I made podcasts a driving force in the launch of my book Stand Out in 2015, securing 160 podcast appearances over the course of the year — and I replicated that for the launch of my most recent book, Entrepreneurial You, hitting the same number in a four-month period. As a result, I’m often asked by professionals who want to promote their book, business, or cause how they can land podcast appearances for themselves. Here are five key strategies to follow.
First, you’ll need to identify which podcasts you’d like to target. Step one is to find a “media doppelganger” whose appearances you can replicate. For instance, if you’ve written a book about negotiation, find other well-known authors or thinkers on that topic and go to the media page of their website and see which podcasts they’ve already appeared on. They’ve essentially done the sourcing for you. You know those podcasts hosts are interested in negotiation as a topic, so you can add them to the outreach list. If your doppelganger doesn’t have an “in the news” page, you can type their name plus “podcast” into Google or search their name on iTunes or Stitcher to find many of their appearances.
Perform the same search for your general topic (e.g. “negotiation”) to further broaden your list.
Second, you’ll want to search for warm leads. Whether it’s sales or podcast appearances, you’re always more likely to succeed if you have an “in,” rather than pitching someone cold. From your searches above, create a spreadsheet of possible podcasts, and then visit their websites to see who their previous guests have been. If you see people you know, reach out to them and ask if they’d be willing to make an introduction, and most will gladly do so.
If you can’t find anyone you know, you can at least mention that you saw that “XYZ expert on negotiation” was a previous guest, showing that you’ve done at least basic research about the show. An important note: it’s worth listening to at least one episode to ensure that the podcast focus is in line with yours (for example, if your message is about how to succeed at your corporate job, you wouldn’t want to appear on a podcast centered around how to quit your corporate job) and that it does, indeed, have guests (since some programs feature only the host or hosts).
Third, create a short pitch email. Nearly every podcast will have a website that includes contact information for the host or producer. If you haven’t been able to secure a warm introduction from a friend, you or an assistant can email them with your pitch. It should be short — no more than a couple of paragraphs — but you want to offer enough information for them to judge if your material would be a good fit. Include a couple of sentences about you, laden with as many markers of credibility as possible; information on what you’d like to discuss on the show; and an explanation for why you’re reaching out to them, specifically.
It could go something like: “Hi John, my name is X. I really enjoyed your recent discussion with Y about [his company name], and I wanted to reach out because I also run a startup in the fintech space. [Insert 1–2 sentences of social proof, such as $ raised, who your clients or investors are, where you incubated, media plaudits, etc.] We just [insert timely hook or angle] and I wondered if you might be interested in discussing it? I thought this might be especially relevant to your listeners because of [insert reason]. If you think it might be a fit for your podcast, I’d be honored to continue the conversation. Please let me know and thanks for considering.”
Finally, once you’ve booked the interviews, make sure that you’re prepared to leverage the opportunity. In terms of content, that means taking the time to create a list of sample questions in advance that you think the host might ask you (some hosts will actually ask you for that list as a means of both ensuring they hit the right points and outsourcing their preparation). Practice your answers with a colleague so they’re tight and crisp and you’re getting your points across effectively.
You also want to make sure you’re properly equipped with high-quality headphones because your computer’s speakers or the giveaway headphones that came with your smartphone will sound tinny — and successful podcast hosts know that listeners tune out fast when sound quality is inadequate. Many podcasters now also record video, so it’s important to check if that will be the case, and if so, to ensure you’re recording with a professional-looking background (i.e. not your kitchen and not facing windows, which will blind the viewer and make you look dark in comparison).
Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want to end every podcast appearance with a clear call to action, telling the listener exactly what you’d like them to do — whether it’s to follow you on Twitter, pre-order your book, or visit your website for a free workbook. Hosts often tee up this opportunity with a final question such as, “How can listeners learn more about you?” During the launch of Stand Out, through religiously mentioning that listeners could download a free Stand Out self-assessment workbook, I was able to more than double my email list — from 9,500 to 25,000 — in nine months.
Podcasts are a growing part of the media landscape and will only become more influential as a way of reaching your audience. By following these strategies, you can become a frequent guest and share your message more effectively.