A study conducted in early 2020 by Edison Research revealed that 104 million Americans listen to podcasts regularly. That’s more than one third of the population (looking at ages 12 and up) and if we had to guess, we’d say that number has probably risen over the past several months as we all gravitate toward new outlets to help us better stay connected.

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From a marketing perspective, these numbers make it hard to ignore podcasting as an outlet that deserves our attention. Just as we seek out newspapers, TV programs and trade publications that are an ideal fit for our clients, there are undoubtedly podcasts that reach our target audience among the hundreds of thousands of shows currently in existence. Appearing as a guest on an established podcast with a specific focus puts you in front of an already captive audience that trusts the host of the show and will now be introduced to you as an authority on your conversation topic.

But beyond seeking out podcasts where guest appearances will put you in front of your target audience, you might consider starting your own podcast if your time and resources allow. In a time when recording an episode can be as easy as hitting record on your next Zoom call, the initial investment in podcasting is low enough that the biggest commitment you’re making right away is dedicating your time as you get things up and running. And if your goal is becoming a thought leader within your industry, what better way to work toward that then establishing an outlet that lets you address the topics you know best.

Why podcasting?

If your marketing program is robust, you likely already have channels in place that you use to reach your audience with the type of content you already know they appreciate. Your blog posts come out regularly and are widely shared, your email program is informative and engaging without verging on spammy – so why add podcasting to the mix?

For starters, podcasts come in an easily digestible format. Rather than having to capture your audience’s attention in their inbox and convince them to click through and spend a portion of their day focused on reading the article you’ve just written, listening to a podcast doesn’t require their undivided attention. Many listeners are multitasking and tuning in while they’re doing things like working out, making dinner, or walking the dog.

Once they’re subscribed, podcast listeners tend to be loyal and reliable ambassadors. 80% listen to most or all of each episode and they’re consistently more active on social media, including following companies and brands on social channels.

Getting started

It might seem like a no-brainer to identify your industry, name it as your podcast topic, and call it good, but it’s not quite as straightforward as that. Yes, your topic should be on brand, but put a little thought into what will make it stand out. Consider your target audience and where their interests lie to develop a topic that will a) provide ongoing material for long-term discussion and b) lead to engaging storytelling and conversations that will keep your audience coming back for more.

Take Shopify as an example. The e-commerce platform helps businesses sell their goods online. Yes, audiences want to learn the process when they’re getting started with Shopify, but they’re probably not turning to the company’s podcast to get started building their website. Recognizing the need to target business-minded audiences (aka potential customers) Shopify developed not one but two original podcasts to get the brand’s name out. Shopify Masters features inspirational stories from successful entrepreneurs while Vanguard covers how unexplored communities and unexpected subcultures make money. They’re both topics that business owners might be intrigued by, and they’re interesting enough to keep audiences coming back for more. For Shopify, that means their brand name is front and center with listeners week after week so they’re top of mind and develop a position as a thought leader within the business industry without being overtly salesy.

Once you have a topic in mind, consider the format your episodes will take. Does your podcast feature you solo, telling entertaining industry-pertinent stories? Do you have a co-host with whom your humorous rapport will keep audiences engaged and wanting more? Guest appearances can add a dynamic you won’t achieve as a solo speaker but require the added preparation of identifying and securing regular guest speakers.

While we’re on the topic of hosts, be sure you select someone who can carry a conversation. Your CEO might not have the personality (or the time) to fill the role, even if you want the opportunity to promote them as your resident expert. You won’t be gaining any ground as an authority on your industry if the show is a flop.

Working out the logistics

In a pre-COVID world, it was easy to find a studio and producer that would record, master and upload your podcast episodes for a professional sounding, expert-level finished product. These days, that’s definitely still an option, but if you’d rather get things up and running from the safety of your own home or office, you can invest in an affordable microphone and recording software that will allow you or someone on your team to capture and clean up your podcast recordings.

Establishing your authority

Once you’re up and running, don’t forget the goal that drove the creation of the podcast to begin with. Move forward with the purpose of delivering useful, engaging content that will help grow your credibility.

Cover a topic that doesn’t get enough attention. You undoubtedly know the topics that are oversaturating your market. Steer clear of those and hone in on subjects that are less likely to be discussed. There will be higher demand for these more obscure topics and you’re likely to attract new listeners who have their interest piqued by subject matter they haven’t seen elsewhere.

Stay on trend. No, you don’t want to jump on the bandwagon in discussing overplayed topics, but there’s a difference between played out and timely. This can be a great reason not to record too far in advance. Sometimes there’s a big industry announcement or social matter that deserves your recognition and your lack of acknowledgement may come off as uncouth or out of the loop

Invite quality guests to appear on your show. These can be big names in your industry, target clients, or local experts whose presence will help position you as an authority within your industry who can deliver knowledgeable guests and informative conversations to your audience. You can also view guest appearances as an opportunity to cross-promote and reach new listeners if your guest is willing to share their appearance on your show with their own audience.

Stick with it. Your first few episodes may not be chart-toppers, but don’t give up on your podcast before it has time to get up and running. Be sure you’re promoting your new podcast (organically and via your company’s advertising dollars) and keep producing quality content to ensure that when your target audience gets wind of your show the episodes you’re producing will keep them coming back for more.