Mark recaps the public relations lessons, insights, tips, and tricks he learned at Podcast Movement 2016.
Hey, this is Mark Phillips and welcome to another episode of Better PR Now. I’m just back from Chicago where I just attended the Podcast Movement 2016. What an amazing experience, about 2,000 maybe more participants, crazy good speakers, all kinds of positive energy. And I’ll tell you what; there was more support and love there than any conference I’ve been to recently.
Oh, and when the conference administrative notes, which are pretty boring like where the bathrooms are and what to expect on the schedule, when they’re delivered as a slow jam by three really talented performers, you know you’re in for something great. So, Podcast Movement was fantastic!
I’m not going to do a recap of the whole conference, what I wanted to do though was pull out some of the lessons and some of the tips and tricks that the speakers shared that could be really good PR lessons that we could apply in our practice every day as professional communicators.
So, setting the stage: Why would we even want to consider using podcasting for public relations? Well, Jay Baer, who is President of Convince and Convert, also a keynote speaker, a podcaster, and an author of five books (including Hug Your Hates; How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers) puts together some 2016 podcast statistics and I think they’re pretty convincing, so number one:
Podcast listening grew 23% between 2015 and 2016. So 21% of Americans over age 12 have listened to a podcast in the past month, and that’s up 17% since last year. Monthly podcast listenership also increased 75% since 2013
The second statistic: the overall podcast audience really is bigger than you think. The same number, and this really floored me, the same number of Americans listen to podcasts as those that use Twitter: 21%. So, I know what you’re thinking, there are way more people on Twitter than listen to podcasts.
Well you’re right, there are more than 57 million Americans who listen to podcasts, and they consume, on average, five podcasts per week per listener. Twitter has many more members signed up than that. But the actual number of people who are active users of Twitter is still about equal to the number of people who listen to podcasts. So, when you consider that, podcasting has the same footprint as Twitter.
The other thing that you need to take into account is that podcasts are enduring. When you record a podcast or interview on a podcast, or your company or brand is featured in a podcast, that stays in iTunes; it stays on the website; it stays on all the distribution platforms for perpetuity, as opposed to Twitter, where it goes out and it’s quickly buried by other tweets. So the long term value of being in a podcast is actually much greater than Twitter and the reach ends up being even better.
The third statistic is that mobile is driving podcast growth. This year, 64% of podcasts are being listened to on a smartphone or tablet; people are listening on the go. And this consumption creates opportunities for us to engage our public during their commutes, working out, walking the dog, or in other places where they’re not in front of their computers. And, of course, they can actually still listen on their computer; it’s just most people are starting to listen on mobile devices.
So, to get this started I would actually like to go to the very end of the conference. Alex Blumberg who is probably somebody you heard of provided the closing keynote. And you might have listened to some of his work on NPR as he produced This American Life. He also cohosted the the Planet Money podcast and cofounded Gimlet Media, which has launched some of the most popular podcasts around.
During his talk, Alex shared incredibly poignant examples of the power of audio for both good and evil. He discussed the use of radio and the Nazi raise to power in pre-war Germany, and the role of radio in driving genocide in Rwanda.
He also shared how audio can bring people together, how it can create empathy and a sense of community. He talked about audio being the most intimate medium; much more so than print or video. Why do you think this is?
Well, in print if you’re reading a novel, your mind fills in the blanks and you sort of paint a picture, a mental picture for yourself. In video you don’t have to do that; it’s right there, so you don’t feel as much of a connection. Just like with print, when you listen to audio, your brain fills in the details. You get a mental picture, but you’re also hearing the voices, hearing the emotion, you’re hearing the breath, you’re hearing things that give you more clues than you get just reading.
And there’s a psychological dynamic that’s going on, where the sound of the voice and the more you listen to it ends up creating a sense of intimacy. And so it’s very real. You feel like you know the people who you’re listening to. And so what happens when people listen to audio, particularly a podcast, the listener fills in the blanks and they hear the voice. They hear the breath. They hear the pauses. They feel the emotion, and they come away with a sense that they actually know the speaker.
That’s why it’s so powerful when you’re looking to build relationships with your publics, looking to build a sense of community. If you’re considering using podcasting for yourself, for your own brand, for the company that you work for, or for your clients, podcasting really is a great way to start building a sense of community and build engagement with your publics.
So, let’s dive into some of the other key points.
Another of the keynote speakers was Kevin Smith, who you might know from having produced movies such as Clerks, Mallrats, and Jay and Silent Bob. He is also comic book man on AMC Network and so much more. What you might not know is Kevin is also a longtime podcaster, being one of the early adopters of this new medium.
Kevin created the SModcast Network, which delivers a really crazy range of weekly podcasts from Kevin and his friends including Hollywood Babylon, SModcast, Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, Fatman on Batman (that’s one of my favorites), Edumacation, Talk Salad and Scrambled Eggs. The network also features Tell ‘em Steve Dave, FEAB, I Sell comics, Waking from the American Dream, Net Heads, Nooner, Secret Stash, The Wayne Foundation, The Last Week on Earth with Brian Gleib, and Pod U. These guys are just crazy prolific.
Kevin delivered a really incredible keynote, he was booked to speak for about an hour, but he went 90 minutes. I don’t think he took a breath and it was just absolutely amazing. Some of the key takeaways from his discussion of producing podcasts, as well as working with AMC on their series and with writing, directing, and producing the movies that he worked on was, do what you love doing and express yourself.
That really was the foot-stomper for him: Express yourself. Be open for unexpected opportunities. So many of these opportunities came up and they were not planned. Only one of the movies they intended to do. The rest just sort of emerged organically. The same thing with their involvement with AMC. So be open for the unexpected and be willing to put yourself out there. That means being exposed to ridicule, running the risk of failure, and putting yourself outside your comfort zone.
A number of the speakers talked about real growth coming when you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone.
Two other speakers were the ladies from BuzzFeed and Another Round, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton. They also really stressed that it’s important to be yourself. The key thing, and this is really important for public relations and other communications professionals, is to ask the questions that you really want to ask, don’t beat around the bush. For example, they revealed how they got Hillary Clinton to get off script, get off the talking points and simply connect as a regular human being. It’s an incredibly insightful and funny listen. Check it out here: http://bzfd.it/2wRSY5T
Pat Flynn, founder of the Smart Passive Income podcast and a really amazing guy in his own right, stressed the importance of relationships. We get really wrapped up with how many downloads we have, how many visits we have to our website, how many followers we have on Instagram, Twitter and other platforms. And Pat’s message was that downloads are people, they’re not just numbers. Downloads are your community.
He said that if you only have 100 downloads, imagine, that’s 100 people gathered in one room to listen to you. One hundred downloads as a number on your screen doesn’t look like much, but 100 people gathered together to listen to you is incredibly powerful and that’s where your community comes from.
So Pat’s point about podcasting is that it can be a platform for creating and engaging a community of people that you’re connected to, or are connected to your brand or connected to your mission. And speaking of Pat, he said something that also struck a chord with me. He said, “To change someone’s life, first change their day.” Well, how do you do that? In Pat’s words, “Give them something of value. In fact, give value first, whether it’s a few minutes of entertainment or a helpful tip to make their life easier.”
It’s a simple idea that we so often forget; give first. That’s right in line with Gary Vaynerchuk‘s advice to give, give, give, before ever asking for anything.
Jessica Rhodes, host of the Rhodes to Success podcast said to leverage podcast just like you would any other media outlet. Make it easy for podcasters to feature you on their shows. Reach out with a one-sheet that includes a good headshot. A bio written in the third person that the podcaster can use as an introduction on the show, linked to your online presence, whether it’s websites or social platforms (ideally both), your contact information (including your phone number and Skype), and make sure that your client or content is a good fit for the shows audience.
Josh Elledge of upendPR in Orlando also provided some great tips to launch your own podcast and leverage the channels that others have created. Josh highlighted the importance of building relationships with podcasters before asking to be on their show.
For anyone who has worked in media relations, you’ll recognize a familiar theme: It’s important to build relationships with journalists, editors, and producers before you need them or they need you.
The same is true for podcasters. Follow those who cover your industry or interests, and connect with them on Twitter or other social media platforms. Like and share their shows and comment on their material.
You know we’re all looking for feedback and engagement, so proactively reaching out to them will go a long way towards building a mutually beneficial relationship. As Josh said, “Give freely and allow influencers to reward you freely.”
Speaking of Twitter, this is a terrific platform for making initial contact and providing support to podcasters you would like to engage. Follow them, retweet what they tweet, and throw some love in promoting their podcasts. You’ll be surprised in how grateful they’ll be.
Okay, here’s a key piece of advice from Josh and I’m going to really foot stomp this, use HARO, it’s also called Help a Reporter Out. It’s owned by Cision and it’s an essential way for journalists and podcasters to find you or your clients.
Once you sign up, you’ll get three emails a day between Monday and Friday, and when you see a request that fits with your business, send them a pitch. It’s that easy. If you’re a podcaster, register as a journalist and you’ll be able to use the service to find experts to interview. Be sure to follow their rules for journalists though. If you’re not already registered on HARO, hit the pause button right now and go to www.helpareporter.com and register yourself or your client. Its okay, I’ll wait, go ahead.
Okay, great, so we’re all back.
I want to talk a little bit about emotion, and storytelling and how critically important they are. Daniel Lewis of the Audacity to Podcast podcast pointed out that it’s important to keep things positive, because the emotion you convey through your podcast’s appearance is the emotion you’ll attract.
If you’re going to start your own podcast, or one for your organization or client, it would be a really great idea to pay attention to Gretchen Rubin’s rules for creating a podcast. You’ll know Gretchen from her books, The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, Better than Before and others, as well as her conversation with Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday.
One of Gretchen’s key points was being clear about what we’re doing, whether we’re entertaining, informing, teaching, advocating, or something else. It’s important to understand and keep in mind what our main purpose is.
She also said to remember that our listeners have four basic desires that we can fulfill:
- They have a hunger for stories.
- They have a desire for companionship.
- They also have a desire to learn, and that’s where research, books, and vocabulary can come in.
- And she said that they have a desire for ease of listening, so make it sound good. She urged content producers to be approachable and transparent, and that the more we reveal ourselves, the more others will want to engage with us.
Gretchen also advised podcasters to show some vulnerability. She said to let your freak flag fly. Be specific about your experiences and really share and play to your own idiosyncrasies. After all, that’s what people identify with and that’s how you draw them closer. She said to build and engage community, it’s good to have fans, but it’s so much better to have a community of people who like what you do, care about you, and engage with you. This really is true for business and for life.
Gretchen recommended connecting with listeners in as many ways possible. She said that a strong voice repels as well as attracts. Essentially, you’re not going to appeal to everybody and that’s okay, as long as you appeal to, and are able to communicate with and build a relationship with, those who are more interested in what you do, what your business does, or in your mission; that’s what’s most important. She said we should try to leave people wanting more, and she reiterated what Alex had said about podcasting creating a deeply intimate connection.
Toward the end, Cliff Ravenscraft podcast producer, consultant, and coach, and host of the Podcast Answerman podcast gave some really great words of advice. He focused on strategies to ensure that your podcast ranks highly on iTunes and other distribution channels.
He said to have a clear message; the example he used was the Ray Edwards Show. He said to create consistent, compelling content and suggested that we publish at least once a week to keep our audience engaged. Like many of the speakers, Cliff urged everybody to be passionate about the content we create. “Don’t just go into an area because somebody said you ought to. Go into it because you really, really are passionate about it.” Focus on quality, sound, and art work, and be yourselves.
Cliff also advised podcasters to build relationships with their audience. It really is all about relationships. Cliff recommended engaging with your audience by asking questions; ask for their tips, their ideas, and their criticisms. The more you understand their pain points, the better you’ll be able to engage with them about things that are most important to them.
Finally, he said to provide hope, encouragement, and feedback to others who are in your line of work or who share similar interests.
Business and life coach, Dani Garrison said we should be willing to move outside our comfort zone. We’ve heard this as well from other speakers and it really does apply. In fact, Dani wears a set of cat ears at all of her public appearances as a reminder to herself to always be willing to step outside your comfort zone. This applies to starting a podcast and it also applies to experimenting with live video streaming or pretty much any part of life.
There was so much more information shared at Podcast Movement 2016, but I do want to keep this short and driveable, so I’ll wrap it up. I’d love to hear what you think about the ideas I shared in this episode. Give me a shout by clicking the orange ‘Send Voicemail’ tab on the right side of every page of the Better PR Now website. It really is a quick and easy way to participate in this ongoing conversation.
If you’re enjoying the podcast, please subscribe and tell a friend who also might be interested. One last note on Podcast Movement, this was an incredibly helpful experience for me and I was blown away by the sheer volume of information that was shared there freely. Everyone there supported each other and it was incredibly positive. If you’re podcasting now or considering starting, I’d highly recommend that you attend next year’s Podcast Movement.
And one more thing, I’d like to ask a personal favor. My wife and I are expecting the birth of our first grandchild in a few weeks, so will you keep our daughter, her baby, and her husband in your thoughts and prayers, I’d really appreciate it.
That’s it for this episode. Thanks for taking this journey with me. I’ll catch you on the next episode.