The Promise and Peril of Podcast Cross-Promotion

At what point are we all just shouting into the void?

Cross-promotion is huge in the podcast world. The standard advice goes that the best way to find new listeners is to reach them where they are — in their podcast apps.

With more than one million podcasts in the world, the market for cross-promotion has never been bigger. However, there are a few bigger questions to consider as more and more podcasters adopt it as part of their marketing strategies:

1. How can you find the right cross-promotional partner?

2. At what point are we all shouting into the void, and how can you avoid it?

I don’t have complete answers to either of these questions, but I think it’s imperative that podcasters work together to find them. I’ll share what I’ve learned from my own experience and conversations I’ve had with others in the industry.

Finding the Right Fit

Let’s start with the first question: How broad should the cross-promotion be?

No matter what topic your show covers, it’s easy to think that any listener who subscribes to another show covering that topic would automatically like yours too, right? That might be true for some, but there is an upper limit to the number of shows in the same genre people can listen to.

Before you approach a show in your genre about cross-promotion, do a little homework about what guests they’ve had and what topics they’ve covered. If there’s significant overlap with your show, it’s probably not a good fit.

No two podcasts are exactly the same, but on the same token, would someone want to subscribe to two shows that talk about the same things and feature the same guests? In that case, they’re more inclined to stick with what they already know — the other show.

However, there is a sweet spot where the shows are just different enough to make a great match. Dan Meisner of Pacific Content describes this as a podcast’s neighborhood. The best cross-promotional partners are the shows that are in your neighborhood, but maybe not your next-door neighbors.

One of the best examples I’ve had of this from my own show is a cross-promotion last year with the George W. Bush Institute’s podcast The Strategerist. My show is about democracy and theirs is about leadership in government — different enough that we did not have a large overlap in subscribers but similar enough that fans of one might like the other.

I recorded an ad for their show and saw a noticeable increase in downloads from Texas over the next few weeks, not surprising given the show’s connection to the former President and his home state.

More recently, I interviewed Dr. Dawn Carpenter, the host of a new business podcast called What Does It Profit? Her show was pitched to me as a cross-promotional opportunity and I immediately saw the connection between capitalism and democracy that I thought my listeners would enjoy. I received more feedback on the episode than any other we’ve done this season.

This collaboration came about because I knew my audience and what they wanted to hear. In the end, the best way to find out what your listeners want is to ask them. Listener surveys are a great window into what other shows people listen to and can give you some clues about where to focus your cross-promotional efforts.

Thinking Outside the Box

If I’m being honest, all of my efforts in podcast cross-promotion thus far have been fairly safe. This is in part because my show is produced on behalf of a university and we have rules to follow. If that situation does not apply to you and you have the freedom to cross-promote however you want, then I definitely encourage you to reach beyond your comfort zone — you never know what might happen.

Lauren Passell of Tink Media summed up this approach well when she presented at Podcast Movement Virtual this year. When she’s working with clients, she makes sure to ask them what they’re interested in outside of their show. This small touch leads to some really interesting pairings and exposure opportunities that are truly unique.

For example, she worked with Chelsey Weber-Smith of American Hysteria to secure a placement on You’re Wrong About, a show that’s consistently near the top of Apple’s charts.

“We pitched Chelsy as a subject expert on a few of their favorite, weirdest things to talk about,” Passell said. “This ended up being the Killer Clowns episode, #100 for YWA, that got a good amount of buzz and really boosted Chelsey’s numbers.”

Similarly, she learned that Cam and KarenLee Porter, hosts of Sex Talk with My Mom, loved astrology and secured them placement on Lizard People, a show that combines comedy and conspiracy theories. This placement exposed both audiences to shows they probably never would have heard otherwise and was a boost for everyone involved.

We’re all human and have varied interests, right? Just because someone listens to comedy podcasts doesn’t mean that they won’t also like news or current events show. This won’t be true for everyone, but if the only cost is a little bit of time, then why not give it a try? The worst thing that happens is that you don’t see any new listeners as a result.

You know what, though, you definitely won’t get any new subscribers, fans, or followers if you don’t try. With a little planning and strategy, there’s never been a better time to expand your reach in the community and hopefully find some new listeners along the way.

Take the Plunge

For more on the nuts and bolts of how to cross-promote your podcast, I suggest checking out this post from the team at Simplecast, which includes sample introductory emails and options for how to share content.

Have you had a successful cross-promotion? Are you interested in learning more about this approach? I would love to hear about it. Leave a note in the comments or get in touch and let’s chat.

Written by

Writer, podcaster, and speaker in higher education. I love a good story and believe that everyone has one to tell.

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