Podcast Alchemy: Creating the Perfect Podcast Pitch

Pitching a podcast is both an art and a science. It requires succinctly conveying the value you offer, but packaged in a way that you can do it at scale. Learn how to stand out among the torrent of pitches most podcasts get.

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In the last two articles we reviewed why you might want to be a podcast guest (Podcast Alchemy: 2. To Host or Guest) and the right way to approach guesting (Podcast Alchemy: 3. The Philosophy of Guesting). This article will cover how to create a media kit and pitch a podcast. I’ll review the components and share links to my media kit and pitch email as an example. The next article in the series (Podcast Alchemy: 5. How to Get on Hundreds of Podcasts) will build on this and show you how to source podcasts and to pitch.

(Note: I had limited formatting flexibility with the lists and email examples, so it didn't format completely correctly, but you'll get the idea.)

Selling Yourself

If you’ve ever had any sales training, then you know that the goal is to make it as easy as possible for the potential client to say yes. When selling yourself as a guest on a podcast, the same holds true. Make it easy to say yes and pre-empt any objections they may raise. That’s the point of your pitch and media kit. Together they should demonstrate the following.

  • You’re a credible guest. You want to show that you are an actual qualified expert on this subject, not just because you think you are.
  • You will bring value to the audience. Just because you’re an expert, it doesn’t mean that what you have to say is right for this audience, or that you can express it well. The key question in all this is: will you help my audience? (There’s one exception to this we’ll explore in Podcast Alchemy: 9. Who is Helping Whom? Podcast Hosts, Guests, & Audiences).
  • You are an easy guest to work with. Podcasts are work, and some guests are more work than others. We’ve all heard about demanding Hollywood stars as well as the ones who are easy to work with. At a minimum a host needs to do some research on you before the show. Be the guest who makes the episode as easy as possible for the host.
  • You will be helpful to the host and his or her needs. The host is looking for a benefit as well, can you offer that?

How Much Customization Goes into a Pitch?

The general advice is to not send a generic pitch, but rather to craft a custom one to each podcast. In reality, I found the opposite to be true. Your mileage may vary, but my success percentage went up when I switched to generic pitch, not to mention being much more efficient with my time since I could pitch to more shows in less time.

To be fair, I was refining my pitch the first few months, so a better written pitch may be part of the reason it got better. But even when I settled on a pitch, and then did occasional custom ones, I did not find the custom ones did any better.

(By the way, one of the companies at which I was CTO made a significant percentage of its revenue from the over 500 million emails a year we sent to our mailing list, plus plenty of other email marketing on smaller scales at other companies. I mention this for the naysayers who might be questioning my advice on generic pitches, “well, you don’t know email marketing.” Been there, done that, got the stock options.)

I know some podcast hosts will take offense at the advice I gave above. Let me address this before I get into the details of what to do. Many hosts do get spam from inappropriate guests. I am not advocating a spray and pray approach. I want to be very clear; this does not mean you should spam every podcast you find. I know one guesting email service that noted many guests would just reach out to every podcast listed that week, from a logistics podcast to spiritual healing. Unless you’re a spiritual healer focused on shipping, you probably don’t qualify for both podcasts. ONLY PITCH APPROPRIATE PODCASTS.

At a minimum you need to make sure your content and value offering is relevant to the audience (and that the show actually takes guests). And by relevant I don’t mean some generic, “I teach LinkedIn optimization, and everyone can use that,” so you pitch to some parenting podcasts because many parents have jobs. They do, but this podcast is about parenting, so your content needs to be about parenting. Also, note that some shows may be looking for people with a certain type of background (e.g., female entrepreneurs-–I may know a lot about entrepreneurship, but I don’t qualify as female).

Guests should only reach out if you a) qualify for who the show wants as a guest and b) you can deliver actual value to the audience (see Podcast Alchemy: 3. The Philosophy of Guesting). Equally important, the pitch needs to convey that message. Now that we know we’re only pitching relevant podcasts, and not simply every podcast we can find, let’s get back to the how.

As noted above, I started out with custom pitches. I’d point to prior episodes and how I would tie into the theme of the show. I would suggest specific angles for this podcast and incorporate language off their podcast descriptions and websites to show that I did my homework. It was a lot of work, usually about 5-10 minutes per pitch, in addition to any time spent listening to the episodes and didn’t get me far. I don’t recall my exact success rate, but it was around 2%.

I switched to using a standard cut and paste pitch and it worked. My pitch success rate jumped to 20%, which I tracked using a spreadsheet. You can download a blank version of this spreadsheet for free: Cognosco Media Podcast Tracker Spreadsheet. (The file is read only so just download a local copy.)

To be clear I will do some customization. First, I address it to the name of the host or booker. Second, as I have multiple angles, I have a few slightly different pitches, not just one size fits all. My pitch to a podcast for entrepreneurs is different from my pitch to a parenting podcast, both of which differ from my pitch to an HR podcast. So I use one of a few templates and then tweak maybe a line or two in standard ways. At scale I can do it in about sixty seconds. If it’s an unusual type of show it might take two to three minutes to customize the pitch. Sometimes my default template is fine as is and no adjustment is needed. And yes, out of the over two thousand pitches I have made typos, and on a few rare occasions had the wrong name. (Who hasn’t done that?)

While I don’t spend a lot of time crafting a custom message for each pitch, I have spent significant time making sure my pitch templates have a clear value proposition to that podcast’s audience. The reality is one leadership podcast (to use leadership as an example) isn’t that different from another. They may have some specific angle, e.g., communication versus teamwork, but they’ll typically have a wide range of leadership guests with topics that overlap with many other leadership podcasts. I don’t mean to disparage leadership or other podcast categories. There are only so many categories and while there’s some variation within categories there’s still a lot of overlap. (For the record the same is true for books; I’m not pretending the advice in my book is so unique that you can’t get it elsewhere if you put some effort into finding it.)

Example Pitches (The Career Toolkit & Brain Bump)

Below is my template for the outreach I did for The Career Toolkit book.

Hi <name>,

I'm interested in being a guest on your podcast. After teaching for 20+ years at MIT's Career Success Accelerator class and working as a startup executive, I’ve written The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You.

1 Minute Book Summary: The Career Toolkit
Leadership, networking, negotiation, teamwork, effective communication–all skills we’re told are essential for success, but skills rarely ever taught. This book provides a quick and accessible means to begin learning and applying these skills filled with helpful anecdotes and actionable tips.

I can speak about any of the topics in the book as well as talk about how to develop these skills across an entire organization. Depending on your audience there are different angles which could be taken to provide the best audience value.

I know your time is very valuable, so I've attached media and interview kits to make it easier. You can also see some of the 300+ prior shows I've done on the media page on my website, read reviews on Amazon, or download the free app from the app stores to get a sense of the content. We promote all podcasts on my social media channels and websites.

Thank you for your time.

Mark A. Herschberg

The first sentence makes the goal of the message clear. I remove that if it’s on a form for podcasts guests since they already know the intention (it makes more sense when it’s an email or LinkedIn message I’m sending). The second sentence lays out my credibility. The third sentence (or two, in this case the book description) defines the value proposition to the audience. (Yes, I know it’s less than “1 minute” but by saying “1 minute” I’m signaling that this is brief and that what follows isn’t some three-page writeup I’m expecting the person to read.)

The next paragraph describes in more detail how it will help the audience. The last paragraph provides links to make the job of the host or booker easier. This is key, make it easy for them to say yes. Every stroke on the keyboard or movement of the mouse is more work for them. Having links to what they may find useful makes it less effort for them. It shows that you’re easy to work with and makes it easier for them to see what they need to say yes. I always explicitly mention that we will promote the episode, to show that I care about helping them, and not just my needs.

Sentences two and three in the first paragraph are key. I start with my background since I know most hosts don’t get pitched by someone who has taught at MIT, so it makes me unique. You might have a unique selling point such as, “Having run seven marathons in seven weeks . . .” or “I’m a knife juggling unicyclist . . .” Simply saying, “I wrote <book>” or, “I run a marketing services company” probably isn’t going to be unique. There are lots of other books on your topic or companies that do what you do (unless, say, you’re a marketing exclusively aimed at Gen Z female influencers, then you’re niche enough to be fairly unique).

Even though I start with me, I quickly get to what I will offer to the audience. This is what matters. The first line establishes that I have credibility, but its use is more of a hook. You can reverse them (and should if your credibility is not unique). “I’d like to speak to your audience about how they can . . .” and then a sentence or two later explain why you are the one they should listen to about this.

The paragraph that begins “I can speak about . . .” is the one that may be changed up a bit. Given the angle of the show I may change “any of the topics in the book” to something more specific for that show. I might write something utilizing communication in sales pitches, or helping people negotiate job offers if that seems like a good angle. For example, “I can speak about any of the topics in the book; given the theme of customer management I’d suggest communication with, negotiation with, or networking to meet customers as the most relevant topics for your audience.” (Back in Podcast Alchemy: 1. An Unexpected Journey I noted that I specifically wrote a book that covered a wide range of topics, instead of a book going deep on just one; this is the upside of doing that.)

Justin Peters, Co-founder of SimplePod Studios and a podcast host himself, notes, “Hosts don’t care about who you are, they are about what you can do for their audience.” Make sure you read the podcast description so you can target the audience. Peters observes that many guests spend way too much time talking about themselves.

That and the name is most of the customization I do. I found citing prior episodes or the hosts background didn’t help much. The exception is if it’s a really big show. I don’t mean in the top 1% of podcasts, I mean like a very top podcast, maybe one of the top twenty or so in the category. Then I might personalize it a bit more to show that I did my research or look for a personal connection to the host to help stand out.

Podcast hosts may prefer to think of themselves as unique and special. I don’t mean to suggest that they are not, but if you are going for a wide reach, it becomes a numbers game, like so many other things in marketing. Their shows really aren’t as different in topics as they might like to think (but certainly differ in success and audience size).

I also have a text only version of these, with hyperlinks explicitly typed out. This is because many hosts have standard intake forms that are text only. This means any hyperlinks get stripped and instead you want the links explicitly typed out. I also have my bio, social media links, and other standard info all ready to be copy & pasted into these standard forms. I can pitch through a form in under 30 seconds, too. Each host has her or his own process, sometimes very unique, and we must respect that; it’s their house. If someone has an intake form, don’t just say “here’s my media kit, look it up yourself.” The host may prefer seeing the answers in the format the form provides and we always want to make it easy for the host.

Here’s the pitch I use for Brain Bump / Future of Media. You can see it follows a similar pattern.

Hi <name>,

I'm interested in being a guest on your podcast and speaking about content creation.

Social media and email marketing are not designed for content brands (i.e., thought leaders and others who sell ideas, as opposed to products). When broadcast out, the content of any message is only relevant for a small percentage of the audience at the time, and evergreen content fades in these chronological channels (no one bothers looking at your posts from a year ago). New channels and strategies are needed. I can speak about how to use micro content in ways geotemporally relevant to an audience to improve engagement. (I put my money where my mouth is and create a free app, Brain Bump, to let people do this.)

On page 4 of the attached media kit are examples of some of the topics we could discuss (on the right side under Media). I’ve been a CTO at B2B & B2C lead gen companies and email marketing companies. Annually I’ve generated tens of millions in revenue and sent out hundreds of millions of emails. I have a full AV setup and you can see me on prior podcasts at https://www.cognoscomedia.com/media. We promote all podcasts on my social media channels and websites.

Thank you for your time.

Mark A. Herschberg

Again, I start with the purpose of my outreach (a line that’s skipped if it’s a podcast submission form). Here I jump right into the topic and issues. I put my credibility at the end. The reason is my credibility may not seem as strong. As noted above, “20+ years teaching at MIT” about my content is a good selling point; I haven’t taught this topic at MIT though, and I don’t have a book about it. I bring some relevant prior experience but now I’m relying more on the angle of the pitch rather than my credentials.

Media Kits

You can also see my media kits (The Career Toolkit Media Kit and The Brain Bump Media Kit). It follows a pretty standard format. Some people prefer just a one-pager and that’s fine, too.

The first page is an overview; it should have an overview of what the host needs to assess the value you bring. If it’s your book, then it's your cover image and book info. For a product, it will be an image of the product or logo. You should have a one-page overview of the company, product, or solution, and contact info all on the page. Sometimes the recipient never looks past this page prior to deciding, so assume this is your whole pitch. For my book we had the cover image, release date, ISBN, and related info as well as a quick synopsis. It will vary depending on what the pitch is, e.g., for a product it might be a launch date and measurements.

Notice that the first page isn't about you. Even if you’re being pitched as the expert, the first page isn’t about you, it’s about the value you’re bringing to the audience. The value may be implied as opposed to directly stated. For example, a book about moving on after divorce, or some new ab exercise equipment has a pretty clear audience and goal. Even so, elaborate some of the specific benefits your discussion will bring to the audience. Your fitness product may be great, but people aren’t tuning in for an ad or for you, they are tuning in to learn something. What will they learn? Which divorcees want your book, the ones who need help moving on emotionally, or people looking to restart their careers, or divorcees who need financial advice now that they’re on their own? The value proposition should be clear.

The second page typically has a bio and headshot. I also put my socials here. I do three subtle, but important things. First there’s a link to the headshot so they can download that file from the web (it links to a public, read-only file on my Google drive). Second, I provide the pronunciation of my name. Even if your name seems easy to pronounce, you might be working with people from other countries. Third, I have two bios. Different podcasts have different lengths. You may choose to have more than two, or even a link to a file with various bios they can use.

The third page has some sample questions. This may be a few pages long. In my case, I created a separate interview document (The Career Toolkit Interview Topics). This is because, as noted in my first article Podcast Alchemy: 1. An Unexpected Journey, I have a number of topics and angles. I didn’t want to overwhelm them in the media kit. With The Brain Bump Media Kit you can see the questions are included in the single document). Most people, however, will have maybe 10-30 questions, or questions and answers. Ideally, the host doesn’t just read off the questions, that’s boring. I provide the questions as a starting point to help them think through what they might want to ask that’s relevant to their audience. (And thankfully 98% of hosts don’t simply take the questions I give them.) Note that I included some answers in The Career Toolkit Media Kit. I probably didn’t need to do that and didn’t use it elsewhere. The question alone is probably sufficient in most cases.

Because my book had ten chapters on ten topics I had a whole separate document, The Career Toolkit interview Topics, in addition to the media kit, which listed out not just those ten topics (e.g. networking, leadership) and questions, but also additional topics and questions by audience (e.g. HR, founders, recent college grads). I had around 140 questions across 14 different topics. For most people you’re likely to have 2-4 topics with a handful of questions each.

The next page, the app, is something unique to what I did. You probably won’t have anything like this, although you could put in pictures of your product if appropriate. A friend of mine had a page about a special contest he is running related to his book.

The final section is social proof. For a book that’s quotes and awards. (Although you can see that this hasn’t been updated since I have many more quotes and awards since this first came out.) For a product or service, it could be awards, or customer quotes or stories. You might also have links to other media you’ve done. This section is basically saying, “I know I’m biased thinking I’m good at what I do, here’s proof that I’m not just egotistical.” That doesn’t mean throw in everything you’ve done. I have plenty of patents and other accomplishments that have nothing to do with this topic, so I don’t include them. Rather, include what establishes you as an expert in this specific field.

Look Before You Pitch

Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting, offers an important tip, “unless you want to be annoying and look stupid, check to see if they have guests.” I have to say with over 2,000 pitches I have a handful of times screwed up my research, but generally tried to respect hosts by checking first. Also look at the type of guests. For example, there are quite a few shows oriented towards women. I check to see if all the guests are women (I don’t qualify) or if they have male guests, too. If I see gender neutral names of guests, I’ll pitch noting that I tried to check for any gender requirement but wasn’t sure. Likewise, if I see a show that has a guest only once in a while I’ll begin with, “I see you occasionally have guests on your show.”

I’ll add, also check that the podcast is still active. Eventually all podcasts end. Pitching a podcast that’s off the air wastes everyone’s time. There’s also podfade, which episodes become less and less frequent. You can still pitch such shows, but it might be less than ideal. Note that some shows are seasonal, they may have a break between seasons but are still active. (We’ll go more into where to find podcasts to pitch the next article, Podcast Alchemy: 5. How to Get on Hundreds of Podcasts).


Remember these two things. First, most hosts get a mountain of pitches. Second, most pitches put in little effort. This may seem inconsistent with what I wrote earlier since I mentioned being able to pitch a podcast in about a minute. I’m able to do that because I developed, with a lot of time and effort, well-crafted pitches and supporting assets. I put in a lot of effort, it’s just not a lot of effort per show.

Sending a clear, concise pitch along with a media kit that made it easy for hosts to know who I am and the value I will provide for their audience. It also showed them that I put in the work to make it easy for them. That made me stand out as a guest and also showed that I’m likely to follow through and will promote their episode, something hosts value. Most hosts, other than on the very big shows, said they never get a media kit with a pitch. It may be upfront work, but you amortize that effort over hundreds of pitches or more. It’s well worth it.

Start working on your pitch(es) and media kit. Recognize that you’ll probably be revising it over the coming weeks. Ask friends or even a host or producer for feedback. Next week we’ll look at where to find podcasts to pitch in Podcast Alchemy: 5. How to Get on Hundreds of Podcasts.