Email Template for Interview Requests

This email template contains comments in yellow. Jump down to the bottom of the page for a copy-paste friendly template without comments.

Basic Etiquette

Always use plaintext unless you know the reader can receive rich format emails. Even then, use plaintext if at all possible. Check out the examples in the template.

Timing matters. Monday morning = BAD. Friday afternoon = BAD. Tues-Fri Mornings = GOOD. 2PM-5PM=BAD.

Use their time zone. Always provide times in your interviewee’s timezone, but don’t be afraid to mention your own time zone – “I’m in CA, so it’s 3 hours earlier here. Think we can reschedule for later in the day?”

Never mark an email as “Important.” And no send receipts, please. They’re just annoying.

Always use a subject line.  Think of it as the headline to your email. Got it? Good.

Use a professional signature block. See template for our format and some ideas for customization.

Don’t forward an email chain. Imagine getting an email with a subject of “fwd: see if Dr. Epstein is available” along with a giant email chain of back and forth between an editor and a journalist. Not professional.

The Template

Premise: you’re trying to interview Dr. Bill Epstein about his new AIDS vaccine. Dr. Epstein has published two books and ten articles about the topic, but does not have a personal website. You tried to call his office at the hospital, but have received no response.

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Subj: Interview Request OR Press Inquiry OR Media Inquiry NOT Time to Talk? NOT Quick Questions

People hate being misled, especially by strangers. If it’s Dr. Epstein’s policy not to do interviews, then he will ignore this email. Nothing you can do about that.

Dr. Epstein,

I am writing to request an interview for the website 75toGo.com. We cover health and fitness issues from a scientific perspective for busy professionals. I am writing a series of articles on recent medical developments. Our latest one covered Dr. Jennifer Hazelton and her new study on the benefits of stretching. You can see the website and article at 75toGo.com/Hazelton-Stretching.

No small talk here. Sources will appreciate a forthright request for their time instead of having to search for whatever you’re proposing. The only other details in this first graf are a quick demonstration that 1) you are with a legitimate website, and 2) your website covers topics pertinent to your source. Your source may not read the link you send him, but a quick browse should satisfy him that you are worth his time.

If I understand your research, your development of protein-based vaccines could significantly improve the health of young people.

“If I understand your research” = this means I actually read it and give a shit, plus, I’m humble and you are awesome. “Your development of … improve the health of young people” = call it flattery, but think of it as “why should Dr. Epstein give up his valuable time and expertise for free? Does he care about 75toGo’s editorial success or about helping young people? He cares about helping young people. Find what makes people tick and offer it to them.

I know you must be very busy, so please do not feel obliged to respond. I would also be happy to talk to a graduate student or research assistant if you would be so kind as to forward this request.

“I know you must be very busy, so please do not feel obliged to respond.” – this is a guilt trip, plain and simple. People are less likely to think themselves too busy or important for you if you show that you respect their time. If, in fact, they are truly too busy to spend 30 minutes on the phone with you, a graduate student is just fine for our purposes. “Physicist John Smith of Harvard” sounds 95% as good as “Dr. John Smith, Professor of Physics at Harvard”.

My next article is about your study and recent patient test with the new AIDS vaccine.  Could we talk by phone this Tuesday, 15 May? I expect to need about 30 minutes of your time. If that time is not good for you, I’m available any weekday between 9AM and 11:30AM and can be flexible around your schedule.

OR

My next article is about your study and recent patient test with the new AIDS vaccine. At the bottom of this email you’ll find six questions about your work. Please let me know if you could respond by next Tuesday, the 14th.

OR

My next article is about your study and recent patient test with the new AIDS vaccine. Could I stop by your office at the Cleveland Clinic this Tuesday morning? I expect to need about 30 minutes of your time.

Above are different examples for phone, email, or in-person interview requests. Notice how they are brief and clear. Always suggest a time in such a way so that the subject merely has to say “yes”, though you should always make it seem like you are flexible. While bold or underlined text is often distracting in a story, here it might be a good idea to use it in order to avoid miscommunication with a reluctant or busy source.

Some information about me: I took an epidemiology course with William Smithers at the University of Michigan, and I’ve been covering medical topics for newspapers and online institutes since then. I’ve also read your articles in the Edinburgh Medical Review. You can see my work here: janesmith55.com.

Remember the inverted pyramid concept? You are the least important part of this email. These details aren’t really needed to convince an interviewee to say “yes”. But, many interviewees will refer back to this email before picking up the phone with you and the info here might help shape your conversation.

Only one of these details–your interest, compliment, expertise, or website–has to pique his attention or prove that you are qualified to conduct an interview with him. But if you try too many, your source will be overwhelmed. The example above has a few too many items in it. Pick two to three things to demonstrate your seriousness about the topic and leave it at that.

Thank you for your time. You can reach me at (999) 555-4322 or at this email address, jane.smith@75toGo.com.

Sincerely,

Jane Smith

Correspondent, 75toGo.com OR Master’s Candidate, Cornell Public Health

Your signature block is your chance to share your identity, not espouse your political views or promote your latest book. So, if you have a full-time job that helps the interviewee know a little bit more about your angle, that’s fine.  Keep it to 1 line, 2 lines max.

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Just to clarify, the below is still part of the template.

6 Questions

1. blah blah blah

2. blah blah blah

3. blah blah blah

4. blah blah blah…

How it Looks Without Comment

Subj: Interview Request

Dr. Epstein,

I am writing to request an interview for the website 75toGo.com. We cover health and fitness issues from a scientific perspective for busy professionals. I am writing a series of articles on recent medical developments. Our latest one covered Dr. Jennifer Hazelton and her new study on the benefits of stretching. You can check out the website and article at 75toGo.com/Hazelton-Stretching.

If I understand your research, your development of protein-based vaccines could significantly improve the health of young people. My next article is about your study and recent patient test with the new AIDS vaccine.

Could we talk by phone this Tuesday, 15 May? I expect to need about 30 minutes of your time.

If that time is not good for you, I’m available any weekday between 9AM and 11:30AM and can be flexible around your schedule.

I know you must be very busy, so please do not feel obliged to respond. I would also be happy to talk to a graduate student/research assistant/etc. if you would be so kind as to forward this request.

Some information about me: I took an epidemiology course with William Smithers at the University of Michigan, and I’ve been covering medical topics for newspapers and online institutes since then. I’ve also read your articles in the Edinburgh Medical Review. You can see my work here: janesmith55.com.

Thank you for your time. You can reach me at (999) 555-4322 or at this email address, jane.smith@75toGo.com.

Sincerely,

Jane Smith

Master’s Candidate, Cornell School of Public Health

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6 Questions

1. blah blah blah

2. blah blah blah

3. blah blah blah

4. blah blah blah…