Companies love getting their message to a customer who’s willing to listen. That’s why they spent $479 million on podcast advertising last year.
But you don’t need deep pockets to get into the ears of America’s 62 million weekly podcast listeners. With the right research and pitching strategy, you can earn your business some free exposure on podcasts hyper-suited to your target demographic.
People like podcasts because they’re easy to access, follow, and enjoy, both at home and on the go.
More important, though, they capture listeners’ attention in a way traditional media doesn’t: while only 13 percent of Americans watch TV with their undivided attention, 70 percent of podcast listeners say they simply sit down, throw on their headphones, and enjoy the show with no distractions.
That’s not to say people don’t listen to podcasts while they’re taking care of other tasks. But while no one’s reading a long-form interview about Facebook’s underworld of content moderation while they do the dishes, they might be listening to a podcast about it.
The on-the-go, evergreen nature of podcasts make them ideal outlets to target for coverage of your business. Here’s how to make that happen.
1: Know What You Want to Talk About
Think about how you want to position yourself and your company. Are you trying to establish yourself as a thought leader in a trendy new field? Get the news out about a recent funding raise? Tell a story that doesn’t lend itself to the written word?
Startup stories are usually centered around a relationship, and they involve risk, failures, breakthroughs, drama, and money. In other words, they’re great stories and people want great stories – so give the people what they want!
If you’re not sure which story to tell first, take a look at your current PR objectives (recruiting? Raising brand awareness among customers? Raising your profile among investors? Thought leadership?) and choose stories that help you achieve those goals.
Your goal is to find the podcasts that tell stories similar to the one you’re trying to tell. Keep your search wide enough to find general startup or business podcasts, in addition to those within your industry.
How? It’s not as straightforward as you might think:
- Search within platforms: There’s no “Google of podcasts” – well, there is Google Podcast, but there’s also Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Pocket Cast, and tons of other platforms. Start your search with keywords related to your industry (“insurtech,” “cloud computing,” “enterprise technology,” etc.) and see what comes up. And don’t worry too much about searching every platform – most podcasts are available across most (if not all) major platforms.
- Search industry media: Many podcasts aren’t standalone, but exist as an offshoot of an already-established publication. Check out the websites of respected trade publications, magazines, or blogs in your industry to see if they produce regular podcast content.
- Search Twitter: Scour the Twitter accounts of thought leaders you want to emulate. It’s more likely than you think that they either have a podcast or were recently a guest on one. This is also key to evaluating (sneak preview of our next step) which podcasts are legit and which are only listened to by the host’s Uncle Jimmy (he’s a great guy, but probably not your audience).
Once you have a list of possible podcast targets, it’s time to figure out which ones are worth pitching.
In your search, it’s likely you kept seeing the same few podcasts come up again and again. Usually, you’re pretty safe assuming these are the heavy hitters and therefore good targets. But Don’t disregard any hidden gems. There might be one out there that your target audience loves and would be open to hearing your story.
Unsure whether a podcast is a fit? First, check out the “About’” section of the podcast’s website (some post stats on their listenership / number of downloads).
If you can’t find anything on the website, you can use the following criteria to determine if it’s worth pursuing:
- Recent guests (Do they even accept guests?): Are they people you’ve heard of and are willing to be featured among?
- Production quality: Does it sound like it was professionally produced or does the host seem to have a penchant for recording underwater?
- Social media presence: Does the host have 30 followers or 300,000? Is there engagement?
- Longevity: Is it just getting started or has it been around for years?
Remember though - everyone has to start somewhere. If you’ve never done a recorded interview, you may want to start with a lesser-known or newer podcast to get your feet wet, and to get practice before going after one of the big ones. Likewise, if you step up and participate with a podcast that is itself just getting up and running, that host will never forget you.
Follow and engage with the host and others associated with creating the podcast on Twitter (come on, it’s 2019, you should have done that by now).
Break the ice.
Start with a one-line email asking how they source their guests. No pressure.
If you’re unsure who to contact, go to the podcast’s website (most have one) and find a general contact email or form. Then ask: “Hey, I’m not sure if you’re the right person to contact, but I wanted to ask – how do you identify guests and topics for your podcast?”
Feel free to include a comment about what you enjoyed on a previous podcast, but keep it short, stay authentic, and don’t be promotional. As of now, you’re officially just innocently wondering – keep it low-stakes and you’re more likely to get a response.
So now you’ve identified the perfect podcast – it would be great for you and you’d be perfect for it. Give it all you got – sell yourself, baby!
Explain why your idea is interesting or important to listeners of this podcast, in plain English. It’s harder than you think!
Try using bullet points to cover the following topics:
- Why are you the right person to speak about this topic?
- Do you have experience solving a related problem?
- What do you think about it?
- What’s coming next?
This is where you can differentiate yourself from the other schmucks trying to get on this podcast.
Link to content that highlights your area of expertise. Were you quoted about a timely topic in a trade publication? Did you just publish an interesting article on your blog? This is where you can prove that you’re already an expert in the areas you claim to be.
Present two or three ideas that you can discuss on the podcast. Flesh out a headline and add a few sentences of support for each. Good places to start include…
- An industry trend that you’re witnessing first hand within your company.
- A macro factor (policy shift, massive technological change) and how it impacts your customers.
- A common problem among your customers that you, conveniently, have solved.
(Struggling to get your pitch just right? Try a trope.)
Here’s what a pitch email might look like:
Hi, [name] –
I enjoyed [guest’s] appearance on [podcast name]. It made me think – [thoughtful comment that shows you actually listened and internalized the episode].
A podcast about [brilliant idea] might be really interesting for your listeners. Here’s why:
- Rationale #1 for brilliant idea/why you’re an expert
- Rationale #2
- Rationale #3
I’ve written about [related topic, linked to your blog] on my blog and published this article on [related topic, link to article] in [interesting publication].
Here are some related ideas that might be interesting for your audience:
Idea headline #1
[2-3 sentence explainer]
Idea headline #2
[2-3 sentence explainer]
What do you think?
Done correctly, this process will work. If you get discouraged, remember: podcasts are everywhere, and they always need guests.
8: Evaluate and keep plugging
Appearing on podcasts can be rewarding in a number of ways. It’s a great way to get in front of a new audience, make connections with new people, and showcase your energy and passion in a dynamic new medium.
If you’re struggling to get traction, it may be that the podcast host or producer can’t find evidence that you are indeed a thought-leader on the topics their audiences care about. Consider investing energy in social media or a blog. If you can boast a growing audience on those channels, you’ll be more appealing as a podcast guest.
Trying to sift through the 750,000 podcasts on the market can be overwhelming, but going into the process with a focused idea of how you’ll help listeners will set you apart from the fray.
If you can express the idea in a relevant pitch and convey it in an engaging way when showtime comes, you’ll have created meaningful exposure for your business.
Not sure podcasts are right for you? Check out these tips for getting impactful media coverage.