Did you listen to a podcast this week? If you live in North America, there’s about a 20 percent chance you did.
Millions more Americans listened to podcasts in 2020 than in 2019, and it’s expected that millions more will listen in 2021. Findings from a survey conducted by Nielsen predict that the U.S. podcast audience could double by 2023, reaching 160 million listeners.
As attractive as the medium is to marketers, advertisers and PR professionals, it’s not a dip your toes in kind of experiment. Producing your own podcast requires a level of dedication that may not be for everyone. But even if you’re not ready to produce your own podcast, you can still pursue it as an avenue of content generation for yourself or your clients.
In a recent LinkedIn article, the Founder of EASTWEST Public Relations wrote, “The cheapest, easiest, and least-commitment route into podcasting could be sponsoring, participating, or being interviewed by an established podcast that has the audience you wish to target.”
We broke down these three avenues, which you may want to explore a bit more before making your own podcast.
Podcast listeners are an attentive audience. The majority of them (80 percent) listen to all or most of the episode. The other great thing about podcast listeners is they have a different perspective on the advertisements that interrupt their shows. Digital and video ads on platforms like Facebook and YouTube are annoying enough that viewers will hopscotch between content to avoid them. Most podcast consumers surveyed by Nielsen (80 percent again) say they don’t mind ads or sponsorship messages because they recognize that this paid content makes it possible for their favorite shows to exist.
Edison Research’s Super Listeners 2020 report finds that 33 percent of podcast “super listeners” (people who spend five or more hours a week listening) never or rarely skip ads during episodes. Even better, because podcast consumers have a more receptive attitude to these highly targeted ads, 60 percent of listeners have bought a product they heard about in an episode and over half of listeners would consider new products or services.
Podcast enthusiasts have disposable income to spend on products they hear about. More people within the $50-$75,000 and $75-$100,000 income brackets listen to podcasts than any other income bracket.
Paid channels don’t usually fall under the purview of PR, but reputation management does—and according to that same Super Listeners 2020 report, 49 percent of super listeners have a more positive opinion of a company that is mentioned in one of their regular podcasts.
It’s your job as a PR pro to help identify the podcasts marketing should be focused on. Likely you’ve done some research when you were pondering whether you wanted to create your own podcast, which means (or should mean) you are a podcast enthusiast and know what’s currently capturing your ideal audience’s attention.
What’s the difference between participating in a podcast and being interviewed? An interview suggests that you and the conversation you have with the host are the focus of that episode. It’s likely more structured with pre-determined questions, though still not scripted. It probably won’t be a narrative style.
Alternatively, there are many ways you can participate in a podcast. You may be able to join as a guest-host. Perhaps you might be their expert, someone they can call on to speak to a certain subject matter or to provide an industry perspective.
In the podcast Imaginary Worlds, the host speaks to several different people per episode about the spotlighted topic. He then cuts in and out of these interviews, citing them as experts or referring to their thoughts or opinions on the subject matter. The result is a structured, cohesive and multi-voice story.
Another way to play the podcast game without ever needing to appear on the episode might be to attach your name to the project and provide the means to let others produce it. In 2015, General Electric released an eight-episode podcast called The Message, created with the help of its ad agency and Panoply, a podcast network. The podcast follows a fictional plot that exemplifies the values and even some of the tech developed by GE. It’s entertainment. According to a Reuters article, GE did “not want the shows to come off as advertising, but rather as a way to raise brand awareness.”
The 1:1 interview style of podcast is the most popular podcast format. It also means the industry is saturated with it. But while that could be bad news for someone trying to start their own podcast, it does provide a lot of opportunities for you or your client. Podcasting is the new frontier of earned media. Media monitoring services are embracing podcasts (which can be transcribed like other broadcast types), so why not pursue it as an avenue for coverage?
Podcasts that feature guests are always looking for guests. It’s easier to find opportunities to speak than it is to be chosen to speak. Thus, the same pitching principles that apply to more traditional outlets apply here too. You must have a story worth telling. You need to know your target audience and where you’ll find them. You need to understand what the podcast is looking for. Research is your best friend, which in this case, involves doing a lot of listening.
A story worth telling
First, determine your approach. You either have a story and you want to find the podcast and audience that aligns best with it, or you know the podcast you want and need to craft your story to fit its focus.
Normally, when you pitch media you choose the outlets that would be interested in your story because of who their audience is. But what if your audience is listening to a podcast that you really want to be featured on, but you don’t have the perfect story for it yet? Keep listening and when you do have a fit, pitch it! Or maybe you can go back to what you already have and analyze it from a new angle. We’re not saying hammer a square peg into a round hole—your story still needs to be relevant.
A captive audience
Be as targeted selecting the podcast you want to pitch as you would be if you were pitching any other outlet or deciding where to advertise.
How to find your audience? You need to know what’s out there. If you want to pitch yourself, you’ll likely be looking for podcasts that cover topics you’re an expert in. If you’re representing a client, you might be looking for an industry-focused podcast. Look at the podcast’s social accounts and see who’s following and engaging with them. Podcasts are great at building engaged and active communities (for instance “murderinos”, fans of the true crime podcast My Favorite Murder).
Before you decide you’re all in, check out the ratings and see what people are saying. Reputation is everything and you want to make sure you’re taking all the steps necessary to protect yours or your client’s.
A perfect podcast
Put the same level of effort into researching a podcast as you would a journalist or outlet. Study their social media. Check the website. Listen to multiple episodes and pay attention to:
- The types of questions they ask
- The types of topics they cover (and from what angle)
- The tone they take with interviewees
- Their choice in guests
Always practice good pitching habits and then see where podcasts will take you.