Guest Outreach (WAIDH #5)
Posted on August 17, 2020
For the final blog post of this series, I wanted to write about something I didn’t think was as crucial as it was: guest outreach. No matter how good your equipment is, how ready you are to pour the time into editing, or how thought-out your style is, you can’t have an interview podcast without a guest.
Establish the Relationship
The first step is establishing the relationship. For some guests, this step could already be finished. Interviewing people who already trust you takes a lot of legwork out of guest outreach.
If you want to interview someone who doesn’t know who you are, this part is more difficult.
Networking and meeting potential guests in-person is not always possible. For the first part of this blog post, I’ll focus on reaching out digitally, such as through email or Twitter.
There are two schools of thought regarding the “first contact” of a potential guest: establish an independent relationship first, or cut to the chase.
Some recommend that it’s best not to ask for an interview on your first contact with the person. Establish a relationship first by introducing yourself and (GENUINELY) asking them about what they’re working on. This can bring up interesting talking points that you can go back and forth on before you ask them to be a guest on your podcast. A pro of this approach is that you can use your correspondence to vet them as a potential guest – maybe they weren’t quite who you thought they were and you don’t want them on your podcast after all. A con is that they might not want to waste their time “small talking” with you; they want you to cut to the chase and ask for what you want.
In my experience with the WAIDH podcast, both of these approaches worked. Tailor your approach to what you think each potential guest would appreciate.
There were two interviews that came from cold emails with nothing but a short explanation of our podcast and why we wanted them to be our guest. This tactic did result in some rejections, but at least we knew sooner rather than later.
The “build a relationship first” tactic had a higher overall success rate. It also resulted in actual relationships with professors that have lasted past college graduation. Although it is more work, and it isn’t right for every guest, its results can be more rewarding in the long term.
When it comes to an in-person meeting, I recommend talking to your potential guest about the topic of your podcast without explicitly mentioning the podcast itself. If they’re excited to talk about it and seem like they’d do well on an interview podcast, ask them right then if they’d consider being a guest. You’re much more likely to get a positive response if you ask someone face-to-face rather than over email. However, if their response isn’t immediately positive, let them know that there’s no pressure and get their contact information. Follow up a day or two later and give them some more details about the podcast. They may be uncomfortable with the idea of being interviewed in general. Let them know that they’ll have control over the final product, and follow my other recommendations regarding guest comfort.
After you have a willing guest, schedule the interview as quickly as you can. The earlier your recording session is on the calendar, the more time the guest will have to mentally prepare for it and make any other arrangements.
Then, prepare a “pre-interview” sheet to send to your guest. Depending on your style, this could have the exact questions you’re planning on asking, or it could have some of the general themes you want to touch on. Many interview podcasts start with a description of the guest – the pre-interview sheet can be a great place to gather that information too.
After the pre-interview sheet has been sent, most of your prep work is done. I recommend sending a final reminder email a couple days before the interview happens, as some guests can be more forgetful than others. In this email, include any last-minute changes as well as any directions to the physical place of recording or links to virtual meeting places.
Then, you’re set to interview!
Thanks for reading this blog series. I hope my recommendations gave you a good starting point for setting up a basic interview podcast. If you have any lingering questions, send me a message; I love to share my knowledge about this topic.