam up. They try to be too serious and professional. They drop any humor or personality.

And that’s usually a mistake. When you share your sense of humor, you send a message — hey, this might be kinda fun.

So make your emails fun and give them a sense of humor, without overdoing it.

Here’s a great example. Melissa Sconyers got my attention when she sent me an email a few weeks back titled “Killer tacos in SF.” Here it is:

killer tacos

I love Mexican food, and so we ended up emailing back and forth about great Mexican food in San Francisco, my hometown. It’s not every day I get asked about where to find killer tacos.

By the way, did you notice she has a business placing executive assistants with CEOs? I ended up asking her about that business and I referred her to a few other CEOs I know. Yet if she had used a subject line of “Placement Firm in San Francisco,” I probably would not have even responded.

By leading with a tongue-in-cheek subject line, she got me into a conversation, built up trust, and created greater opportunities for her business.

5) Find Commonalities

Finally, try to find commonalities between you and the A-Lister.

Maybe you are both fans of the Miami Dolphins. Maybe you both once worked at Starbucks. Or maybe you are both originally from the same part of Michigan.

With social media, finding out these types of details today is far easier than it was just six or seven years ago. Spend 15 minutes digging through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram and you can probably find a number of things you have in common.

Or Google! Have you heard of this thing called Google? It’s friggin’ AMAZING what you can find out.

Then find casual ways to mention the commonalities in your outreach emails. References like this not only help build a bond, but they also show that you’ve done your research. Most bloggers will be flattered that you took the time to find out more about them.

Whatever your common connection, use it. If the A-Lister finds out you are from the same small town or you have a shared obsession over the latest Kristen Stewart dating rumors (don’t judge), they are more likely to feel warmly toward you when you do approach them for an interview.

6) Ask for the Interview

Once you’ve established rapport with your A-Lister, it’s time to reach out and ask for the interview.

Many of the earlier tips about outreach still apply, but it also helps to be laser focused and be clear what you’d like to talk about. Avoid generic “tell me about your career” types of interviews that can be boring from an interviewee’s perspective.

For example, I like saying explicitly that my interview will only take “five to seven minutes,” and I like asking about a topic my interviewee is not often asked about but are passionate about.

For example, here’s the email I sent to founder and blogger Noah Kagan:


Note how I included the likeable detail about tacos in the PS (Noah loves tacos — something I learned from his blog.)

Phase 4: Deepen Your Relationships with A-Listers

The fourth and final step is the most critical.

Because the interview is really just an excuse for you two to get to know each other — it’s what you do after the interview that matters.

Now that you’ve gotten in the door and built the beginnings of a relationship with the A-Lister, you can’t drop the ball. You need to deepen the relationship over time.

You have many ways to do this. After your interview is over, you could continue to provide value to the other blogger, such as by making introductions or sending over relevant resources and information.

You could also help to promote any new books, products, or programs the blogger is promoting.

But often the interview itself will lead to more opportunities to build your relationship.

To give an example, I have interviewed a number of successful bloggers, such as blogger, author, and World Domination Summit founder Chris Guillebeau:


Also Jenny Blake of Life After College:


In my case, both these interviews were published in Forbes, but you often don’t need to publish your interviews in a big-name publication. Of course larger publications are usually better for attracting the big-name bloggers, but if you scale up your target blogs the same way that you scale up your interviewees, you might find that by the time you have access to top names, you have access to top blogs too.

In each of the cases above, the interviews opened the door to further opportunities. Shortly after I interviewed Chris Guillebeau, I scored an invite to a private event in San Francisco during his book tour for The Happiness of Pursuit.

And after I interviewed Jenny Blake, I later met her for dinner while I was visiting New York city, and I’ve done a webinar for a new private Momentum community, and we have plans to collaborate further.

See how a simple interview can lead to much more? It’s easier than you may think.

Finally, the key to building relationships successfully is to be consistent, so you must make following up a habit.

Don’t expect that you will simply remember to keep nurturing these relationships, especially if you are seeking to build relationships with multiple A-List bloggers over time.

A true professional uses a CRM program (which stands for “customer relationship management”) like Insightly or Contactually (which is my CRM of choice) to manage their followups and make sure no relationships get dropped.

Are You Ready to Make Some Powerful Friends?

OK, lovebirds.

I’ve given you the magic love potion. You know what you need to do.

Go out there, score some interviews, and make A-list bloggers fall head over heels in love with you.

It’s not as hard as you think, nor as intimidating.

Start small and safe. Then build your confidence interview by interview.

Who knows? You may even find the blogger you admire loves you back.

Just hold off on the PDA, OK?

That stuff grosses me out.

I mean get a room, people.

John Corcoran is a former Clinton White House Writer and creator of Smart Business Revolution, where he shares advice on how to grow your income by building better relationships in business. Grab 5 of John’s best email templates for contacting A-list bloggers here.