Secrets of getting your company featured on a podcast: behind the scenes in podcast nation
How can marketers like you get your CEO or brand spokesperson interviewed on a podcast that’s heard by tens of thousands, or even millions, of listeners? And, just as challenging, how can you convince your CEO that securing a podcast interview could be as valuable for your company as an interview in "Bloomberg Businessweek?"
Until recently, our getting a Maccabee PR client interviewed on a podcast was seen as a peripheral “nice to have,” built upon “must-have” interviews with traditional media such as "USA Today" or the "Wall Street Journal." But, the success of podcasts such as “Serial” (downloaded more than 340 million times), “This American Life” (2.5 million people download each episode) and the “Tim Ferriss Show” (300 million episodes downloaded), plus hundreds of business-oriented podcasts, suggest that the medium has morphed from entertainment into a mission-critical thought leadership channel.
In recent months, our PR agency has secured podcast interviews for the CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Virgin Pulse (see The Evolution of Workplace Wellness with "HRchat" and the Wellness Council of America’s "WELCOA Cast") and for the Vice President at LifeSpeak (Suicide Prevention: An Overlooked But Crucial Workplace Wellness Initiative with "HR Daily Advisor" and "The Psych Central Show" podcast’s A Digital Approach to Employee Mental Health.)
What’s so appealing about these podcasts for clients?
- The time required from our clients is minimal, compared to the time commitment of collaborating on a bylined article for a trade publication
- The podcast is eminently shareable on social media channels
- Many podcasts combine the audio interview with text – so your audience can consume your messages in both print and audio form
- Podcasts give clients the opportunity to express their personality in a way that infographics, e-books and print interviews seldom do
- Finally, podcasts lend themselves to depth and nuance – Which PR opportunity would your CEO prefer: a two-paragraph quote in a magazine article or a 60-minute wide-ranging podcast?
For this MaccaPR blog post, we interviewed three podcast producers with whom we’ve worked – Gabe Howard of "The Psych Central Show" podcast; Bill Banham of "HRchat"; and Jim Davis of the "HR Works" podcast – to find out how you can get your spokesperson interviewed on the most powerful podcasts possible.
How to Pitch a Podcast Producer with a Potential Guest (Without Driving Them Mad)
“I wish PR professionals understood what our show was about,” laments Gabe Howard of "The Psych Central Show" podcast. “We get pitches for potential guests who simply aren’t a fit. This wouldn’t be so bad if the pitch explained why they were thinking the guest may work (i.e., a mommy blogger might have something to discuss about postpartum depression). But more often than not, we get a pitch that doesn’t fit at all. It’s a time waster.”
(Pro Tip: How do you find the right podcast to reach your target audience? Check out Pandora’s Genome Project podcast recommendation engine, along with searching Apple’s iTunes and the cast.market podcast directories.)
The biggest mistake PR pros make in approaching his "HRchat" podcast, says Bill Banham, is “pitching without offering educational content ideas. We get a ton of applications to showcase services and products, without connecting their goals with meeting our requirement of educating the business community about how to improve the world of work.”
“The best podcast pitches tell us why a potential interview would work on our podcast,” adds Howard. “We had a pitch once that said, ‘you’ve covered this topic before, approximately six months ago, but from the male perspective.’ The fact that they did their homework and knew how to stand out made us really want their guest on our show!”
How to Knock on a Podcaster’s Door
How do you approach producers with a guest idea? “Email me ... although LinkedIn messages are also a great option,” says Banham. “We aim to make the guest selection process as easy as possible.”
“Send us a single email; we do pretty much everything via email,” says Howard. “Have everything summarized in that email. We don’t need to know the person’s complete backstory – so many pitches I receive are 10,000 words! But if you want to, yes, include some links.”
“When a PR pro wants to give me a heads up about a great potential guest, a simple email is all that’s needed,” adds Jim Davis of the "HR Works" podcast. “Our wait time to record is often three to six months, and PR people have to respect that. The entire podcast process is long, and the Jack Russell Terrier approach of some PR people adds unnecessary stress – which I can easily avoid by not selecting those guests. It’s unfortunate that a potentially great guest might miss out because of the actions of their PR people. Of course, if it’s a really big name, the added stress can be worth it!”
How to Position Your PR Spokesperson as the Perfect Podcast Guest
“Perhaps the most important thing to me is that the guest sounds natural,” says Davis. “I may have gone over the content of the podcast with the guest ahead of time, but I need to be able to explore topics beyond the scope of the preparation if the guest brings up something that deserves a closer look. When guests sound like they’re reading their answers and waffle when they’re asked questions they didn’t prepare for, the whole episode sounds flat. I think of each podcast episode as a conversation, and that flow is really important to me.
And for God’s Sake, Podcasts are Not Advertising
“The biggest mistake that PR professionals make is when they think that our podcast is for promoting the organization or products,” continues Davis. “I know that can be hard for PR people to hear. Promotion should be as unintrusive as possible – we’re dedicated to providing useful information and guidance to our audience. If a guest or host talks about something at the end of the podcast or makes a brief callout in the beginning, I find that to be a little more acceptable.”
Understand How Podcasts are Consumed Differently Than Other Content
Research shows that half of all podcasts are consumed in the home, and one-fifth are consumed while driving. “We offer both a magazine and a podcast,” says Banham. “The biggest difference is that podcasts can be consumed passively; for example, while you’re commuting. Typically, our 'HRchat' podcast is 20-25 minutes in length – that equates to 2,000 to 2,500 words in print – so the podcast is much more in-depth than typical 600 to 800-word articles.”
“Magazine articles are summaries of quick information,” notes Howard. 'Our "Psych Central Show' podcast is a conversation about a subject – complete with deep dives, analogies, questions and even tangents – all tied together to give listeners a real world understanding of the topic.”
Expect Longer-Than-You-Ever-Expected Lead Times
“Podcast interviews can be booked and recorded pretty quickly,” says Banham, “but the release date is usually at least four weeks later due to our backlog of shows.”
“We need at least four weeks, and often six to eight weeks” of advance preparation before posting the podcast, says Howard. “Unless the subject is in the news or VERY hot. But generally, our average is four weeks’ advance notice.”
“Our podcast airs every other week, and we receive five or so guest requests a month,” says Davis. “We begin talking to guests four to six months ahead of the broadcast of their episode. Much of that is due to the time it takes to book a guest, prepare questions, conduct the recording, edit the episode, post it and distribute it. Even if we rushed the whole process, it would be at least a month from start to finish.”
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Still on the fence about adding podcasts to your marketing strategies? Look no further than these statistics – 51% of the population has listened to a podcast; an estimated 22% of consumers (or 62 million people) listen to podcasts weekly; and Nielsen data indicates that 16 million consumers consider themselves “avid podcast fans.”
What’s more, new statistics reveal that podcast listeners are more likely to follow your company or brand on social media than non-podcast devotees. Whether you want to reach digital photographers, éclair-lovers, people in recovery, blues guitarists, scuba divers or IT directors – with more than 700,000 podcasts available, there’s a podcast out there that your target audience is listening to. So why aren’t you (and your brand) part of that conversation?
Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.
Topics: Content Marketing