In the land of never ending podcasts, bloggers and social media in general – one needs to find unique ways to stand out in the proverbial crowd. It obviously never hurts to season your podcast stew with a little celebrity action; or with professionals who are well respected and admired in their given industry. Please don’t take me the wrong way… I’m certainly not suggesting that you personally are not interesting – or that people wouldn’t want to hear you yap for fifteen minutes to three hours on a solo rant. Plenty of people are very successful doing their own thing; however when it comes to winning the ear-time of valuable listeners – any additional value is a positive. Being awarded listener’s time is one thing… ultimately, you’ll want them to then engage and share with friends on social media too! I don’t believe that anyone truly aspires to become a one-second glance in a scrolling social feed… am I wrong?
An obvious way to build a name and reputation is by landing notable guests. I’ve been in entertainment for four decades and all throughout my career, I’ve personally been approached and interviewed thousands of times – as well as via The Grindhouse Radio… interviewed hundreds of OTHER pop culture figures who’ve done me the honor of gracing our airwaves! Now, given that ninety percent of the guests we’ve had on GHR are my personal friends – I still treat each with the utmost courtesy and respect in requesting that they join us on-air. Ernie Hudson, Charles Martinet, Kel Mitchell, Chris Santos, Robert Davi, DMC, Richard Grieco… every one of them have been in the GHR hot-seat. I’m not dropping names for props, I’m just showing you what I’ve done. Putting my personal notability aside… any one of you can achieve your goals if you put in hard work, make the right calls (asking the right people… in the proper way), and targeting the right guests for your show’s demographic. Anyone is capable of landing a whopper of a guest who is worthy of the downloads, listens and shares you’re trying to generate with your content. Yes, I completely understand that some of you will say that I have a leg-up because I’m in the public eye; and having direct access to a variety of friends is already half the battle! I respect what you’re thinking; but on the flip-side - I am ALSO that secret weapon who can offer you the knowledge concerning exactly what we as entertainers expect when being requested! Feeling inspired? Let’s get started!
You've heard of 7 Deadly Sins right? Well, the following is your SEVEN DEADLY TIPS on how to Secure Celebrity or Professional Guests.
1) Elevator Pitch
My friends… this is your ticket – your proverbial foot in the virtual door. It is your first - and last impression depending on how it is presented. Love him or hate him – Bill Cosby once did a shtick on presentation via The Cosby Show. Now, albeit it was concerning something completely different, the message stays the same. Feel free to watch it here and then return to continue learning. You back? Get it? Got it? Good! Moving forward, regardless of whether you’re emailing a publicist or pitching someone on the phone (yes, in the real world – we still use phones to communicate), you are one thousand percent going to want to have your elevator pitch perfected. If you are unaware of what an elevator pitch is – CLICK HERE. I’ve crafted so many of these pitches throughout my career in entertainment and entrepreneurship and I can tell you that a quick-and-concise 30 to 60 second pitch explaining who, what, why, where and when may be the most important part of your interview-landing equation. You’re your attention grabber and you’d best ensure that it’s compelling, properly written and without typos. The key component in this being ‘where’ – as I can ensure that nine times out of ten, the first question will be:
Where will this interview be going and what are your numbers?
It would behoove you to have a general idea of this information pre-discussion and if you truly believe that your numbers won’t impress your prospect – don’t give up… have a plan B. What is plan B? Be sincere and authentic with your request! We as entertainers have ALL been there before and most of us remember coming up in an unforgiving industry. If you are polite and respectful – you may perhaps land yourself the interview. You have nothing to lose and you won’t know if you don’t simply ask. Furthermore, I suggest putting together a visually stimulating and well-written one-sheeter that offers your show’s information in a nutshell – it is professional and gives a good representation of what they should expect.
2) Find and Engage the Dream Team
What is a dream team? Your prospect’s ‘people’ is the simple answer and it consists of agents, publicists, managers… even assistants and social media people. Nine out of ten times, these are the people you’ll be sending your pitch to and communicating with. These are the people that we trust (and pay) to ultimately serve as our gatekeepers. For good reason too… keep in mind – you aren’t the only person reaching out to this potential guest and someone has to sift through the requests that just do not serve the talent’s needs or audience. The dream team has the power to move your request forward, schedule their client(s) and if you’re lucky – become some of your best friends. Remember – if they don’t like you… your access will be revoked! If you happen to have mutual friends – make sure to find your way onto common ground as it goes a long way. I’m personally more likely to accept an interview request from a show or website that’s recently featured one of my friends - connections between your candidate and yourself will typically have a higher rate of success. Just don’t fib… that will get you nowhere fast.
3) Persistence is Key
Not hearing back is NOT a NO! Most of the time – people send a request and then forget to ever follow up! Just as you may get busy – consider other people’s schedules. If you think YOUR e-mail is clogged up with a lot of stuff to sift through… put yourself in their shoes! I personally receive thousands of e-mails a day and although I feel awful not responding to everyone… it would be impossible to achieve. Sometimes things get lost in between the cracks – it is unfortunate; but definitely not me closing the door on anyone!
Don’t be deterred if you don’t get a response… the more well-known the celeb or expert happens to be, the more people, businesses and media they deal with on a daily basis. If they didn’t respond to your initial email, it’s not personal - follow up. If you have access to their phone number, pick up the phone and reference that you’d reached out prior on such and such a date. As Axl Rose once said… ‘All we need is just a little PATIENCE’.
4) Timing Makes a Difference
In all honesty, the best timing to reach out and land any particular guest is when they’re actively promoting something; or everything they have going on. Some names don’t do any media at all unless they’re pushing a current or upcoming project or a charitable cause they are a part of. Some celebs might even be contractually obligated to promote by a movie studio, network or publishing company. Keep your eyes peeled for anyone currently doing a push.
5) Conventions, Conferences & Appearances
Ever hear the saying, ‘You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time’? Invest in yourself and your business – look into getting press credentials to events where multiple candidates are and approach each and every one with your elevator pitch… then be prepared to either get one of three answers:
A) No, I’m too busy (to which your response should be along the lines of, ‘Is there any management that I can reach out to in order to set something up for the near future?’)
B) Sure, why not! Then you’d better be prepared to do it on the spot and have PROFESSIONAL equipment to conduct it on.
C) Yes; but I can’t fit it in right now – can we do it at another time? Obviously you don’t want to miss your window of opportunity, so the smart thing to do is ask what time would be convenient to come back.
Now – the biggest thing I will tell you from the celebrity standpoint… TIME IS MONEY. BE PREPARED. FOLLOW THROUGH. The biggest waste of time is to stop being productive to accommodate an interview request; but then the finished interview never sees the light of day. It is bad business and I suggest that you have all your ducks in a row before requesting someone’s time.
6) Be Original
You may personally believe that achieving the YES for an interview is the hard part of the equation; however – it is not. The truly difficult part is to ensure you are asking the right questions. It isn’t as easy as it seems – especially if you get a guest who is not an eloquent speaker! But wait… they are AWESOME on television!!! Haha, people may be great in performing their on-screen roles; however off-screen personality isn’t always something that people have. Furthermore, most of us dislike answering the same questions… over… and over… and over again! Be different, be original and we’ll remember that – stand out. Trust me, you’ll find yourself being referred a lot more often. If you are unfamiliar with your guest – always make sure you prep some questions in advance. It will prove helpful, especially if you are unaware of who the person is and what they’ve accomplished. Be a PRO.
7) Lion King (Catch the Innuendos)
Be Prepared. I’ve said it before in this article. I’d like to consider myself and the GHR crew masters of the laid back, conversational interview. We actually pride ourselves in the fact that our audience feels as though they're sitting in the room with us having a natural, casual conversation. The trick here is to also include actual substance along the way. Casual is fantastic; but you also need to be informational and engaging – give your audience content that they have NOT heard a zillion and three times. Prepared means more than just having questions… it also includes making sure your phone or recording device is charged or has batteries and is working correctly – contact phone numbers are also all correct, and schedule reminders have been sent to the guest or their management. The whole enchilada with all the trimmings – that is what true preparation is… do it and be better!
As always, I hope this cheat sheet of sorts helps you navigate the waters of landing great interviews as well as tightening up your overall business model. Remember – you will only be taken as seriously as you take yourself… now go out there and be a boss!