‘What Makes the Audience Engage?’ Neal, EXCEL Awards Podcast Finalists Offer Answers

A question was asked after a recent Editorial Council about podcasts—how best to grow your audience. One way is to attract guests who are incredibly open about their experiences. Other ways are trailers, social media, involving sponsors and good titles. An EXCEL Awards finalist from the PTA is titled “Notes From the Backpack,” and Arizent’s Neal Awards finalist from Employee Benefits News goes by “Perk Up!”

In “My White Coat Doesn’t Fit”—an episode in the 2023 EXCEL Awards-nominated podcast series, JCO’s Cancer Stories: The Art of Oncology—host and associate editor Lidia Schapira begins the show by reading a powerful essay from guest doctor Narjust Duma before moving into their Q&A. (The EXCEL Awards take place next Tuesday evening as part of AMPLIFY 2023. Tickets to attend can still be purchased here.)

“There I was, crying once again all the way from the hospital’s parking lot to my apartment, into the shower, and while trying to fall asleep. This had become the norm during my internal medicine residency. For years, I tried hard every day to be someone else in order to fit in. It started with off-hand comments like ‘Look at her red shoes,’ ‘You are so colorful,’ and ‘You are so Latina.’

“These later escalated to being interrupted during presentations with comments about my accent, being told that my medical school training in my home country was inferior to my U.S. colleagues, and being assigned all Spanish-speaking patients because ‘They are your people.’ Some of those comments and interactions were unintentionally harmful but led to feelings of isolation, and over time, I began to feel like an outsider.”

Titles and descriptions matter in promoting your podcast. “A medical oncologist shares her story about exclusion, depression and finding her way in oncology as a Latina in medicine and oncology,” JCO’s blurb reads.

Here are more ways to grow your podcast:

Create a trailer. Coincidentally, a 2023 EXCEL Awards podcast single episode finalist also has “white coat” in the title. It’s the Association of American Medical Colleges Beyond the White Coat series and the episode, At the Crossroads: Public Health and Gun Violence. The expertly done, black-and-white video trailer is a minute long, stringing together powerful images as AAMC President and CEO David Skorton introduces Roger A. Mitchell, MD, of the Howard University School of Medicine. “We are at a crossroads surrounding gun violence in this country,” Mitchell says. For a 35-minute podcast, the trailer makes sense.

Get a good social media team in place… “Having a team of folks specifically dedicated to social media, or [at the least] to have somebody dedicated to social media has been critical” to my success, said Soyini Coke, health care transformation and culture expert and host of CEO Exclusive Radio. “I find that with all of these functions, that the person who does social media isn’t necessarily the person who should be production… or guest development.”

…Or integrate social into your routine. For Meghna Rao, senior editor of Rheumatology Advisor and host of Neal Awards finalist Rheum Advisor, it’s more all hands on deck. “Twitter and LinkedIn have been really great for engaging with the audience,” she said. “Just small things on Twitter like once you conduct an episode with a certain guest, writing out posts, tagging individuals and the respective organizations go a long way. I’ve actively taken the initiative to be more present and engage more often on social media… That’s just because we’re a small team.”

Involve your sponsors. “Having somebody that’s dedicated specifically to sponsorship or a donor/patron strategy is absolutely necessary to being successful,” Coke said. “You’re launching the podcast because you want to extend your reach, or to build deeper relationships, or get a greater share of mind or greater share of wallet from listeners.” Added Matt Ausloos, manager of publishing for the American Health Law Association: “Our sponsors actually work with us as content partners and developers. We allow them to develop what the topic is and go out and get the speakers that they want subject to our approval. I work with them to guide the process and set the standards.”

Work out the functions of your show. “Do we identify the expert [first] or identify a topic?” Rao asked in respect to creating a podcast episode. “Obviously there’s no one right way to go about that. Doing them in tandem could be beneficial. Aligning your content with your audience’s needs always has to be front and center. I keep reminding myself sometimes of this.” For Coke, that’s guest, development and content. “Those tend to go really well together because when I’m working with a guest, I can also figure out what content we’re going to create, what the theme of the show is, and what the lead story is.”

Include a transcript. “What makes the audience engage?” Rao asked. “What factors drive people to an episode on your podcast? Is it a title with good SEO value? Is it the expert? Is it the topic itself? Is it maybe the duration being aligned with your listeners’ time? Having a transcript was something that really elevated our podcasts. If people want to refer back to something that was not clearly mentioned, or the audio quality wasn’t good at that point, they can go back.” I was able to easily spotlight My White Coat Doesn’t Fit because of the transcript.


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