Being a guest on podcasts is a great way to share your message, yet it’s not something I see a lot of ministry leaders doing. Here’s your guide to being a great podcast guest.
There are over 2 million podcasts, and over 60% of all US consumers listen to podcasts. People listen in their homes, in the car, while they’re out taking a walk or exercising, and at work. Podcasts are everywhere. In the previous episode, I interviewed Eric Nevins, founder of the Christian Podcasters Association. Eric shared how podcasts are an effective way to get your message out to more people.
Look at the advantages podcasts have:
Podcasts tend to have a loyal following
As a guest, you “borrow” the host’s credibility with their audience
Builds your reputation as an authority
Exposes you to new audiences
You can generally guest from anywhere in the world
Podcasts are evergreen – that show stays out there. Someone may listen the day it comes out – others weeks, months, and even years later.
Here are my tips for being a great podcast guest.
I get emails all the time from agencies and individuals trying to guest on Life and Mission, but I’ve never accepted an unsolicited pitch. What? Because these people have obviously NOT listened to this podcast. I mean, when have you heard me talk about crypto? Please don’t be like that.
Most podcasts have a process, either through an application, or some other channel. Check the podcast website. If you reach out by email, do so only after listening to two or three episodes, and only after identifying how you can serve that audience. The point of this article isn’t to teach you how to pitch yourself–that’s a whole thing in itself! Let’s just say don’t be a jerk. Don’t make assumptions, and show up with a heart to serve (not sell).
Now, let’s get you ready to be a great guest:
Follow the host’s process. Do what they ask you to do. Be ready to provide headshots, a short bio or introduction, and even a few suggested questions.
Listen to at least two or three episodes. Get to know how the show goes, their style, and the types of questions they typically ask.
Find out (listen & ask) if there are questions the host asks every guest so you can prepare your answer.
Practice what you’ll talk about, and tell stories!! Practice telling your key stories (ones that will resonate with this audience) without taking rabbit trails or rambling.
Get a microphone and learn how to use it. You can get a decent mic for about $100 (I use the ATR2100x) (affiliate link)
Use earphones or earbuds to prevent echo on the recording.
Don’t use a shared WiFi (coffee shop, etc.) if possible. Wired connections are more reliable than Wifi. Plan ahead.
Dress professionally. Be prepared to be on video.
Make sure your background isn’t distracting (visually, and audibly)
Watch your lighting (don’t sit with a window in the background, etc.)
Turn off your phone, or silence it and turn off notifications.
Be on time, ready, with your tech tested – EVERY TIME
Pay attention to cues from the host
Speak with confidence.
Match the tone of the show (another reason to listen).
Stay engaged with the conversation.
Show up to serve the audience and the host.
If you have a CTA or a gift/offer, ask before recording if you can share it (usually at the end). It’s really nice to offer something specifically for that audience.
Don’t continually refer to your offer or hint at giving/support for your cause.
Thank the host. You may send a card or even a small gift of appreciation afterwards.
Promote the podcast in your channels (social media, email, etc.).
If you do these things, you’ll be well on your way as a podcast guest. As you become known as someone who is easy to work with and who serves the audience, chances are podcast hosts will be willing to refer you to others.
Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we planned. When that happens, use the opportunity to invite donors to have a closer look at the important work you do.
We love a good transformation story: someone was hurting. Things were all wrong. Then your donors stepped up and your organization did life-changing work. Those stories are powerful and effective, and we love to tell them.
But what if things didn’t turn out so well?
How do we tell a story when it’s just the beginning of a long process of change?
How do we tell stories when we don’t know the ending?
I believe some of our internal conflict over these stories is our fear of giving donors a not-so-perfect picture of our mission. On the one hand, we’re seen as the experts. But really, there are so many factors beyond our control. We cannot fix it all.
I’m not talking about taking responsibility when we mess up (more on that another time). I’m thinking about those interventions where we did our best, and it seemed like things were okay. We saw change. We may have shared a story from a beneficiary who made a radical turnaround because of our work. But a few months later, they were right back in that unhealthy situation. Do you tell that story?
You probably don’t want to (or need to) highlight that person’s personal setbacks. But there are stories you can tell around the experience:
Explain the process of change your beneficiaries go through.
Focus on one aspect of the change process and help supporters understand why it’s such a hurdle.
Share a story about the setting that causes difficulties in the change process.
Feature something in your work that deals specifically with one of those hurdles.
This works for unfinished stories, too. For complicated stories, and for slow change. Use setbacks and the unknown to invite your donors to draw close. You’ll be glad you did.
I can see why people might be hesitant to allow strangers into their space. We are conditioned to look at people who are not like us as either scary or exotic. Since childhood, most of us have been warned of “stranger danger”.
The ad features a family of shaggy “monsters” enjoying their vacation. It starts where many of us are when it comes to inviting strangers to stay in our homes–it’s a little scary. But then we see a delightful series of scenes: enjoying a beautiful view with a cuppa tea, a family hike, collecting shells, taking selfies, cooking, playing games…
These are simple things we enjoy with our own families.
The shaggy monsters clean up after themselves, straighten a picture on the wall, and leave a thank you note. As they close the door, we finally see them as they really are–a human family, just like us.
Kevin Morby’s song, Beautiful Strangers, provides a relaxed musical backdrop. Not a word is spoken. It’s a beautifully orchestrated story with an important message:
Strangers aren’t that strange. We have more in common than not.
The stories we tell can build bridges
Unfortunately, in our attempts to elicit emotion (or donations), we often emphasize our differences rather than our shared humanity. When we do this, we miss opportunities to present a realistic and nuanced view of the problems we solve. At worst, we reinforce stereotypes and even exploit the people we are called to serve.
Every story gives us a chance to choose. Do we set up a “them and us” narrative, or will we do the work to offer another perspective?
You need to tell stories to raise more funds for your mission, ministry or nonprofit. But why is that? What exactly is it that stories do?
When I joined David Oaks’ end-of-year fundraising accelerator in August 2021, David and I were experimenting. We worked with eight small organizations and walked them through their end-of-year fundraising. None of these organizations had done year-end campaigns before, and every one did better than they’d ever done. Some saw wild success, but others still struggled. The difference, at least as far as David and I could see, was the ability to tell powerful stories in writing.
Writing & storytelling make a difference in your fundraising
We talked and we said we have to do something. There has to be some way to help them with their written storytelling projects. That’s when Mission Writers was born. I started Mission Writers in February this year, 2022. The idea was to get writers together and help them help missionaries and small ministries and nonprofits write these stories. We’re still learning and experimenting, but I’ve become even more convinced that this is going to make a tremendous difference for these small organizations’ ability to raise funds.
Let’s look at some reasons we need to tell stories, and why we need to become skilled storytellers.
Why Tell Stories?
Stories help us connect – When you listen to a story, your brainwaves actually start to synchronize with those of the storyteller.
Research shows compelling stories cause our brains to release oxytocin, increase empathy, and have the power to affect our behaviors.
Stories help us remember who we are and what we’re about. Donors give to their values. Telling stories that reflect those values help donors make good decisions about whether you’re a good match for them.
Stories reveal truths – your storytelling can help people see the world in a new way. Shift perspectives, overcome prejudices.
Stories offer dignity and context for beneficiaries, and give them a voice.
Stories put our critical minds aside for a moment, and we willingly enter into the narrative. We try to find ourselves in the story.
Stories give us context to make sense of all those things.
Stories give donors context to see where they fit in accomplishing the mission.
Every known culture tells stories. This is the way we make sense of the world and our place in it. All through the donor journey, especially with people who are not yet aware of you and your mission. Stories help draw them in, and help them get to know, like, and trust you.
You don’t just “need a story” to fill a space in your newsletter. You need a story to show donors what they can accomplish by giving to your mission. Where do they fit in this story? Not just through giving, but in the big picture of a world where this thing is a problem. They can reflect their values, glorify God, ease suffering, and experience deep personal satisfaction by stepping into this story and playing an active role.
In our ministries, stories are an invitation into a world most people haven’t experienced. If I live in America and I’m immersed in church culture, and all my friends are Christians, I don’t give much thought to what it’s like to not know who Jesus is. To not have ever seen a bible. So, when you say you need funds to go and preach the gospel, or to live in another culture for several years so they can have a bible in their language, you can’t just start there. You have to bring donors into that world and give context to what you do and why you do it. You do that with stories.