You’ve probably noticed that podcasting is having its moment.
Smartphones mean that anyone can host one or download one, and they’re an easy way to pass a boring car commute or some treadmill time. Apple reported that podcast subscriptions through iTunes reached 1 billion in 2014.
Here’s a reason to consider becoming a host, and not just a listener: running a podcast is one of the best ways out there to network. Indeed, it feels far more authentic, and is more effective, than hanging around with your business card at cocktail parties.
Here’s why: Hosting a podcast means you have a great reason to call or email interesting people and ask for their time. It’s not just you wanting to “pick their brain,” you’re offering access to (ideally) many listeners, and you’re providing something of value to these listeners. Even big-name people are far more likely to get on board with this concept than meeting you for an informational interview.
“While I didn’t start my podcast as a networking tool, it’s certainly become one,” says Joe Saul-Sehy, host of the finance-oriented podcast Stacking Benjamins (full disclosure: he and every other person quoted in this article have recently had me as a guest on their shows). “I’ve had some incredible fan-boy experiences talking to financial pros like Jean Chatzky and David Bach, artists and thinkers like Austin Kleon, Gretchen Rubin, and Don Hahn. None of those conversations would have happened without the podcast. I’m finishing a book right now and the number of people I can ask for help has grown immensely, which I owe to the number of people I’ve connected with because of Stacking Benjamins,” he says.
To be sure, other media formats allow for some of this. I never thought of myself as much of a networker until someone pointed out that I call up at least half a dozen people per week to interview them for articles. Many of these people become long-term connections. But I tend to ask questions quickly because I’m trying to get quotable answers. Podcasting is structured more like an actual chat, with a give and take that deepens a relationship. Says Erik Fisher, host of Beyond The To Do List, “Podcasting is like being invited into a conversation over coffee. It’s intimate, informative and a bonding experience for everyone involved.”
It gives you a way to network even if you’re not local, or wouldn’t wind up at a conference together. Saul-Sehy lives in the small town of Texarkana, TX, and needless to say, many of the guests he meets through his podcast would never wind up there.
These connections often pay off directly. Since starting the So Money podcast a few months ago, Farnoosh Torabi reports that she’s been inspired “to up my professional game” and the podcast has “earned me a richer network. The podcast is intimate, too, so when we talk, we go deep. We share personal stories about money and in the end, you feel like you’ve made a friend. And in some cases, those relationships have helped me take my business to the next level.” Online marketing guru Robert Coorey spent “many generous hours” walking her through a digital product launch, and 4-Hour Work Week guru Tim Ferriss called her up to offer advice on how to improve downloads. “Who would ever have thought Tim Ferriss would be calling me on my cell phone?”
The process of getting to know people also makes you a better networker generally. Portia Jackson hosts the Working Motherhood podcast, and has interviewed over 300 successful working moms. “Having an interview-based podcast has also helped me in offline networking as my conversation skills have improved and I now have an easy ‘in’ to talk with people I would have otherwise been slightly intimidated to approach,” she says. Even if a person you want to talk to will never wind up being a guest, your take-aways from other interviews give you great fodder for small talk.
Of course, there are some complexities involved in getting started in podcasting (far beyond the scope of this article), and developing an interview style, and getting your first few guests. If you have any big name connections, you might want to start with them until you get your first few thousand regular listeners. Then you can approach bigger name people you don’t know yet. But if they say yes, you will get to know them—and do it in a way that provides something of interest to other people at the same time. That’s what good networking is all about.