At Pacific Content, we believe a great podcast is one that audiences genuinely connect with. A great show can be about anything — airplanes, climate change, theoretical physics, sports, relationships — but it has to captivate its listeners, keep them engaged, and leave a lasting impression on them. In other words, it has to offer something of value that’s worth a listener’s time and attention.
So how do you make a compelling podcast that does this? There are many different paths to podcasting success, but one effective way is to include interesting voices in your show that really help to structure, deepen and propel your narrative.
Enter chase producing.
On paper, the role of a chase producer is pretty simple: locate guests and book them to appear on your show or program. In practice, it’s a bit more complicated. For starters, finding the appropriate voice isn’t always easy. In some cases, when the list of individuals who are qualified to speak on a given topic is small, figuring out who to chase is easy. Only a few people have the expertise to answer the questions you have, so your list of possible candidates is only a few people long. In other cases, when the topic is more broad in scope, you may have a sea of options to choose from. In those cases, you have to use your judgement and weigh competing factors against each other. High on the list of questions you should ask yourself when considering a guest are:
- How qualified is the individual to speak about the given topic?
- What’s their relationship to the story and how credible is their point of view?
- Do they have any conflicts of interest that might bias their input?
- How strong of a guest and/or speaker are they?
In addition to these factors, you also have to bear in mind other considerations around inclusion, representation and diversity.
- Are you representing an appropriate range of perspectives, opinions and experiences?
- What other voices are you featuring on the show/program and how does this one compliment them?
- What perspectives are brought to light by the inclusion of your guest and how important are those perspectives in the context of the overarching story or program?
- Are certain perspectives (i.e. those of a particular race, gender, sexuality, age-range, nationality, or income bracket) being overrepresented or underrepresented?
Finally, there are practical considerations to bear in mind:
- When is the guest available?
- Are they equipped to do an interview remotely or must it be done in-person?
- If they can’t participate remotely, how are they going to get to where they need to be and who’s going to receive and prep them when they arrive?
There’s no “right” way to find and book guests. The best method is whatever gets you the best results, and the key is to be resourceful in digging around for information and tracking people down. That said, certain tips are helpful to bear in mind when you’re barrelling towards a deadline and still haven’t found the person you’re looking for.
Social media is your friend
Some chase producers are wary of using social media to locate and track people down. Don’t be. Most people are online these days, and Twitter in particular is an excellent resource for reaching out to and connecting with people. Just be aware of what’s being displayed on your own social media profiles and keep it professional.
Don’t be afraid to follow-up
People are busy and miss emails and calls all the time. If you haven’t heard back from the person you’re trying to get in touch with, that doesn’t mean they’re avoiding you necessarily. They may have meant to reply but forgotten or have simply missed the first email, message or call altogether. It’s your job to be persistent, and no one’s going to fault you for following-up once or twice as long as you’re not pushy about it. Give a guest a day or two to respond after your initial attempt to make contact. If you still haven’t heard from them by then, a polite follow-up is perfectly appropriate.
Manners are important
How you talk to people matters. Always make a point to address people respectfully by their proper titles and always observe proper etiquette and decorum. A lot depends on the first impression you make, and if you’re rude, the likelihood of you booking the guest you want is slim to none.
Ask for help
Chances are you know people and those people you know people. If you’re struggling to find a guest, don’t hesitate to tap into your social networks for help. Put the word out that you’re working on a show and are looking to connect with someone who fits a certain description. Social media is a great place for this, but leveraging offline networks and relationships can lead to great results too.
Try not to think of it as asking for a favour
How you frame and proposition an interview is key. Requesting an interview may feel like asking for a favour, but in fact it’s the other way around: you’re offering the guest an opportunity and platform to publicly share their knowledge, expertise and/or perspective. Ask yourself why they might want to be on the program and lead with that.
It’s OK to push and “sell” the opportunity
Part of the job is “selling” the opportunity and persuading individuals to participate. It’s important not to overstep, but that doesn’t mean you have to immediately give up as soon as you hear the word “no.” Getting someone to agree to an interview can take seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or even, in some cases, years. Employ your people skills and don’t be afraid to ask more than once.
If your desired guest is unavailable, ask them if they can suggest a stand-in
Sometimes, the best resources are the individuals who turn you down themselves. If someone is unwilling or unable to participate, ask them to recommend someone else who might be a good stand-in. You may only get a name, but that’s a lot better than walking away empty-handed.
Be sensitive to concerns and circumstances
Does the story have an emotional or personal angle for the guest you’re chasing? Could participating in an interview put them in danger or expose them to unpleasant consequences? There are many legitimate reasons why someone may not want to give an interview, and it’s their business if they want to share them or not. Don’t take rejection personally and tread lightly when the situation calls for it.
The last thing you want to do is trick or mislead a guest or misrepresent what you’re hoping to get from them and how the interview is going to play out. Part of being professional is always striving to be open and transparent about what you’re looking for and how the guest’s input is going to be used.
The job of a chase producer doesn’t end when you book a guest
Chase producing isn’t just about booking guests; it’s about booking guests and shepherding them through the process from start to finish. Hosts are responsible for conducting interviews, but everything leading up to that point, including whatever you need to do to prep the guest, is your responsibility as a chase producer.
Remember to circle back after the interview
Once your guest has recorded their interview, always remember to thank them and to provide them with instructions on where and how to listen to it. If they’re active on social media, you can also invite them to share the episode they appear on on social media. In addition to lending outside perspective, guests can act as wonderful ambassadors for your podcast and can help spread the word about it via their own networks.
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