You’re reading an excerpt of Stop Asking Questions, by Andrew Warner, a veteran podcast host of 2000+ episodes. The book explains how to lead high-impact interviews and learn anything from anyone. Master the craft of interviewing with this complete digital package. Purchase now for lifetime access to the book and extensive audio and video resources.
Reaching Their Followers
Promotional techniques change constantly and are best left to marketers to teach. But there’s one approach that’s unique to interviewing and vital to mention: get help from your guests to promote your interviews.
Guest promotion can be varied and unpredictable. When I interviewed Paul Graham about how he launched Y Combinator, one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious startup incubators, his firm featured my episode on their homepage for months. Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley, the online education company, used Facebook ads to promote his interview and drove traffic to my site. But most guests don’t do anything to promote their interviews with me.
What a guest does with an interview after it’s published is out of the interviewer’s hands. However, there are ways to nudge them toward helping you promote their episode.
I learned the most powerful technique from a friend who runs an interview podcast that’s often on Apple’s Top 10 list. Before the interview starts, he lists all the ways he’ll promote his interviewee. He’ll share it in his email newsletter, post it on his popular Instagram account, and so on. He’ll spread his guest’s message far and wide. Then he turns to his guest and asks, “How can you help me promote you?”
In the moments before an interview starts, the guest is at their most vulnerable. They’re worried about the questions they’ll be asked and how they’ll do. In other words, they want to be liked. They’ll promise to do things like share the interview with their email list and on social media. And once they’ve promised, they’ll feel obligated to live up to their commitments.
I tried this technique. It was incredibly powerful, but I quickly ditched it. It framed the interview as a promotion piece for the guest, so they didn’t want me to ask tough questions and often asked me to edit out potentially embarrassing stories.
I interview because I want to understand how people think, not be part of their self-promotion machine. So I stopped asking guests for promotion help right before the interview. I’ll always choose substantive conversations over downloads.
Still, this technique reminded me of the power of simply asking, so I found a way to do it that felt good. My assistant, Andrea Schumann, was already emailing guests when their interviews were published. I asked her to add a small request to those emails. She simply asks guests to promote the interviews if they want to.
The results weren’t as dramatic as when I put guests on the spot before my interviews started, but it helped. When I put guests on the spot right before their interview, about 75% agreed to help promote. Now, when Andrea asks after the interview is published, we get about a 15% promotion rate. You’ll have to decide what’s best for you, but I prefer this approach because it prevents guests from treating me like a marketing channel.
What’s worked better for me is looking for promotion beyond my guests. Many interviewees are connected to people who have an incentive to promote them. A good example of this is Quin Hoxie, founder of Swiftype, a search engine that tens of thousands of sites use to allow their readers to search their content. Quin had a tiny social media presence, so asking him to promote the episode wouldn’t have led to many listeners.
But one of his investors was Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and Silicon Valley icon. Alexis had an incentive to promote the company he invested in, so he shared the interview on Twitter. It gave me exposure to Alexis’s massive following and added to my credibility in the tech startup space.
It also taught me a new way to promote interviews organically. Instead of simply relying on guests, find their supporters and ask them to promote the interview. For example, ask an interviewee’s investors to post on social media or private message the company’s social media accounts and ask them to share. A founder might not want to say “look at my interview” on social media, but their head of marketing might want to post “look at our amazing leader.”
Other supporters with incentives to promote include the following:
Publishers, following an interview with their authors.
Mentors, when guests mention them in their interviews.
Friends of the guest with big followings who want to support them.
Other companies—like software tools—that guests say they use and love.
All it takes is a short message along the lines of, “I interviewed the founder of a company you invested in. If you think your followers want to hear it, here’s a link for you to post.”
Or, “I interviewed Claire, and she told me your software helped grow her business. I’d love to get more people to hear her story. If you think it’ll help your followers understand how good your software is, please share my interview.”
As with anything else you want in life, if you want your guests to promote your interviews, you must ask for it. And don’t limit your request to your guest. Think creatively about the people who have a vested interest in promoting your work.
My interview booking process used to be a mess, and it took up too much of my time.
I never knew if my pipeline of upcoming guests was big enough or if I had to scramble to find new ones. I had to approve or reject every single guest myself. My producers didn’t know whom they needed to pre-interview. When they got on calls with upcoming guests, they didn’t know what the interview would be about. All this uncertainty meant I often got 6:00 a.m. text messages asking for solutions to problems that could derail an upcoming interview or damage my relationship with an upcoming guest.
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