Sean Smith: Superhero

This past week’s phone conference with Sean Smith was more educational and inspiring than I could have imagined. With the driest of wit, he delivered his take on the field of celebrity profile writing, strongly emphasizing the importance of the interview. 70% of a great profile, as he said, relies on a good interview. His mantra, thus, is as follows:

  • Research, Research, Research: Prep work engenders a smooth interview and prevents awkward mistakes. This includes sycophantic/obsessive reading/watching of anything the interviewee has appeared in as well as writing and memorizing your questions. Not doing this sucks. I’ve learned it the hard way.
  • “Seem like a sweet little fluffy bunny that can’t possibly do any harm at all”: Dress in soft colors and put them at ease by making them think you’re friends. Also, you have to show that you are confident and that you’ve done your research. This way, they’ll feel safe to send you out into the world as their representative.
  • “Celebrity profiles are like trying to get a kid to come out from under a bed”: Candy incentives are encouraged. Just kidding.
  • Try to find “a truth” about someone, not “the truth”: This way, the article is more focused and interesting. It allows you to spend your time getting the most important information, rather than all possible information.

I’ve been told most of these things over and over again throughout my career as a student journalist. Furthermore, most of them are common sense. Hearing such advice from one who is active and incredibly successful in the field, however, is encouraging. I stand humbled by the greatness that is Sean Smith.

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