Thoughts on Content Strategy and Thought Leadership as We Pause the Podcast
How do you communicate your best ideas and strategies to your audience? What are the possibilities and potential pitfalls of "thought leadership"? How do you know when you've accomplished the goals of your content strategy or marketing campaigns?
In this episode, Abbie Fink and Dr. Adrian McIntyre talk about the 83 podcast episodes they've recorded together since 2019 and why Abbie has decided to "pause" the Copper State of Mind podcast ... for now, anyway.
If you enjoyed this episode, check out the PRGN Presents podcast, hosted by Abbie Fink, featuring conversations about PR, marketing, and communications with members of the Public Relations Global Network, "the world’s local public relations agency.”
- "Should Your Organization Invest in Starting a Podcast?" (Episode 17)
- "How Do You Listen to Your Podcasts?" by Justin Liggin
- "What Do Journalists Want?" by Abbie Fink
- "Creativity Is Just Half of the Equation" by Abbie Fink
Need to hire a PR firm?
We demystify the process and give you some helpful advice in Episode 19: "How to Hire a Public Relations Agency in Arizona: Insider Tips for Executives and Marketing Directors"
Copper State of Mind is a project of HMA Public Relations, a full-service public relations and marketing communications firm in Phoenix.
The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B podcast network in Arizona.
Thought leadership, content creation, content strategy, owned media, earned media. These are all ways of talking about getting your voice out into the world and the different avenues and strategies you might use to do that. This podcast itself is an example of most of those things. And we are here today to discuss our experience with podcasting on the Copper State of Mind, what the past has taught us, and what the future might hold. Here to share her insights about that is Abbie Fink, vice president and general manager of HMA Public Relations. Abbie, what's on your mind?Abbie Fink:
This idea of podcasting is so interesting to me, having now done two different podcasts of about 70+ episodes.Adrian McIntyre:
83, in fact.Abbie Fink:
Oh, well, we were talking before we went on the air about math. I forgot to carry the one and borrow from the ... But I was doing a media training a couple weeks ago, and we were talking about who is the media and what the media looks for in this type of thing. And I anecdotally asked, there's about 15 people in the room, do you listen to podcasts? Because I think podcasts have become a very valuable part of, either your content strategy, as you said, or thought leadership, or as a news platform, depending on the type of podcast that it is. We had several folks in the room that were avid podcast listeners, and there were a few that pop into them on occasion. We talked about the reason, why do you listen to a particular podcast, or how do you listen to a particular podcast? One of the ladies in the session, she says, "I listen to podcasts like I watch Netflix. I have to start at the very beginning. I have to listen to the episodes in order. And even if they don't play one, one does not feed into the next one, it's important to me that I listened from beginning to end." And she rattled off a couple that she was listening to that a very long history. A gentlemen in the room said, "No, I just listen to, this topic sounds interesting, or that one sounds fun, or someone recommended it." And I said, "All right, well both of those things are pretty valuable pieces of information to have." And I started thinking about what do we do with this podcast and the topics that are all standalone. The things that we've spoken about on the podcast here have been in-house communications. We've talked about creating sustainability programs. We've talked about do good philosophy, community relations programs, issues management. We've really run the gamut of all things having to do with public relations, marketing, communications, but each episode has been a complete discussion. We have not necessarily led one into the other. And so, thinking about our own platform here, this content really has a shelf life of a significant amount of time. This can be listened into virtually at any time because the content itself, the strategies, and things that we discussed are best practices and are consistently part of marketing communications programs. And so, although the platform podcasting may be new, relatively speaking, what we used it for in terms of the discussion is deeply entrenched in how we do the communication strategies, that professional public relations practitioners, whether in-house, agency are all known to be able to do.Adrian McIntyre:
We did an episode while back about podcasting [Episode 17] and the different reasons why a company or an organization or small business might want to start a podcast -- or invest in a podcast was really the framework we were talking about at the time -- and different strategies and how those might inform different formats for the show. Putting the idea out there that, although there's a lot of self-appointed experts on podcasting, most of them are really talking to people who see themselves as indie creatives, people who want to start a podcast, usually without much budget available, because they've got something to say or a story they want to tell, or they love Star Wars, or they want to make a fiction podcast. They want to make something, and that's their expression for it. And that's amazing, and it's wonderful. My sense, though, is for most of the people who listen to our show, podcasting is not something they're inherently passionate about, just like people who love a series on Netflix aren't inherently passionate about streaming services. It's not the vehicle itself. It's the fact that it's making available something to consume that either entertains, or informs, or inspires. It's something we can carry -- in the podcast example -- we can carry with us in our ears as we're doing other things. I don't think it's necessary that business leaders or business owners are passionate about podcasting in order to find a place for their voice in that medium. In fact, in most cases it's probably a bad idea to think you have to become a "podcaster," as an identity, in order to be successful with that channel for your organization or your company. And that leads to some questions I'd love to ask you, Abbie, as we reflect on this. You and I have worked on two podcasts together now, where you're the primary expert and we've created together a vehicle for that expertise and insight to come through. And yeah, this started back in June of 2019. This is the 83rd episode, the 39th episode of this podcast. You spend a lot of your time advising clients about how to appear in the media or how to communicate effectively in their campaigns of a variety of kinds, whether it's email, or traditional media, or what have you. What's it been like for you personally to be "the talent" who must have something interesting and thoughtful to say, and really use this show and its predecessor as a vehicle for that? What's that been like for you? What have you learned? What has it brought to light?Abbie Fink:
The part that hit me in your question is having something to say. When we started talking about this idea of putting together a podcast, it was really born from the fact that we had information we wanted to share that we felt qualified to do, and how was the quickest most efficient way to get that out when we hadn't necessarily had a platform to do it before. We didn't necessarily have a newsletter database that we could, all of a sudden, start putting written things out to. Was the news media going to cover what we were saying about a particular subject all the time? This became a way to be able to do that. One of the values of this is having the opportunity to have a dialogue. I think, for me, I wasn't going to sit and talk for 20 minutes without some kind of an interaction. Having someone like yourself on the other side of the camera here to be able to talk to and have a conversation with. We've brought some guests on who we allowed to serve as experts on particular topics. And then, the back and forth in the dialogue. I think it's also makes it a tad bit more interesting to listen to when there is a more conversational tone. Putting together what we wanted to talk about, how we wanted that to come across, what were the deliverables, if you will, that we're going to hope our audience walked away from after they spent their 20 minutes or so listening to this podcast. And then, for us, as a agency, it gave us content that we can refer back to in a number of different ways. It becomes links into new business proposals. It becomes a means for us to share information over and over again on a particular topic by saying, "Here's an episode about such and such," give it a list, and we can talk more about that. And it has in a lot of ways provided me with additional insight. When I consider offering this up as an option for a client to A) do their own, if they so choose, or B) to be a guest on someone else's, I'm now speaking from actual experience of being a guest, of being a host, of coming up with the show plan -- what are we going to do? how are we going to do that? -- in a way that I might not have otherwise done. And I've always felt in anything that we've done as an agency, we need to do it for ourselves first before we can comfortably make that recommendation. We did that with social media when it first came into the workplace on a business level. I wasn't going to advise a client to start a Facebook page if I didn't start one for ourselves first to see how it worked. And so it's given this opportunity. And really, I think from a marketing perspective, for any business that's thinking about doing it, listeners aren't coming into a podcast in the live format like they do turning on talk radio. This is a "listen when you can" or "listen when it's available" medium. And so it has a shelf life to it that might not exist with more news-related programming that we're maybe more comfortable with or more familiar with when it comes to that broadcast medium.Adrian McIntyre:
Now, of course, there's a flip side to that, which is, there's not an unlimited number of topics that you have this expertise on, that you have something substantive to say about, so there does come a point in time when you're doing a show, like this one, that's sharing your thoughts on a specific area of expertise, which is communications, public relations, media relations, and a specific geography, which is, although you do work nationally, you're primarily focused on Arizona. Is where you're located, and it's where most of your clients are based. Although you will collaborate, as we've talked about, through the public relations global network or through other partnerships, but there's a geographical center to it. Given that, there are some inherent limits as to how much there is to say. And at some point, you'll realize, "Hey, I think I've said almost everything I need to at this time." So this 39th episode here, we've talked in those previous episodes about pretty much all the major topics and issues that a business owner, or corporate leader, or nonprofit leader needs to at least be aware of in thinking about communications, media relations, and marketing. Now what?Abbie Fink:
Well, I think about some of the greatest television shows that we've watched that have all said, go out when you have done everything you can possibly do. The "jump the shark" concept. I think that any good communications strategy has measurable results and has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And when you reach the end, you say, we have completed what we set out to do. When we first talked about this particular podcast, we were six, eight months into COVID. We saw a workplace shift that was happening. We didn't quite have the word yet, but the hybrid model or the virtual workplace was going to become the norm. And we, as a business, were seeing our interactions with our prospective clients was changing in terms of how we were doing those interactions. And I felt like there was a place for us to have a voice in a conversation about the work that we do in a way that was easily produced and easily delivered to whomever that was going to be. It has evolved, obviously, over time. And the subject matter has always stayed true to the mission. We called it Copper State of Mind because "Copper State" is a nickname for Arizona, and it was really what was going to be on our mind, my mind, about a particular topic and the reason it was resonating at that particular time. And there are likely going to be topics in the future that we don't know about today that we may say, "Let's record about them. Let's talk a little bit about them." But at the point where you are looking for stuff, or have we done this already? Didn't we just talk about that? Then that might be the time. And I would say that's true with any campaign you're running. If you feel like you've done everything you can do, then let it go out on a high note and say that was a successful campaign and it's time to think about doing something else. Some of the podcasts that I listen to that have 8-10 seasons or however they're ... I'm like, "How are you still doing this?" And if you still have the enthusiasm for it and you still have the topics to do it, go at it. I think that's great. But there are some, I think, that just naturally have a point where a break is a good thing.Adrian McIntyre:
I agree. And I want to say and really urge people to understand, going back to some of what I said about typical podcast advice, I find a lot of that doesn't actually apply in this context. It does apply maybe if you're starting something creative and interesting on a topic that's really important to you, and you don't have an audience, and you're trying to grow one, and you hope someday to monetize that audience in the way podcasters do, either with ads, or host live reads, or in other forms of sponsorship, things of that nature, then you really are playing a game of audience growth in a way that actually isn't necessary for certain types of business applications. They really can be different. So what this allows is people to embrace contrarian ways of thinking about podcasting. No, you don't have to put out an episode every single week. No, you don't have to grow a huge audience and make the top of the podcast charts in order to have a useful medium for your thoughts, for your connection with the audience, for your business goals. Refer back to Episode 17 on podcasting for some more detail on that. It also reminds me to encourage people to find what works for you, not what you think you're supposed to do because of what you see other people doing. If you think you have eight episodes of something to say, then make an eight-episode podcast and that's it. Drop it all at once and let it be. And if a year later you have something else to say and you want to do another season of eight episodes, cool. If you think you want to try a weekly podcast or a biweekly podcast, and after 39 episodes, you realize, "I think I need to pause," pause. It's all fine. I want to say a few more things about some of the specific tactics before we sign off today because there's a few things that occurs to me might be helpful to talk about, but that's my thought. Don't worry about what you're supposed to do because there actually is no supposed to. That's all kind of made up.Abbie Fink:
The only supposed to do that you would need to do in a podcast is if you're going to do it, make the commitment to do it well. Invest in the things you need to make it successful. Get the good equipment that you need. Give yourself, I'm going to do this every Tuesday afternoon from 3:00 to 4:00 PM and make that a sacred time on your calendar to do that. This is an investment, not necessarily with a lot of money, but you're putting yourself out there. And then recognizing that its success is based on what you do, ultimately, with that content. I don't need hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of downloads to consider my podcast a success. If I reached my demographic, the people I wanted to either because they found it or I utilized other ways of marketing to get people to listen to it, it is a success. And so, like everything we've talked about in terms of strategy, if you want to do a podcast, fantastic. Here's what you need to do, and that might be, again, some of those more tactical things that you're going to address, but the recording it part is just part of it. But it's planning. What do you want your audience to hear from it? And for me, when we started this, I wasn't an active podcast listener yet. And so, I started listening to podcast and listening to, A, what was interesting to me. Why did I listen to this one over that one? But how were they doing it? Now, I'm not talking about the ones that have sponsorships and paid ads and things. I'm talking about the average individual who has something to say. And I was listening to people talk about books, or movies, or whatever it would be, and I'm like, "Well, they're intriguing enough for me to put the headphones on, and go take my 30 minute walk in the morning, and listen to that versus music or a book or anything else that might occupy my time." So the end result is the commitment to the process. The success of that is based on what you would ultimately like it to be. But we have done this. We've recorded our podcasts in a very nice studio with soundproofing and very high-level equipment. And we've recorded this here at my kitchen table and you in your home studio, and we are still creating a quality solid piece of information. And so, a lot I think goes into it and what you want your outcome to be, but it's not a complicated process. And from my perspective, it was having someone like yourself that has the technology expertise and an understanding of it, and had been working within it for a while, I knew I wanted one. I needed the conversation to say, "Okay, what's the outcome? What do we want to do? And how are we going to make that happen?" And together we've built 80 plus episodes to get to that point.Adrian McIntyre:
Let's talk specifically -- this is the tactical part that I wanted to just put out there as a contribution -- about what we've built, because there's some strategy and tactics that are not immediately obvious on the surface of things. Let me start with this question. We've been recording this podcast more or less every other week. How much time would you say you have put into each episode?Abbie Fink:
I would say about roughly two hours of planning. And by planning, it's paying attention to what's happening in the marketplace. Is there something relevant that's happening timely that's happening that I can build something around? What do I want my audience to take away when they've finished listening to the episode? A few starter questions, Adrian, I think we should go this way or that way, a little bit of back and forth. We usually schedule about an hour's worth of time to record because we do a little pre-show kibitzing, and then we get to the show. The way we market our podcast is I do a blog post for the week that the show goes live. And so, then it's preparing the blog content to accompany the show. Now, I don't want to just repeat everything that I've said, and I don't want to just post the transcript. I really want to add some additional thought. And so, two to three hours on average. And of course, there's other things that have... I've got to set my mindset that we're recording. Got to put the dog in the back bedroom. I need to turn off the phones and all the other things so that I am 100% in this space to put together what we want to talk about.Adrian McIntyre:
And I would also add in here, you're not always at home. Sometimes you're on vacation. We did one episode where I was in a closet because I was also out of town. If you're working with the right production partner, most of that stuff should not be a barrier. You don't have anything really fancy on your end of things here. You've probably invested about $80 in the microphone and whatever else is happening, and that's it. And you're sitting in your kitchen. And then I use a very expensive piece of software to remove the reverb from the room that you're in so it's less echoey.Abbie Fink:
But again, what I want our audience to know is that you don't actually have to understand any of that stuff on the production side, the post-production, because I actually don't want you or anyone else to worry about that. Yes, there's some audio production magic that happens, but you won't be the one doing it. Don't even worry about that. You're going to find the right person who's going to support your process, and you'll pay them, and they will do it. The end. Not because it should be a black box, but because I think people spend far too much time talking about how the sausage gets made. I do want to talk a little bit about the additional strategy. You write a blog post. That's important. We also do a transcript. That's there. And then, there's another thing that happens, whereby HMA has a blog on these same topics that goes back a decade. And you'll find a couple of three, four, five articles from the backlog of blog posts, which are on the website, but we'll also link to those from the episode notes. And we can tell by looking at the analytics for web traffic, that this does work. People are finding the episode based on search terms that are relevant to them. They're linking from there, clicking back to the HMA website. That library, that archive of content, which is all still publicly available, but it's hard to stumble across, that's being resurfaced when it's relevant to a topic. So a lot of thought went into ... I don't want to say "a lot." I don't want to overplay it. But there's thought that went into designing a vehicle for you to share what's on your mind today that would also bring along with it the thought leadership that HMA Public Relations has available on the website, and lacing those all together.Abbie Fink:
And it's more than just Abbie's thoughts when we do that, right? A lot of those blog posts are written by other members of the HMA Public Relations team. And so, this platform is my views and my understanding of topics and such. But when we do the link backs, that gives other members of my team an opportunity to be part of this conversation as well because they come to it with a slightly different viewpoint. All of that, again, is part of what you and I talked about when we were getting ready to do this. I wanted to do a podcast. I enjoyed this conversation that we had on our other version. I wanted to make it more focused on what we do as an agency. The other one was more news of the day kinds of things. This one is really about what we do. And you asked me those questions: What do I want the outcome to be? How am I going to utilize this if we produce this great content? What other ways will it be posted and shared? The podcast automatically goes up onto our website. We have the blog post the next day, but there's a social media strategy behind it as well. It's being shared on Facebook, and LinkedIn, and our Google My Business page, and some of the other ways that we market our own business. So a single 30-minute podcast, which, say it's three hours of prep time, has a good week to 10 days of marketing behind it once it's posted. And the shelf life, because as we've talked about, it's timely, but it is not tied to a specific timeliness. I can go back to Episode 4 and say, "I'm going to repost that because the content is still relevant today." I think there's a lot to say for capturing these things in a way that we own the content, and it's ours to do with what we want. And because it lives then in the podcast world and it lives on our website, we've got access to it now until forever more, however long we can still do this.Adrian McIntyre:
How long the Internet lasts, right?Abbie Fink:
How long will the Internet last? That's a topic for another time.Adrian McIntyre:
Right. That's probably our next future episode. But having said that, you are wanting to take a pause. What can people expect? How should they relate to Copper State of Mind going forward?Abbie Fink:
As you said, we feel that we have -- to the extent that we can -- we have talked about everything we wanted to, and that we shared information that we wanted to. And so, it feels like a natural place to put Copper State of Mind on pause, but it will live in the podcast world. If the content that we've discussed is relevant to you or to your business, the table of contents is out there, and you can pop in and listen to any one of the episodes. The beauty of it is that the content that's there remains there. And I know that if there's something that we think is relevant that we should jump back on our microphones and talk about again, we have that space to be able to do that. And we can have some additional episodes that may come up. There's always something happening. Ask anyone. I always have an opinion about something as well. The likelihood is there will be other opportunities for us to chat on topics of interest to marketing and communications professionals.Adrian McIntyre:
Just to put a bow on this, let's have you share some of your final thoughts on thought leadership. Again, we're speaking to our audience of executives, directors, marketing, and communications professionals, whether they're in-house or independent, or people who lead a small business. And you've got a lot of options out there to share your thinking, to share your ideas, to share your best strategies and things. Podcasting is one of them, and there are many others. Abbie, what should be on their mind as they think about ways to get their message out to their audience?Abbie Fink:
One thing I always share with clients is you know your business better than anyone else does. And sharing your knowledge and expertise with those that you feel need to know, is really the goal of thought leadership and a focused marketing communications effort. Whether you choose to do traditional public relations, media relations, if you choose to invest in a digital strategy and do things like podcasting, and blog posts, and social media, thinking about your business, thinking about who you are trying to reach, these types of platforms are incredibly powerful ways to get your information in front of your intended audiences, in that thought leadership realm, managing the messaging, putting yourself forward as an expert, as a knowledgeable resource, and utilizing that content to further enhance and grow your business.