networking online

4 Clever Ways to Connect with Powerful People

Would you like to have a famous author, prominent entrepreneur or well-heeled venture capitalist in your network?

Of course. But they almost always appear out of reach. Unless your cousin went to college with Malcolm Gladwell or your dad spent his teens spinning records with Richard Branson, it may seem like there’s no way into their inner circles.

Some people try anyway, sending industry leaders “cold call” emails with blithely optimistic requests: Can I buy you a cup of coffee? Could I pick your brain for an hour? Maybe we can schedule lunch? Those messages get ignored, and for good reason: they’re insulting to any successful, busy person.

It’s not arrogance that prompts people to decline invitations; it’s the only way they can cope. No one has an hour, a half hour or even 10 minutes to spare on a stranger who doesn’t have the sense to lead with a value proposition. The real question is, what can you offer someone who’s better-known or more famous than you are? (Click here to Tweet this thought.)

Here are four suggestions for how to get noticed:

1. Interview them

You’ve heard a million times that in the Internet era, we’re all media companies and publishers. Leverage that. Asking to interview someone is a little-used, but highly effective, strategy in connecting with A-list leaders.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any top business executives who’d agree to a half-hour coffee to share career advice with a total stranger. But thanks to the democratization of media, it can be as valuable for them to speak with a blogger as it would a member of the mainstream media.

If you want the opportunity to ask targeted questions and learn from the best, start a blog or podcast, and you can rapidly build relationships and become known as a connector and curator.

2. Write about them

In the Internet era, you can often get the attention of industry leaders without even attempting direct contact. When I mentioned “Getting Things Done” guru David Allen in a casual aside in an article, he reached out to me directly with a thank you and follow-up Skype chat.

If you consistently retweet someone’s posts, comment on their blogs or mention them in your writing, they’re likely to take notice.

3. Do them a favor

It’s only human to feel impressed when someone makes a special effort for you. Everyone knows you should “give before you get,” but too few professionals realize that with a little ingenuity, they could be cultivating lifelong fans.

If you’re following an industry leader’s Twitter feed and they ask a question where you could help — restaurant recommendations, links to relevant research or the like — take the opportunity to respond. They’ll likely be appreciative.

Think through other ways you can offer value, too. I’ve learned powerful lessons from people like Zen Yinger, a North Carolina-based social media consultant who secured a major television interview for me when I was in town on my recent book tour — without my ever having met her in person. You can bet that made an impression.

4. Make yourself interesting

Sometimes the most important part of making a connection is the personal and professional development you’ve already done. Michael Ellsberg, author of The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late, has written about how he made important business contacts by sharing marketing advice, as he’d developed an expertise in copywriting and direct marketing. He writes:

If you know a lot about vintage wine, or gourmet cooking, or fine tequila, or tango dance, or travel in Latin America or Southeast Asia, or Buddhist meditation and philosophy… or some other interesting, cool, hip, unusual, sexy hobby or interest, it’s very likely you’ll be able to share your gift among people you want to connect with.

Successful professionals like meeting compelling new people. But in a noisy world, it’s nearly impossible to stand out. These four strategies can help you connect with the powerful people you want to meet.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Learn more about her new book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press), visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Pingback: 4 Savvy and Easy Ways to Connect With Powerful People

  2. Hi Dorie, there is no doubt that social media and blogs have made everyone a publisher of some sort. However, with ease to publish content comes the difficulty for the information to be noticed by anyone. Worse still is getting the attention of those powerful and influential people, and I do agree with your suggestions. I strongly believe that If you can find a way to do a small favor without asking for anything in return, or help to promote a cause or project they are interested in, then you will surely stand out and get the attention.

  3. the Young generation of future like to join fun and interesting companies where they can out perform – gone is the traditional ways of working in routine and cumbersome tasks… Innovate your world to new ways of working..try something new .. Reinvent, Reframe – The Rise of the Network Leadership..failing to connect is failing to share

  4. The fact that you have a lot of competitors out there. Having a unique strategy to catch the attention of the people will make you stand out. Don’t focus on the things that will not work,have some research and pull up your sleeves.Great article Dorie!

  5. To be with the influencers, you got to act like them and be like them. Write relevant content and give valuable tips. This will surely keep you noticed not by just random reader but also those people at the top. :)

  6. It’s only human to feel impressed when someone makes a special effort for you. Everyone knows you should “give before you get,” but too few professionals realize that with a little ingenuity, they could be cultivating lifelong fans.

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  8. Jagoda Perich-Anderson

    Great tips and I can vouch for their effectiveness. The interview works! Nowadays it can be a virtual interview–saving the power person time while giving them a chance to give back. If you give them something first–maybe commenting on their articles if they publish online (many do), liking their work on social media or a number of other ways, then they are even more likely to lend you some of their time for an interview. Just be prepared, focused and respectful.


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  10. Pingback: How to Get an Influential Person to Have Coffee With You | Career Musings

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