How to Ease the C-Suite’s Fear of Podcasting and Other Advice for Podcast Rookies

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, podcasts are probably part of your life. Since the 2014 release of NPR’s "Serial," a phenomenally popular podcast about the legal case of a young man who may have been falsely accused of a crime that is credited by some for starting the podcast craze, the medium exploded. It now seems like everyone is listening to podcasts, has a podcast or wants to start one.

In fact, on average podcast listeners tune in to 11 hours of podcasts a week, according to Jason Hoch, head of new initiatives at HowStuffWorks.com (which of course has its own podcast). So, it’s no wonder companies around the world are jumping on board.

Hoch discussed podcasting, along with Alison Goldstein Lebovitz and Amanda Goldstein Marks, sisters and co-hosts of the Sis & Tell podcast, and Ellen Sirull, senior manager of content at Experian Consumer Services, at the Social Shake-Up Show last month.

The foursome shared their personal experiences in creating and marketing their own shows, and shared advice for brand communicators who are pitching—or being pitched by leadership—company-owned podcasts.

Here is some of their advice for podcast rookies at brands:

On balancing humor with professionalism:

“Take your work seriously but not yourself too seriously. Because in the end you don’t want to come across as a know-it-all. I think the best advice is that the authenticity of you is what’s going to shine through. If it feels funny to you, and it feels authentic and organic, it’s going to feel that way to your audience. We’re tired of that serious nature of what we hear on the news. People like that escapism a little bit—or maybe a lot bit.” —Allison Goldstein Lebovitz and Amanda Goldstein Marks

“If you’re coming out with something fun it’s a great way to get people’s attention. It’s a great way to show who you are. We always like to say at Experian that we want to be the smart, funny guy in the room. It’s the guy you want to talk to because he’s cool to hang out with, but he also knows a lot. Be true to yourself.”—Ellen Sirull

“Podcasts are not a thing you can fake. You can’t force [people] to listen like you force them to watch a video on social media. And now we have data that says people are going 80-90% through a podcast. Those successful shows are the ones that don’t fake it and that aren’t always serious.” —Jason Hoch

On the reciprocal nature of podcasting promotion and guests:

“For us, since we were just starting out our podcast, we focused on getting outside guests who we felt would have a good rapport with us. So, Experian is credit and finance and identity theft protection, so we would look to experts. A route that might be worth looking into is who are some influencers or people in your space who have audiences, which can be a great way to get some additional exposure to your podcast. Something else that we saw a lot of success with was…we would have the guest write a blog post for us on that similar topic. It wasn’t always a verbatim, but we found that was a great way to build our SEO.” —Ellen Sirull

“As far as getting guests on who maybe have social followers that can help promote your podcast, you have to think if it’s organic to your podcast. For us, we’ve had people approach us about being guests and it just didn’t make sense to our storyline. And we’ve also brought in guests who we thought would be organic and it just didn’t work, and we heard from our listeners that they didn’t want to hear from them. So, you have to take a step back before you bring them on and say, 'is it part of who we are?’” —Allison Goldstein Lebovitz and Amanda Goldstein Marks

“Email newsletters are highly underrated as a promotional vehicle. [You’re reaching] your audience who already cares about you—you don’t think about it for podcasts but it could be huge.” —Jason Hoch

On addressing concerns traditional leaders may have about podcasting:

“Work with your legal department to set up parameters of what you can and cannot talk about.” —Allison Goldstein Lebovitz and Amanda Goldstein Marks

“Experian is a very old, very traditional, very regulation-ridden company. I sat down with [the compliance and legal teams] and said let’s talk about how we can make this work. We created some guidelines, really got them comfortable with the fact that we understand there are things we can and can’t say. The first few we recorded, we had to run them all by legal and compliance. But after about a month, they didn’t have to listen to them anymore.” —Ellen Sirull

“I would do a pilot. Record a pilot, put it in front of your lawyers and say this is the show we want to do. Instead of it being an idea that never goes anywhere, actually record the show and have the rip 30% out, whatever that means. Just getting it started is sometimes the hardest part.” —Jason Hoch