Storytelling & Guest Selection for a winning podcast


Before the pen or the printing press, there were stories – stories of wisdom, ideas and understanding of the world passed down generations through oral history. Around campfires in ancient caves and water coolers in modern offices, voice is and always has been the most natural medium for people to communicate.

So, its no wonder that podcasts are a growing medium for people to tell and hear stories.  According to Nielson Podcast Insight, 2017; a whopping 69% of podcast listeners in the age group of 18-49 admitted that podcast ads made them aware of the new products and services.

If you are reading this piece, the chances are that you are either a podcaster looking for ways to impact your audience or maybe an experimenting marketer looking to explore the possibilities to reach your audience in a better way.

At Spext, we want people to spend more time on the creative process of telling a story than the  mundane task of editing and producing the show.

The Art of Good Storytelling

Since time immemorial, storytelling has been used by marketers to create a sense of attachment and gain empathy from their consumers. After years and years of technological changes, one thing that has always worked for marketers is a good storytelling.

The reason why we focus on storytelling even today is the fact that it creates neurological changes in our brain. These changes tend to release oxytocin, which is a hormone that stimulates trust, motivation and empathy.

Science tells us that storytelling actually works, so let us see how we can leverage this in a podcast. The following points need to be taken care of while telling a story:

  • Structure– Always keep the structure of your story in line. Add a relevant context in the beginning, include action point or the story part after that and finally share the outcome of the story. Give them a logical flow of the story so that they remain engaged from start to the end.
  • Emotion– Podcasters often tend to miss this while interacting with the listeners. Understand that people do not make decisions without emotions; if you can connect with them on that level, you can also tap into their sub-conscience and influence their decision making. So in order to sway their opinions, you need to connect with them emotionally through your story.
  • The element of Surprise– Every story/event that you narrate should have that element of surprise that keeps the audience hooked. Share with them some of the most surprising moments so that their interest remains intact.

Thus, keeping these bullets in mind while narrating a story will not only help you to evoke a strong sense of connectivity but also impact the listeners. After fortifying the storytelling, next comes inviting the GUESTS. Guests can add a whole new dimension to your storytelling because their personal stories, journeys and learnings can supplement your story beautifully or even take the story in a direction you did not think was possible.

Shortlisting Valuable Guests for Your Podcast

Having the right guest for your show is as important as having the idea of your podcast show. This means that a guest can make or break the success of your podcast. The question that pops up is how to decide who should be the guest on your show?

Call the Niche Expert

The guest of your show should belong to the niche you aim to target. His expertise in that niche is what your audience is looking for. Value creating podcasts that help the audience in understanding their queries and also attract loyalty and sincerity from them.

Take the Audience First Approach

Always put the needs of your audience first. Even before yours. This step is necessary because sometimes the podcasters forget that they are doing all this to target a specific group of people and if the guest fails to connect with them, the whole point of holding the podcast fails. So find a guest who your audience can relate to and derive benefit from.

They Should be Great Storytellers

We already discussed how a story impacts the listeners. A guest should be equipped with fantastic storytelling skills. The chances are that the guest you have chosen, already have appeared in many podcasts before. What you can do is gauge the storytelling skill by listening to their podcasts or interviews. If they are able to spark that imagination in your head, you are moving in the right direction.

Consider the Affiliate Angle

There is no harm in finding out creative ways to monetize from your podcast. Look for guests who have a product to promote from where you can earn some affiliate links.

However, it is important to understand that this should not be ‘the only’ deciding factor. If you keep thinking lopsidedly about earning profitability, your audience would soon look through it and decide not to be loyal after all. Result? You will slowly lose your podcast community.

After carefully analyzing your list of prospective guests, and shortlisting the ones that you want, it’s time to find out how to approach them.

How to Invite a Podcast Guest?

Build a Relationship First

If you are a visionary, you will understand the importance of long term business relationships. Concentrate more on building a relationship with the guest before approaching him bluntly. Follow him/her on social media and engage with him through his posts. You can start by liking their posts, commenting them and sharing your insights on it as well. Slowly as they begin recognizing you, you can go for the kill.

Approaching by Email  

It is only after you have built some kind of familiarity with the guest, is the right time to share an invitation through email. Share with him how you are passionate about the niche that you are working on just like him. Then share your vision on holding a podcast and how his presence will be valuable to so many of your listeners. Make the email as personalised and humanly as you can. Always remind yourself that we are doing this for a long term goal.

After sending them an email, be patient for their reply. Be understanding enough to know that they also have a lot on their plate. They might take longer time to revert than you assume. If they do not reply, don’t get disheartened. There are many guests that you can try on next.

Get Referral Guests

Don’t make the mistake of getting those same guests on your show back and forth, instead build a robust referral network through existing guests. Request them to send in a good word to their fellow podcasters and share their experience as well. This is valuable not only for the longevity of your podcast but also for retaining your target audience’s attention. Also, you will stand out from your competitors by having new guests on your show who haven’t already shared their knowledge and expertise in similar podcasts.

Parting Thoughts…

Storytelling and guest selection are two most crucial aspects that contribute to the success of a podcast. If you successfully master these two, then there is a high possibility of getting those golden downloads and engagements by simply recording on your cell phones. Once you have the recording, zip through the boring, mundane part of editing and producing the with Spext.

Anup is the co-founder of Spext. When not listening to podcasts, he can be found doodling ideas, reading esoteric books or trying to make puns – only half of which are decent.

About the author

Anup Gosavi

Anup is the co-founder of Spext. When not listening to podcasts, he can be found doodling ideas, reading esoteric books or trying to make puns - only half of which are decent.

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By Anup Gosavi