Why Interviewing “Famous” People Is a Lousy Growth Strategy for Your Podcast

A few days ago Chris Brogan posted the following image from a podcaster who was a bit “aggressive” in asking Chris to promote the interview.

What stood out to me was this.

“The growth of our show depends on our guests sharing the show to their respective audiences”

If that’s your growth strategy, you’ve got big problems.

Long before everybody and their grandmother, grandfather, first cousin, second cousin, neighbor, plumber, gardener, and closest friend started a podcast, I plugged a microphone into laptop and started interviewing people. It was early 2009.

The Assumption That Didn’t Cause us to Grow

When we started what is now The Unmistakable Creative Podcast, my thought process was as follows.

  • Interview famous people
  • They’ll retweet, Facebook or share the interview
  • Every interview will go viral
  • I’ll become rich and famous

Notice there’s one MASSIVE flaw in this thought process. There’s nothing about making great content and nothing about serving a community. Here we are nearly 6 years later and many people are taking the same approach and making the same assumptions.

It was only when we realized that our job was to create the best interviews possible for the people listening that our community started to grow. Our listeners started to tell other people about the show.

And here’s something that may surprise you. Despite having “celebrity” guests like Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Glenn Beck, Chris Brogan and a few others, they weren’t the ones that had the most impact on our listeners. Chances are you’ve never heard of most of the people who our listeners loved… (more on that shortly)

Lousy Reasons to Interview People

1. Fame and Their Large Audience

Interviewing somebody because they’re famous and you’re hoping to capitalize on their large audience is not a good reason to have them on your podcast. First, interviews with these people are a dime a dozen. They’re already appearing on every single podcast and you’re just contributing to a sea of sameness. Second, famous people don’t always give great interviews. In many cases they’re dishing out the same canned speech on every single podcast.

2. Building an “influential” network

Interviewing somebody on your podcast doesn’t automatically equate to a relationship with that person. Like any good relationship it has to be nurtured and built over time. Sometimes you’ll hit it off with a podcast guest and that will happen immediately. Other times that could take years. Always assume that people can feel what you’re thinking. If your motives aren’t pure, they’ll be able to tell.

3. Everyone Says Yes

This has to be the dumbest reason possible to interview another person. But it’s something I heard once so I figured it was worth mentioning. There are plenty of people who might say yes to being on your podcast, but by having them you’d be doing a disservice to your listeners.

Good Reasons to Interview People

Now let’s talk about good reasons to interview people.

1. A Great Story

In the 5 years that I’ve run Unmistakable Creative, without exception the people who have great stories always end up being bigger hits with our listeners than the people who are “famous.” Our guests have included performance psychologists, cartoonists, bank robbers and drug dealers. Amazingly enough, these people end up getting our audience talking much more than an interview with Tim Ferriss does.(nothing against Tim).

2. Genuine Curiosity

If there’s one selection criteria that I use for guest selection on The Unmistakable creative, it’s this. Curiosity leads to some of our greatest conversations and connects us to people and places we might never have ended up. Curiosity is an essential part of my compass.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with interviewing famous people. But if what you’re banking on is leveraging their audience to grow yours, it’s a lousy strategy. What causes an audience to grow is creating value for the people who are already there. It’s not the shortcut you were probably hoping for. As Chris Brogan said “don’t expect someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Time to embrace the grind, grit, and the dip.

I’m the host of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Subscribe to the podcast viaiTunes or Stitcher.