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How to Be a Guest on a Podcast

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.

Learn how to pitch podcast guest appearances

Learn how to pitch podcast guest appearances

Within a week, I received two pitches from marketing companies wanting me to have their clients on my podcast as guests. Though one was somewhat relevant, both failed at convincing me to host these guests. Why? It was obvious neither one took the time to determine if my show was a good fit to help their clients promote their books.

Let’s talk about how to approach podcasts with guest proposals.

How to Find Podcasts for Guest Opportunities

Research Multiple Podcast Directories and Platforms. Scouring various directories to find appropriate shows can yield possibilities. The good news is that many podcast directories and platforms are categorized by topic and have search tools.

Start with Apple Podcasts since it’s been the top podcast platform from the beginning because their groundbreaking iPod device which brought podcasts to the masses. To expand your search, check additional popular directories such as Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Amazon Music, maybe even Patreon.

Get Google to Help You. Typing in "[your industry, topic or market] podcasts" in Google or other search engines may draw up some podcasts to consider.

Your search may also bring up results for blog posts such as "Top Podcasts for _______" or something similar. Those posts can even be more helpful than search results since someone has done the research and curated them for you!

The biggest challenge with the top podcast type of listings is that they list the top podcasts. Though it's worth a shot, super popular shows may not be interested in small niche market or newbie guests. However, you can get two things from checking these out:

  1. You can understand the type of material and guests that these top shows want by looking at what they currently offer. This can help you tailor proposals for these or similar shows.
  2. Usually these top shows are listed in directories such as Apple Podcasts. Often these types of directories are "Amazon-ized" with "you may also be interested in" suggestions. Check out these additional suggestions for other podcast targets.

Know and Follow Who's Hot in Your Industry or Target Markets. Top content creators and thought leaders in your industry are often guests on various podcasts. Following them could help you locate podcasts that might be a good fit for you, too. Plus, you'll know that these shows actually do accept guests (not all do). This can be a slow process, but one that can reveal relevant targets for your efforts.

Get Listed on Speaker and Guest Expert Services. As difficult as it may be for you to find the right podcast shows to approach, hosts might have an equally difficult time recruiting appropriate guests. After hosts have burned through their network of contacts, some of them may turn to services that help speakers and experts who help get guest appearances on radio, television and other media outlets. These services may send out "looking for guests" and "looking for shows (or opportunities)" messages to their subscribers. Realize, though, that these services may be offered for a fee, and they may have varying rates of success in getting guest gigs for clients.

What Podcast Hosts Really Want

I've been lucky in that I've been invited to be a guest on many podcasts and online presentations. Most of these shows wanted to add my experience and expertise to their broadcast. But one of them wanted more... a lot more.

I was approached by a podcaster who had located me through LinkedIn. Although I was not familiar with the show, it sounded like it aligned with the work I do. The host invited me to a pre-show interview to make sure that we were a good fit.

I get on the phone and we have a good conversation about the show topic. Then it turned to details of the show. She asks me about my email list. After I responded, she tells me I don't qualify as a guest because I didn't have 5,000 email subscribers to whom I would personally send notices about the guest appearance. Adding to that, she said that to have me on her show would not be fair to the other guests who did qualify. Go ahead, ask me how I felt at that moment.

So I asked her about her email list and if she would be willing to add me to it to keep in touch. Her response was that she was working on her email list with her virtual assistant. So she wanted me to send announcements to my list of 5K subscribers, but she didn’t even have a list? How would she be promoting me? I was glad I only spent a brief phone call on this. In my opinion, it was an email list poaching pitch. I’ll address email list issues again later in this discussion.

Though my ego took a bit of a hit, I was glad that this host did a pre-broadcast interview. Whether it's a phone call, email or other communication, clarify expectations on both sides of the podcast microphone before agreeing to anything.

How to Approach Podcast Hosts

Once you've identified some appropriate podcasts, you'll want to figure out the best way to approach them with your offer to be a guest. Here are some general guidelines for working with hosts and producers.

Follow Protocol. As noted earlier, connecting with podcast hosts and producers may not be as easy as clicking a link on the show's homepage. If the procedure for guest opportunities is not obvious or included in the podcast documentation, you'll have to dig a little further to determine how the host or producer wishes to be approached. This may be included on their websites or you might have to connect via their "contact us" pages.

Establish Connection. When contacting a host or producer, mention if and how you are connected to the host or the show such as on social media, met at a conference, etc. It will seem less like cold calling if you do have an recognizable connection. (You don't want them to say, "Who the heck is this?")

Sell the Value You Will Provide by Being a Guest. Most podcast hosts and producers want to build their audience reach and provide good content. A large and relevant social media or blog following can be a huge selling point when approaching these people. In accepting you as a guest, they're hoping that you'll promote their show, website, etc. to your following. If you don't have a significant following (yet!), you'll really need to sell how you'll provide value to the audience with what you say.

Important Note about Email: If a podcast host is interested in you because of a large email subscriber base you have, make sure that YOU do the emailing so that you don't violate your subscribers' privacy! NEVER, EVER turn over your email list to a podcast show or anyone else without getting express permission from each subscriber on that list. Consult a business attorney for any questions regarding privacy policies for email lists.

Don't be Discouraged. If the hosts or producers are very busy, it may take them quite a while (maybe even months) to reply to your offer to be a guest... if they reply at all. They may also have a calendar full of guests already and may reject your offer. Don't take it as a personal judgment. If they didn't say they absolutely don't want you on their show, ask when they may be recruiting new guests and how to go about submitting a proposal.

Don't be Surprised If It Takes a Long Time to Be on the Show. In addition to the extended period of time it could take you to even get the opportunity to be on the show, many podcasts are recorded and then don't publish for months because it takes time to edit the audio files or video footage. I once was a guest on a podcast that took about eight months to actually get posted. It's their show, their schedule.

Don't Plan on Getting Paid. While certainly there may be podcasts who pay their guests, in most cases, you will be appearing on the show gratis. The host figures they're giving you exposure and access to their audience. Often you'll be given a plug on the broadcast itself and/or in the show's description or notes.

Another reason you may not be offered a fee for participating is because the show may not be making any money either (unless it has sponsors). The podcast might just be part of the host's content marketing program.

Most podcasts on the dominant Apple Podcasts and Spotify platforms are offered to listeners for free. So the hosts may be making zero income from them. Although these and other podcast platforms do allow podcasts hosts to charge for "premium" content on other platforms, most may not be making enough in subscriptions to pay for guests.

How to Be a Good Podcast Guest

Know the Show. This was why the podcast pitches I mentioned in the opening example failed. One pitched a guest who would talk about writing your book. I only talk about the self publishing business, not writing. The other pitch was for an author who talked about his book on being a millionaire.

In addition to not understanding my show’s topic, they didn’t understand my show’s format. In the last three to four years of weekly podcast shows, I have done only two—two!—interview episodes. That’s about 1 percent of my shows. I only do interview episodes in rare cases where I feel that the guest can share some unique and valuable information for my audience. I also personally recruit my guests.

Be Prepared for the Podcast Medium Used. These days, video podcasting is getting more play, even though audio still holds a dominant position. Know what medium—audio or video, or both—the show uses and be prepared to present that way. The podcast may use a variety of methods to broadcast or record including Zoom, Skype, webinars, phone conference lines, studio recording, or social media (such as Facebook Live or Instagram Live, etc.). ***HP Live posts***

If your guest appearance is done live, keep it clean and watch your language! Some use delay devices, others may not. Depending on the platform or network being used, mature or obscene language or content could land you and the show into a lot of trouble with the platform or government regulators such as the FCC in the United States. Needless to say, you probably won't be asked to be a guest again. Know where the show will be broadcast so that you can know your language and content limits.

Be Prepared with a List of Interview Questions. The most difficult types of podcasts for me are those where I'm invited to speak on a topic, but there's no agenda or questions provided by the host or producer. I don't know how to prepare and I could be left struggling for an answer to an off-topic or odd question. That doesn't do much to build my reputation other than that it might demonstrate I can think on my feet. If I completely flounder, it could even damage my reputation. What I've also found is that those podcasts tend to ramble and are unfocused.

Not having a show agenda can often be the sign of an inexperienced or lazy podcast host. If at all possible, ask the host for a list of questions or topics to be discussed. If they don't provide one (I've had that happen) or just flat out refuse, you could propose an agenda or list of questions. If they're not interested in your agenda proposal and not having a show plan is extremely unsettling for you, consider whether you want to be on the show or not. Remember, it’s their show and they can run it any way they want. The host may even ignore your proposed agenda when recording or on air. That’s just as bad as having no agenda.

Be Early to the Show. Jumping on the call well before the show begins will allow you and the host to settle in and work out any technology bugs. They will, and do, happen… guaranteed.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 20, 2017:

Hi Teaches! Glad you found it informative. Appreciate you stopping by. Have a wonderful week!

Dianna Mendez on February 19, 2017:

This is an eye opener for me. I can see how a list of followers would play into the interest of podcasts. Thanks for sharing this with readers.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 30, 2017:

Hi Flourish! Yep, it took all the grace I could muster to handle the oh-so-awkward guest pre-interview. Gutsy or just not thinking? I wish I would have known her requirements in advance. Would have saved both of us a phone call. Oh well... onward. Thanks for chiming in! Happy Monday!

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 30, 2017:

Excellent experience and pointers you have here. You handled that awkward email list situation with grace and aplomb. It was quite gutsy of that lady to put any guest in that position!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 28, 2017:

Sorry, billybuc! Not trying to add to your To Do list. Really. :) Thanks for stopping by in spite of your workload. Have a great weekend!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 28, 2017:

And as the sun rises in the east, my to-do list grows longer, thanks to you!!! Thanks a lot, friend!

And Happy Saturday to you!