5 Tips for Interviewing Celebrities
After all the pitching, back and forth with PR reps, and waiting game, you’ve landed an interview with talent. Congrats! Even after all these years, I still get excited butterflies when an opportunity to interview comes along. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the street reporting and someone finally agrees to give me a quote, or in studio with the most famous celebrity of the moment. I think that’s the journalist in me, I love to ask questions and dive into the bigger story—it’s in my DNA at this point!
Although I still do interviews with sources and experts (depending on the story), my work these days focuses on high-profile talent. Throughout my career I’ve worked with chart-topping artists, Hollywood elite, Olympians, activists, politicians, influencers, and models.
With that, I’ve learned the ins and outs of proper conduct when it comes to interviewing talent. Now that I’ve entered the media mentorship space, I’m sharing my best tips when it comes to working with talent. These tips do not only apply to interviews, but working with celebrities in any capacity in the media space. Video sets, photo shoots, on-air calls, or even over email, I got you!
Their Comfort Comes First
At EnVi, I always teach my team to treat any opportunity with talent like they’re coming into our home. Whether it’s a Zoom call or in the studio, they’re our guests and should feel comfortable. And that goes for ALL talent, regardless of celebrity status. If you’re a local news reporter speaking with citizens in your community, they are still offering their time to you and should feel welcome. I’m a firm believe in good manners. Common courtesy is sadly not so common, but goes a long way.
Introduce yourself and break the ice with small talk, be sure to read the room and gauge how talent is feeling. Be where they are and match their energy while still being polite. Most times, up and coming talent are a lot friendlier and chattier than heavy hitters in the industry.
One of my most frequently asked questions is, “How do you not freak out?!” Truthfully, most of the time I am on the inside! But on the outside, it’s game face. Remember you are in a professional setting—you are doing your job and that comes first. Sure, many times once the job is done, talent are willing to take a photo or chat, but save it for the end! Even if talent is comfortable with fan-girling (and there are plenty who love to work with their fans!) their PR is who you have to please first. If PR catches you slipping, they may refuse to work with you in the future. It’s a small industry and your reputation and credibility matter.
Your credibility also matters outside of the interview. Keep your social media unbiased and void of any negative commentary towards labels, PR, or celebrities you wish to work with in the future. It’s okay to have your opinion and stand up for your values, but find a balance that doesn’t hurt your credibility or judgement in a professional capacity.
Constant Communication with PR
PR is the first hello and last goodbye of a celebrity interview. They are the front door you need to get access. PR reps are answering a million emails a day, chasing down managers to get things approved, and constantly the middle man between agencies and press. Be mindful of how busy they are and know that (for the most part) they are trying their best! In a sea of press, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but there are still many ways to stand out with PR.
The best way is to be polite. I truly feel like email etiquette is a lost art these. I understand we are all busy, but like I said before, common courtesy goes a long way! Even when faced with a rejected pitch (which happens a lot!), follow up with a thank you and note that you look forward to working with them in the future.
Sometimes you may have limitations or challenges on your end that you need to relay back to PR. Do it with strategy. Don’t freak them out with frantic updates, but come up with solutions and give them updates with those in place. On your end, you always want to come off composed, professional, and communicative. You want PR to enjoy working with you so they continue working you. But that is a two way street—you should also want to work again with the PR rep and their clients.
After your piece is published, make sure to send it to the talent’s PR with all posts and/or assets (social media posts, videos, etc.) with a thank you note. I can’t tell you how many times this extra step has opened more doors for my contributors at EnVi! Remember, common courtesy goes a long way.
Be Prepared Ahead of Time
Do. Your. Research. A good journalist takes time do to thorough reporting and fact checking. This is not only considerate towards the talent, but it makes your work better. Take that extra step to learn about the talent and ask them new questions. You don’t want your final piece to be the same as others in a different font. Learn your subject, get creative, dive deep!
As an added courtesy, email your questions to the PR rep ahead of time too. Get their approval or any needed edits ahead of time so the limited time you have with talent isn’t wasted going back and forth on approvals.
Remember, Celebrities are People Too
I mentioned this in my blog post about working with K-pop idols, and it applies here as well. Remember that celebrities are human first, celebrity second. They have their own thoughts and feelings. They may be tired some days and low energy or have a bad day all together. Stay mindful and don’t take it personally. You are there to do your job and a good journalist will patiently get the story.
I can’t tell you how far good personal PR takes you when you treat celebrities like humans. They feel much more comfortable around you and many times remember you in the future! And coming from someone who does this for a living, it’s a pretty good feeling to build genuine professional relationships with talent. 🙂