Why Unsolicited Podcast Guests Are Bad – Earned Media


I’m the co-founder and product of a successful podcast media company with ten years of podcast publishing, seven figure revenues, and solid position in the Top 200 for our category on Apple Podcasts.  You can imagine that we get endless stream of “earned media” requests from companies and agencies wanting to get free coverage for the people who hired them. 

The moral angle of getting paid to ask for free stuff is problematic. Paying people to ask for free stuff is a worse moral position in my view. Most often the sort of people who do either of these things do not have any care or concern about you and your business. Its’ all about them and what they can get from you. 

Definition “Earned media is free publicity by third parties. It’s achieved through PR outreach rather than paid advertising”

Audience 

One last thing before we get into it. The most important thing in podcasting is your audience. Anything that gives your audience a reason to press next your show means you have failed. 

Finding a win/win situation in podcasting is extremely rare. Your audience, brand and work deserve to get something. Don’t give away free coverage. 

Unsolicited Guests Are Bad Guests

  • Guests pitched by marketing / PR firms are most often (~90%) awful guests. Thats why they need a PR firm to pitch them. 
  • People who get free coverage rarely prepare content or take the time to understand your content strategy. It’s —free— so it’s not important to them.
  • These people most often fail to prepare their audio setup or even think about it. At all. 
  • Unsolicited guests have an agenda and will talk about stuff that your audience probably doesn’t care about. 
  • Beware the ‘ego guest’ who hired marketing/PR firm to place them on podcasts so they can boost their resume / profile

Some Practical Tips for Working With Placed Guests 

  • Your brand has value, your podcast is valuable, people want to leverage your work and get that value for themselves. Understand this. 
  • You can and should demand some sort of return – what promotion will they do, where will the podcast be promoted, will they run paid promotion campaigns on Facebook/LinkedIn ? What is the social media profile of your guest ? Can you gain advantage from the guest ? If the answer nothing, why are you even bothering. 
    • If the PR pitch doesn’t mention what amplification they bring then you are getting nothing. 
  • You can tell a free guest that they are not good enough to publish. 
  • If a ‘free guest’ doesn’t prepare then cancel the recording and walk away. Don’t waste more of your time. 
  • Screen the ‘free guest’ with a prep call. If the person is an assclown, cancel the recording. 
  • Expect to delete some/most of these recordings. Its better to not publish than to publish bad content and lose audience. 
  • Don’t ever take unsolicited guests. Find your own, its actually less work than this. 

Business Thoughts

  • Non-profit companies – there are ‘non-profits’ that have large revenues that operate like companies e.g non-profit, membership associations. If they can employ marketing people who ask for free coverage instead paying for it, they have money to pay for sponsoring your podcast 
  • Any  revenue generating organisation should expect to sponsor/pay for a podcast because you like getting paid too. They should respect your time and commitment. 

Earned Media is Over

The idea of earned media is dead. Back in the days of magazines and news, journalists were independent of business of sponsorship/advertising and an ecosystem of people worked to influence the content creators to get “free coverage”. 

Today the content creators are the business and perform their own sponsorship/advertising. Without revenue, creators cannot survive and lose audience. PR agencies and marketing people continue to pitch vendors products that will deliver “earned media” and I’m sure its a tempting sell. The thing is, “earned media” almost never has the money to have a big audience.