We want everyone to feel like podcast creation is within their grasp–because it is! But at a certain point, one of two things happens: 1. You look at your podcast-associated bills and think “We gotta do something about this.” Or! 2. You look at your show, your growing audience, and your raving fans and think “Someone must want to get in on this.” For the record, both reasons are totally valid to start thinking about monetization.
There are a lot of ways to monetize, but for today, we’re going to focus on one of the big ones: sponsorships.
Sponsorships are generally host-read ads that air before, during, or after a show. You’ve probably heard these as discount codes for Casper mattresses, Blue Apron recipe boxes, or Modcloth clothes!
Once a sponsorship is landed, the host is either given a script or a list of talking points–they craft their message around these talking points, record it, and plug it into their show.
But wait, back up, how do you land a sponsor? And before that: how do you find a sponsor? You might even be asking yourself...
Are you ready for sponsorship?
When creators ask themselves this question, most of the time they’re asking themselves if they’re enough of a big deal–do they have enough downloads and listeners or a big enough social following or enough episodes? The answer is: probably!
The fact of the matter is that plenty of shows launch with a monetization plan (which, most of the time, includes sponsorship) baked into their business plan. Maybe they even had sponsors lined up before their first episode aired. So there’s really no firm benchmarks for when you’re ready to start researching sponsors–and definitely no firm start date on when to start researching, other than “the earlier the better.” There’s only one thing you should absolutely know before you reach out to potential sponsorships: who your audience is (or: who that brand will be paying you to put their product in front of.)
Know who's listening
So let’s dig into getting to know your audience. The reason this is so important is three-fold:
1. You can use the information about your audience to demonstrate that listeners of your show are also potential buyers if X item or service
2. Knowing who your audience is will allow you to narrow down potential sponsors from literally every brand in the world to the ones that make sense for your audience–less work for you!
3. Picking sponsors that fit your audience means they’ll actually provide relevant info to your listeners, and make them less likely to tune out.
You’ll want to pull your overall downloads, average downloads per episode, and the download numbers around your to-performing episode. If you have consumption analytics–how far into an episode most people listen to, etc, you’ll also want to include that. Additionally, bring in some demographics data on your audience. Where are they located? What devices do they listen on? What platforms?
If your host doesn’t give you a ton of information, you can also supplement that info with a breakdown from you social profiles.
Additionally, if there’s specific information you want and you think your audience would be comfortable giving, you can put out an audience survey–some things you can ask about include household income, age, family size, job industry
After you get that information, you’re going to want to...
Create a media kit
Now that you've done all your audience research, it's time to show it off. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel–Bello Collective has a killer article on how to create your media kit here.
If your media kit is mainly going to be used to secure advertisers, you should make sure to emphasize your audience and listener data–but you can always have multiple media kits in the same way you might have different resumes for different types of jobs you’d apply for. One media kit might be for pitching the press, and one might be more focused on advertisers, and you may even have a third that is built to showcase you and your show as a thought leader for speaking at industry events.
Don’t be afraid to add in a few fun data points. Do you run a super active Facebook group? Have people tattooed your show logo on them? Put it in there!
Now comes the fun part!
Start scouting out companies
Now, the podcast advertisers you hear on everyone else’s shows might not be the right fit for you–if you’re just starting out, those Casper and blue apron ads probably aren’t your best bet.
Think about that demographic data you pulled. Now that you know your customers, you can answer questions about what they do and what do they like.
For instance, if you run a podcast about antique cars and notice that a lot of your listeners are based in Nashville, it could definitely make sense to reach out to auto body shops there, or high-end car washes–especially if you’ve done a survey and know your customers own cars and have a high household income. Or, if you podcast is about creative professionals and lots of them are freelancers, you can reach out to accountants or tax prep software companies, especially around tax season!
However, advertisers don’t have to cleave to exactly what your show is about–you’re not appealing to a data point, you’re appealing to an actual person. For example, if your podcast is about sourdough bread baking, it could be possible that your customers might also be really interested in brewing their own beer. Both are DIY, cooking-adjacent hobbies–so maybe a home-brew kit is a sponsor you can pursue.
Research, research, research
Your next step is to research the heck out of those companies. If finding sponsors feels a lot like job hunting well, that’s because it is. Get up to date on the products they offer, any recent announcements, and your best guess at what THEIR audience is.
This way, when you’re ready to reach out with a PDF of your media kit, you can also have some tailored messaging around their marketing efforts–do you think they’ll have a back to school sale coming up? Is it their busy season? Think about what their marketing person is currently working on, and slot yourself in.
Get in their inbox.
Now you’ve done your research, and your materials are prepped–start reaching out! Yes, you can definitely use the info@ email listed on someones website, but you can also poke around LinkedIn to try and find their partnerships or marketing person. Don’t send an Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter DM–and if you absolutely must, use it only to ask for the proper contact information. You’re looking for whoever handles digital marketing or ad sales. A form letter can look like this:
My name is Caitlin Van Horn, and I'm the producer for the Smoking Gatos podcast. We cover new developments in feral cat rescue, TNR, and cat fostering! I've attached our media kit below with more information about our content and audience.
I wanted to reach out because I thought, with the advent of kitten season, it would be great to have a sponsor from a respected kitten food company like yours on the show! Do you currently do any podcast advertising?
If this sounds interesting, I'd love to talk more!