In today’s screen-centric “attention economy,” it’s often said that eyeballs are the market’s most valuable currency. But that perspective ignores the ears, and with them, the podcast — one of today’s fastest-growing and most compelling media formats. According to Edison Research, the American podcast listener base has grown a remarkable 37.5% in the past three years, with podcasts now reaching more than 100 million Americans every month. In other words, for brands and organizations not yet tapped into the podcast as a PR platform, missed opportunity is not a risk — it’s a certainty.
The rise of the podcast is a logical next step in our cultural journey toward ever-higher levels of multitasking. Unlike traditional print and digital media that require focused attention, podcasts provide hands-free enrichment while making dinner, exercising or running errands. No wonder they’re so habit-forming! And with smart speakers now established as standard fixtures in many households, tuning in as easy as summoning Siri.
Breaking Into the Podcast Circuit
When considering your PR outreach strategy, podcasts may seem like a new and mysterious frontier. But in fact, the opposite is true. The same principles that have long driven successful PR — pitch the right story with the right expert to the right outlet at the right time — hold just as true as ever in the podcast realm. In fact, rather than imagining a separate strategy for securing podcast placements, we recommend thinking “story first,” and pursuing diverse outlets accordingly, be they print, digital or audio. One caveat applies, however. Unlike strictly feed-based content formats, podcasts are often consumed non-linearly on the listener’s own schedule, sometimes weeks or months after publication. For this reason, evergreen story angles that retain their value over time can be especially appealing to podcast publishers. This doesn’t preclude pitching timely concepts, but it does open up a fertile field of additional story ideas to explore.
Most mainstream digital outlets have by now become active players in the podcast game. But podcasting also presents unique opportunities to reach hyper-engaged users with niche programming, micro-targeted by interest and even geography. Imagine an hour of friendly chat devoted entirely to knitting, or a podcast created just for classic car enthusiasts in the Mountain West. While these audiences will of course be smaller than those of mainstream outlets, they’ll also be incredibly engaged. With the right brand fit, your guest speaker could put your product, service or organization on the radar of a highly qualified population of potential new advocates. We can think of this strategy exactly as we would blogger outreach or social influencer engagement: identify the niche publishers most resonant with your proposition, then pitch in a collaborative spirit and work together to create high-impact content.
Making the Most of a Podcast Appearance
We’ve established that many best practices for earning podcast placements can be drawn from the traditional PR playbook. Once you’ve secured that guest engagement, however, it’s time to toss the standard toolbox out the window. Forget formal scripted talking points and prep instead for a sincere, personal, honest conversation. The great strength of the podcast format is its intimacy and simplicity. You can put this to work in your favor by following a few key principles:
1. Know the territory: Guest speakers should familiarize themselves in advance with the style of the host and the program, and come prepared to engage in a way that matches that tone.
2. Punch it up: The power and emotion of the voice is everything in podcasts. To really hit home with listeners, speakers may have to push the level of vocal energy and enthusiasm a bit beyond their natural comfort zone. (It can help to practice in advance with a smartphone voice recorder.) This isn’t about acting fake, but it is about showing up with confidence and passion for your subject.
3. Keep it loose: Podcast discussions are less formal than traditional interviews. Maintaining a relaxed, organic conversational flow is the best way to capture and hold the audience’s attention.
4. Stay on topic: While an informal vibe is the mark of an engaging podcast, too much random small talk risks boring the audience and distracting from the topic. Aim for the sweet spot where conversation is relaxed, but not too comfy.
5. Use the right tools: If recording on personal equipment and not in a studio, headphones and a good-quality microphone are well worth the investment.
Once you’ve nailed a few podcast guest appearances, what’s next? Perhaps a podcast of your own! In a testament to the medium’s increasing importance, companies from tech to fashion to grocery retail have climbed aboard the podcast train, building credibility and audience affinity through what could be deemed the next generation of the branded blog. But that’s a story for a future post… Or maybe a future episode? Whatever lies ahead for marketing and PR, podcasting is only poised to grow in value for organizations of every size and sector. And we’d call that a trend worth listening to.