Keys to Booking Guests

By Doug Drew Comment


  • Press releases pitching guests are only a starting point for producers who book segments.
  • Guests are often trying to promote something other than your primary objective.

The producer of the Howard Stern show, Gary Dell’Abate, recently appeared on David Letterman’s The Late Show, telling Dave that if Stern was a good guy on the radio “we would have no where to work.” It was a great interview with lots of insight into Howard Stern and his shock radio show. It was about an 8 minute interview, lengthy by late night talk show standards, and not until the very end did Letterman let Dell’Abate plug the real reason he was on the show, to promote his new book They Call Me Baba Booey.

The plug goes at the end of the segment
I am sure Dell’Abate’s agent or publisher pitched The Late Show to book Dell’ Abate as a guest. In fact, most guests who appear on television are booked through a PR agency who sent a press release to the station. Television stations are inundated with people trying to get on TV to promote their product, their book, their movie, their concert, their community event, their restaurant, etc. Some of these make great guests, but just remember whose show it is. Accomplish your goals first, and get them to hold their plug for the end of the interview.

It’s easy to book a guest who comes in the door through an agency or a press release. You simply call the contact person on the release, and select a date for the appearance.

Guests are given valuable airtime
But too often that is where the planning stops, and it can’t be that way. Too many producers simply pick up the press release, call the contact person, agree on a date, and viola, the segment is booked! But it’s not just about filling time. You are giving these people incredible amounts of airtime. It’s time they very likely couldn’t afford to buy if they were going through the sales department. So, they should be willing to do whatever it is you want, within reason.

Dan Aykroyd is making the local TV circuit, his agent offering him as a guest to pitch his new Vodka. Aykroyd is a great guest, but if not planned properly he will simply come in and do a commercial. Instead, think why you would want to have him as a guest. You’d want to talk to him about his movie career, and about the new Ghostbusters movie that is in the works. You have to make it clear to the contact, that you’d love to have Aykroyd as a guest, but that you will start off talking about his movies, and at the end, he can talk about his new Vodka. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Charities must follow the same rule
If the Cancer Society wants to come in and talk about it’s upcoming fundraiser, that’s fine, but you don’t want the Executive Director on as a guest. You want a cancer survivor on to talk about what it’s like to deal with the devastating disease. Remember, what you want are real people with interesting stories to tell, while the charities are trying to promote an event. It’s your show, demand a real person and promise you will promote the event at the end.

Make the PR agency do all the work
Put the people who write the press releases and the PR agencies who are pitching guests to work. Tell them that their clients can come on the show, but only if they do it your way. If they don’t want to play, then they don’t get on. Believe me, most will agree to your requests. Have the agency do all the work. If they are pitching new toys for kids, tell them that they have to have all the toys on set, plus they need 5 kids to test the toys and are willing to talk to your hosts about what they like or don’t like about the toys. Make the PR agency come up with all the props and children.

Bottom line
Make the guests and their agencies do the heavy lifting. They do the work, and you get a great segment. These guests don’t get on your show unless they do it they way you want. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at Follow Doug on facebook and on twitter at