Podcasts Can Engage Members, Support DEI Initiatives and Attract Sponsors (While Maintaining Integrity)

“So if you’re taking an election break with us or listening after the fact, there’s plenty to get from today’s episode, brought to you by our friends at TRIMEDX. Now let’s hear from Rich [Daly] and Chad [Mulvany – pictured here].”

That’s the start of the 2021 EXCEL Gold-winning, single-episode podcast from the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s Voices in Healthcare Finance. With the votes still being counted, the two HFMA staffers—Daly a senior editor and Mulvany a policy expert—went on to discuss what would be happening in the coming months in their industry.

When podcasts come up, a common refrain, even in the association world, is “can they produce revenue?” They can and they do—some tips are below—but there are other reasons to deploy a good podcast: attract new members and subscribers, promote other initiatives within your organization; add diverse voices to your content; give your organization a different feel; and amplify your own editorial voices—as HFMA does here.

Of course, many podcasts also weave ads seamlessly into their broadcasts. In an interview on the ASBPE site, John Heltman, editor-in-chief of American Banker Magazine and winner of the Grand Neal in 2019 for his narrative podcast series Nobody’s Home, was asked: What kind of sponsorship opportunities do you offer to clients? How do you seamlessly weave sponsorships and maintain editorial integrity?

Handling sponsorships. “Our sponsorships run through the sales department… but last year we started what is known as pre-roll and mid-roll ads in the podcast,” Heltman said. “That just means that we run an ad before the episode begins and in the middle. For the mid-roll ad, we just lead up to it by saying ‘And we’ll find out more about that after this quick break.’ And the ad rolls. Sometimes I read it, sometimes it’s read for us, but if I read it there’s music in the background so it’s easily distinguishable from the program. I’d say ours is a pretty typical approach for this kind of podcast.

Maintaining integrity. “As for maintaining editorial integrity, I don’t think it’s different from other advertising. And advertising has pretty clear rules: don’t give preferential treatment to sponsors or represent something as editorial when it’s advertising. Some podcasts have the hosts kind of ad-lib a pitch for the thing they’re selling, but that hasn’t come up for us.”

Addressing your DEI commitment. Arizent’s American Banker won the Neal Award (B2B’s version of the EXCELs) for Best Podcast for its amazing 5-part series, Access Denied: Systemic Racism in Financial Services. I listened to an episode on “The Financial Media” recently, and it is eye-opening. It was so engrossing that, of course, I then moved on to a second one and encountered a paywall. It flashed very tempting “special introductory pricing” for subscriptions where you can choose from $41 a week for a month, $29 a week if you subscribe annually—highlighted on the page—and $35 a week if you subscribe for 6 months.

(The publishing vendor Piano recently published its Subscription Performance Benchmark Report found that 74% of annual subscribers remain loyal to a brand after one year, vs. 46% of readers who pay monthly.)

Speaking of pre-roll and mid-roll, an article on the site Lower Street says that, before approaching a sponsor for your podcast, you should know these things:

What is your inventory? “Podcast ads are often broken up into pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll ads. It’s a familiar format. The mid-roll is the most valuable, since people are already engaged in the podcast by that point… Pre-roll ads are often the shortest, in order to keep listeners on board. Post-roll is often less valuable.”

What’s your pitch? “Simply put: why should a brand advertise with you?” They recommend creating a media kit and a podcast trailer. (There’s a link below to the trailer that Overdrive did.)

What are the demographics of your audience? Who listens to your podcast? “Knowing this is very helpful in determining how to get sponsors for your podcast.”

What’s your advertising rate? “Even if the prospect of earning anything at all from your podcast is exciting, you don’t want to undervalue your show… Rates are typically calculated as a CPM (cost per mille). It’s not all that rare to see CPMs reaching as high as $40 or even $50. Somewhere in the $20-$25 range is fairly average per Midroll and AdvertiseCast.”

Another Neals finalist for Best Podcast, Crain Communications’ Automotive News Daily Drive, features sponsorships—during the podcast itself (the brief intro of the sponsor sounds warm and friendly)—and also ads on the website. And another finalist, Bobit’s Heavy Duty Trucking HDT Talks Trucking, has a sponsor, Fleet Management, and talks up their own events during the podcast.

The other Neals finalist was Randall-Reilly Overdrive’s Over the Road, an eight-part series that gave “voice to the trials and triumphs of America’s long haul truckers.” One thing they do that an expert once recommended to me is to have a separate website and url for your podcast. Here’s a link to the trailer that Overdrive did for Over the Road.

Let’s hope that your podcast gets nominated as an EXCEL finalist next year—and accomplishes some of these goals.

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at SIIA

Alone we are smart, but together we are genius.

SIIA members are united by a shared belief that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are critical core values for society and our individual organizations. We believe achieving greater advancement in DEI is not only the morally correct course of action, but also research proves diverse organizations provide better business results. Embracing a diversity of perspectives fuels innovation while connecting us closer to our customers and the communities we serve.

For too long, underlying inequalities, racial biases, and discrimination have plagued the United States and communities around the world, denying too many the ability to contribute to and reap the benefits of the innovation economy. Removing these barriers to elevate opportunities for all individuals to participate will lead to the creation of new businesses and foster economic growth.

As business leaders, we recognize our responsibility to contribute to the betterment of society not only through the information, products, and services we provide but also as good citizens. We also recognize that while DEI is rooted in the need to address historic social inequities, we strive to create workplaces that reflect the communities in which we work, live, and serve our customers and where everyone feels empowered to bring their full, authentic selves to work. This means promoting a workplace culture that welcomes a diversity of ethnicity, gender, identity, nation of origin, and thought.

SIIA is committed to work with our members and within our organization to improve DEI performance for the benefit of our employees, the industry segments we represent, our nation and our world. Our efforts include:

  • Organizational Policy. Ensure that we are an organization making progressive change toward diversity, equity, and inclusion through our hiring practices, culture, operations, and offerings.
  • Member Experience. Assist our members in improving DEI outcomes through our content and knowledge offerings as well as by our example as a membership organization.
  • Promoting diversity in our internal staffing, among our volunteer leadership, our speakers, and presenters, as well as our vendors and partners.

This includes but is not specifically limited to:

  • Ensure the representation of diverse speakers at all SIIA events.
  • Ensure diverse representation across SIIA boards, committees, councils, and working groups.
  • Strengthen leadership and staff accountability and capabilities for inclusion and diversity.
  • Enable equality of opportunity across our organization through fairness and transparency.
  • Promote openness and tackle microaggressions.
  • Foster belonging through support for multivariate diversity.

Promoting DEI is not just about words. It is about action. SIIA will seek to advance our diversity goals in 2021 by:

  • Compiling data to identify metrics. We cannot know how to address inequities until we know what they are. We will capture data on demographics within the SIIA workforce and among speakers across our events to help us understand the diversity of our employees and speaker rosters and identify any areas of concern or
  • Setting a specific metric by which to measure speaker diversity at our events. Once we collect data to establish a baseline, we will set a goal to measure our success in improving outcomes.
  • Conduct a membership survey to help identify their needs as related to DEI and lead to the development of programming, and/or content to help
  • Leverage our content channels to help educate and share solutions. Integrate DEI topics across SIIA content channels, including events, and our digital and print publications. Seek to include one DEI-related story per week/month for newsletters and per issue for Signature magazine, one of our flagship publications.
  • Develop an award to recognize contributions to DEI by SIIA members. Award will be integrated into existing award
  • Review our RFP and contracting processes to ensure we are providing partnership and vendor opportunities for minority-owned and operated businesses and organizations.
  • Revitalize SIIA DEI Staff Committee. Task the committee with conducting an equity audit of our organization and develop specific metrics including questions to examine and hold us accountable in:
    • Organizational success in meeting stated
    • Our recruitment and hiring practices.
    • Ensuring diverse representation across our management and volunteer
    • Provide regular updates and reports to SIIA leadership and help support reports to volunteer