Behind the Podcast with Brian Siegele, Writer, Director, Producer of Black Box
At Acast’s most recent Aclass: Black Voices workshop, Black podcasters and industry executives shared their expertise on storytelling, identity, podcast creation, navigating their careers, and more — offering lessons for people who are new to the space.
Our series of free Aclass events was created to help bring more people from underrepresented backgrounds and communities to podcasting.
And opportunities in the industry aren’t only for podcasts hosts — but for producers, product engineers, and others behind the scenes making the magic happen, too. Aclass: Black Voices began with an exploration of Black podcasting around the globe, with the perspectives from speakers including Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown (CEO and founder of Breadfruit Media), Selly Thiam (CEO and founder of AQ Studios), Garvia Bailey (co-founder of Media Girlfriends), and Tiffany Ashitey (director of partnerships at Acast).
Next, in a discussion about careers and transitional opportunities for Black people in podcasting, Acast content development manager Vernon Foster spoke with panelists including Lauren D. Williams (head of marketing strategy at SiriusXM and Pandora), Yolanda Sangweni (senior director of programming at NPR), Donald Albright (president and co-founder of Tenderfoot TV), and Emery Tarpkin (global talent partner at Acast).
The final session focused on how Black creators can position and pitch themselves for maximum visibility. Noleca Radway (founder of Quarts and host of Raising Rebels) hosted a discussion with Brittany Luse (an award-winning journalist, cultural critic and podcaster), DeRay Mckesson (a civil rights activist and host of Crooked Media show Pod Save the People), and Berry Syk (the creator of Podcasts in Color), who discussed how podcasters can gain exposure and convey their stories in the most authentic way.
You can listen back to each session on-demand. Here are a few things we learned.
Black podcasting extends beyond the borders of the United States. From Toronto to Trinidad, Kingston to Kenya, Black creators have planted roots in this industry, and are setting their sights on connecting the diaspora locally and globally. International podcast creators may have varying degrees of views, but there is one thing they all agreed on.
Tailor your content to connect with your audience. Although there might be differences in the experiences a person from the Carribean has in the US compared to in the Carribean itself, Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown described it best when she said, “you can only identify when I tell my story… there is always something that we can all connect to.” This is the foundation to build your community. The focus on content should stem from your desire to build a genuine connection to those who are like minded.
Your audience and your culture should be the nucleus of your podcast. Remember that your story might be similar to those of other people, so make sure to share it — there are many people that will be able to relate.
As you imagine your podcast, you should think about what information you want to include. This means that your podcast could function as a healing form, provide information on how to handle things that may occur in the future, or affirmation on who they are as a person. There are many experiences that embody the Black community, and they are all equally important. As Garvia Bailey put it, “we are closer, and connecting more than ever.” Since you’re able to connect with your audience in a more intimate way, content should be the foundation of your podcasting career.
Still, no one person can speak for the experiences of everyone. Selly Thiam better explains this: “It’s about telling great stories, but also making space for other great storytellers to come to the table and express their experiences, because that’s what’s going to make this (podcast) rich.”
As the podcasting industry matures, the gap in equity and diversity has become even more apparent. Opportunities are opening up for Black creators, but what about the other sides of this thriving business? For those who don’t create, but have a huge love for podcasting, there’s a place for you too. Many roles are happening behind the scenes, ripe for opportunity. So how can Black professionals position themselves for jumping into and leveling up in this industry? This is what those who have already done it have to say.
Networking is extremely important, and there are many benefits — one of them being the ability to be well informed about what’s happening in the industry. A vital thing to remember is that networking is not only to increase your opportunities when looking for your chance but, as Lauren D. Williams said: “It’s all about being comfortable in spaces, and engaging and having conversations with senior level executives…having individuals that you can learn from, and having individuals speaking up for you in rooms where you are not necessarily present.”
Once you’re “in”, remember that hard work beats talent — but make sure to know which of your existing skills can translate into your new position. As Donald Albright said, “wherever you are coming from, you picked up some skills that can translate anywhere. Whether that’s people skills, networking skills, marketing — all of those things come together when you are in business”.
To navigate through white spaces, always champion the stories of people of color. As Yolanda Sangweni said, “you have to be prepared, and that sometimes can feel lonely. You have to be committed to what you’re there for”.
Some do it for the love. Others do it for the story. Some even do it for the money. No matter the motivation, the one thing that keeps podcasts going is the audience — engaging them, entertaining them and inspiring them. Even if the content is good, are you positioning your show for success? From pitch decks to show notes and beyond, how do you get noticed in a space that’s getting more crowded by the day? And what truly matters when trying to build your audience and make your show more marketable?
Feedback is your best friend. Use it as your motivation, but accept that there will always be people who aren’t on board with what you’re trying to do. As Berry Syk said “You are going to come across people who claim that they do not understand what you are trying to do, do not understand who you are talking to, do not understand what you are trying to say, and what you think and what you say is of very little value to them.” Your story is your own. Tell it from your point of view and you are sure to find those who will identify with it. Growing your audience will not be an easy task but if you stay on course and think outside the box, you’ll get to where you want to be. And that will help you pitch your show to others, and allow you to position yourself for future ventures.
Pitching your podcast is a complicated matter that takes research, strategy and determination. However, it can all become simpler by doing one thing. If you’re trying to pitch a story, make sure you know your audience. As Brittany Luse said: “Be efficient. So think, if you want to be able to pitch to somebody, how can I be efficient so that this person doesn’t have to come back to me for anything, except to thank you for the information?” Whether you are talking to a network, or to your listeners, make sure you know who it is you are talking to, and what you are talking about. Efficiency is key as you want the person you are communicating with to have to respond with a “yes” or a “no”.
People are always busy, which means you have to tailor how you approach them.
To learn about our upcoming Aclass events, follow Acast on Instagram at @AcastPodcasts.
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