Much like blogs, podcasts started out more or less with a large group of hobbyists who wanted to talk about their interests. Eventually, also like blogging, podcasting took on a life of its own and established itself as a viable new medium.
These days, the podcasting landscape is robust and interesting for millions of listeners, including writers. You may already have a few favorite writing podcasts, and if so, you understand the appeal of this typically casual, conversational format.
Podcasts aren’t just great for your listening pleasure, though — they could make a valuable addition to your own marketing efforts. Just think: many podcast audiences are already full of your ideal clients and customers.
As a writer, you can use podcasts as a new avenue to reach your best markets in ways that raise your profile and build rapport…and that’s good for business!
If you’ve ever thought about starting your own podcast but you weren’t sure if it was the right move or how you’d pull it off, this post is for you. I’ll show you how to use your own podcast as a marketing tool, go over a few strategies and approaches, and show you how to make podcasts work for you whether you write for others or for yourself.
How to know if podcasting is right for you
I hang out with a lot of marketers, and as much as I love them, I’ve learned to be careful with them because they really dig hype. Many would tell you that if you’re any kind of service provider or a creative professional (*ahem* writers and authors), you must have a podcast.
I don’t completely agree, but I do think there are a lot of us in this writerly world who could benefit from doing a podcast.
Podcasting might be right for you if:
- Learning a new technology is relatively easy for you (meaning, it won’t take you four months just to figure out how to do basic audio editing)
- You aren’t a perfectionist and you’re ok with the less formal feel of a podcast
- You’re clear on your intended outcomes for the podcast
- You have some time to devote to publishing regularly, whether that’s twice a week or twice a month
- You know the audience you want to reach, whether it’s the type of niche client you serve or the best readers of your books
As a busy writer, I’m careful before committing to anything that takes up a chunk of time and mental energy. After thinking about podcasting for several years, I finally felt like the time was right to launch one earlier this year.
Because I had a stable client load, I felt freer to do things with my own name attached (after spending nearly a decade mostly ghostwriting). I also decided to use a format that would be easy and efficient to produce, which meant my show wouldn’t take up too much time to plan and record.
Choosing your audience: The most important step
When you’re considering a podcast idea, there are two potential audiences you can reach: the audience of people who do what you do, and the audience of your potential clients or customers. There may be some overlap, but generally these will be two distinct groups of people.
I’d advise you to choose one of these groups for your show, because it’s a lot easier to create content for one specific audience than it is to try to balance two different ones. You can always make a second podcast if you love the medium.
As a freelance writer, the main benefit to choosing your ideal clients as an audience is that you’ll be creating content that will benefit them, while also setting yourself up as the go-to expert. If your niche is email marketing for small businesses, your podcast could cover all kinds of email marketing topics that these small business owners need to know.
What you’re doing is educating your prospective clients on the importance of the service you provide. When they’re ready to move forward with email marketing, you will most likely be the first provider they contact.
As an author or creative writer, think about what your readers might enjoy hearing from you. It could be book reviews or interesting interviews with other authors in your genre. You could also use the podcast as a place to discuss your thoughts on your genre, or to share poems and shorter pieces you love but haven’t published elsewhere.
Another fun idea might be to do your podcast in “seasons” with each season documenting the process of planning, drafting, editing, and even launching your next piece. Think about what your readers might enjoy most. When they find your show, they’ll become more attached to you, more aware of your work, and more likely to buy when you have a new publication.
How to structure your show
Generally speaking, your podcasts will be one of two formats: you, talking into the mic and sharing your content; or you interviewing someone else. Some shows will be mostly one format with an occasional episode done the other way.
Your “talking head” podcasts can be scripted or unscripted, and I’ve heard great podcasts in both styles. I typically prefer this type of podcast myself, because there tends to be one key message or point and the quality is consistent.
For my own podcast, I script some episodes, but I’ve found that I prefer just to work up a few talking points for each episode. This is easier and more efficient, because I don’t have to take the time to draft all the copy and I’m able to “go off script” when I think of new points to make as I’m recording. Another benefit to going unscripted is that it takes a lot less time to edit; I don’t correct myself when I’m speaking off the cuff, but when I’m reading there are lots of flubs and re-starts to edit out.
If you decide to go for it, expect to make some adjustments along the way. It’s ok to change directions! This is your show, and it makes sense to do what works best for you, even if it takes you a few episodes to work out the kinks.
Why this format works for lead generation: I chose to target up-and-coming writers as my audience, knowing that having a podcast would also raise my profile and lend credibility to my pitches conversations with prospects. My podcast is very young and it launched with almost no fanfare, but it’s already helped me land some high-end client work.
While they aren’t my personal preference, interview shows can be really powerful as a marketing tool if you’re strategic in how you set the show up. One way to do this is to interview colleagues and (possibly) past clients and/or editors about topics related to the work you do.
For example, ghostwriter Derek Lewis is a ghostwriter specializing in business books. On his podcast, he interviews “authors, business leaders, and publishing industry experts about what it takes to successfully write, publish, and market a business book.” Many of the people he interviews are past clients, and there’s a clear tie-in between the interviews and the service Lewis offers.
Why this format works for lead generation: Anyone who’s interested in writing or leveraging a business book could benefit from this podcast, including Lewis’s ideal clients… who then hire Lewis to write their books. He’s clearly the expert, and his client interviews serve as powerful social proof.
Not ready for your podcast yet, but curious?
If you want to see how much a great podcast could do for your writing but you aren’t ready to commit to your own show yet, start pitching to appear on other podcasts. You’ll still get a feel for how podcasting works and start benefiting from the ongoing content marketing and SEO juice baked into podcasting.
Look for shows that are geared toward your ideal client and pitch to appear on them. (I often see calls in various Facebook groups for new podcast guests, and that’s an easy way to land spots.) In other words, don’t look just for writing shows; look for the kinds of shows your clients would listen to, and then try to get on those shows.
For example, if you want to write for real estate agents, look for podcasts that talk about marketing and lead gen for realtors, and then pitch yourself as a guest to discuss content marketing and how it brings in buyer and listing leads.
Your goal is to speak authoritatively about the benefits and value of the service you provide, while making it known that this is something that can be outsourced to someone like you. You’ll be set up as an expert and then you’ve had a chance to get in front of that audience and effectively sell your services without ever saying “Hey, come hire me!”
Another example: If you want to sell more books, look for podcasts related to the things your ideal readers would seek out. This might mean you’re looking for shows that do author interviews, shows that support people in your niche, or even shows for writers in your specific genre.
The goal for you might be to share what makes your work unique and attractive, build your email list, or even do straight promotion of your latest piece. People who enjoy reading your genre will be able to discover you and then become new readers of yours.
Should you podcast?
Podcasting may be the “it thing” right now, but it’s also been around as long as — if not longer than — blogs, which suggests to me that it’s not going anywhere. As a good marketer, you’d do well for yourself to tap into this highly engaged source of leads, however it fits into your business!
Photo via antoniodiaz / Shutterstock