In May of 2005, Tom Cruise unknowingly created a new chapter in the book of pop culture.
The incident was so well-known that I probably don’t even need to say more for you to know what I’m referring to. Appearing as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show, Cruise was in a love frenzy over his then-new girlfriend Katie Holmes: pumping his fists, grabbing Oprah’s hands, dropping to his knees, even jumping triumphantly up on his host’s famous couch.
The reaction was instant. Blogs and tabloid rags ran stories about the segment, while the Internet created some hilarious memes: most notable was one that featured an excited Cruise shooting bolts of lightning from his hands into a shocked Oprah. Oprah played down the incident, defending her guest and refusing to air reruns of the episode, but Cruise’s spectacle was already cemented into the cultural lexicon: it was even parodied in a 2006 movie.
What many people don’t discuss about this incident is the impact it had on Oprah’s show. Cruise appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show 16 times in total, including her farewell extravaganza in 2011. And why not? Despite her staunch defense of her friend and guest, Oprah probably didn’t mind the boost in publicity that Cruise’s antics provided.
Hopefully, you won’t have any podcast guests jumping on your furniture. But the right guest can help your show gain a larger following and hold the attention of those who are already fans.
The trick is finding a well-known guest that already has a good reputation and plenty of respect in their field. So how do you book your own Tom Cruise, even if you’re not Oprah? Start with the ideas below:
[content_upgrade id=””]Keep reading to learn about some effective ways to get the attention of potential guests, or check them out right now[/content_upgrade]
Have good content and a decent fanbase
If your podcast is really new or doesn’t yet have a large base of followers, booking a well-known guest will be an uphill battle. People who are well-known in their field didn’t get that way by not doing anything. Many of them are successful entrepreneurs or business owners who are responsible for the direction of one or more ventures. Even if they aren’t busy with their own projects, there are probably other, more established podcasts, or media outlets that they want to devote their time to.
You can’t expect someone well-known to do your show if there isn’t something in it for them. Except for the few podcasts that can afford to pay guests, the biggest benefit of making an appearance on a podcast is increased exposure. If you don’t have many listeners, there’s no one for your guests to get exposed to, so it’s not worth their time.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t try. Some people are generous and won’t expect much in return, but you’ll have much better success if you have a polished podcast and a healthy listener base before you try to book a well-known guest.
Tap your network
Your network isn’t only your professional contacts: it also consists of people you know personally. Are any of your friends or family members well-regarded in their field? If not, maybe they have direct access to someone who is. Think outside the box here: you don’t just have to find people who are well-known in your podcast’s field. If you are creative about it, you can find excellent guests in many places.
For example, say your show is a podcast catering to developments in the financial services industry. Your ideal audience might be stockbrokers, wealth managers, etc. Instead of having a well-known investor on your podcast, maybe you have an uncle who is friends with a blogger or journalist who has a good reputation and found success investing through financial services companies. You might have that person on as a guest to discuss how financial services helped them, which gives your target audience ideas for how they can help their own clients. The possibilities for finding well-known podcast guests are endless.
Create a unique, compelling pitch
It’s important to be unique when you’re trying to get anyone’s attention on the Internet, but especially those who have a good reputation in their field. Influencers like this probably get dozens of emails a day and only have time to respond to the ones that are from someone important to them (a supervisor, customer, close loved one, etc.) or catch their attention in some way.
The latter category is the one you want to be in. Let’s check out a hypothetical example of how to contact a well-known guest to ask them to appear on your show, and how not to:
Poor Bill. While this pitch might get opened, several things severely limit the chance that it will get a response:
- The subject line comes right out with the question. While it’s not always bad to be direct, in this particular context it would be better for Bill to build some intrigue. A subject like this makes it easy for a recipient to glance at the message, instantly decide they don’t want to do the show, and dismiss the pitch before even reading it.
- It starts off with a boring story about how the podcast began. While this is nice information, Bill’s potential guest doesn’t really care.
- The pitch ends with a vague affirmation that the host is familiar with the famous person’s work and that the show would be beneficial for the person to appear on, but doesn’t go into detail in either case.
Let’s take a look at how Bill might improve this particular pitch:
Now we’re talking! Here’s how Bill improved his pitch:
- Instead of a bland subject line, Bill is now asking a question that both intrigues and makes the recipient want to open it. After all, who doesn’t want to help animals?
- Our fearless host now starts off with a specific reference to past work that the recipient has published. This shows that Bill has done his research and is actually familiar with the person he is emailing.
- Bill has included hard data about his show. Even though it’s only a year old, in the past six months it has had 50% growth and has even been featured in a popular dog grooming blog. Not too shabby, Bill.
- The email describes in-depth the benefits for both the show and the person he is emailing. It’s obvious that Bill has done his research and knows why this person would be an ideal guest for his podcast.
- He ends the email with a specific next step. If the person is interested, all they have to do is throw out a few dates in October. It’s nothing that will take more than a few seconds and some typing: Bill has made it easy for his recipient to move the process forward.
There are also plenty of opportunities to be unique in the way you reach out to potential guests. Mike Richeson at the Launching Creative blog wrote about how he was able to secure a meeting with a regional energy drink company: he crushed up cans from the company’s competitors, put them in a box, and included a handwritten note that read “I want to help you crush your competition.” The next day, the owner emailed him requesting a meeting.
Strike a balance between persistent and annoying
Persistence is often the key to success in life. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs, athletes and entertainers often failed time and time again before finding their way.
The same is true with booking guests on your podcast. It might take a few tries to get an answer from someone you want on your show. The key here is to follow up, but do it sparingly: you want to stay in front of the person, but you don’t want them to see you as a nuisance.
If you’re emailing the person or leaving phone messages more than once a week, you’re probably bothering them. Instead of constantly saying the same thing, try reaching out a different way. If you’ve only been e-mailing, why not try sending a nice hand-written letter to their office? If you’ve been talking about how beneficial the show will be for their reputation, you might try spinning it a different way and telling them how much their appearance will help people in your target audience.
Keep trying, but do it in a way that doesn’t pester your recipient. Until you receive a definitive no, the door is still open to book that person on your podcast.
Delight and persuade, don’t annoy and force
Above all, remember this: If a person is 100% sure that they are not interested in doing your podcast, there are few things you can do to convince them otherwise. But if you find the right people, approach them in a creative way and show them the concrete benefits of being on your podcast, you’ll find that you might be able to book some big-name guests that will help your show expand its horizons.
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