What the pandemic success of podcasts means for PR pros
Your media strategy shouldn’t overlook the popular audio format, even as the in-person interview has vanished.
“Will people still listen to podcasts?”
I vividly remember that question from a client in early March 2020—and that I didn’t know the answer.
Podcasts were, of course, already wildly popular by the time the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world. But the way we listened to podcasts seemed to be irreparably harmed. For most, podcasts were what we listened to as we traveled, whether that was to or from work, or to and from a friend’s or family’s house. It didn’t appear anyone would be doing much traveling anytime soon in March 2020.
To say the rumors of the podcast’s demise were greatly exaggerated would be a gross understatement. Podcasts have not only survived through they pandemic; they have thrived. Podcasts don’t need to just be a part or parcel of your company’s or organization’s media outreach strategy; they need to be a focal point.
This isn’t about creating your own podcast from scratch, which is not what the podcast market wants from brands today. It’s about leveraging the networks of existing podcasts, using relationships with reporters and editors who have started their own, and finding new audiences for your message.
The reason for their proliferation is easy to understand when you think about the impact of remote work and social distancing on our lives in 2020. The in-person interview essentially vanished. The recorded Zoom interview, while also here to stay, is far less inviting to viewers and struggled to reach the same level of acceptance as the podcast.
Similarly, podcasts are incredibly easy for anyone, particularly reporters, to record, edit and publish. It’s basically the same thing as recording a phone interview, except you publish the whole thing instead of cutting it down to soundbites or transcribing key quotes.
While it’s easy to see why podcasts have proliferated and become a favorite of reporters, influencers and just about anyone with access to a microphone, it’s equally important to understand why it’s so important for companies and organizations to take advantage of podcasts in their PR strategy.
First, there is the content of a podcast. It’s a conversation. It’s not a hit or miss TV interview where you are at the mercy of a producer’s editing skills. For most podcasts, the entire conversation is recorded. That allows your spokesperson an opportunity to not only share key messaging and talking points but explain them in detail and provide context. It’s a completely different format than most media interviews, yet one that is most similar to how we interact in our daily lives. It becomes an easier venue for most spokespeople.
Secondly, there is the opportunity to reveal your personality, which can lead to more podcasts and more media interviews. It’s very tough for a spokesperson to display their personality with a few quotes in an AP story or a quick interview on the Evening News. It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy.
With a podcast, your spokesperson gets to shine and embrace who they are. They get to reveal the depth of their expertise, particularly when matched up with a strong podcast host who can lead the conversation into exciting, uncharted waters. There’s an added bonus of amplification, because one good podcast interview begets another. Using a previous interview is an easy media pitch to other podcasters looking for unique and interesting guests. It’s the gift that can keep giving, if done right.
The final reason podcasts are so valuable is arguably the most important—they can have a much longer shelf life. Unless you are doing a podcast interview about a specific point in time event, podcasts are the definition of evergreen content. They are about big ideas and trends, about thoughts and opinions, and about the future and what’s next. The general nature of podcasts mean they have a stickiness to them that most forms of media content in 2022 do not.
Especially during the last two years of the pandemic, news has moved at the speed of light. News articles and TV stories can make a bigger impact in the short term but may not stand the test of time as news cycles refresh every day, if not every hour. Podcasts, on the other hand, can linger, in a good way.
Podcasts shouldn’t be the entirety of your media strategy, but it should be front and center. It’s a way for any company or organization to deliver more messaging through more spokespeople to more people.
Four years ago, I urged my clients to merely include podcasts into their PR strategy to be effective. Today, I am telling you it should be a focal part.
Sean O’Leary is a vice president with Susan Davis International.