The Essential Rule for Successful Guest Pitches (And Your 5-Step Playbook)

I have one rule before I ever pitch myself to join someone’s podcast or YouTube show, write a guest post for someone’s blog, or present at someone’s webinar or conference.

I listen to, read, or watch their content. At least one show, a handful of their blog posts, or find and watch a recording of their event.

I never break this rule.

There’s the philosophical reason: If I can’t be bothered to check out their content, why do I think I deserve to be part of it?

And there’s the marketing reason: How can I write a compelling pitch if I don’t have a strong sense of what their show/blog/event is about?

On behalf of show runners, website owners, event organizers, and marketers everywhere, I urge you to never break this rule either.

You’re rolling your eyes. Geez, I’m busy. Of course you’re busy. We all are! Everybody is working through their to-do list, defending their inbox and trying to do their best deep work, all while making mental notes to figure out dinner or call for their next dental appointment. But if you have decided it’s so important for you to seize a guest opportunity, then you ought to take the time to research the opportunity so that you know it’s even worth your time (and theirs).

It sounds counterintuitive but it’s actually logical. It’s better to spend, say, 3.5 hours researching and writing 4 thoughtful pitches than to spend 1 hour spraying 8 generic pitches. Those generic pitches have a much lower chance of resonating — and you’ll have wasted a whole hour anyway. Why not invest a few more hours to feel comfortable that you’ll yield a positive return on your effort?

So before you kick off your next guest pitching plan, consider this 5-step playbook.

1. Uncover a handful of shows/websites/events that likely have your target audience.

Assuming you’re already steeped in this niche or industry, you might already know some heavy-hitters, hidden gems, and even up-and-comers. If it’s a B2B industry, you could look through trade publications to find even more potential opportunities. You could run a Google search for something like, “top podcasts in <my industry>. While this might not yield the perfect list, it could at least give you a starting point.

You could, of course, run a SparkToro search to find data-backed potential opportunities. Try running a query for a popular keyword you know your audience searches. A DTC marketer might search the keyword, “customer retention,” — which is a perfect example if you’re aiming to get on a show that reaches a DTC marketing audience. (By the way, that “customer retention” query is a free, full query for all SparkToro users!) You can then look through the social accounts — these are the social accounts most followed by people who Google the keyword, “customer retention.” You can also see the podcasts this audience listens to and the YouTube channels they subscribe to. Here’s a peek at how that looks:

Influential YouTube channels, podcasts, and Subreddits in the audience of people who search the keyword, “customer retention”

Our friend, B2B storyteller and “How Stories Happen” show runner Jay Acunzo has a tutorial for how he uses SparkToro level up his own pitching process. Check it out (he even takes you through how to actually write the guest pitch!):

2. Research the show/website/event.

Get a sense of the host’s audience. If there are sponsors, take note of who they are and who their audience might be. If you’re having trouble identifying a show’s audience, there’s a good chance that its sponsors offer some clues. Read the reviews; you may be able to uncover the value listeners get from the show (is it entertainment? Staying up to date with the industry? Going in-depth with tactics?). This is a great way to quickly understand what makes the show unique and interesting. Finally, skim the episode list and then listen to an episode or two. This will give you a sense of the host’s style, and might give you ideas for topics to pitch that they haven’t covered yet.

Apply similar principles to websites/publications or events. Skim through a website to see if there might be topics they’re missing that you can cover. For events, search for past agendas, speaker lists and webinar recordings to figure out the unique addition that you can bring to the table.

3. Consider the value you bring to the opportunity.

Speaking of what you can bring to the table — let’s dig into that further. What is it? Is it your expertise? If so, be specific. “I’ve been an executive for 15 years” tells the host nothing other than the fact that, well, you’ve presumably been well-compensated for at least 15 years. Good for you, but that gives zero value to the show host. What experience do you have that the host’s audience can benefit from? Maybe you have experience in growing large teams and you’ve noticed the host hasn’t covered this yet. Suggest it.

An even better, data-backed way to add value: Do a SparkToro search of a website that’s popular to their target audience, or do a search for how their audience self-describes on social media. Then look at the Trending Keywords. These are the most popular Google searches of this audience within the recent several months. Include in your pitch: “I researched your audience of nutritionists in SparkToro. Did you know they’ve been searching for the calorie and nutrition info of seasonal foods and dishes over these past few months? I noticed you haven’t discussed eating during certain holidays, and I have a strong point of view here, including ideas for recipes and tips. I’d love to join your show to discuss this further.”

SparkToro query showing the Trending Keywords of people who have the words “nutritionist” in their bio

And even better than using data? The cherry on top of all this is to include some backup for why they should trust you. Link to some of your best or recent work that allows them to quickly learn about you, your work, and what you stand for. Some ideas:

  • Are you a creator? Link to the thing you create — your Substack, your podcast, your YouTube channel. Call out a specific piece or episode you’re most proud of that’s also representative of how it’s relevant to their work.
  • Did you publish a book? Link to your Amazon page which shows off the rave reviews you got. Even better, link to your personal site which has a summary of your book, along with links to reviews/how people can buy it.
  • Do you have a high-engagement post on social media? We’re not all published authors or charismatic YouTube stars. But maybe you posted something on LinkedIn that sparked an interesting discussion that’s relevant to the show runner/website owner/event organizer that you’re pitching. Highlight that.

4. Offer to help with distribution.

Will you plan to promote your episode? If so, how? Maybe you have a LinkedIn audience of 5,000 people. Or an email list with 1,000 people. Tell them you would plan to help promote the episode to ensure better distribution than they could execute alone. A host shouldn’t expect you to do heavy lifting, but they’ll likely appreciate the help. Just make sure you’re being honest and not trying to inflate your numbers as though you have a massive marketing list. The host will see the download or view count. Any lie you tell would eventually reveal itself.

5. Suggest an alternative.

I’m already telling you to spend about an hour on at least one pitch. Let’s make sure you get something out of it. To some degree, this is a game of luck. Maybe you wrote a generous, laser-focused pitch. But it turns out the host is going on hiatus and doesn’t know when they’ll start up the show again. Rather than leaving the exchange ripe for an end-of-the-line rejection, consider giving them an alternative:

“I understand that sometimes timing is not ideal. If there’s a reason you don’t think this is a good fit at this time, I’d really appreciate if you could suggest another show/brand I should consider reaching out to.”

That’s funny, huh? It sounds like I’m telling you to ask them to recommend their competition. In a way, I suppose I am. But show runners have lots of show runner friends. People have friends within their niche. Somebody might know somebody. And rather than someone writing you back, “Sorry, this isn’t a fit,” they might be well-positioned to instead say:

“Unfortunately, our timing is off as I’m about to go on parental leave. But you should reach out to my friend who runs a podcast that’s similar to this audience!”

You’ve taken the time to consume their content. You’ve thought about how this exchange could be mutually beneficial. You created a personalized pitch. There’s a good chance that even if this show runner/website owner/event organizer doesn’t feel it’s a fit, they’ll be more inclined to help you than if you sent a generic mass pitch they can ignore and delete without a second thought.

If you care, maybe they’ll care.

Every show runner, website owner and event organizer gets crappy pitches all the time. It’s hard for anybody to nail the perfect guest pitch, but it’s really not that hard to rise above the fray. I’m not even saying that you have to spend hours and hours working on just one pitch. I’m saying all you have to do is put in some thought and effort. Because if you can’t be bothered to care, why should they?