FYB 014 | Host Success

One of the major concerns for podcasts is having great guests. Jennifer Spencer, however, believes it goes both ways. She says that to attract better guests, you have to be a better podcast host. You have to improve the game on the host level. You don’t rely on either having a host do everything or having the guest do everything. It should be a joint collaborative effort to really make the most out of every episode. Jennifer shares that taking that relationship-first focus has really helped a lot in terms of matchmaking the right host and guest for each show to end up with a better listening experience for people that are tuning in.

We’ve got an interview with a specialist of the podcast world named Jennifer Spencer. She and her website, Authority Life and her team Authority Life is doing a great job of really getting better guests for hosts and making hosts better podcast hosts. It goes both ways. You have to improve the game on the host level. That’s really why we’re bringing the show up right now because we had a lot of hosts saying, “What else could I do? How can I be a better podcast host? How can I be successful as a podcast host? How can I attract better guests?” She has such a great way of working with both sides, with the guest and the host in a collaborative way, that is really something that you just needed to hear from someone else and not just us. That’s why we brought on Jennifer Spencer. Let’s go to the interview and we’ll talk a little more about it after.

Listen to the podcast here:

Matchmaking Your Way To Host Success 

with Jennifer Spencer

Jennifer, thanks so much for being here.

Thanks so much for having me.

We are excited to talk to you because you have a broader view of this. We have a lot of podcasters we talk to everyday but we don’t know that they always have good etiquette, protocols maybe, on how to be a good host for guests. You do a lot of that host-guest placement and you look at it from both sides. We thought you’d be the perfect guest here for us to talk that through.

It’s a great topic.Definitely having experience working with hosts and working with guests, I have seen the pitfalls where it can go wrong and then also examples of it done extremely well and effectively for both sides.

Let’s talk about what a host can do to create an environment that attracts great guests.

I’d say have all their ducks in the row in terms of having a strategy to promote each episode, being transparent with that and not relying on the guest and their network to do all the sharing. Having beyond the social media strategy but really having a network that is engaging with their content. Ideally, you’re having a micro-influencer focus, which is a more narrow focus for a show rather than something super broad. I’d say it starts in the development of the show and being very specific in what your goal is and your audience is and really having an understanding of them.

We just did an article where Tracy featured you on Inc. about micro-influencers and have already been getting a lot of pushback. They were like, “500 people?” If you have 500 amazingly vocal and interactive people, I would much rather be on your show than if you had 50,000 who could care less. It can be that low and it can be also bigger and still be powerful. That’s such a good point because we’ve seen it move away in the podcasting industry in general from shows focusing on entrepreneurs to shows that are focusing on various specific type of entrepreneurs.

There are benefits to having that large audience but can be a real goal in mind if you’re finding these shows with 500 or so really engaged, targeted audience that really want to hear what you have to say and hear from the experts that you bring on.

We also really like what you said about a promo first approach. This is a problem for Tracy as an Inc. columnist and as a podcaster that a lot of times we put people on the show and they do a terrible job of promoting it themselves. Yet they’re supposed to be a celebrity or a high-value and they don’t do a good job of actually spreading the message themselves because they don’t do it themselves is what we found.

FYB 014 | Host Success

Host Success: It should be a joint collaborative effort to really make the most of every episode.

You don’t want to rely either having a host do everything or having the guest do everything. It should be a joint collaborative effort to really make the most of every episode.

That’s the best way to build a relationship with somebody. We know they’re just going to be your guest for a short period of time but the reality is you are building a relationship. It can pay a lot of dividends going forward if you’re each giving in terms of pushing it out to your own large audience. Don’t you think?

Yeah. When I’m putting guests on shows and also helping hosts find guests, it’s really that relationship focus that I take. Would this people be able to help each other be on the show and would they want to work together? Taking that relationship first focus has really helped a lot in terms of matchmaking the right host and guest for each different show.

We like that idea, matchmaking. That sounds wonderful. It can’t be a one-sided relationship. Recently, we had a potential guest for one of our podcasts. It wasn’t this show. When we started to have interview, he just wanted to recite this script that he’d written, and that’s not the kind of relationship that we want to have with the podcast guests. We want to have an interesting dialogue or conversation and get to know each other and see where it goes. It’s not that we don’t have a plan. We do have an outline and questions prepared that we want to ask. But it can’t be this predetermined manifesto that somebody’s going to read. Needless to say, we found a way that there was a technical error and we weren’t able to air that show. We gracefully got out of that one.

I think that’s a good point too though, is that when you focus on relationships, it comes across in the conversation. It comes across in the dialogue of the show. It really flows much more naturally but it’s just a much more engaging conversation. You can really tell when both sides are interested and it’s not scripted or yes or no type of format.

We talked pretty recently in an episode about what makes a good guest and how to find good guests as a host. We outlined a couple of details about what we thought of how you check really and that’s what most people just don’t do. They don’t do any due diligence. A lot of them have videos or other things. Hear how they sound. Take a look at how animated they are. Are they good? Will they be good for your audience? Read some of the things on their website. Those were just some of the different things that we threw out. We would love your approach on how you vet a host if they’re any good.

I have a conversation with every host that I work with just to go over some of the stuff we are saying in terms of how they build relationships with guests, how they go about promoting the show; both prior to the show in terms of building their audience and their network and what they do outside of the podcast as well as what they do after the show. How they’re sharing with their network, what they’re doing a month, two months down the road in terms of continuing the spark a discussion or repurposing content. Also making sure that it’s not following a script format, which a lot of people still do somehow. That they just read off of the script, it comes across in the conversation. It’s just really going to get a sense for their style and really going in with the mindset of how can I bring a guest that will really add a value, be a great relationship partner for the host and then the two can work collaboratively along with me to help promote the show after the fact as well.

One of the other things that we always recommend checking is whether or not it’s good sound too. We’ve had some shows that they’re not really picky about how their guest sounds. They might sound great but then they’re a loud guest to dial in. You hear a clicking sound the whole time. It’s awful. You can’t put up with that because it’s not going to help you keep your listeners.

Those things are not minor details. They end up being a big factor in the overall quality and the listening experience for people that are tuning in.

What about a website and blog post? Do you think that nowadays that it’s really important to make sure that there are blog posts for every episode, that that does a lot of Google power for people?

FYB 014 | Host Success

Host Success: Every episode should really be repurposed into blog content.

Yes. I feel a lot of times I’m talking to a host and they’re getting more creative in terms of repurposing content on some of the bigger publications even like Forbes and Entrepreneur and these different sites. At the very minimum, having a home base where you’re repurposing the content, creating blog posts, articles, really getting in the links both for the guest’s access to the audio, whether you’re embedding it within the article or the link onto iTunes. I think that at this point, every episode should really be repurposed into blog content.

We see this going really awry with a lot of people. They don’t realize how much content they really have. Perhaps that is because as a host or as a content creator, it’s old to you. It’s really the new people who just found you and they don’t do a good job of reusing it and breaking it up into pieces and spreading it across multichannel. That’s why we developed a more done-for-you system here because people just weren’t doing it.

I think a lot of times people go into the shows and they do the show. They don’t see how much power there is in terms of the audio and ability to break it up into different angles; whether it’s writing content, video, even cropping the audio into smaller sections. There is just so much you can do with every single episode really.

It still shocks us quite honestly how many very well-established podcasts that have achieved a lot, these are not new podcasts, 250 plus episodes, have a big audience and yet their blog posts are really just mimicking what’s on iTunes. Maybe it’s a little better than that but it’s still such a short blog post that really isn’t doing anything for them in terms of keyword ranking for Google search and things like that. That’s such a huge part of the value. It’s such an easy thing to accomplish and such a big miss in terms of serving your brand well and serving people to find you later. We find that as a big, big deal. Let’s go to that. You have some good case studies and bad case studies. Let’s talk about some of the bad that you’ve had to help fix.

I’ve had hosts that I worked with. They say it isn’t scripted and then a week before the show, they’ll be like, “What questions do you want me to ask?” They’ll come in last minute wanting to know, “What angle should I take for the episode?” Just want a lot of guidance rather than having a conversation with the guest and letting it flow naturally. I do think it’s good to get themes. I work hard in the beginning to make sure they’re really comfortable with the guest, really have a good understanding of even why I’m matching them and that whole process. I don’t know if it’s nerves or what the case may be. I think that I tend to see quite a bit. I think also just the tone of voice when they’re talking on the show. I’ve had a lot of guests that use a dry monotone-type voice, not as engaging. Even if they’re not reading off of anything, it’s hard to follow along and stay along with that.

We’ve had a few of those that invited us on their show and we’d be like, “No. We don’t think so.” We were like, “First off, we’ll just totally overpower you as a guest.” Not the kind of show that we expect people to stick around with and we expect to make it.

The last thing is some of the shows that I worked with that are a little bit bigger that overdo it with the sponsorship side of it. They’re plugging in all these different sponsors and stuff throughout and that takes away from the flow.

We’ve been on a few shows where they’re like, “Let’s break it up. We have only this many minutes for a segment.” We don’t operate on a voice radio here, which does that when you do a radio show, they operate like that. We can let it go as whenever we want and we drop in spots later because we have our ad mixing systems. We can do that at any time. It’s a great thing because you don’t even have to drop it in at post when you edit the file, you can drop it in months from now. We don’t love that because we want to be able to preserve our guest portion as much as possible. We don’t like the ads that interrupt interviews.

It’s hard for me to follow along when that happens. I like what you’re saying about dropping it in months later.

We still would never interrupt a guest interview. That’s not our process. We do it before or after if we’re going to drop it in the ads but we don’t interrupt right in the middle of a guest interview. We don’t think that’s a good idea. In some cases and certainly with some clients of ours, they want to have ads in the middle of their show, especially if it’s a longer show like 45 minutes or an hour. They just create a natural spot where it actually makes sense to the listener. It’s not just abruptly put in there. It’s the ones that go, “We’re going to go twelve minutes for this segment and then seventeen minutes for this segment.” It’s when they time it out like that, that’s the problem that we have because it’s never a natural cut off. You’re in the middle of your sentence. That’s how it feels. It feels very rushed as a guest and we don’t like that. We’ve never found those to be as authentic. Then usually the ad spots are so unrelated. That can muddy your brand as a guest and that’s a concern as well. There’s a fine line between sponsorship, which is necessary because a lot of people need to pay for their podcast and they should have every right to be able to do that. There’s a fine line between doing that and hurting the quality of the show and the interview.

I’m totally down with podcast getting sponsorship and it’s definitely a good aspect to keep the show going and get support and be able to build the show out. There’s a time and a place for it. I think that’s important to keep in mind and think strategically when you’re placing that and preserve the guest time as much as possible.

We’ve also had the situation happen where after someone was on the show with us, they were like, “We want to advertise.” We were like, “That’s great. We love for you to be an ad on our show.” One of the things we were really careful about, because our ads can spread across every single episode in a catalog, that’s our proprietary system that we have, we never let them go across an episode that they’re interviewed in. Otherwise, it sounds like it’s an infomercial. We block their own ads from that episode. That’s more genuine way to go about it because at the time we recorded it, we didn’t have an ad with them. It’s a risk that we run when you are doing that, that it comes out sounding it was a promo spot and not genuine interview . We want to dive into one more thing. Let’s talk about follow-up. We’ve had some really bad follow-up having been a guest on shows. We pride ourselves here on our really good follow-up. What have you seen that works really well?

It’s important to stay from the forefront. Don’t go MIA after the show. Luckily, I worked with a lot of hosts that have been very proactive. It’s one of the things I make sure upfront that there’s a set plan after and exact timing in terms of when the show goes live and that sort of thing. I’ve definitely heard from people where that’s not the case and they’re just like, “When is this going to go live?” They don’t exactly know. I think just being proactive and taking the approach of this person or this guest that came in and shared their time and shared their insights and all that. Be proactive in telling them when the show is going to go live. I think it will help them as well in terms of promoting it and preparing everything they need for that.

That’s one of the things that we recommend to all of our podcasters and we have on our show as well, the immediate follow-ups. An hour after we record this, within an hour you’re going to get an email that says, “Don’t forget to make sure to friend us on social media so we can tag you when the episode goes live. Here’s our links if you don’t have them and send us yours if you didn’t already.” That kind of thing. That’s the first step so that they feel like, “Thank you.” We all get really busy. For us, we record many, many episodes on one day. Even in between to have manually do that follow-up is not really feasible. We wouldn’t end up doing it and that would hurt the relationship that we just worked hard to build.

Then we have our, “The episode is live and here’s the information. Here’s where it is. Thank you so much for being a great guest. Here’s a special image you can use.” We have what we call our ego bait follow-up which says wonderful testimonial about how great you were. That makes you want to put that on your website and we provide embed codes for that. We really have a whole system that we try to automate in there for our host to use that we refined in the process because we wanted to be really great about follow-up and we didn’t want to sub it out. We didn’t want to sub it out and then have to be on top of a VA to make sure that it happened. We wanted to make sure it happened our way every time. That was our process and that’s what we did. We’re glad to hear you say that, have a plan.

FYB 014 | Host Success

Host Success: Look at it as a partnership approach in terms of how we’re going to promote it and continue to build the relationship.

Those touch points are so important. People do get really busy. It does make a huge difference. I think people would really be appreciative of that hearing from you right away and, “Here are the next steps,” and really look at it as a partnership approach in terms of how we’re going to promote it and continue to build the relationship.

As our last question here, we want to just really think about the power of having guests on a podcast can really both launch and grow a show. Have you found that to be the case?

Yeah. It’s really getting the right guest and getting the partnership going in terms of growing that. It’s not going to happen on its own or even overnight. It’s hugely powerful and being very strategic in who you bring on the show is a very large part of that.

Thank you so much, Jennifer. We really had a lot of fun talking with you. We really appreciate all of your wonderful insights.

Thanks so much for having me.

Matchmaking Your Way To Host Success – Final 

Thoughts

Jennifer really knows her stuff. When we were mentioning micro-influencers towards the beginning of the conversation and to Tracy’s article, it’s really become in the know conversation right now among digital content marketers. This is really a big thing. It really doesn’t matter how big your audience is. It matters how engaged your audience is. Even companies with huge audiences like BuzzFeed, they think of the engagement as the gold standard by which you measure the success of a post, of a guest, of what you’re doing in your digital marketing. What you’re doing is measured on that. That is what is defined as a micro-influencer. You could have a very small group and have a very big reach within that group. That’s what you’re looking for both on the guest side and on the host side.

We’ve got to step up our games as podcast host. We really have to provide a show that is perfect for that matchmaking. She made a really good point. It goes beyond just guests and matchmaking and influence with pushing out to each of their audiences. She made a great point that having a very focused small audience is much better than having a really huge audience that is not very focused or not very relevant. This also goes to that micro part of it. The YouTubers who are successful and the Instagramers who are successful and all of those things that are going on right now, the ones that are making sustainable and successful shows out of things have really defined tightly who they are and who they speak to and they attract that audience. We get people all the time who come in and they just want to do too broad a show. They have too big a mission and they do not work well enough. It’s really hard to attract a specific audience or an audience that’s going to have longevity if it’s too broad a range of topics that you’re covering.

The other thing really comes to when you monetize a podcast. We talked about sponsors a little bit. We have experienced on our own shows and shows for some of our clients that the reality is if you have a smaller but very focused niche audience that an advertiser really understands and has confidence that that is their customer avatar, they will pay a lot of money in order to advertise on that audience. You can monetize a show with fewer plays per month than you might think. You can monetize faster that way. That’s what we found. We found it across not just ours but others. We see that happen again and again that those are the more successful shows. Those are the ones that stick around. Those are the ones that do so well. Her insights were just fantastic. We love that Jennifer has this unique perspective from both sides and be able to bring that in. That’s really a wonderful view.

FYB 014 | Host Success

Host Success: We have to remember as podcast hosts that we are being vetted too.

We have to remember as podcast hosts that we are being vetted sometimes by PR firms. We’re being vetted by the guest potential themselves and they have this criteria. Just because you think that your show is great doesn’t mean that it fits their criteria. That’s really where we have to start making sure that we’re expressing that well. That our website is cleaned up, that our about page is good, that we are pushing out social messages very regularly, that we are across, as Jennifer does, omnipresence, we’re across multiple channels. That’s really where we fall apart a lot is after you record.

In terms of doing due diligence ahead of time, it could even be before you record. If your LinkedIn profile is 50% complete and it hasn’t been updated in the long time, you haven’t posted anything on LinkedIn in months, that’s not going to inspire a lot of confidence in you as a guest or as a host. We did a talk recently and Dan Fleyshman, who has inarguably done stuff with major influencers, cited something that we said, which was you can’t afford not to be everywhere. Anyone who tells you only have to focus on one social media account or one type of thing is joking. It doesn’t mean though that you have to put full force effort into everything. We have automated systems and you do those things. There is an approach to it. It’s like being out of business on Twitter if you’re not tweeting every day. It’s like being out of business on LinkedIn if you only have a 50% profile. That’s really the power that Jennifer and that her company, Authority Life, is bringing back in and saying, “You’ve got this content. Use it to show you’re here because somebody is looking for that.” You’re reusing, repurposing content. That’s what it’s termed here. You’re doing that because you made it so why not use it. It seems simple. It was like, “You have such great content. Why are you not using it?” It’s happens so often. We know that it seems a lot of effort but that’s why companies like ours and companies like Jennifer’s are in place to help you do it for you because you won’t. You have to spend money to do that.

We got paid a really high compliment several months ago from a marketing company. A client of ours, John Livesay, who has the podcast called The Successful Pitch and we do his blog posts. His blog posts, they’re comprehensive because we are repurposing that content for a lot of really good reasons that we’ve probably talked about it on other episodes or we will talk about on future episodes, stick around for more on that. His guest for this particular episode was represented by a serious New York marketing company. When they went to then push out to that guest’s audience, the fact that he was on the podcast, and they came across this blog post that was so comprehensive and it had unique graphic header that they were given to push out on social media and all these different aspects to it, they were really impressed.

On the one hand, it surprised us a little bit that a big time New York marketing firm that this experience was new to them. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be surprised because it is still a relatively untapped nugget of gold here. That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re listening. That’s why you’re about to be a podcast host or are podcast hosts because you’re at the start of it. It’s still a small pond right now. There’s also a lot of bad practices going on here. Our goal with Feed Your Brand is to bring you great people like Jennifer Spencer and what she’s doing at Authority Life and what she does as a referral for our clients as well and bring you great content and information that’s going to help you step up your game to doing some of these best practices so that you can sustain and become a bigger fish to this pond that is here. That’s what we want for you.

It’s also really important that it works today. If you’re reading old books regarding podcasting or you’re listening to podcasts about podcasting that are five or ten years old. Podcasting has been around since the early mid-2000s, maybe it’s a dozen years old, but the reality is the internet has changed so much since 2005. What worked then does not work today and there’s a lot more opportunity. That’s a whole another podcast that we need to talk about. It’s like the people who teach stuff that they did and/or get lazy in doing what they’ve done and it was good enough before and then don’t change their practices going forward. We’re always on a quest to continually improve. We don’t have the luxury of being able to stay static because we have a lot of people whose podcast depend on us, staying ahead of the algorithm, staying ahead of the curve, staying ahead of what iTunes might do next. We have to do that and that’s really the power of what we want to bring here. We are very quick to say we do not want you to consider this podcast or anyone we’ve done in evergreen podcast while we are trying to bring you good sensible practices. Everything we covered in the show with Jennifer is still going to apply tomorrow. This is being a guest and being a good host is about relationship.

There are always some of the things that won’t work tomorrow because the system changes. We try to mention that when we’re talking about a show but here, we can pretty much count on this stuff’s not going to change. If there is a past episode we’ve done that is really no longer relevant, we’re going to update it or replace it or delist it so you won’t be listening to some old information. We’re not going to leave it hanging out there just because it’s there. We want Feed Your Brand to work for what feeds your brand today.

You can find us on social media @FeedYourBrand. You’ll be able to find out all sorts of information on Authority Life and Jennifer there as well. Thanks so much. We’ll be back next time. This has been Tom and Tracy on Feed Your Brand.

Important Links

About Jennifer Spencer

Jennifer is the Founder of Authority Life, a digital agency that helps influencers become omnipresent authorities in their industry. She also provides a matchmaking service for podcast hosts and guests focused on providing value to both sides of the mic. She is a writer for Entrepreneur, SUCCESS Magazine, and Influencive. In her spare time she loves to travel the world and go on adventures!