How to Be a Call-in Girl
Call-in Girl [ kawl-in ] [ gurl ]: A member of the podcast community who makes it a practice of calling into podcasts to have their voices and stories heard.
Call-in Girl [ kawl-in ] [ gurl ]: A member of the podcast community who makes it a practice of calling into podcasts to have their voices and stories heard. Note: gender is a social construct.
When a podcast is able to elicit a jump-out-of-your-seat, need-to-contact-the-host right now response from a listener, that’s a BIG win. It’s great, not just from a marketing standpoint, but also from a community-building one. In this week’s PMM, we’re discussing call-in shows, call-in girls (or your fav gender neutral equivalent), and how to make your show one that gets people on the horn.
We have been podcast friends since early 2020. We bonded over a shared love of podcasts, sure, but also shared love of calling into podcasts. When a podcast we listen to asks us to leave a message, we call in before they’ve even finished making the ask. Why? Well, 1. It helps out the host. 2. It’s a chance for us to *be* on our favorite shows. 3. We get to test out call-in technology and possibly bring that to clients and folks in the creator space. 4. We’re dorks.
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How to be a call-in girl
(note: call-in girls both send in written responses and audio files)
You have to be a podcast listener. The best call-in girls listen to a few hours of podcasts a week (at least—we listen to several hours a day, god help us). Become a regular listener to your favorites – that’s how you go from listener to community member — and dip into new shows each week to seek chances to participate.
Don’t just listen to one episode. Make sure you understand the community; any lingo the show uses, inside jokes the host relies on, and make sure that you pick up enough on the host’s likes and dislikes so that, when you call in, you’ll feel like a friend and not a stranger.
Engage with the podcast/host on social media or reply to their newsletters
Definitely be subscribed to their newsletters!
If they’re soliciting stuff from listeners and give the option of writing something in or sending in a voice note, opt for voice note. It’s just cooler if they have you on tape and will make your submission stand out.
Quality counts. If you’re calling in, make sure you’re recording with an exterior mic and headphones, and are speaking in a quiet, well-padded space. Or you know, where you record your podcast. If you’re writing in, make sure the writing is gold. Send it to us! We’ll review it!
Always introduce yourself. In your introduction, before you get to the good stuff, state your name and business! “Hi, I’m Arielle Nissenblatt of EarBuds Podcast Collective, a podcast and newsletter dedicated to highlighting great shows. Lists can be curated by anyone…including you!” (This won’t seem like a self-promo if your story or anecdote is great).
Make your story shine. Be specific as you can. You’re a regular listener, so you know what kind of content the host likes. Give them that content! And think differently! If you give a vanilla answer, chances are your answer will get lost in a sea of others.
Wait, why are we always talking shit about vanilla? Vanilla’s great!
Remember: if they are asking for you to call-in, they really want you to call in! They need you! Help them.
And don’t assume a million other people are calling in. Chances are…they are not.
Once you get picked (and gosh, we hope you do!) and the episode is live, make sure to shout it out on your social channels and in your newsletters…everywhere. Thank the podcaster for including you and drive people to that episode!
So we’ve talked about how to be a Call-In Girl, but what about from the other side? How (and why) do you make your show call-in-able? WE GOT YOU.
How to add a call-in element to your show and why
It’s a two-way street! Arielle hosts a bunch of podcasts (Feedback with EarBuds, Trailer Park: The Podcast Trailer Podcast, and more) that either all contain call-in elements or don’t actively discourage audience participation. One of the best things about the medium of podcasting is the flexibility of the audio file — one week can be a solo episode and the next can be an interview. The next week can be something else entirely. It’s really all about keeping the listener in the loop and airing on the side of transparency. With that in mind, you can be a call-in girl AND you can be a welcoming home to potential CIGs.
Why you might want to open up your show to calls:
It allows you to take a break. If you host a weekly interview show, that’s a lot of production, booking, scheduling, editing, social media asset creating, and more. What if you introduced a call-in episode once a month, or even quarterly? You can bank a bunch of calls and mix together a compilation episode.
It gives listeners who are on the fence a quicker way into your content. Not everyone has time for a 45-minute episode. But if your feed contains a few episodes that are between 5-10 minutes, someone who otherwise isn’t amenable may be willing to give you a try.
Go after collaborators, strategically. You may want to guest on someone’s show, right? But your show doesn’t necessarily allow for having them as a guest in the same way. If you use the call-in strategy, you can invite them to contribute to your show without committing to a full-scale guest interview. You can also reach out to potential collaborators you wouldn’t be able to access ordinarily, but this time around, you have a very specific ask for them: call-in.
How to develop your call–in question/ prompt:
The perfect call-in question or prompt will get people to raise their hands because they simply MUST share their perspective. Recently, Pineapple Street Studios and Jonathan Menjivar wrapped up their season 1 of Classy, a podcast about class divisions in the U.S. This show has one of the best call-in questions we’ve ever heard: “tell me about a time that class affected your life; a time that you felt othered because of class divisions. Call in and tell us about that.”
Why was it so effective? Virtually everyone is impacted by class divisions in some way; whether you’re “lower class” or “higher class,” (whatever that means, which is really the point, isn’t it?) you’ve probably got something to share.
Think of a question that defines your show. What is a theme that pulls everything together and comes up time and time again? Distill your theme into a question that gets everyone raising their hand. Think of a question that will engage your listeners. Remember, podcasting is social media. Engagement is the word.
Make a clear ask for submissions and let people know how you will use them.
Remember to tell them it could be heard on an episode, and that by writing or calling in, people are giving permission to have their stories shared.
You can use a service like SpeakPipe or PodinBox to collect voicemails, but you can also go the lofi route: ask people to record something on their phones and send it to you via email. This gives listeners the control needed to make sure they send you something they want heard.
Don’t forget to share! Post on social, in your newsletters, and be sure you’re making the case for why folks should call in on your show. Consider running your call-in submissions at the end of episodes, or create an entire episode dedicated to them. Or, do what Ellen Scanlon does on How to Do the Pot: create mini-episodes that isolate a single voice note into an episode.
So you want to be a CIG?
Here are some shows with call-in options / shows that are doing it right:
The Best Advice Show: Asks people to give great advice
It's Going To Be OK: Asks people about things that aren’t terrible
Vibe Check: Record a conversation with yourself and a friend recommending the show to that friend
Help Wanted and other advice shows: Asks people to call in with advice
Bad Dates: Looking for bad dates stories
Podcast Bestie: Leave Courtney an Apple Podcasts review and she’ll read it on the show.
Pen Pals: Send in your questions about anything from free will to freeway etiquette, mental health to manatees. Daniel and Rory will respond.
Cancelled: Are you a lazy girl? Call them and tell them about it.
How to Do the Pot: Call in telling the story about the first time you bought legal weed.
Lady to Lady: Write in to “Lady Problems” and get help with absolutely any problem!
Do you have a show that has a call-in element? Leave us a comment! We’ll spread the word.
Our Call-In Girl Achievements:
Judge John Hodgman: I talk about not wanting to flush my mom’s ashes down the toilet.
Death, Sex & Money: I talk about blue balls.
Outside/In: I talk about my trypophobia. (Do not google image that word.)
Celebrity Book Club: I call in with the suggestion to start ranking books according to the “Book-del Test.”
Switched on Pop: I talk about my mom’s love for Warped Tour.
Climavores: I ask if vegans can eat oysters.
My Unsung Hero: I talk about when someone saved my life.
See Arielle’s guesting appearances on Podchaser here.
🦄 52 Weeks of Podcast Growth
This week’s tip is: Create a new call-to-action (CTA) that’s specific to you. Make it something that’s not ‘find us wherever you find your podcasts’ or ‘like, subscribe, comment.’ Tip: use ChatGPT to brainstorm some ideas for you.
If you’re new here, read the previous weeks’ tips to start implementing them at your own pace.
🔮 From the Desk of Tink
In The Cards is an existential romantic comedy about a born loser who takes on fate and changes his destiny in order to win the heart of his tarot card reader. Connor Ratliff (Dead Eyes) stars as Gil, a low level ad man who is fated to lose at everything. When Nadya (Jamie Ann Romero), the beautiful niece of the psychic Bella (Laila Robins), reads his tarot cards and informs him that the universe is against him, he vows to change his destiny. Cheered on by his co-worker and best friend Lex (Steven Boyer), Gil studies philosophy under Professor Towers (Chukwudi Iwuji) and faces an epic showdown with supernatural forces.
The Ask Tink section will address reader questions, one a week. Each week, a different Tink member will answer your question, so you get varied perspectives.
Got questions? Leave a comment or send them to email@example.com. If we use your question, we’ll credit you and your podcast.
Question: I really want to work with a podcast but I’m unsure of how to approach them. Any tips?
Aakshi Sinha: Congratulations on discovering a show you want to work with! Reaching out can be scary but there are some ways you can put your best foot forward. Keep it concise no matter the channel (email, dm, etc). Introduce yourself and your podcast in a line or two, tell them why you thought of them in another line (if this involves a specific episode, mention it!), and close it with how you think you can work together. Your aim should be to open a dialogue and introduce yourself but the more you reach out to people you’ll learn what works best for you and what feels like an honest representation of your personality. If you are a little lost about the how to work together part, check this previous issue on the things you can do with another podcast.
✨ More Magic
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