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Marketing Showrunners

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By: Jay Acunzo on December 18th, 2020

What Value Does Your Podcast Have for People Who’ll Never Listen to It?

A big part of my creative career is paid speaking.

(Glances at the outside world.)

A big part of my creative career WAS paid speaking. The speaking industry has bottomed-out, sadly, along with so many other industries, and my heart goes out to folks who depend on that industry for the bulk of their livelihood — not to mention personal fulfillment. I miss speaking so much, for so many reasons, not least of all is the ability to connect with a diverse array of people I’d never otherwise see face-to-face. It’s there, at those events, that I’ve often learned the most about the work and lives of the wonderful humans I want to serve with my content.

Over the past few months, I’ve tried to claw my back towards those types of interactions. They’re transformative to any creator building anything, but during quarantine, you have to get proactive and schedule them. So I’ve been holding calls with some of our former workshop students and many of our readers and listeners.

During these calls, I document everything in a tiny little notebook. Here it is. (I couldn’t resist making one tiny edit to the brand’s name, it just worked so well.)

That little guy is so full of so many ideas and insights it could blackmail me into oblivion. Those details aren’t secrets, per se, but they definitely felt hidden…until I started talking to others.

A few weeks ago, I talked to a workshop alumnus named Matt McGee. Matt lives in Seattle, apparently loves the Seahawks, and loooooves podcasting. He’s hosted over 500 episodes and currently handles all hosting, production, and marketing duties for the podcast The Walkthrough, a show for his employer, HomeLight, a real estate software company.

During our call, Matt shared that he frequently hears from the company’s email subscribers when they encounter links to the podcast. Some say they’re confused. Wait, what is this thing? Others don’t know what the heck a podcast even is. This was troubling Matt, since of course, he wants the brand’s audience to listen to, love, and share his show.

But should he?

Here’s the question I asked Matt, which I want you to ask yourself more often:

What value does this project have to those who will never consume it?

It’s an odd question, so let me explain what I mean.

We like to measure our podcasts — and other projects — with a very narrow view of things. We look at the podcast as it bumps up against the audience, and that interactivity is what we measure — full stop. We look at downloads, episode dropoff rates, total time spent, and maybe some tangential, referral-like ideas, such as the number of listeners who click some kind of tracking URL in their show notes, or subscribe to an email list built exclusively for the show.

But there’s SO much more value the show brings to the audience and, by extension, our brands.

Back to Matt’s interactions with confused email subscribers for a moment. Say for whatever reason some of HomeLight’s email subscribers never listen to The Walkthrough. Maybe they don’t like podcasts or don’t listen to them, or maybe they just haven’t gotten around to listening. Can’t the show add significant value to those subscribers’ lives…even without them listening? I say, yes, and we should factor that into our ROI calculations.

A show has so much goodness bottled up inside a single episode, not to mention all the insights and ideas you can talk about by looking for commonalities across episodes. Now imagine you’re trying to teach your email subscribers something — for Matt and HomeLight, how to be better real estate agents. If your weekly newsletter takes you 6 hours to write each week, and you can increase the quality while decreasing the time to write it…isn’t that a good return? What if you could pull a big idea straight from the show, whether verbatim or just tangentially, and suddenly, writing the newsletter is far easier than it ever was?

That’s a good return. That’s part of the ROI of your show. The show doesn’t yield a return simply when the project bumps up directly with an audience. The show has infinite indirect benefits too, offering efficiencies across channels, fueling and improving the work of other marketers or sales people.

What’s the ROI of a podcast? I have no idea. Seven? Is it seven?

Maybe it’s seven.

But what I can say is this: You’re probably looking too narrowly at the project to understand its real value. Which is a shame, because a show is really valuable — if you use it as a centerpiece instead of a side project.

Matt’s brand depends on email, just as most brands do. Matt needs to advocate for more resources internally to do more and different things with the show directly. Sometimes, he can point to the direct benefits of the show, but he should also point to the indirect benefits (which, once you see them, start looking rather direct).

So as this week comes to a close, remember to ask yourself:

What value does this project have to those who will never consume it?

You ought to consider it, both so you can find new ways to deliver that value to your audience and so you can ensure you account for that when measuring your success.


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Founder of Marketing Showrunners, host of 3 Clips and other podcasts and docuseries about creativity, and author of Break the Wheel. I’m trying to create a world where people feel intrinsically motivated by their work. Previously in content marketing and digital strategy at Google and HubSpot and VP of brand and community at the VC firm NextView. I write, tinker, and speak on stages and into microphones for a living. It’s weird but wonderful.

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