When I launched my first entertainment podcast in 2011, I knew I wanted guest interviews. I figured booking celebrities would be difficult since I was just starting out. Plus, people weren't going to know me or my little show. However, I took steps to make myself look professional and it paid off. Next thing, I knew...I was getting people on every episode. Here are some of my strategies that can help you book guests (whether they're celebrities or not).
Know where to look
If you're booking an author on your show, check their Amazon listing. You'll see the name of the book publisher, and you can reach out to them. It's also possible that an author (or any guest) will have their own website with posted contact information. If you're trying to find the agent/publicist/manager for a celebrity, services like WhoRepresents can be helpful. Just know that sometimes the listed information might be outdated, and you might have to do a little extra research. Sometimes it's possible to reach out to a guest via Twitter or Facebook message as well.
Write a professional and concise request
When you send an email to make your pitch, get to the details quickly. Tell the recipient what you want to talk about, how long it will be and how it will be conducted (phone or Skype). Be sure to give them a time frame in which to schedule the interview. You might also add that you will let them promote anything else they'd like to mention on the show.
Do some research on your guest
A little extra research on a guest can go a long way, and it could be an important key to getting them on your show. Maybe you are reaching out to an actor, but you find out they just launched a music CD. You might be wanting someone who wrote a popular book, but you also find out their extremely passionate about a specific charity. When you find out details like these, you can offer to mention or promote them on your program. You can also offer links on the show notes. Knowing a little more about a guest can be very impressive. It shows that you cared enough to learn more.
Research can also be a key factor in the quality of your interview. If you take time to watch other interviews they've done or read articles about them, it can help you develop unique and insightful questions. By watching previous interviews, you might be able to avoid questions your guest has already answered several times.
Develop a track record
Before I really started to reach out to publicists, I wanted to be able to show them other interviews that I conducted. Fortunately, I am friends with two actors who starred in Hollywood films. So, I had the advantage of calling them and asking them to be on the show. I then went to a small comic convention and conducted interviews there as well. That way, when I reached out to book someone else, I could list those people as guests.
This is a credibility strategy. A guest or their representative might wonder about associating their name with a show they don't know. However, seeing that other credible people have been guests can put them at ease.
No matter what type of podcast you produce, it's good to go for the more accessible/lesser known people and develop a track record. Then highlight that history as you go for the big names.
Make sure your website looks great and is easy to navigate
Another way someone will check you out is to take a look at your website. If it's disorganized, hard to navigate and loaded with grammatical errors, that can be a problem. Make sure your website is part of your professional pitch to a potential guest.
Have two phone numbers to offer
Sometimes you will call the guest, but other times they may want to call you. When this happens, it's good to be able to offer them a toll-fee number. You can link a toll-free number to your home/cell number easily with services like Kall8. When radio shows book guests, they not only offer a call-in number, but also a back-up. This can be your home or cell phone number in case they're not getting through or there's some other technical issue.
One of my most deeply rooted fandoms is The Muppets. They entertained me as a kid, and I still love the classic movies and TV shows as an adult. Jim Henson was a big part of growing up, and his work still means a lot to me today. While I love so much of it, my favorite Muppet movie has been The Great Muppet Caper. As I think about it all, I figure that if I knew back in 1981 that I would get to interview "Nicky"...I would've freaked out.
In October of 2011, my new podcast was on a roll when it came to booking guests. I somehow managed to line-up Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), James Tolken (Back to the Future), Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite), Julie Newmar (Batman) and Bridget Regan (Legend of the Seeker) in recent weeks. I knew in November that a new Muppet movie was coming out, and it would directly tie into the classic Muppet themes I grew up with. So, I wanted to celebrate it all on the show and feature a guest. The challenge was that most of the human actors just made cameos in the films, and very few of them actually starred in them. So, I figured if I was going to try to get someone...why not take a shot at getting Charles Grodin - the actor who played the evil but funny villain in my favorite Muppet movie.
It wouldn't be easy. Charles wasn't doing movies like he was in the 70s, 80s and 90s. So, there wasn't going to be an agent/manager/publicist that I would be able to track down in the traditional way. So, I googled several variations of these words:
Charles Grodin, email, contact
I came across an email that seemed to fit, but I had no reason to be sure. Nonetheless, I sent off the request in an email that not only included my email address, but also my phone number. For all I knew, this was going to a plumber named Phil who lives in Lick Skillet, Tennessee.
Then, one night when my wife Jenn and I were in a PVP Battleground in World of Warcraft (a game that can't be "paused"), my phone rang. I looked at it and it showed an unfamiliar number. Jenn said the area code was from somewhere in the Northeast. Generally, I don't answer calls like this, but I was job searching and I thought maybe it was a corporate headquarters. So, I answered it.
Voice on the other end: Scott, this is Charles Grodin.
A couple seconds of shocked silence before I realized I should probably speak.
Me: Hello, Mr. Grodin. How are you?
Jenn suddenly stops playing and slowly looks at me with her jaw on the ground.
As amusing as that was, it turns out that not only did Charles get my email, but he thought I was connected to an article he was writing about his relationship with Miss Piggy on the set of the film. After that was cleared up, we talked more about what I really wanted to do. Even though I wasn't connected with his article, we booked the interview.
When I hung up the phone, I did a little of THIS.
The day of the interview, I got to have a great conversation with him before recording. We discussed some of my other favorite projects of his, including Heart and Souls and an old Disney World show called Cranium Command.
When we got to the interview, he threw me for a loop because he was sharing a similar narrative to his article - how his emotionally intense, uncontrollable infatuation with Miss Piggy impacted life on and off the set. Once I adjusted to that, it was quite hilarious. He talked about a secret rendezvous, and how the relationship was making his lady admirers back in America extremely jealous.
He also talked about the day he learned about the death of Jim Henson. He was in a play rehearsal when Entertainment Tonight walked in wanting an interview. He was a little surprised by the out-of-the-blue nature of this and wanted to know why they needed it right then.
That's when he found out Jim Henson had passed away. The news caused him to throw down his script in shock and despair. Anyone who worked with Jim had nothing but love and admiration for him. Just ask Brian Jay Jones.
Along with his experiences working with Muppets, Charles talked about the skits he played out with David Letterman (that audiences didn't realize were jokes), his fight for Ryan Holle and the Felony Murder Rule and his continued love for the Beethoven movies.
It was one of the most memorable interviews I ever conducted. If that wasn't enough, Charles was so pleased with the conversation that he said he'd be more than happy to come back anytime. Months later, I had him come back to talk about some of the romantic comedies he starred in, like The Heartbreak Kid and Seems Like Old Times.
Along with the enjoyment conversations like these, it was equally awesome to have the guest do a liner for the show. Often times, I wrote those for the guest to read. Charles decided to do one of his own -
This is Charles Grodin. I was Miss Piggy's love interest in the Great Muppet Caper. I've also been on The Critic Show with Scott Murray...who's no Miss Piggy. Believe me.