I love it when I come across the occasional meme or message on social media that states something truly meaningful. For example, I like it when I see reminders that in a very celebrity-obsessed and self-focused world, important people get overlooked - like our military heroes. This is especially true for those who belong to The Greatest Generation.
No doubt about it, I was always excited when I booked a celebrity guest on my first talk show. However, I was honored to talk to two heroes in February of 2012. The movie Red Tails was coming out, and it told a story featuring a group of Tuskegee Airmen. Sure, I could've worked on finding a couple of actors from the movie, but I decided to go a different route.
I went out and found two actual Tuskegee Airmen to feature on the show - Master Sergeant Joseph Montgomery and Colonel Charles McGee. First off, Colonel McGee was a modern day badass. From World War II to Vietnam, he was like Maverick from Top Gun. He flew over 400 combat missions during his service. He is 99-years-old today.
I had the unique opportunity to interview Master Sergeant Montgomery at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. Like many heroes of his generation, he was a great storyteller. He talked about making the trip to Tuskegee via train and having to cover up the windows at stops where skin color could cause some problems for them. At times, he chokes up talking about the experience, proving how much pain still existed. I was sad to learn that he passed away last year, but I feel lucky to be someone who got to hear his story.
I'm also proud to be someone who can help keep the stories and memories alive for both of these American heroes.
I launched my first podcast in 2011, and I knew I had to use social media to promote the episodes. It’s the main reason I finally joined Twitter. I thought it would be a good platform to share new releases, and I was right. Research has shown Twitter to be arguably the most effective tool to promote podcasts.
It wasn’t long before I saw other podcasters promoting their episodes. In general, most of the promotional tweets read something like this:
The newest episode of the show is out now! Check it out - (link)
As a podcast noob, I found myself tweeting about my new episodes in similar ways. Then, I noticed something else:
These tweets weren’t getting a lot of engagement, and the reason should’ve been obvious. Why was someone to click? My tweet wasn’t telling them anything special. All you knew was I uploaded something and I shared a link. When you think about everything I’m competing with on Twitter, that wasn’t going to intrigue anyone. I knew I had to change my approach and Anthony Michael Hall and Kelly LeBrock helped me figure out how to do it.
My first show was a celebrity interview show, and one of my in-person interviews was with Hall. We had a great discussion about writing/producing movies, working with John Hughes and experiencing so much film success at such a young age. One of my questions was:
What was it like being a teenager and playing Kelly LeBrock’s love interest in a film?
I generally avoid the stereotypical “what was it like” questions, but how could I not ask him about this experience? After all, playing a guy who pursues a girl of a similar age like Sam in Sixteen Candles is not like playing a teenager who is actually involved with a stunner of a woman like Lisa.
He really had to have the right focus every day. After all, there was a day where 16-year-old Ilan Mitchell-Smith had a kissing scene with 25-year-old Lebrock (who seemed to be playing a woman who was older than her actual age) and stuck his tongue down her throat. She apparently said she would kick his ass if he ever got carried away like that again.
I couldn’t wait to share the interview on Twitter, and I initially thought promoting an Anthony Michael Hall interview would be more than enough to get some good engagement.
The results were...okay.
So, then I thought about what could give the promotion more pop. I chose to post another tweet that said something like this:
Anthony Michael Hall talks about playing Kelly Lebrock’s love interest in Weird Science in this interview - (link)
THAT tweet got some great engagement and reactions, including from Kelly LeBrock herself. She started following the show’s Twitter account after that post. It’s not hard to understand why this got a better reaction than the other tweets.
I’ve always remembered this, and it doesn’t just apply to that episode or podcast production. It’s a reminder of the creativity and detail you have to put into something you’re promoting on social media.
Today, I have to wonder how the characters of the movie would promote something on Twitter…
Party at Wyatt’s House tonight! Bring your friends, classmates and motorcycles! (Link)
How about a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray? (Photo)
DRINK IT! (Link)
There’s a big sale going on!
At Towel World! (Laughing GIF)
Not long ago, I had the opportunity to interview Gedde Wantanabe. He is probably best-known for playing Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles. However, our discussion was about his role in Gung Ho with Michael Keaton. Had I reached out to discuss Sixteen Candles, I would’ve been turned down.
He eventually realized after answering the same Sixteen Candles questions over and over again that there was nothing left to say about the movie or his character.
In his specific case, it was probably true. However, it also makes me think about a more significant issue surrounding podcast interviews:
Asking the easiest/typical/repetitive questions gets old.
Gedde isn’t making the rounds on major networks or entertainment shows talking about a film that is over 30 years old. So, any recent interviews were probably coming from smaller and more independent outlets. It’s not uncommon for inexperienced interviewers to ask very simple or very common questions. In this case, it could be:
I recently caught up with one of my past guests at a convention. He’s an author who frequently gets interview requests from podcasters. He told me that he’s cutting back on them now, and one of his reasons is that he’s tired of the same questions.
“It always starts the same way,” he said. “It's, ‘How did you get started?’”
He went on to say that it would be nice to have someone tweak that and ask, “WHY did you get started in this field?”
That’s a concept I’ve shared with aspiring podcast interviewers - If you have to ask what might seem like a “common” question, rephrase it in a way that might generate a unique answer.
If you’re interviewing an actor who has been in a popular production, you can probably guess what they get asked all of the time. If not, use Tom Wilson’s (Biff in Back to the Future) Question Song as a guide.
Look, I’m not suggesting that you have come up with nothing but questions that have never been asked, but make an effort to do so. If anything, make an effort to craft an in-depth conversation that requires you to prepare by listening to previous interviews and doing research.
Your audience will appreciate it, and your guest will too. In fact, the guest will likely tell you they appreciate it because it’s not something they always experience in a podcast.
When I approached Anthony Michael Hall about an interview, I told him it would take 10-15 minutes. He asked if it could be a little shorter. I always thought it was because he was expecting the typical questions. When our exchange became an engaging discussion about John Hughes, the changing styles of humor and the portrayal of youth, he comfortably talked for more than 10 minutes.
When I had an in-person interview with David Giuntoli and Bitsie Tullock of GRIMM, I pulled out my questions before we started. David immediately called that out as impressive. Yes, his first comments were how pleasantly surprised he was about a podcast interviewer showing up with prepared questions.
It’s a nice compliment, but a critical commentary about common podcast interviews.
It’s not limited to interviews with actors and authors. Shows featuring expert and thought leader interviews often conclude with no takeaways for the listener. So, you really have to make sure your interviews have a set of purposes:
Also, go back and listen to your interviews as a way to continuously improve your craft. If you can gain a reputation among listeners and guests as an interviewer that’s a step above many others, you’ll be able to consistently book great guests and provide your audience with engaging content.