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Podcast Promotion Lessons From A Breakfast Diner

· Time to read: ~4 min

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(By Tim O’Brien) In the course of my participation in numerous online forums for podcasters, there is a common assumption that causes more than a few podcasters to waste a lot of valuable time, and that is to confuse outputs with outcomes. This is particularly true when it comes to podcast promotion.

So, you have a podcast, and you let everyone know about it on your social feeds, let’s say Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. You spend your time creating copious show notes and you transcribe all of your episodes. You use the right hashtags, you are piling up those ratings and reviews on Apple Podcasts, and still nothing is moving the needle on the number of downloads you are getting.

In short, you’re doing all of the right things but nothing is working.

That’s the problem. You’re focusing on “things,” or your output, not the outcome. You’re occupying endless hours doing things that aren’t making a difference when it comes to listenership.

Before going any further, I’m not criticizing anyone who does any of the above, because each one of these activities has value and can help certain podcasters increase listeners. My point is, what works for them may not work for you and you need to know that.

When you are spending countless hours doing things that don’t lead to more listeners, you may need to rethink how you are spending your time, or you may need to rethink what is a reasonable audience size you can achieve.

Maybe you need to spend more time on the content of your podcast, its production values, its quality, or the kinds of guests you choose. Or, you may need to consider what others in your space are doing that you aren’t. In other words, if the number of listeners are not what you want, you may need to take another look at what you’re serving and how you’re serving it.

Lessons From A Breakfast Diner

Think of it this way. You run a diner and every time a customer leaves you notice they haven’t touched the hash browns that were on their plate. At some point you have to start looking at how you’re making the hash browns. You shouldn’t spend all your time blaming lack of awareness on why no one is eating those hash browns. Or looking for better ways to feature the hash browns on the menu.

Should the diner place more Facebook ads to get people to eat the hash browns, or would you advise it revisit its recipe, or maybe its presentation? Whatever the case, you know that if the hash browns were good, they wouldn’t still be on the plate during cleanup.

And if they were that good, your customers would tell their friends, and the hash browns would be attracting customers, not turning them away.

With over 700,000 podcasts now in existence, if you want more listeners, you have to compete for listening time. The starting point for all competition is producing something so good that people want to listen and want to share.

To be sure, most podcasts can’t get the numbers that a few podcasts do, and to be honest, that may not be something you should always want. I can think of some podcasts that get large amounts of attention due to controversy, political polarization, or something else, but that kind of attention would never be what I would want for my own podcast. I know that I’m not willing to alienate just to get people to listen.

The best places to start when considering how you will promote your podcast is to know how much time you will spend doing it, know how you will spend that time to maximum effect, come to terms with what may be realistic expectations for your own podcast, and most importantly, take a brutally honest look at the quality of your final product and how it meets or does not meet the needs and wants of your targeted audience.

This is how you focus on outcome over becoming preoccupied with output. You may have had a parent, a teacher, or a boss who once said to you, “Work smarter, not harder.” This is what they meant.

Tim O’Brien operates O’Brien Communications, a communications consultancy in Pittsburgh and is the creator of the Shaping Opinion Podcast. He can be reached at 412.854.8845, or, or on Twitter and Instagram @ShapingOpinion.

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