7 Ways to Connect With Influencers That Are Out of Your League
Over the last few years I’ve developed a pretty good size following, but even so, I’m widely unknown, especially when it comes to the people that have influenced my life and my career. I suppose that doesn’t really matter, but if you’re like me and starting a podcast , are looking to grow your blog, or get on the right person’s radar in the startup world, getting on the right person’s radar can be an integral piece to the puzzle, or if nothing else, it can move things along quite a bit faster.
So, how do you get on the right person’s radar in the world of social media, flooded inboxes and never-ending exposure to content? Some might suggest that these factors just mentioned create an obstacle and a greater barrier to connecting with high profile individuals. I, on the other hand, disagree (circumstantially). I disagree, if you play your cards right, use some of the tactics I’m about to lay out for you, and have a bit of patience. I’ve used the following to interview the best chefs in the world for my book, as well as to connect with business icons Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin, Jonathan Fields, Jon Gordon, Patrick Bet-David and plenty more. Hell, my favorite musician, Stephen Kellogg follows me on Instagram. The day that happened, I felt like I’d made it in the world.
Here are the 7 Tactics and Strategies I use to get in front of the people that can influence my brand in a positive way – they have huge audiences and their connection to my brand is instant evidence of credibility.
Put your work out there.
You’ve got to put your work out into the world. Often and in a variety of places. The best way to connect with people with more credibility than yourself is to become more credible. It might sound counterintuitive, but it absolutely makes a difference. It might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, or that that’s the chicken coming before the egg, but why would anyone risk their clout and their reputation by taking a chance on someone who could damage their reputation? I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t either. It takes years and sometimes a lifetime to garner credibility, and the last thing any of us want to do is risk it’s place in the world. The more content you put out there on your blog, on Medium, on YouTube, on your company or brand’s Facebook page, the more threads will link back to you – just make sure they are good threads, ones that clearly articulate who you are and what you represent. If speaking is your thing, speak. If you are a writer, write.
Create a Platform.
When I was writing my first book,Making the Cut, I knew part of its success hinged on the fact that I needed some influencers in my corner – it would make the book seem more legit, especially because of the fact that it was being self-published. I also knew that the platform that I had been steadily building over the previous four years was integral. It might not take you four years, but it will take you more than four days, weeks or months. I began building my platform that has doubled since the time I sat down to start writing the book, around a year ago. But, having 50K Facebook followers at the time, again, gave me credibility. But, if you don’t have a big following, that doesn’t matter. As Zig Ziglar used to say, “If you can’t take a big step, take as big a step as you can, but take it NOW.”
What’s in it for them?
If you don’t have a huge following, don’t worry – you aren’t alone. I interviewed Jon Gordon (multi book Bestselling author) for my podcast that recently launched, and I was stoked, I joked that it was a lot easier to get face to face with folks like himself now that I have a bigger audience. He shrugged it off saying that he would have done it regardless, because he understood that we were on the same team, and that in a different way, I was helping to advance the cause he’s been tirelessly working on for the last decade. It’s good to connect with likeminded people. There is a certain bond that we have with each other. Find the common points of interest you share with the influencer you’re trying to connect with. If it’s Gary Vaynerchuk, it might be tweeting about the New York Jets (his lifelong goal has been to buy the Jets). With Jon Gordon, after a bit of research, I discovered we shared common ties to Atlanta – that he’d run for city council some twenty years ago. Plus, one of his books he co-wrote with the Atlanta Falcons former head coach, Mike Smith. I’m from Atlanta and a huge Falcons fan. It was an instant point of connection for us. Sure he and any influencer has a busy schedule, but having some key points of connectedness makes their decision a lot easier. Do your research and if you do it right, you’re giving yourself more ammunition and a better chance at locking them in for a few minutes – they’ll be much more likely to help out. That’s just human nature.
Reach out and kiss ass.
Okay, kiss it in a genuine way. All of us are driven by our egos in some way, whether we want to admit in or not. The first influencer I ever reached out to was Pat Conroy about a dozen years ago. He had long since been my favorite author, so I wrote his big time New York editor a thoughtful, genuine and sincere note of praise to Conroy and asked if she would pass it along to him. A few weeks later he called me to thank me for the kind words. There wasn’t much I was looking to leverage out of reaching out to him, but I think this is a great example of how sincere, thoughtful flattery (for the right reasons) can get you pretty far in life. All of us love to feel appreciated for the hard work we do in our careers, especially if it’s something really close to our heart – something that’s a big part of who we are. You can also use this same tactic to get their attention by creating a blog post on how a certain individual has inspired you in your business and in your life. I’ve written at least three or maybe four articles with influencer’s names in the titles, like Godin, Vaynerchuk and Conroy. Make it good and thoughtful and then find a way to get it in front of them. Then, once it’s time to really reach out, you can reference back to the article your wrote and chances are they will remember and be appreciative of the thoughtful sentiments.
Be generous and make it easy for them to say “yes”.
My first big connection in the business world was with Gary Vaynerchuk. It was a few years back. I knew that every year he gave a keynote talk at SXSW Interactive which is held in March every year in Austin, TX. Six months before the event I reached out and said I’d love to help – for free, if that meant getting to be a part of what he was doing. Later that day he emailed me back and connected me with his business development guy and we got the conversation started which would then lead to the opportunity I was given to be a part of his event at SXSW. I didn’t offer my services conditionally or with stipulations. I asked, “can I cater the meal for your event – I’ll do it for free. Here is my resume.” Figure out how you think you can help and individual or a company. Don’t send a cold email stating that you’d like a job or that you you’ll do any type of work for free. These emails are deleted and never thought of again – nobody busy has time for vague, unclear requests. These types of request are a burden on the recipient, even if you have good intentions. Make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Be clear with what you want to get out of it, but lead the email with how you think you can benefit them.
I can’t think of very many individuals I’ve been able to connect with on the first go round – that’s how it works. How often do you sort through your email, and forget to make a reminder to yourself to reply to someone. If you’re like me, it’s often. Don’t take the lack of a response personally. If you haven’t heard anything after a couple emails in a few week span, see if there is another way to get a hold of them. Do they have an assistant? Facebook page? Twitter? Don’t bombard them all at once. Turn notifications on for their Instagram and you’ll be notified of when they next post a picture to their account. Hop right in there, because if they are posting it themselves, they are most likely still on Instagram – “Just a heads up, I sent you a direct message with a quick question – if you get the chance to look at it and can get back to me, I’d really appreciate it. Keep up the good work.”. Sometimes you have to be persistent. Sometimes you have to be creative. Often, you have to be both.
The sooner you start creating content, the sooner you’ll start creating some relevancy around yourself. Then you’ll be on your way to creating a platform for yourself. Again, this takes time. But feel free to reach out to influencers along the way, however, I’d suggest easing into it. If you are relatively unknown, I wouldn’t suggest jumping right up to the plate hoping for a homerun. When you reach out, you want to have evidence that’s going to make it easier for them to say yes. Provide links to articles that they might appreciate or that you’ve written about them specifically (see #4), explain any highlights (for me that’s a 2X TEDx speaker). Just keep taking baby steps that are bound to keep you moving in the right direction, and before you know it, you’ll have a body of work that really impresses the people you’re hoping to impress.
The key is getting some momentum. Once you have momentum, it becomes so much easier to connect with these individuals. For me, I was able to get 18 time bestselling author Seth Godin on my podcast as the very first guest. How much easier do you think it is to get other influencers? A lot easier, because for me and what I’m trying to do, Godin is social proof. Now you might say, how did you get Seth? Well, I emailed him about a year and a half ago to say, “thanks”, again six months ago to ask him a thoughtful question, and again at the end of the summer. I slowly worked my way onto his radar. It didn’t happen with one email. It didn’t happen with one article I wrote about him. Over time, I was able to create a convincing enough body of work that seemed like something that he wouldn’t mind being a part of. It’s that simple, yet, it’s that hard.
About the Author
Chris Hill, Chef
Chris grew up in Atlanta, then went off to Alabama where he obtained a double major in English Literature and Spanish, followed by a Master’s in Marketing – that provided him with a lucrative job in consulting upon graduation that he soon learned to hate. Miserable after a year and a half, Chris made a 180°, followed his heart and passion into the world of cooking and opened his first restaurant at the age of 28 where he grew into the role of executive chef. Having taken his experiences in the corporate world, as well as those in the kitchen, Chris has built a large following centered around TV appearances all over the Southeast U.S., his writing, 2 TEDx talks and his mission of helping industry workers to lead fulfilling, successful careers. He regularly speaks and shares his work on Medium discussing topics such as restaurant leadership, overcoming failure and business/entrepreneurship. Chris recently launched a podcast, “Making the Cut” based on the title of his first book. His second book, “Lead Like a Chef” will be released in late 2017.