Jerri Williams is a retired special agent who served 26 years with the FBI. She’s been podcasting since 2016. Her podcast is called FBI Retired Case File Review and it began as a marketing tool to introduce her to potential readers of her crime fiction, but after the FBI was pulled into the political spotlight the show quickly morphed into a mission to assure the public of the integrity and independence of the FBI, and to help people understand who the FBI is and what the FBI does.
Initially, when Jerri decided to produce FBI Retired Case File Review, a podcast where she interviews retired FBI agents about their cases and careers, and reviews crime fiction, she thought it was a good niche idea. “There were already lots of great true-crime podcasts, but none that exclusively featured FBI agents and the crime fiction and true -rime books they had written. I also wanted to discuss what books, TV, and movies often get wrong about the FBI.” Jerri quickly realized she had an opportunity to satisfy the public’s curiosity about the FBI by showing the human side of special agents and how they handle their work with empathy and respect for victims, witnesses, and subjects, and the challenges of working difficult and complex investigations.
After near three years and 146 episodes, the podcast is closing in on two million downloads.
Here’s our interview with Jerri Williams
PBJ: How long have you been podcasting and when did you start?
Jerri Williams: I’ve been hosting and producing FBI Retired Case File Review for nearly 3 years. I posted my first episode on January 22, 2016.
PBJ: Why are you podcasting?
Jerri Williams: Initially, I started the podcast to find readers and introduce them to my crime novels. However, shortly after I started FBI Retired Case File Review, the FBI became ensnared in partisan politics, and its integrity and independence came under question. The podcast morphed into my personal mission to show the public who the FBI is and what the FBI does.
PBJ: How did you pick this topic?
Jerri Williams: FBI Retired Case File Review is a weekly true-crime and history interview show. My guests are, exclusively, retired and former special agents of the FBI who discuss their high-profile FBI investigations, as well as fascinating but not as well-known cases. We also discuss clichés and misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. I chose this topic because, as a retired special agent and former FBI spokesperson, I thought the public might think it cool to eavesdrop on the FBI. I was also hoping the intimate interviews would satisfy the public’s curiosity regarding the human side of special agents, how they handle the challenges of working difficult and complex investigations.
PBJ: Do you have a website and an app to host your podcast?
Jerri Williams: My website jerriwilliams.com is home for my podcast. For each episode, I create show notes with photos of my guest and links to articles about the cases and federal violations being reviewed. When listeners visit my website, they also have an opportunity to discover my books and join my reader team.
PBJ: How are you marketing your podcast?
Jerri Williams: I’m using basic promotional methods to market my podcast. I post and tweet about the show on social media and, occasionally, make guest appearances on other podcasts. I believe that the show’s healthy organic growth comes from good old-fashioned word-of-mouth promotion. FBI Retired Case File Review is available on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, and popular podcast apps.
PBJ: How many downloads/listens are you getting?
Jerri Williams: Currently, 30 days after posting, each episode averages 8,000 downloads. With 142 evergreen episodes, on a daily basis, new listeners are checking out the backlist. My monthly listens average 83,000. By the end of the year, FBI Retired Case File Review will surpass 2 million all-time downloads.
PBJ: What are your biggest challenges?
Jerri Williams: The biggest challenge of hosting and producing a weekly podcast is the time commitment. I’m frequently complaining about not having time to write. Another issue is scheduling guests. FBI Retired Case File Review is a niche podcast; I only interview retired FBI agents. My goal is to always have at least four or five interviews on the shelf waiting to be edited. You never know when life is going to cause unpredictable changes to your schedule. I’m a member of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, and I’m constantly reaching out to other members listed in the directory to invite them to
be on the show. It’s hit or miss. Only about 25 percent of those I invite actually say yes. I would love to get to the point where I’m being contacted directly by retired agents who want to share their cases on my podcast.
PBJ: Are you making any money?
Jerri Williams: I make no direct income from FBI Retired Case File Review. I have always considered the podcast as content marketing for my books. During every episode, I remind my listeners that I am an author and my crime novels are available as e-books, paperbacks, and an audiobook. The plan is for my revenue to increase as I publish more books.
PBJ: Do you want to make money and what is your plan?
Jerri Williams: I put too much work into podcasting to let anyone tell me it’s a hobby. I would definitely like to be rewarded financially for my hard work and commitment, but my goal has always been to make money from my books, not my podcast. Early next year, I’ll be releasing a nonfiction book — FBI in Film and Fiction — based on the podcast and featuring quotes from my special agent guests on common clichés and misconceptions about the FBI in books TV and movies. I hope that my listeners will be interested in picking up a copy of the book, as well as those who read, watch, and write crime dramas about the FBI, and those interested in joining the Bureau one day.
PBJ: What advice do you have for other podcasters considering a launch?
Jerri Williams: I think the most surprising thing about podcasting is how much time it actually takes. The best advice I could give to those thinking of starting their own is to make sure they are ready for the serious time commitment podcasting demands.
PBJ: What equipment are you using?
Jerri Williams: FBI Retired Case File Review is hosted on Libsyn. I’m using the same equipment that I’ve had from the very start, an Audio-Technica 2100 microphone, and a PC laptop. I use Audacity and Auphonics to edit audio. Currently, I’m using Zoom to record interviews.