Since its advent in 2004, podcasting has been steadily growing in popularity. Edison Research and Triton Digital found that the total number of people who have ever listened to a podcast surpassed 50% for the first time in 2019. That same year, Spotify spent more than $300 million to acquire podcasting companies Gimlet Media and Anchor. And just last month, Amazon added podcasts to Amazon Music to compete with Spotify.

Because of the growing number of podcast listeners, hosting and appearing on podcasts has become a common addition to many marketing and PR strategies as a means to reach a broader audience through more content channels.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Podcasting

However, when the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, no one was quite sure how podcasting would fare. Would people still listen to podcasts without the ample podcast-listening time of their commute? 

It became clear early on that the media landscape had shifted as a result of the pandemic. Business and consumer press were inundated with coronavirus coverage and weren’t interested in writing about much else. Meanwhile, staffing furloughs left remaining reporters without time for interviews and focusing more on contributed content. The one area that seemed largely unaffected though? Podcasts.

According to Spotify’s Q1 2020 shareholder letter, podcasting trends showed early signs of promise. Though morning routines changed (largely due to the lack of commuting), listening to podcasts during other activities increased, such as cooking, doing chores, spending time with family, and relaxing at home. By the end of July, active monthly users were consuming more than double the podcast content compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Best Practices for Leveraging Podcasts in Your PR Strategy

With so much uncertainty in the current media landscape, the reliability of podcasts has been refreshing. To ensure you’re  taking advantage of this stable content channel in your PR program, here are five best practices:

  1. Find a podcast that best suits your intended audience. Everyone wants to be on How I Built This. This NPR podcast has almost 300 episodes and features guests from companies such as Wikipedia, Airbnb, Ben & Jerry’s, Buzzfeed, and more. But unless you are the founder of a well-known company, it will be difficult to make it onto this show. While How I Built This has a large audience and is an instantly recognizable show, it may not actually be the best fit for your business. Smaller and more niche shows will not only be easier to appear on, but they will have a greater impact. For instance, podcasts that speak directly to finance leaders in need of a new automation solution or real estate leaders looking for home energy insights could get you in front of the very leaders who need solutions like yours.

  2. Make sure you’re the type of guest a podcast wants. Just because a podcast hits your exact intended audience doesn’t mean it’ll accept you as a guest. Some podcasts don’t interview guests as part of their show, while others only interview guests in certain roles (such as a CEO, CSO, etc.). Sometimes you can identify the type of guest typical to the podcast just by reading the description or episode titles, but the best way to get a feel for the podcast is to listen to a few episodes. This will also give you a better idea about the host’s interview style and go-to topics, which you can then leverage in your pitch to be a guest.

  3. Invest time in crafting a unique pitch. Just like any other media opportunity, you’ll want to cater your pitch specifically to the podcast you are pitching. Now that you’ve listened to a few episodes and have a sense of the topics the host is most likely to cover, determine the achievements and experience you most want to highlight. It’s best to share a tailored bio including responsibilities in your current role, relevant past roles or speaking engagements, and projects or other achievements that this niche audience will care about. You’ll also want to list off a few topics you’re willing to discuss on the podcast.

  4. Create an optimal podcast recording space. Congrats! You’ve been invited to be a guest on the podcast. To ensure a high-quality podcast recording, it’s important to consider where and how you will record the episode. You’ll want to start by setting up in a quiet room (I know, this is difficult right now with the entire family packed in the house, but try to find an area where you can close the door and reduce noise as much as possible). You’ll also want to make sure you have the proper equipment. While some podcasts allow calling in from your phone or using your computer microphone, others require professional-grade microphone and headphones for the clearest and most crisp audio. If you don’t have this equipment, the next best option would be noise-cancelling headphones with a microphone attached. Also, be sure to silence your phone and snooze any other notifications (laptop or otherwise) that might interrupt the interview.

  5. Relax and enjoy the interview. Most podcast recordings are recorded live-to-tape, meaning the host will record your conversation and then edit it into a podcast episode. If you make a mistake or stumble over a word or explanation, simply pause, take a breath, and then restart your point from the top. Keep in mind, most hosts are hoping to steer the conversation in a direction that produces the best possible episode. This means they will want to avoid awkward “gotcha” moments that embarrass you. They are successful if they shine a positive light on you, so try to enjoy the interview. Convey excitement from beginning to end. Even if the audience can’t see you, smiling and making facial expressions can make your voice more expressive.

As evident by its durability throughout the pandemic, podcasting isn’t going anywhere. The sooner you add it to your PR strategy, the sooner you will reach your targeted audience, get more confident being a guest on a podcast, and build a repertoire of episodes you can point to for more lucrative podcasting opportunities. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be inspired and start up a podcast of your own.