Over the past few years, I’ve probably guested on around 50 podcasts.
As someone who has both hosted four shows myself and spends every day working with other hosts, I’m keenly aware of the frustration of guests not sharing their episodes once they’re published.
And so, when I made a concerted effort to start guesting on more shows, I made a point to always share my episodes with my audience.
In fact, I specifically advertised it on my podcast guesting landing page.
And early on, I did.
But over time, something shifted.
For some reason, the more episodes I guested on, the more resistance I felt to sharing them.
I felt guilty about it, to be sure.
And while I generally pushed through the resistance and shared the episodes in each of my two newsletters (and more sporadically on social), I did so with little excitement or genuine belief that anyone in my audience actually should listen to those episodes.
After some reflection, I realized why I was struggling to share the episodes on which I guested.
And it’s probably the same reason why most guests don’t share, including yours.
Why Guests Do Share Episodes
To understand why podcast guests don’t share the episodes they appear on, it helps to understand the reasons that they would.
There are 3 basic motivations for guests to share their episodes with their audiences:
- Out of obligation to or respect for the host – The more respect or obligation they feel, the more likely they are to share the episode.
- Being associated with the show boosts their perceived legitimacy – When the show they’re on has sufficient cache to boost their legitimacy in the eyes of their audience. Most of us don’t have the clout for this to be a major motivator for our guests…
- The content is genuinely valuable to their audience – Which means it is either better than or different from what their audience has already heard them talk about before.
Whether they’re aware of it or not, this is the calculation playing out in the minds of every guest.
The more of the boxes our episodes are able to tick, the greater the chances they’ll share the episode.
Knowing this, we can now work backwards to understand exactly why guests don’t share episodes… and identify the biggest mistake podcast hosts unwittingly make that almost guarantees their guests won’t share their episodes.
The One Mistake that Keeps Guests From Sharing
Of the three sharing motivations for sharing, we as hosts can (for the most part) ignore the first two.
This is because:
- There will always be a baseline level of obligation to share that most guests will feel regardless of what we do. And while we can increase the level of connection, respect, and obligation based on the rapport we’re able to establish with our guests during the interview, this motivation on its own is not usually strong enough to overcome deficiencies in the other two categories.
- The legitimacy our shows bestow on our guests is a matter of long-term brand-building that we have little influence over in the short-term. What’s more, its pull is most acutely felt by guests with significantly smaller audiences than ours… at which point we may care less about whether or not they share their episodes at all.
That leaves us with one final motivation to work with: Creating an episode our guests think their audience will find valuable.
Which is exactly where most of us as hosts go wrong.
The reason is simple.
The episode that is most valuable to your audience is exactly what’s least valuable to theirs.
Think about it.
In most cases, the topic you’re inviting the guest on to talk about is the topic they’ve built their entire brand around.
- It’s the thing that attracted their existing audience to them in the first place.
- The thing their audience has heard them talk about at greater length and in more detail than you’re likely to get into on your podcast… which is more likely to be positioned as an intro lesson on the topic for your audience that hasn’t already been eating up information on the topic for months or years.
The result of interviewing a guest on a topic they are widely known for, then, is an episode that is difficult for them to share for two key reasons:
- They risk alienating their audience
- They have no authentic way to genuinely promote the episode
Let’s look closer at each challenge, which will make clear both the pitfalls and opportunities available to us if we want our guests to share.
Risk of Sharing
While sharing a podcast episode might seem like a small ask to us, to our guests, the ask carries with it a very real risk.
- The first & foremost responsibility of every creator, after all, is to the relationship they have with their own audience.
- Each and every ask or recommendation they make to their audience nudges that relationship in either a positive or negative direction.
- To maintain and deepen the relationship, the first rule is to never leave your audience with a bad taste in their mouths.
With this in mind, we can begin to understand why asking their audience to spend an hour listening to a podcast episode containing information their audience has already heard a dozen times over might give a guest pause.
And then, there’s the practical challenge of promoting the episode.
Practical Impediments to Sharing
When a new guest episode comes out, I typically promote it to my 12k newsletter subscribers as follows:
“I had a blast chatting with [host name] this week on [podcast name] all about podcast marketing and growth. We did a deep dive into my EAR$ marketing framework and how it can help you grow and monetize your podcast. If you’re looking to grow your show, I highly recommend checking this episode out!”
On the surface, this might look like a solid endorsement.
But at this point, I’ve written some variation of that sentence probably 35 times.
The reason for the repetition? I’ve simply run out of novel ways to describe my guest episodes.
I try my best to come up with novel hooks and reasons to listen, but the reality is that my pitch is constrained by the contents of the episode.
- Usually, those contents revolve around my EAR$ Framework for podcast marketing…
- Which is the first thing every new subscriber to my newsletter is greeted with when they sign up…
- Which means my subscribers have little motivation to check out the episode.
As a result, my promos to my 12k subscribers—almost all of whom care deeply about the topics I talk about in my guest appearances—typically only get a half dozen clicks.
Yes, you read that right: 6 out of 12,000… or 0.05%.
The reality is that the guests we most want to share our episodes (ie. those with the biggest audiences) tend to guest on a lot of other shows.
And almost all of those shows will ask some version of the same general questions around the same topic, with minor variations based on the target audience.
In short: These episodes don’t give the guests anything new to share with their audience.
And so they don’t.
As hosts, this sea of generic episodes is both a blessing and a curse.
- On the one hand, if we stick to the script and conduct the obvious interview—one that revolves around the work for which our guest is best-known—the chances of them sharing it are close to zero.
- If, on the other hand, we conduct an interview that is radically different from those they’ve done before, it creates a scenario in which they are actually compelled to genuinely and enthusiastically promote it to their audience.
If we’re looking to leverage our guests’ audiences for growth, then, our biggest opportunity might be as easy (and as hard) as giving them something to talk about.
Give Your Guests Something to Talk About
When it comes to making it easy for your guests to promote their episodes on your show, there are two general approaches to take.
1. Create the definitive interview on their topic
This approach is embodied by hosts like Tim Ferriss who create long-form, in-depth interviews that blow past the surface-level conversations held on other shows and go both deep and wide.
Pulling off this type of episode requires a significant amount of research and preparation.
You need to know what the guest has already covered—both in their own work as well as on other interviews they’ve given—to form the starting point from which to explore further afield.
As hosts, we often avoid pushing into this uncharted territory out of fear of making our guests look bad.
But remember: Your goal with these interviews is not to expose your guest with “gotcha” questions.
Instead, it’s to go beyond the guest’s well-trod talking points and explore the frontier of their own current understanding of their topic together, as co-explorers.
If you can pull this off, you’ll create episodes that your guests will be excited to share with their audiences as they’re a natural extension of their existing body of work.
2. Create an episode that is obviously different from any they’ve been on before
This approach is easier, but can require some outside the box thinking to execute well.
Some ideas on how to produce differentiated interview episodes include:
Create a unique show concept
Produce your episodes in a way that is markedly different from the typical episodes your guests appear on.
These shows feature guests who appear regularly on other shows. And yet—thanks to the unique show concepts—the interviews they elicit are anything but generic.
One of the episodes I’ve personally been most excited to share was this one from Yong Soo Chung’s show, First Class Founders where (in a surprising twist) he spends more of the episode talking—via narration he scripted and added in post-production—than I do.
Take an extremely narrow focus
Most guest interviews attempt to span the breadth of the guests work in order to give their audience a broad, surface-level introduction to their work. A more compelling approach, however, is to take an extremely narrow deep-dive into one particular aspect of their work.
The result is an episode that might not be the definitive episode they’ve ever given on their topic as a whole, but might well be the most definitive piece of content on that one sub-set of their topic.
Not only does this create a deep-dive episode they’re likely to share in the moment, but a useful asset to continue to reference and point their audience toward in the future.
Pair your guest with a unique topic
Almost everyone who is known for one topic is a verifiable expert on several others—some of which might not even be obvious to them. And it’s this type of topic/guest combination that not only creates share-worthy episodes on the guest’s part, but episodes with a compelling hook to new potential listeners.
As Josh Spector shares in this fantastic clip, I would be way more likely to listen to a podcast episode about how James Clear runs a 1-employee business than here yet another episode of him talking about habits… which I can get anywhere.
If you take this approach, the ultimate sweet spot you’re aiming for is to find a topic the guest hasn’t talked much (if at all) about that is relevant and interesting to both your audience and the guest’s audience.
To get started with this approach:
- Open up your guest research doc
- Write down the first three things that come to mind when you think about them
- Circle these topics in red – These are the topics that you will avoid talking about at all costs
- Brainstorm 3–5 more topics you’re interested in hearing them talk about
Now you’re onto something.
There are likely many more approaches to creating share-worthy podcast episodes.
But with all of them, your core goal as a host is always the same:
Create an episode your guest can’t help but talk about.
If you can do this, you’ll not only expand your reach by consistently gaining exposure to your guests’ audiences but you’ll also create a show that is more compelling to potential listeners everywhere.