GG’s Cordelia Gilligan explains how podcasts can give mission-oriented organizations the opportunity to lead the conversation.
When we talk about earned media, we typically think of traditional media—whether it’s a successfully-placed op-ed or a choice quote in a reported article. However, for clients whose top issue areas don’t dominate the 24-hour news cycle, one of the most substantive kinds of earned media can be podcasts.
While podcasts have been around since the mid-2000s, they aren’t always top-of-mind when it comes to media strategy; this oversight is significant, given data showing a majority of Americans aged 12-54 have listened to a podcast in the last month. Furthermore, excluding podcasts from your nonprofit’s PR strategy means your organization misses out on the opportunity to dig deeper into advocacy, research, case studies, and more through longform conversations.
As with any type of communications push, it’s important that your podcast approach be strategic. Anyone with a mic and an internet connection can start a podcast, so here are some do’s and don’ts when designing the podcast strategy for nonprofit PR.
While a well-chosen podcast can put a spokesperson in front of a highly engaged, informed audience, going on a podcast without any background research can be a waste of time, if not a crisis in the making. It’s necessary to ensure that any podcasts you’re connecting with are reputable and aligned with the mission of your organization. A quick way to know if a podcast is reputable is to check whether it is part of an established podcasting production company, such as PRX, iHeartRadio, or Crooked Media (although you shouldn’t rely on this heuristic alone). At the same time, don’t dismiss independent podcasts; listening to previous episodes, looking at the profiles of former guests, and monitoring reviews both on podcast platforms and publications that review podcasts can all inform whether a particular podcast is a strategic target.
…target podcasts when you have a big project
Podcasts are only one component of a robust media strategy. One of the best times to consider podcast pitching is when your organization has a big project, research paper, or new initiative that isn’t neatly slotted into the mainstream news cycle. No matter what your nonprofit focuses on, whether it’s legal advocacy, medical research, or environmental justice, there’s a podcast about it out there. Identifying podcasts that focus on relevant issue areas creates space for a spokesperson to provide critical depth into a recent research paper or project launch, knowing that (depending on the podcast) the bulk of the interview will be published. In addition to other forms of thought leadership, such as op-eds, podcasts can publicize major developments and further your organization’s desired narrative while offering the opportunity to go into greater detail.
…repurpose podcasts on socials and owned media
To get the biggest impact from a podcast, your job isn’t done when the interview is over. After the podcast comes out, amplify the episode on social media and your organization’s website. Beyond that, podcasts offer a robust piece of media to pull from for social media strategy. A good podcast offers a treasure trove of engaging soundbites to repost as an explainer of an ongoing project, a statement of purpose for your organization, or a call to action for supporters.
…go in without a media strategy
A good podcast is a good conversation, but just like a typical interview it’s necessary to go in prepared. Many high-profile people have been in hot water over comments made on podcasts. Ensuring that a podcast appearance supports your nonprofit’s PR strategy rather than creates a mini crisis is a matter of adequate media training. While there’s a bit more elbow room on podcasts as compared to a live TV interview, the same principles apply: prepare your talking points ahead of time; don’t ramble; and stay on message.
…assume all podcasts have the same recording practices
While some podcasts are produced and hosted by reporters, podcasting doesn’t have the same level of standardization as journalism. For the interview to be enjoyable and productive for both the host and your spokesperson, make sure that you’re on the same page about the recording process. Will the interview take place in-person or via video conference? How long will the interview be and how much will it be edited? Will there be a video component? Convey the expectations for the interview to your spokesperson ahead of time so there are no surprises.
Podcasts can be a great opportunity for your nonprofit to give meaningful projects and research the spotlight. When you invest in the extra legwork to generate targeted opportunities, you will avoid PR pitfalls.