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A year ago, Tanner Campbell had a desk at SoPoCo.Works coworking space in South Portland and a full-time job in IT at a nonprofit. He was also looking to grow his side gig, offering podcast services to businesses.
A year later, he’s full-time, with two studios at SoPoCo.Works, a full-time employee and another on the way, and more than a dozen business clients.
“It’s 100% changed over the past year,” he says as he and Laura “Lou” Lockwood, whom he recently hired as a contract audio engineer, relax in the larger of the two studios, a warm room with wooden walls and four comfortable armchairs.
Businesses have started “getting it,” he says. “There’s a whole space they could be potentially serving, and are increasingly expect to serve, that they’re not plugged in to.”
This is the year they’ll plug in, he says. His is the only business like it in Maine. “But they’re going to need more than just me,” he says. “It’s going to explode.”
So how does a business plug in?
Mainebiz talked to some of Maine’s business podcasters to find out.
“It’s not just some kind of marketing initiative or pilot program,” says Yury Nabokov, customer experience manager and marketing strategist at Machias Savings Bank. Nabokov co-hosts “Fast Forward Maine” with Rich Brooks, president of Flyte New Media in Portland.
“It’s part of the bank’s business model,” embracing its vision to move Maine forward and build relationships, Nabokov says.
Podcasting goes beyond branding, says Nancy Marshall, of Augusta-based Marshall Communications, and host of “The PR Maven.”
“It’s not just media creating content to serve an audience,” Marshall says. “It’s great for establishing a voice, it’s great for building relationships with prospective clients and it cements relationships with current clients.”
Marshall’s podcast was named one of the top 10 personal branding podcasts by industry analyst Feedspot in December.
“It has delivered a very good [return on investment] for us,” says Marshall. “It’s delivered us clients we never would have otherwise.”
A podcast reaches more people than other forms of marketing, she says. It also helps listeners, including potential clients, know her in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise.
Availability across platforms, including on websites, mobile devices, and virtual assistants, like Alexa, mean they’re accessible almost anywhere, by anybody.
“What I like about podcasting is you can start for free and work your way up,” says Brooks, of “Fast Forward Maine.” “You use the tools and resources you have to get the job done.”
Machias Savings already had some of the pieces in place, including a full-time video producer who also does audio editing, when the podcast began in May.
It started with Nabokov and Brooks sharing ear pods and a microphone, with guests dialing in remotely. Now they record in a studio in the lobby of the bank’s Portland offices, equipped with three microphones and a sound board.
Greg Glynn, account supervisor at Marshall, and the point man on “The PR Maven,” has a broadcasting degree, so already had some of the know-how. When the podcast began in September 2018, it was recorded in his office, with guests using Zoom to patch in.
Marshall wanted a more professional sound that an office could provide, and sought out Campbell about a year ago. “Just like having a professional do your website, or design your logos, you want to be professional,” she says. “It’s going to represent your brand.”
Among Campbell’s clients are MEMIC, which produces a job safety podcast, and the Boulos Co. real estate brokerage. Clients contract for 12 months and many, like Marshall, have long-term contracts.
Before his clients sit in front of a microphone, they sit with Campbell. “Think about what you can provide of real value,” he tells them. He has a Venn diagram that includes what the company provides; needs, wants or interest that can be addressed; and defining the audience. Where those three circles intersect, the podcast’s content forms.
Portland Pod’s clients record at the South Portland studios, with Campbell and Lockwood providing the technical help; the contract includes custom music and graphics, as well as digital distribution, marketing and more.
It’s about three months between the first meeting to getting the podcast on the air. Four episodes initially drop — a short “setting expectations” episode and the first three episodes.
Brooks, of Flyte, is starting a service that will do the audio engineering for businesses that submit raw recordings, and also handle distribution, marketing and other details.
“There’s room for more” professional podcast services, Campbell says.
Businesses don’t have to have a full professional podcasting team behind them to have a podcast, though.
“You can record, upload, and you’re off to the races,” says Brooks.
But a business DIY, unlike the hobbyist in the basement discussing “Star Wars,” should include investing enough to sound professional. A decent microphone, the right software and a good place to record are key.
When “The PR Maven” first began, it was recorded in Glynn’s office. “We started to learn things fast,” he says. Some of that was controllable, like making sure guests turned off their cellphones and had decent wifi. Some things were not, including poor acoustics.
Marshall’s firm, apart from the work Portland Pod does, puts in about 12 to 15 hours per episode in preparation, guest wrangling, and more.
Campbell estimates most of his clients devote several hours preparing. They spend an hour in the studio per hour or less of episode time.
The “Fast Forward Maine” crew divides duties, with Brooks doing a pre-interview with guests, and video/audio professional Cody Chiasson setting up the studio, recording and editing.
Whether the podcast is in the hands of professionals, or DIY, there are basic musts.
Technical requirements if a business wants to reach its audience include a website unique to the podcast that has show notes, a transcript, and more, all of which help search engines key in.
Marketing, including a social media strategy, is also important.
Brooks says a mailing list is an absolute essential and listeners should be notified when an episode drops.
Glynn agrees. “People have to find you. You have to get people to listen.”
Cross-casting is a good idea — being a guest on other podcasts and having podcasters as guests on yours.
“It introduces a whole new audience to you,” Marshall says.
Managing expectations is another must. Campbell’s clients’ brief expectations episode tells listeners what the podcast is about and how often it will come out.
“You can do one a week, or one a month,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what day, or how frequently, as long as you’ve let the audience know what to expect and stick to it.”
Marshall says consistency says something to the audience and potential clients. “You’re reliable. You’re going to do what you say you’re going to.”
Knowing the audience is also important. Some podcasts, like MEMIC’s, are geared to a specific topic, and therefore, a specific audience.
“The PR Maven” and “Fast Forward Maine,” like many other Maine business podcasts, throw a wider net.
“The most important thing is understanding your audience,” Nabokov says. “Who are you doing it for? What’s important for them to learn? What can you say that benefits listeners?”
Brooks, who also has a solo podcast, “Agents of Change,” says it takes time to grow the audience, so patience is important, too.
“Don’t expect to make a big sale right after the first episode drops,” he says.
“Fast Forward Maine” is part of a larger platform at Machias Savings that includes monthly conferences.
The podcast grew out of an idea that they could provide conferences on demand, and has evolved into “What you need to know.”
It’s become much more than what was originally envisioned, Brooks and Nabokov say.
“What I enjoy the most is learning from people who are movers and shakers in the state,” says Nabokov. “There are opportunities that I never knew existed.”
Marshall, who’s added podcasting to the marketing package she offers clients, says her business has a global reach it didn’t before because of the podcast.
But the bigger impact is personal.
“It allows me to think bigger,” she says. She’s been in PR and marketing for three decades. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and doing the podcast has totally changed things. I’ve turned over a new leaf in my career."