When The Stars Aren't Shining
October 29, 2015
It's obvious that A-list guests draw audiences. By A-list, I should note that it's not always Hollywood stars or all-star athletes that make the A-list for podcasts; some Internet and reality TV figures are just as big a draw as anyone. Let's just say, though, that the bigger the name, the more likely people will find your show.
Which is easy for me to say, since I work with podcasts that CAN book big names. Most can't. But that doesn't always matter. You book whoever you can book. If it's not President Obama or Tom Brady, well, join the club. (For the record, shows with which I work have not gotten those guys, either.) But some of the most compelling shows I've heard had guests of whom I'd never heard before, or of whom I thought, man, I really don't care about this person.
What can you do with a guest list that isn't A-list (or B-list, or any list)? Two things: One, MAKE your listeners care by asking questions to elicit the interesting things about the guest. If there ARE no interesting things about your guest, do not book him or her. If you don't get anything out of the guest, don't post it; unlike live radio, you CAN just decide an episode isn't up to par and trash it. Two, when you write the description for the show, the one that'll appear in iTunes and in your RSS feed, tell us why it's a good episode. Don't just say "Joe Schmoe is our guest," write "Joe Schmoe joins us with a fascinating tale of how he survived facing a band of terrorists armed only with a slingshot and a copy of Grit magazine."
In short, give me a reason to listen. The guest's name isn't enough. Frankly, even if it's an A-lister, if you don't get something more than bland promotion for his or her latest project, I won't bother listening. Listen to the hosts who always get something extra from their guests and try to follow suit, whether you're interviewing Taylor Swift or your tailor. (Oh, that was awful. I apologize.) And then tell people what they can expect before they even hear the episode. Sometimes, "that sounds interesting" can be almost as strong a marketing reaction as "ooh, a famous person."