Originally published for Entrepreneur.com on January 31, 2022. Written by Robert Tuchman
My company, Amaze Media Labs, has produced hundreds of podcast series for companies, brands, and nonprofits across a wide range of genres. When it comes to talent, here’s what we’ve learned that is critical to creating a branded podcast series that gets the audience you want.
1. A Great Host Doesn’t Have to Be an Expert
The most important trait of your host is that they are entertaining, inviting, and naturally curious. They don’t need to be experts in your company’s field — that’s what the guests are for. A host who is an “outsider” will avoid jargon, be relatable to listeners and ask questions that are on their minds, which can lead to amazing and unexpected results.
When we were searching for a host for a custom branded series revolving around cardiovascular health, the obvious idea was to find a leading cardiologist. But as we thought about the goal — which was to engage 50-75-year-old men — we realized that we needed someone this audience would be comfortable with and entertained by. We came up with a shortlist of five former athletes, knowing they would be familiar to listeners and also comfortable in front of a mic. We wound up choosing Ron Jaworski, who had a successful 15-year career as a QB in the NFL and spent over 20 years as a football analyst for ESPN. Although certainly not a heart expert, Ron’s passion for philanthropy and helping others combined with his experience in the broadcast space and ability to unlock good storytelling from his guests elevated the podcast from something that could have felt like “taking medicine” to something that was as entertaining as it was informative.
Sure not everyone will have the resources to hire someone of Jaworski’s caliber, but when searching for a host, always value natural ability to talk over subject matter expertise.
2. Internal Executives Can Be Great Hosts But Need Proper Podcast Training
While having an outside voice or external host makes sense in many cases, companies creating their own branded podcast series often elect to have an internal executive as the host given their deep understanding of the company’s products, clients, and culture. Internal hosts could be just as effective as an experienced external podcast host if given the proper guidance and training. Additionally, by using an internal host, particularly for brands in the B2B space, the podcast can serve as an ideal vehicle for a corporate executive to reach out and reconnect with key clients to invite them on as a guest to chat about what they are doing and offer their perspective on the industry. Not only will your client be flattered that you asked them to come and share their unique expertise but it will provide your executive host with a great opportunity to strengthen their relationship with the client.
We recently worked on a podcast series with a major tech company in the cloud computing space which was hosted by a senior leader on their communications team. The host was able to very effectively use the six-episode series to invite and bring on six different key clients as guests for the show. Initially, the host had planned on speaking about cloud computing products from his company and the nature of the business they were doing with his customers but after a couple of training sessions, it was obvious that was not going to create engaging and compelling content that listeners would go out of their way to seek out and listen to. The podcast evolved into conversations about the office of the future and focused on true thought leadership about how cloud computing would change the dynamics of the workplace across different industries and didn’t become a self-serving advertorial about the companies product portfolio.
3) Don’t Chase Guests Based On The Size Of Their Social Media Following
For better or worse, the number of Twitter or Instagram followers someone has often become one of the most important factors when considering a potential guest to come on your podcast. But as our in-house Head of Talent & Experiential at Amaze Media Labs, Casey Rabin says, “In many cases, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.” Oftentimes, one of the first questions our branded clients ask about potential guests is, “How big is their social media footprint and do you think they will tweet or post about their appearance on our show?” While certainly not always the case, the old adage “quality over quantity” certainly applies when it comes to thinking about a strategy for podcast guests and even your host for that matter.
While you might be able to secure a high profile talent to come on as a guest to your branded podcast for free because they have a connection to the host or perhaps have a book or a show they want to promote does not necessarily mean they will use their social network to promote their appearance. In fact, it is often quite the opposite. The well-known personality will understand the value they are delivering for a brand even with a single tweet or Instagram post so in many cases are going to want to charge (sometimes a significant) fee for their implied endorsement of your show.
On the contrary, while guests with 1M+ social followers may not promote their appearance we generally find the opposite to be true if someone has between 50-100K social followers. If the guest with a significant but not massive social following can provide interesting and thoughtful insights while also being entertaining, they are very often better for audience building than the flashier name.
In our work recently with a branded podcast with a major sports betting company, we have found this insight to be proven out time and time again. While we have certainly had some really well-known names come on the show, they often do their interviews and are onto the next thing and provide little if any marketing support. However, talent that might not be as high profile but still has significant and loyal followings usually will go “above and beyond” to promote the episode on their own social media channels and even post custom videos about their appearance.
Generally, they have seen that incremental social promotion by guests results in 15- 20% more downloads than those episodes that featured more widely-known talent that does limited promotion.
Remember a thoughtful talent strategy from both a host and guest perspective is an absolutely integral element to ensuring your podcast series resonates with your target audience and achieves your KPIs for success.