What do Law & Order: SVU, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and, maybe, your podcast have in common? They've all got guest appearances!  

Why have a guest on your podcast? Your show will benefit from the variety, and landing the right guests will introduce your podcast to wider audiences. But how do you go about finding these elusive interviewees? And how do you make sure you’re picking the right people to propel your show forward?

Sourcing guests doesn’t have to be hard. There are plenty of online resources that can connect you with more guests than you might be able to find on your own–but when you’re hunting for guests on your own, here are some tips for getting the best results for your efforts.

Cold Calling

Unless you’re already high up on the popularity ladder, you’ll likely have to be the party doing the asking. Cold calling, a term that originated in the sales world, refers to unprompted solicitations by phone or in person, and is absolutely applicable to the podcast world, as well. Though here we call it cold emailing, because showing up at a potential guest’s house uninvited is both highly unusual and also highly impractical–and probably won’t get you a guest! And who even uses their phone for calls anymore?

There’s an art to sending out cold emails. You’ll need yours to be personal without being creepy. (So mentioning how well suited this guest would be to your show because of their professional credentials is a good idea, while trying to lure them in with details you’ve learned about their personal life from their little sister’s Instagram is maybe less of one.) Be sure to make it clear how the podcast appearance would be mutually beneficial, and remember to keep everything brief. No one is going to read a novel-length e-mail.

Not sure what they stand to gain from going on your show? Here’s a few potential benefits, besides the please of your company:

  • A new audience
  • The chance to build themselves as a thought leader
  • Traffic to their website
  • More social followers
  • Link-building
  • Networking

Make yourself stand out

There are a lot of ways to make yourself stand out. As with all solicitations, you need to make yourself stand out from the competition. Why should a potential guest give you the time of day? What makes you a better use of their time?

“Don’t just email them, get creative...Come up with outside of the box ideas.” -Erik Jacobson, CEO and co-founder of Be My Guest.  

This is where it pays to have a few creative bones in your body. As vital as cold emails are, they become less effective the more prestigious the person you mail them to. Many may not even get read due to time constraints. Sending personalized, handwritten requests through the mail can get you more attention. Consider sending a video requesting an interview, rather than just a standard e-mail. The sky's the limit here, so long as you keep it professional, and respect the time of the person you’re contacting.

A-list guests

Growing your podcast requires a healthy mixture of both high- and lower-profile guests. While a premiere, big-name celebrity is great in many ways, the fact is that they tend to be less likely to share your podcast than other guests might be. That’s right–it’s entirely possible to get more eyes on your podcast from an enthusiastic guest with a smaller audience!

But of course more famous guests have their advantages, as well, such as traffic from search engines and credibility. So naturally you’ll want to wrangle a few, but convincing these people to come on your show can be harder, as they’re less hungry for publicity. You’ll have to approach them from a different angle, like:

  • Go through their publicist

Oftentimes you’ll have to go through a publicist to even have a shot. Once easy way to do this is to upgrade to an IMDB Pro account. This will give you access to the contact information for many celebrity publicists.

  • Offer them a unique interview

These people do a lot of interviews, and they get very bored going over the same talking points over and over again. Try to offer them a crafted interview experience where you’ll give them the opportunity to talk about other things that interest them.

  • Wait until they’re eager to promote

Wait until your potential guest has a reason to go on the promotional circuit before trying to book them. Upcoming books or other products are good examples.

Saying no

It’s not just about getting as many guests as you can. You’ll need to be a bit selective, especially as your show begins to gain traction. Make sure you’re booking guests who will truly help further your podcast and give your listeners the kind of content they’ll enjoy and find useful. There will eventually come a time where someone will approach you with a request to be on your show, and you’ll know that they’re just not a good fit. Here are few tips to keep in mind when turning someone down.

  • Don’t make it personal

Be clear about the business reasons why you’re turning someone down. Offer to re-evaluate the prospect in a few months if things have changed.

  • Design an application process

It can be much easier to explain why someone is not a good fit if they have filled out a clearly-worded application. Having potential guests apply to be on your show gives you a document to turn to.

  • Have a list of predetermined parameters to lean on

Be sure your website makes it clear what kinds of guests you are looking for. This will not only help funnel the right kind of guests your direction, it will also give you a non-personal, unbiased way to turn someone down.

Hungry for more guest best practices? Check out these articles below:

Does your guest live on the other side of the world? Here’s everything you need to know about remote recording.

Should you have your guest sign a release? Here’s what our COO & Chief Legal Officer says about that.