Podcasting 101: A Guide for Nonprofits and Advocacy Orgs
With the rise of podcasts and the growing consumption of audio news over the past few years, news outlets, like The New York Times, along with many other newspapers saw the growing popularity of podcasts as a new way to reach their consumers. Today, podcast listenership has skyrocketed and shows, like the New York Time's ‘The Daily,’ pull in over 2 million listeners a day.
Given this shifting media landscape, in this blog, we take a deep dive into the world of podcasting and explore how nonprofits and advocacy orgs alike can leverage the surge in podcast listenership to diversify their digital media strategy. We will also discuss how to build integrated digital media campaigns that utilize audio journalism mediums, such as podcasting, to effectively engage key audiences and move discussions on critical issues.
If you’ve been on TikTok, Youtube, Facebook, or Instagram in the past year or so, odds are you’ve seen a podcast audiogram. You know, those short-form, podcast clips that garner thousands of views and offer a sneak peak into a podcast episode’s content? Well, the fact that they’re on everyone’s timeline is not coincidental. Over the past few years, podcasts have completely revolutionized the way people consume news and content.
According to a report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, as of 2021, 41% of Americans ages 12 and older have listened to a podcast in the past month, that is up from 37% in 2020 and merely 9% in 2008. And that figure is expected to continue to grow steadily with 64% of podcasters believing that podcasts will increase in popularity over the next two years.
So, what are some of the opportunities within the podcasting world for nonprofits and advocacy orgs?
Reach new and younger audiences
Integrating podcasting into your organization’s digital media strategy can reap great benefits in your efforts to engage new and younger audiences. A 2022 study by Infinite Dial found that roughly half (47%) of podcast listeners are between the ages of 12 and 34. With podcast listenership skewing younger, podcasts are a great medium by which to connect with younger audiences and advance your advocacy work.
Podcasts can also be a vital tool for reaching and engaging diverse audiences in more meaningful ways; with recent reports from Edison Research indicating that 34% of U.S. Latino adults and 43% of Black Americans are monthly podcast listeners.
A multi-sensory experience
A once audio-only medium, podcasting has evolved into a audio-visual hybrid model of distribution over the recent years. A survey conducted by Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights found that the majority of podcast listeners prefer podcasts with a visual component (or video) that they can actively watch or minimize to listen in the background over audio podcasts without a video component.
A Morning Consult survey suggests that listeners preferred podcasts with a video component because they were better able to focus on the podcast and also see the podcast host’s facial expressions and reactions throughout the segment. The same survey also suggests that incorporating a video component to your podcast can help boost a program’s discoverability, help reach younger audiences, and provide more engaging content.
This should come as no surprise, as multi-sensory media creates a more engaging experience for audiences and substantially increases information retention amongst listeners.
Adding podcasting to your organization’s digital media strategy is a great way to diversify your audience touchpoints and reinforce your message. You may already be posting tweets or infographics on Instagram with calls to action and key developments within your issue areas but podcasting can add a completely different dynamic to your storytelling efforts by raising the visibility, reach and impact of your organization’s work
With newspaper circulation and readership on the decline, shrinking newsrooms and ever-encroaching news deserts, podcasts are a viable alternative to reach local, diverse audiences and effectively get your organization’s message across.
Hyper-localized and tailored to your audience
Many podcasts are highly topical and localized, presenting a great opportunity to speak to specific audiences or communities in ways other national outlets and mediums can’t or don’t do. Local podcasts can offer a platform to communicate your message to an audience of listeners that is already tapped into your issue set.
Nonetheless, we must also keep in mind that podcast listeners are not a monolith and different demographics listen to podcasts for different reasons. For example, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in December 2022 found that Black podcast listeners are more likely to listen to podcasts about race and ethnicity, self-help and relationships, money and finance, sports and health and fitness than White and Latino listeners. Accordingly, when looking for podcasts to pitch, make sure that it speaks to your intended audience and demographic.
Podcast segments can be cut up, repurposed, and shared on other social media platforms to garner even more engagement. Podcast clips and audiograms can be created effortlessly with apps like Headliner and shared across platforms within minutes.
This endless stream of content can significantly increase a podcast’s shelf life and reach as soundbites and clips can be repurposed and shared during relevant news cycles or be used to reinforce your organization’s message during other key moments.
Perhaps it is no surprise that creating a podcast from scratch can require extensive hours and a sizable budget to get off the ground, grow its visibility, and retain an audience. Though this might not be a viable option for most advocacy orgs and nonprofits, this does not mean that you can’t get in on the podcasting action and utilize the medium to strengthen and diversify their digital media strategy. With over 5 million existing podcasts, there’s no shortage of podcasts to pitch ideas and be featured on.
Muck Rack’s 2022 State of Podcasting report found that “current events” are the leading source of inspiration for podcast content. What does that mean for advocacy organizations? It presents a pitching opportunity if you can tie-in your issue set to a current event or recent development.
The same report indicates that a whopping 22% of podcasters rely on topics introduced via pitches as a leading source of inspiration for podcast content. That means roughly 1 in every 5 podcasters is actively turning to subject matter experts like YOU for content ideas. Nonetheless, podcasters underscored that it was imperative for PR and communications professionals to do their research before pitching. So, before you get to pitching, make sure to take a look at a podcast’s website, social media profiles or listen to some of their podcast episodes to ensure your pitch is applicable to the show’s general format.
To find podcasts relevant to your issue set and pitching contact info, checkout Muck Rack's Podcast search tool. The Muck Rack media database is available exclusively to Democracy Collaborative members. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
LIMITATIONS AND THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Capacity and budget — Be realistic about your team's capacity and budget. Pitching podcasts, traveling to podcast studios and paid advertising can become costly and time consuming. That’s not to discourage you or your organization from venturing into podcasting, but you want to make sure that your staff are not being overextended by taking on this new endeavor. If starting a podcast fits within your organization's strategic communications plan and budget, check out Descript’s ‘ultimate podcast starter kits for any budget’ to find a podcast setup that works best for your organization.
- Flow and delivery — Get a really good understanding of how your audience listens to your story and, when necessary, reframe the structure and flow of your delivery to ensure that your message resonates with your audience. Unlike print, audio storytelling forces the listener to actively engage with the narrative and thus, try to keep your messaging short and concise, avoid jargon and make the information you want to share relatable and personable.
- Reach and paid advertising — Have reasonable expectations when making a guest appearance on a podcast. With declining organic reach and the rise of paid media advertising, growing an audience can be difficult and very costly. Just because the episode you were featured on didn’t get on the trending page on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, doesn’t mean your podcasting efforts proved futile. If you were able to energize, inspire, or inform at least a few people on a certain subject matter or campaign, your efforts should be deemed a success.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
In an ever-changing media landscape, the podcasting renaissance has created a number of new challenges and opportunities for nonprofit and advocacy organizations across the country. The rise of this audio-visual hybrid medium of communication offers endless possibilities for nonprofit and advocacy organizations seeking to build impactful, integrated digital media campaigns, reach new audiences and move discussions on key issues.
Venturing into podcasting is just one way to diversify and strengthen your organization’s digital media strategy. If you’re looking for more ways to energize your campaigns, check out our blog post on ‘10 Trends to Inspire Your Social Media Strategy in 2023.’
Need some inspiration? Check out these great podcasts by some of our partners: