I once read about a rock journalist who was on the scene when David Bowie was the biggest star around. At the time, getting an interview with him was almost impossible. The Thin White Duke spurned just about every reporter who tried to uncover his controversial Ziggy Stardust persona, his hit songs, or his bizarre love life.
But this journalist took a different approach. He noticed that almost every David Bowie song featured saxophone. And after doing a bit more digging, he discovered it was Bowie himself playing the sax on all his albums. Additionally, it turned out that the saxophone was the first instrument he had ever learned and that it ignited his love of music.
Armed with this knowledge, the journalist contacted Bowie's people and they nearly turned him away. But in the split seconds before they hung up on him, he managed to blurt out that the subject of the article was going to be their boss's sax playing. Bowie's handlers must have known how much he liked discussing this rarely explored topic because they gave the journalist an appointment.
By all accounts, the interview was a success. They talked about every topic under the sun, with Bowie giving unprecedented access to his innermost thoughts and feelings. The resulting article went down in history as one of the great pieces of rock journalism.
Be a Person First
In business, as in journalism, gaining access is a big deal. You might have the best ideas, products, or services, but if you can't get in front of the people who can connect you to buyers, investors, or facilitators, your business will fail. In some ways, getting access is easier than ever before. Unlike the days when you had to pound the pavement or fire off typewritten letters, social media tools like Twitter give you the ability to communicate with prominent people in a way that would have been unthinkable less than a decade ago.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that almost everyone has the same idea you do. You can bet that every influencer, executive, and leader with a social media presence faces a barrage of Tweets and requests that come across as having an agenda.
Fortunately, there's another solution. When the rock journalist approached Bowie to ask him about his sax playing, he decided to interact with him not as an untouchable rock star, but as a person.
Prominent people have personal interests just like the rest of us. The journalist acknowledged this and used it to his advantage. It's an approach you'd do well to follow.
Pay attention to Tweets, posts, and comments from someone you'd like to meet that are not directly related to business matters. They might be about a favorite sports team, singer, or book. They might even be jokes that betray a certain type of humor. If you find that you have any of these interests in common, connect on social media about those.
You'll be surprised how connecting first on the level of shared interests leads to deeper discussions on business matters later on. Plus, the bond you create will be considerably stronger.
There is a catch, however. You have to genuinely be interested in the subject about which you're attempting to connect. In the case of David Bowie's interviewer, he had an honest fascination with one of the star's lesser-known talents, and he acted on it. The result was a career that skyrocketed.
Follow his example and yours might do the same.