Jon Acuff’s 3 Tips for New Podcasters
Jon Acuff is the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers, a sought-after speaker and coach, and the hilarious mind behind projects like Stuff Christians Like. I had the chance to meet him while he was on tour for his newest book Do Over.
After his talk, I got in line, made it to the front, and got my book signed (“Dan – Keep hustling! – Jon Acuff”). Instead of asking for a picture, however, I used my 60 seconds with him to ask for advice. Knowing his success with online projects and having just launched “Art of the Sermon,” I wanted to know what he would recommend to new podcasters. How does someone like me end up landing a guest like him?
He gave me three pieces of advice that can apply to any collaborative creative project.
1. Network up to bigger guests.
Jon’s first piece of advice was to start with the people you know. Afterward, ask them for guest recommendations. Personal connections open up new networks of people. Be sure to ask for permission to use the recommender’s name since this can help to get your foot in the door (or email inbox).
This is obviously Networking 101, but it is important to keep in mind during the excitement of planning and launching. Likely what inspired you to start your blog, YouTube channel, podcast, etc. was an idea that you can see making a difference. So you want it to be as good as possible as early as possible. You want to achieve the vision you have in your head from the very beginning. I know because I have been there.
Sure, you can send off one or two emails/tweets to dream guests because it really can’t hurt to try (as long as you’re professional). But there is another way to make the difference you desire: connect with the people in your life who could be “famous” if they wanted to be. I am coming to realize that notoriety often requires a combination of talent/expertise and the ambition of being widely known. There tons of talented and engaging people who are “normal” because they don’t seek the spotlight. These people are accessible to you and can provide an incredibly impactful contribution.
2. Don’t exaggerate or fabricate your impact.
Jon said that one of the worst things you can do is to try to make your project seem bigger than it really is. He jokingly told me, “Don’t say that your podcast is the number three ranked show about some obscure topic in some random region of the country.”
If you are able to approach more well-known people, chances are good that they understand the metrics better than you do. Even if you are pitching them something that is truly new to them, they likely got to where they are because they have learned how to evaluate opportunities.
But no matter who you’re approaching, everyone’s time is valuable, and everyone’s time is limited. It is critical to have a vision for your project, and you should use that vision as part of your pitch. However, you should be clear about what is potential and what is reality. Every interaction you have with someone can either build or break the relationship. Make sure it is a positive experience for everyone involved. And keep in mind tip number 1! Someone is not likely to recommend other people they respect if you took advantage of them.
3. Build a track record of consistency and dedication.
This was perhaps the most interesting piece of advice Jon gave me because he said that the amount of time a podcast has been around could be as valuable or even more valuable than its download numbers. He told me flat out that he doesn’t appear on podcasts that have been around for less than a year because it is too easy for creators to quit.
The size of an audience doesn’t make it valuable — the dedication of the audience does. And inconsistency kills audience dedication. This doesn’t mean you need to blog, vlog, or release episodes everyday, but you should set and meet expectations that work for both you and your audience. A positive feature of podcasts/blogs/etc. is that people can dig through your archive and find old projects. However, falling off people’s radar or quitting entirely makes that archive useless.
If you have spent a year or more building and serving an audience, chances are pretty good that those people care about what you think. Since most podcasts don’t pay their guests, this is how they can offer value in return. It means that when you bring a guest on and say, “Check out their site/book/project,” the audience will actually do it.