Reach Members on the Air with Podcasts

Podcasts are growing in popularity right now, and it could be a medium ripe for associations to recruit, retain, and engage members.

If you haven’t noticed, podcasts are reaching peak popularity for businesses and audiences alike.

Earlier this year, the music streaming service Spotify purchased two podcasting companies—Anchor and Gimlet—for $340 million, representing one of the biggest acquisitions in the industry’s history.

Meanwhile, companies, brands, and celebrities continue to roll out podcasts. In November, The Washington Post launched a daily podcast called Post Reports to compete against The New York Times’ highly successful The Daily.

Brands like Blue Apron and McDonald’s have targeted food lovers with deep-dive programming that explore the intricacies of food. And celebrities, including Conan O’Brien, Ellen DeGeneres, and Dax Shepard, have reached new listeners as podcast hosts.

The association world is also in on the action, where podcasts like Association Chat and The MemberScore Podcast talk shop about the profession and membership-related topics.

With more than 660,00 show and 62 million listeners, a recent article from Vulture argues that we may be experiencing a “podcast bubble.”

Whether it’s a bubble or a trend, podcasts serve as an engagement opportunity for associations to build and expand upon, says Amanda Northcutt, cofounder of She launched The MemberScore Podcast last year and encourages associations to consider the medium as well.

“Podcasting can really magnify your member engagement efforts if you do it in a strategic way,” she says. “I think podcasts are best when they are a conversation and teach [listeners] something useful.”

There are many ways to approach the medium for specific member outcomes. Here are three examples from Northcutt:

Podcasting to recruit. If you haven’t considered a podcast before or fear you don’t have the resources and staff to take on such a project, Northcutt says to start small by volunteering to be a guest on another podcast.

“For us, it seems to always bear some form of fruit,” Northcutt says. She suggests targeting shows and audiences that look like your membership base. If you don’t know where to start, ask members what they listen to. For niche podcasts, a simple email pitch to a producer might get you in front of a mic to talk about the status of an industry, profession, or issue relevant to your association. Sharing thought leadership can help drive recruitment to your organization.

Podcasting to engage. To take podcasting one step further, try engaging members in continuous conversation weekly or monthly. Northcutt says the beauty of podcasting is that you can do interviews in batches and slowly release them week after week. She typically dedicates Fridays to “batch interviewing,” which results in multiple episodes.

“That’s the easiest and least expensive way to grow your following quickly,” Northcutt says. “Tap into your network and deliver value-laden content consistently.” One example of a low-cost podcast production is the Auto Care Association’s Teleforums series. These phone conversations involve a host and subject-matter expert, followed by live Q&A from ACA members who dial-in as listeners. And since its members travel frequently, each segment is recorded and available for playback during passive commuting or flying times.

Podcasting to retain. If you podcast delivers help to your members at a moment’s notice, it could be such a highly valued resource that it wil push them to renew their membership. The medium has grown as a way to deliver microlearning content. Right now, Northcutt is experimenting with her show by offering free consulting help. Just like a radio call-in, she gives listeners advice on common issues. That’s something you could do with your members too. “Remember a podcast is highly personal. It has a relational element,” Northcutt says, and that’s something that could build member loyalty and retention over time.

How has your association found success with podcasting? Tell us about it in the comments.

(avdyachenko/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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