Getting interviews is a numbers game, here’s how to play it
I’d never heard of the Pareto principle until about a year ago, and then, on some podcast, it came up, and then someone else in a book mentioned it, and then, I watched a talk on YouTube, and it cropped up again. Meanwhile, I’ve been to a conference and someone used it in their speech.
So many people were talking about it because it’s one of those weird principles the stacks up in fleeting ways, without all the hard and fast statistics. It has applied neatly to my brute force approach to setting up interviews too.
The Pareto principle is known as the 80/20 rule. It’s usually applied in economics and computing, but I’ve also come across it in online marketing. Basically, for every 80 people you send an email to 20 will open it.
Weirdly, I just opened up my email marketing software to check, and the average open rate on my emails is 28%. So that means that out of every 100 people, 28 people open my emails. Wait, that’s scarily close to 80/20.
I’ve been applying this same principle to the interview requests for the research on my second book and, well, you guessed right that calculation is once again emerging. Of the 40-odd applications, I got ten responses, and of from those responses, two committed. No way!
I’m not superstitious, or anything but knowing that the Pareto principle is at work gives me peace of mind. Think about it, if you put in 100 requests, you can expect 25 responses, and so you know what to work with. Of those 25 responses, in the end, you’ll probably get 6 to commit. You know what? Fine by me, that means I have to send out more interview requests and find a system to make that quick, easy and painless (maybe I’ll tackle that in another post!).
If you want to learn about an industry, something complex like blockchain, or wish to understand whether journalism can survive in a digital age, you need to talk to the people. You can, of course, read reams of articles and books on the subject but a more natural and faster way is to talk to 10 people in the industry with in-depth knowledge. So, if you want 12.5 interviews send out 50 requests and watch your success rate soar.
The better your system for getting interviews, the more you’ll learn, and the more you’ll be able to write. It is that simple.
If you like what you read and got something out of it sign-up for my newsletter with more content to help you improve your career, hone your journalism skills and keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the journalism field. You’ll also get access to The Journalist., an exclusive platform links you with other professional journalists, tailor-made live content, training and a chance to deepen your network. Sign-up here.