AM&P Annual Meeting Recap: So You Want to Start a Podcast

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By Caroline Hopkins

Podcasts continue to gain ground as a preferred method for consuming information.

In fact, according to the Nielsen 2017 Podcast Insights report, 44 percent of the U.S. population listen to podcasts. Among listeners, 80 percent listen to all or almost all of each episode, and they listen to an average of seven shows per week. Education and professional development is the second most popular category of podcasts, topped only by comedy.

Podcasts are often accessible when written content is not — while commuting, exercising, cooking, working, or otherwise multitasking — and they provide a channel for diverse perspectives and storytelling unique to the spoken word.

All of these elements make podcasts a uniquely suited medium for associations, whose members often seek convenient, versatile avenues of information on their association’s subject matter.

At the 2018 AM&P Annual Conference, Matt Priest, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA); Carolyn Schnare, director of strategic initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS); and Blake Althen, owner of Human Factor, led a session titled “Associations That Are Getting it Right Through Podcasting.”

The session included success stories and answered questions about podcasting. Before diving into tips and tricks, though, Priest, Schnare, and Althen began the session with five steps to beginning a podcast series.

1. Identify the Goal of Your Podcast

Because podcast content can take on a broad range of formats and purposes, it is important for organizations to identify their specific goals in creating a series. Does your association want to use podcast episodes to share expert insight from guests? Tell an ongoing story? Promote association events and offerings? Share industry news and updates? Build revenue through sponsorship?

Making your association’s goal as specific as possible will help to ensure consistency and success in your podcast program.

2. Identify Your Target Listeners

Priest, Schnare, and Althen caution against simply answering this question with “our members.” Associations — especially larger ones — have members who span many different career levels and special interests. It is important to identify whether your podcast is intended for a broad audience of listeners or certain subsets of membership such as c-suite executives or early-career listeners.

Because platforms such as iTunes require to remain free and accessible to all listeners, they can serve as an avenue for attracting potential members, too — that is, listeners who might decide to join your association after listening to your podcast.

3. Choose the Metrics You’ll Use

Identifying the goal of your podcast series is step one — but doing so will only ensure podcast success if you have a way to measure your progress toward this goal. Will you look at download numbers? Subscriber numbers? Feedback and engagement on social media?

Whatever it may be, setting out with a clear plan to assess your podcast’s growth and appeal is vital. Priest, Schnare, and Althen say the open and accessible nature of podcasts makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact identities of listeners, so identifying conversions could be tricky.

4. Select Your Software and Tools

There is no one go-to software or platform for recording podcasts. Many associations choose to offer podcasts through RSS streams hosted on platforms such as Libsyn or make their podcasts available on iTunes. It is important to do research beforehand, as some platforms might be better suited than others, depending on your association’s budget and requirements for features and analytics.

Identifying your format is also imperative. Will you record interviews with a consistent host and different guests each episode? Or will you have just one voice each time? While there is no hard and fast rule that says each episode of a podcast series needs to follow an identical format, certain formats will impact the frequency or timeline of your recordings. For instance, if your podcast is an ongoing story with a single speaker, you might consider recording all of the episodes at once and releasing them on a rolling basis.

Additional questions to address include whether you will invite guests to record in-person or over a conference line or software such as Skype or Source Connect. Choosing whether to edit the audio in-house or hire a vendor will also depend on your association’s resources, in-house expertise, and budget.

Finally, your association will need to determine how it intends to promote episodes. Social media lends itself well to sharing podcasts, as do links or promotional materials in publications or e-digests your association already sends out.

5. Create a pilot episode

It is important to ask for member or listener feedback at the start of your series. After all, it is your listeners who know best what they’re looking to get out of your content. Creating a pilot episode will also give you a sample to bring to your association’s board or leadership if you are looking for buy-in.

Caroline Hopkins is associate writer and editor for ASCO Daily News. Association Media & Publishing thanks Caroline for her stellar job covering this session from the AM&P Annual Meeting for our members who were unable to attend.