How Tom Ward's YouTube side hustle became the go-to interview for influencers and YouTubers
- Tom Ward's impressive roster of interviews has turned him into an influencer whisperer.
- "Normal sales guy" by day, Ward spoke to Insider about his unique path to celebrity interviewing.
Apart from paparazzi ambushes and the occasional red carpet interview, it can be tough to secure more than a few minutes with an A-List influencer like Emma Chamberlain or Bryce Hall — unless you're Tom Ward, in which case, the influencer is probably trying to talk to you.
Ward doesn't anchor a primetime news show or host a national radio slot. He has his own
In early November 2021, Ward told Insider that a publicist for a TikTok star with more than 10 million followers reached out to him for a YouTube interview. The same week, "Catfish" host Nev Schulman sat down with Ward for a chat. And interviewing isn't even Ward's full-time job.
"The whole thing is so bizarre," Ward said. "This kid reached out on TikTok asking me to interview him and he was like 'I've been watching your interviews since I was in grade school.'"
Ward's unique position in the celebrity influencer sphere — as well as his path getting there — demonstrate how the gap in influencer coverage from mainstream news outlets in the 2010s gave outsiders who took the field seriously a chance to establish a foothold in the now $14 billion industry.
Ward took advantage of Forbes' freelance writing gigs
By day, Ward still works in sales, as an account manager for the industrial equipment company Illinois Tool Works. But in 2015, determined to take his career in a new direction, Ward started blogging on his personal website. He wrote about marketing, business, and success — his first post to go viral was a list of legendary music producer Rick Rubin's life lessons. Actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba shared Ward's post on LinkedIn.
Afterward, Ward said he got connected with an editor at Forbes, who recruited him as a freelance contributor for the website. Ward told Insider that he had no other writing experience at the time, but took the opportunity.
"I was like 'Can I do this?' But then I thought 'Anyone can write an 800-word article with bullet points,'" he said. "It all came from Forbes, because that allowed me to get in a room with anybody."
By early 2017, Ward started blogging about influencer marketing for Forbes, although he didn't follow YouTubers or YouTube culture at the time. His email started overflowing with PR pitches, and one caught his eye.
"A guy reached out and said 'I've got this client named Jake Paul,'" Ward said. "I looked him up and thought 'Who is this kid with 20 million followers who I've never even heard of?'"
Ward drove to the now-infamous YouTuber's $7 million "Team 10" mansion and noticed a horde of kids outside, sitting on the front lawn. When he asked what they were doing, they told him they were waiting for a chance to see Paul. More intrigued than ever, Ward said he interviewed Paul about business in Paul's garage for more than an hour.
"The thing that was very different than interviewing a traditional celebrity was Jake gave me his phone number," Ward said. "And he said 'Hey, when you post the article, text me the link and I'll share it.'"
When Paul tweeted Ward's article and Ward's Twitter handle, Ward said his phone started "blowing up." Within ten minutes, his interview had more clicks than any other article Ward had written before. When his article surpassed 100,000 clicks, Ward knew he had to pay close attention to the YouTube world.
To establish his personal brand, Ward started filming interviews
Ward still writes for Forbes, and his most recent article is an interview with the head of TV at TikTok star Josh Richards' company CrossCheck Studios. But having a Forbes byline wasn't the end goal of Ward's new career.
"It drives me crazy when you're watching a movie trailer and it says 'Forbes said this was the best movie of the year.' Forbes didn't say that, some writer did! If I'm that guy, I'm not even on the screen," Ward said. "I didn't want to be an anonymous writer, that's not fun. I wanted to make a name for myself."
"At the time I was doing it, no one was. Everyone looked at these kids like a joke," Ward told Insider. "I have coworkers who make fun of me behind my back, like 'What is this guy doing? Does he think he's some kind of Instagram star?' They don't get it, and at the time no one got it."
Now, Ward's YouTube channel has more than 5.3 million views, and his easy rapport with influencers has led to even bigger opportunities, like co-hosting a branding-focused podcast with TikToker Griffin Johnson.
Views still aren't Ward's endgame. In 2019, when he started posting clips from his interviews on TikTok, he noticed that Q&A clips about the teen stars' dating lives got the most views. But, being their dads' age, Ward said he lets tea channels cover drama. His niche is the business of influencing.
"They're a lot more savvy than people give them credit for," Ward told Insider. "For me, it wasn't about clout-chasing, or anything like that. I was just fascinated and wanted to figure out how it worked. I took them seriously, and that's why I think they accepted me."
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