Podcast advertising, also known as podcast sponsorships, (and I’ll use the two interchangeably throughout this post) is a hot topic in the podcasting world – and for good reason.
Podcasting has opened up a brand new medium where brands, businesses, and individuals can create an intimate connect with their followers (or listeners in this case).
That intimate connect results in a know, like, and trust relationship. And when you know, like, and trust a brand, business, or individual, then you value and respect not only what they teach, but also what they recommend.
This is why podcast advertising is such a hot topic: it works.
The return on investment (or ROI) for big-name companies who are going all-in on podcast advertising – like ZipRecruiter, SquareSpace, 99Designs, Casper Mattresses, and more – is proving to be well worth it.
We know because we’ve worked with every one of these companies, and over 80 more. And a quick note before we dive in: this post was updated Feb 9, 2022.
Creating a win/win/win situation
Here at Entrepreneurs On Fire we’ve had advertisers on the podcast since month six (that’s over 6 years of experience working with sponsors!)
Some podcasters start with a sponsor day one.
Some podcasters never land a sponsor – ever.
And some podcasters don’t want to have sponsors.
This systematic approach is not meant to convince anyone that podcast advertising or having sponsors on your show is THE way to go. In fact, I don’t believe it is for a lot of podcasters.
It’s also not meant to portray that we believe podcast advertisements are the only way to monetize a podcast. We have more than 5 major revenue streams in our business, and each of them are possible because of our podcast.
But for purposes of this post, we’ll focus only on podcast advertising.
For podcast advertising to be successful, it has to be a win/win/win:
- A win for the advertiser
- A win for the host
- A win for the audience
If it’s not a win for all three parties, then it’s not a fit.
We break down how podcast sponsorships work in this podcast sponsorship guide, so if you’re looking to learn more about sponsorships and whether they’re right for you, that would be the post to check out.
In this post, I want to focus on the lessons we’ve learned after working with more than 80 sponsors over the past six years.
These are the steps you can take once you have an interested advertiser in order to ensure you’re building a great relationship, over-delivering on value, retaining advertisers, and all the while serving both your advertisers AND your audience to the best of your ability.
A systematic approach to podcast advertising
We’ve worked one-on-one with individuals, brands, small businesses, and huge businesses on podcast advertisements.
We’ve also worked with several podcast advertising brokers, like Midroll and AdResults.
We continue to approach advertising from all directions, meaning we don’t have any one agreement with any one company who is the only point of communication (at one time this was the case with Midroll).
This freedom allows us to work with any advertiser that makes sense – not just advertisers who choose to be represented by a particular broker. But of course, this is up to you as the podcast host on how you want to approach the management of your sponsorships.
Setting advertising boundaries
One across-the-board rule we follow – and that every podcaster who has sponsors should follow – is that we don’t present any conflicts of interest.
For example, if 99Designs is sponsoring Entrepreneurs On Fire, then we’re not also going to have Design Crowd sponsoring Entrepreneurs On Fire at the same time.
They are competitors and provide the same type of services, so we avoid a conflict of interest by only working with one or the other for sponsorship runs.
I’ll talk more on this subject – plus share what a sponsorship run is – throughout this post. So let’s go ahead and dive into that systematic approach!
We’ll start with steps 1 – 3, and these steps are all about the relationship and retention.
Step 1: Bringing on the right podcast sponsors
Nothing else in the system works if you’re not bringing on the right sponsors, so that’s the most important step.
Bringing on the right sponsors means you’re confirming you can deliver that win/win/win, in addition to making sure you feel comfortable with the product or service.
For example, we don’t bring on a sponsor unless we’ve had some type of personal experience with the brand, product, or service that’s being advertised. That might mean we’ve received a thorough walkthrough of a program, have purchased it ourselves, or have talked to others who have personal experience with the product or service who we trust.
At the end of the day, if you don’t feel right about the product or service being advertised, and you haven’t confirmed it’s something your audience needs, then you shouldn’t bring that company on as a sponsor.
Start by simply asking yourself these questions:
- What products or services do I use every day that I love and that I know my audience could benefit from using?
- What products or services do I *not* use, but that I know my audience could benefit from using?
- What sponsors are other influential podcasts in my industry or niche bringing on their shows?
Step 2: Building a great relationship
Systems sometimes come across as transactional, but not this system!
In order for this sponsorship system to work you have to build a great relationship at the start.
We’ve been working with some of our sponsors for years, and others are brand new. Anytime we bring on a brand new sponsor we get to know them, their business, and their product or service through a Zoom call or via several email conversations – if that’s more convenient for them.
We also spend a good amount of time doing our due diligence. We search YouTube for reviews, Google for product info, and spend time understanding how the product or service impacts those who invest in it.
This not only helps us build a great connection with the sponsor, but it helps us create more impactful reads for the actual sponsorships. When we know and understand the benefits and impact of a product or service, we’re much more well-equipped to talk about it in an attractive way.
Step 3: Over delivering & retention
It’s always our goal to over-deliver on our promise to sponsors.
That might be by way of more downloads than they expected for their sponsored episodes, an added email mention of the product or service to our list, or a few social media shout outs for the company.
We take this on a case-by-case basis, sometimes waiting to see how the initial few drops on the podcast perform, and then adding in additional ‘bonus’ mentions when and where it makes sense.
If you can over-deliver early on in the relationship, then the chances of that relationship continuing become higher.
Next let’s take a look at steps 4 – 7, which are all about the actual process of managing sponsors and how we run that here at Entrepreneurs On Fire.
Step 4: Create your advertising / sponsorship package
What do you want your sponsorships to look like, and how do you want them to run?
Setting expectations and letting sponsors know up front exactly how you run your sponsorships is critical to the success of your campaign.
Once you have your packages set, stick to it. Don’t back down on what it is you think is fair – unless it’s for good reason.
You can click here for an example – this is how our sponsorship packages have been structured (this particular example is from 2019, and the only thing that has changed are the rates.
Step 6: Get a signed agreement
Once you have an interested sponsor, it’s always a good idea to get a signed agreement that states what the campaign will include.
You’ll want to have things like the run dates, the agreed upon rate, and any due dates for payment, talking points, and approved reads included.
We require that reads be approved 1 month at a time, so all reads going live in the month of Sept, for example, must be approved by Aug 25th. This is largely because we upload our episodes 1 month in advance, so it’s an easier workflow for us to have everything ready before the month starts.
So this is the time you should be thinking about what you want YOUR sponsorship workflow to look like. And it’s so critical to set expectations at this point in time, because if your sponsor doesn’t know any different, they may be sending you updated talking points or requests for edits throughout the run.
Because we let it be known in advance we upload 1 month at a time, we’re able to stand strong on this and if any requests for updates do come through, we can remind them of our agreement.
Be sure to get your agreement signed as your first step to locking in the sponsorship.
Step 7: Follow up
Once you’ve engaged in the “set up” conversation (meaning, both parties have agreed on the sponsorship happening), you’re likely going to have to follow up – diligently – in order to successful lock in the campaign.
Until you have a signed agreement, payment, and talking points, continue to follow up.
Our initial communication once the sponsorships have been agreed upon looks like this:
We’re so excited to be partnering with you for these sponsorships!
Per our convo, here are the next steps to get those spots locked in:
- Review and sign the attached agreement
- I’ve also attached an invoice here, and payment is due xx/xx/xx
- Finally, we’ll need talking points by xx/xx so we can get those unique reads back to you for final approval (final approval is due xx/xx)
Any questions, please let me know!
I can’t stress enough to importance of following up on these conversations! This is YOUR responsibility.
If I went back to the 2 most recent sponsorship deals we locked in, I can guarantee you that the email convos would probably include at least 50 back-and-forth communications.
You’ve got this!
Steps 8 – 10 are all about the creation and delivering the sponsorships, so let’s take a look at what happens once your deal is locked in!
Step 8: Create your unique reads
Once you have the talking points from your sponsor (some sponsors will send an actual read, which you should always edit to make sure it’s in your own voice), start putting together your unique reads.
Depending on your sponsorship package, that might be a preroll & midroll, just a midroll, or maybe all 3: pre, mid, and postroll.
Pre and postrolls are typically 15-seconds, and midrolls are typically 60-seconds. But remember, this is your show!
Make sure you time out your reads so you know what the word count is. Once you start going back and forth with the sponsor on reads, they might want to add to what you’ve provided, and that’s why it’s important to know your word count.
Knowing your word count also means you spell out everything.
For example, EOFire.com/fire should be written out: EOFire dot com slash fire. And any numbers or other special characters should always be spelled out for accuracy.
To get to know your word count, you can start by drafting a preroll (we stay under 50 words for a 15-second preroll), then turn on a timer or stopwatch and time yourself reading it. Be sure to read it naturally, just as you would on your show.
Once you know your word count, you can rest assured that for this sponsorship run – and all future runs – you won’t be going over on your timing.
This also ensures you’re being fair to all sponsors.
Once you’ve created the unique read (or reads, depending on what package you put together for your sponsor), it’s time to send them over for review and approval.
We always put a deadline on this, so for example, when you sent the unique read for approval, be sure to say something like “approval for this unique read is due by xx/xx.”
Step 9: Deliver!
Once you have your approved unique read, it’s time to insert it into the episode you’ve sold.
Be sure to listen back once you’ve inserted your reads to make sure everything flows the way you want it to. And of course, if you’ll be doing ‘live reads’, which some hosts do, then make sure you have your notes or unique read by you when it comes time to hit that record button.
Step 10: Follow up again
After you have everything you need and the sponsorship run is underway, follow up with your sponsor throughout their run.
It’s especially important to follow up with them towards the end of the run. You should not only be checking in to see how the sponsorships are going, but also to see if they’d like to continue sponsoring your show.
A podcast advertising wrap up
Creating a systematic approaching to podcast sponsorships has allowed us to do many things, including but not limited to scaling our sponsorship potential and serving our audience to the best of our ability.
So if you’re interested in bringing on sponsors for the first time – or you’ve been working with podcast sponsors for years – we hope this breakdown of working with podcast sponsors is helpful for you!
If you’re looking for more growth and monetization strategies – including entire systems to help these strategies run most efficiently in your business – we’ve got it all waiting for you inside of Podcasters’ Paradise.
Podcasters’ Paradise is the #1 podcasting community in the world, with over 3,400 active members and a private Facebook Group that gives you daily access to support and feedback.