I truly believe in the old adage, "It never hurts to ask" or as my mother says, "All they can say is 'no'". It's true and I've experienced it through my work in content production.
When I was hired to revamp and re-imagine the on-air fundraising drives at the Dallas Public Radio Station, my supervisor and colleagues were often surprised at some of the people I got to be part of the effort. It was always exciting when something worked out. Some of my success stories included:
Granted, when I asked, it helped being from a public radio station in a major market. However, I experienced similar success stories when I started podcasting.
My first podcast was called The Critic Show. I later changed the name to Beyond the Screens after having better than expected success getting celebrity guests. In my first few shows, I interviewed Lar Park Lincoln (Friday the 13th Part VII), James Hampton (Teen Wolf), Julie Newmar (Batman), James Tolken (Top Gun) & Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite).
I finally realized I was really onto something when my sixth episode featured an interview with Mayim Bialik from The Big Bang Theory. Despite asking, I have to admit, that was an interview I thought I would never get. Yet again, it simply didn't hurt to ask. At the end of the interview, she was nice enough to offer to send over some autographed photos for listeners (and me, of course) and read a liner for the show that said, "Hi, this is Mayim Bialik and I play Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. (Then said this like Amy) I highly recommend you listen to The Critic Show with Scott Murray. And you can trust me, I'm a doctor...and I play one on TV."
I wasn't a major radio station or popular radio program. I was a guy in an office recording my own show. With that said, I think it's important to point out that HOW you ask is just as important as the question itself. My experience in radio helped me write effective e-mails to celebrity managers & publicists. I knew I would need to include how long the interview would be, what we'd talk about and assure them that the interview would be professional.
Most importantly, I knew that more often than not, they would be calling me. It wouldn't look good to give them a home phone number (and you don't want them to pay for a long distance call). So, I bought an inexpensive toll-free number through Kall8. I gave them that number and my cell phone as a back-up. On a side note, I'll never forget Julie Newmar calling my cell to ask me a few questions before the interview with her.
I've always been this way. When I was producing an 1980s cop show parody TV series in Dallas, my wife was always surprised what I could get for free (locations, props, special appearances, etc). Again, it boiled down to not being afraid to ask and knowing how to ask.
I realize that examples like these can't relate to all types of content production. However, there is a principle that is very important to take from it. While you may not be able to ask a celebrity to be part of your work, don't be afraid to find ways to take extra steps in making your content better than average.
Never be afraid to ask yourself how you can do that.