Plan and book an interview

Oh Madge, you nut!

People often come up to me and they say “hey Owen, how do you go about booking great guests?”  That’s right after they ask “how do you keep your hands so soft?”

Palmolive, of course.

I drink a bottle, every, single, day.

Oh, and no one ever asks me how I keep my hands so damn soft. But if they did, I’d get all Madge up in this biznatch.


How do you book great guests.  I guess it all depends on your definition of a great. From my perspective, sometimes a big name is a good guest, but more often then not, someone who can supply insight where a show is lacking makes a guest great. Think about it, they can deliver insight that propels a host to great conversations.  For example: Don Tennant was a great guest on a show I produced years ago.

You heard me: Don Tennant, baby.

Allow myself to explain…myself.


I wanted to find a unique angle for a segment on THE topic of the day that mattered to our audience; Lance Armstrong. And I needed a guest that would share insight my hosts did not possess. I needed someone with gravitas to tell us whether Armstrong was being truthful or not when he, again, proclaimed his innocence in regard to PED use.

Don Tennant, author, Spy the Lie

To me, the one thing anyone who cared about the Lance Armstrong story cared about was whether he was being truthful or not. Don Tennant is a former NSA operative (doesn’t that sound cool!) and a journalist who, along with former members of the CIA wrote a book called Spy The Lie.  They’ve developed a methodology in which they can determine whether someone, like Lance Armstrong, is being truthful or not. So, although the name isn’t big, his insight into the disgraced cyclist is.

Oh, and by the way, Don felt Armstrong was being deceitful.

Great insight on the biggest story of the day feels like a win to me.

Judge for yourself by listening to how we executed this topic here.


NOTE: This is a few years old…

What if you have a sports show in a major market, like Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston or Houston?  Wait a second…those are the cities that have football teams vying for a trip to the Super Bowl!  What an incredible coincidence!

From my perspective, I would want anyone who could deliver value via insight to my audience on what they care about most: NFL playoffs.  It could be a great analyst like Trent Dilfer, or a locked in beat-writer, or a current player or coach who faced the opponent, or an analyst who knows the team, whatever.

When I did a show in Madison, I recall digging to find coaches who had faced upcoming opponents of the Badgers basketball team, again, to deliver unique insight, or value, to my audience.  We found `em, and they did.


It’s difficult for me to articulate exactly how I approach guest booking. Sometimes something just sits in my craw, or gets under my skin and makes me want to call b.s. on the conventional thinking (QBs need to be 6’2″ or taller…what a bunch of bull shazam) or may I just want to understand an angle better.

Let me try to take you through my thought process…

Here’s an example: what does it mean for Matt Ryan, and how he will lead his team against the 49ers and beyond, to have made those two big throws at the end of the Falcons incredible win over the Seahawks last week?  Do those throws potentially propel him into elite, or close to elite status?

Well, who can truly answer that question?

Probably someone who’s been in that position.  Someone who’s

  1. Played QB in the NFL at a high level.
  2. Spent a lot of time being thisclose to getting to the next level.
  3. Played in a sports-negative city, like Atlanta.

So who?

Well, Peyton Manning certainly comes to mind, but he’s probably fairly hard to get…but maybe he’s talked about it and that interview is on YouTube.

Elway!  Again, difficult get, but he’s probably talked about it and there’s YouTube video.

Donovan McNabb certainly was a brides maid forever and played in a negative city.

Certainly those three know the pressure Matt Ryan is under.

Who else…who else…


Time to log onto Pro Football Reference to take a look at a list of QBs to jog my memory.

Oh look, after a little research I realize that maybe Mark Rypien would be a good guest. He was fairly mediocre the season before he took the Redskins to a Super Bowl victory.  Find him, do a pre-interview, and maybe he delivers great insight to your audience.

Then you start to pick other angles that achieve essentially the same goal.  Is there coaches who can tell you how Elway or Peyton got over the hump?  Dan Reeves…Tony Dungy…

Coaches who played against him: Mike Holmgren, Dan Reeves again.

Former teammates?  Bubby Brister was Elway’s back-up in 1997 and 1998; maybe he has insight.

There’s always Jim Sorgi.


Maybe he’s a good talker!

Hopefully this helps you think a little differently about how you approach guest-booking. Regardless, you have a pretty good list there to start building a great guest list that will (say it with me) deliver entertaining, insightful, great conversations!


So now you want to book the interview. Many simply text the guest. It’s unobtrusive and quick. It’s a solid way to go.  But what if you have to email them or their publicist?  Here’s a basic format I’ve used for years that (hopefully!) answers all their questions, thus making the process turnkey for them.

(name), good morning/afternoon/evening…we’d love to have (guest name) join us on our show at his earliest convenience.  Show info and my contact info is all below…


Station: Sports Radio 94.5 The Sports Animal
Show: name of show
Hosts: (name of hosts)
Time and day: 5-10 minutes sometime between (time or exact times)
Taping option: (5-10 minutes at this time)


Call-in number: 888.say.ESPN


Emergency number (my cell): 555-555-5555

Now the “why”

  • “Station” tells them where the interview will air. Don’t be afraid to put a link to your site in the text.
  • “Show” let’s them know the name of the show.
  • “Hosts” tells them who they, or their client, will be talking to.
  • “Time” gives them a window to work in.
  • “Taping option” tells them when you could record an interview ahead of time.
  • “Call-in number” gives them the info they will need to originate the call on their end.
  • “Emergency” is a back-up number, often times for the producer, when things inevitably go wrong.

This is just one way to start the process, and it’s a valuable tool as it streamlines the process so that you and the publicist or guest aren’t shooting texts back and forth ad infinitum.