To Podcast or Not to Podcast?
An original podcast can create a ton of value for your climate startup, whether growing your brand, building relationships, or helping you hire in a competitive job market. But does creating a podcast make sense for you? How do you get started? What format should you use? How should you pick topics that create compelling content? What does success even mean in this context?
To help you start a podcast for the right reasons and stand out from the crowd, we sat down with Paul Gambill. Paul is the cofounder and CEO of Nori, a carbon removal marketplace that is working to reverse climate change, which produces two podcasts: Reversing Climate Change and the Carbon Removal Newsroom.
Podcasts build community (and teach you a thing or two)
Launching your own podcast can help you build your reputation, learn from experts in your industry, and expand your network (the fastest way to get someone to like you is to ask them to do a small favor for you). This alone may provide enough value for your business to merit the costs.
After all, as a founder, you have a lot of learning to do; you may have some early insight into your market, but imagine all you can gain from deep conversations with potential investors, customers, and other industry stakeholders. Why not learn publicly while also building valuable relationships and contributing to your field as you go? Why not get a bunch of other people interested in what you're doing and bring them along on your journey?
Key questions to ask yourself
Anyone can find and listen to a podcast. But will they listen to yours? And more importantly, will the right people listen? Not all audiences are created equal.
Before you start recording, ask yourself:
- Is there a role for involving community in your business? What value will it create for you?
- Will broad consumption of your content create value for you?
- Are there educational gaps in your industry that you can fill?
- Will the content you produce be novel and easily distinguishable from other podcasts in the field?
- Do you (or someone on the team) have the time and talent to do it well?
If the answers are yes to all of these questions, a podcast might be a great option for you.
Start by being a fan of other podcasts. Most of what you need to get started you can learn by listening. No need to hire a consultant — they won’t know enough about your audience or what you want to say to be worth it. Spend time listening to the top podcasts for the same customer segment you hope to serve and track what works well, what doesn’t, and what’s missing in the discourse. A lot of this can be identified by looking at engagement stats online: likes, comments, shares, listens, etc.
What format should you use?
One of the incredible elements of podcasting is the endless room for creativity around format. Investigative? An informal conversation with an expert? A panel discussion with a variety of experts? Each requires different amounts of time and different levels of expertise to convene and produce (formats with invited guests will require the least amount of work). Choose the one with the lowest cost that will still create the conversations you seek to learn and create value from.
Note that the podcast should foster conversations, not sell your product. People don’t want to be pitched on your business, they want to hear about your ideas. And keep it to 30 minutes — few topics will need more and your audience will appreciate brevity. Finally, hire a producer to do light editing for listenability (no one wants to listen to your um’s). While a producer to develop content and source guests can be expensive, basic editing won’t cost you much.
What topics and guests should you choose?
What are interesting topics for your audience? How do you identify the right guests? How do you get them on the show (especially if you don’t have a large network)?
Start wherever you can. This could be something as simple as having a colleague on the show who’s an expert in your field. You could also just call someone you think is smart/interesting and ask them ‘what is a question that you get a lot?’ Or, you could start with a question that is important to you right now and reach out to several experts to see who is interested and available.
You can also engage your team by creating a ‘writer’s room’ where everyone from engineers to sales reps can brainstorm ideas. They’re part of the journey too and will no doubt have lots to contribute.
Be authentic, candid and original
When you’re starting out, you will not have enough data to design your content for maximum consumption (and that’s not the main point). Instead, plant your flag, ask the questions that are driving you, and see who’s interested. And allow yourself curiosity — if it's interesting to you, it will likely be interesting to others as well. Think about where your individuality can really shine through.
Keep doing it if you’re learning and growing your network
Unless you’re looking to commercialize the podcast itself, it’s not about the number of downloads. If the content you produce is useful for you, it will be useful for other people as well. Keep in mind that even if you have a small audience but are confident that your listeners are highly relevant to your goals, you’ll generate more value with a few invested listeners than with a large audience. Your podcast is not mass media — it's a learning and value machine for your business: treat it accordingly.
Paul Gambill is the CEO and one of the co-founders of Nori. In 2015, Paul founded the first known community dedicated to carbon removal called Carbon Removal Seattle. Prior to founding Nori, he was a product manager working at various agencies including Deloitte Digital, where he led teams building mobile apps for Fortune 500 clients including Nike, Showtime, Target, and Starbucks. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree from Arizona State University, and his Master of Engineering Management degree from Duke University. Follow Paul on Twitter at twitter.com/paulgambill.