When the coronavirus crisis erupted, our podcast team at “How Do We Fix It?” had to react in a hurry. Co-host, Jim Meigs, producer Miranda Shafer, and I tossed our carefully orchestrated spring program plans into the trash.
We’re a weekly news show committed to talking about fresh and surprising ideas that could make the world a better place. We had to stay relevant. Now we’re winging it week-by-week, booking guests one or two days in advance. Scrappy and immediate is the order of the day. Quick turnaround time is essential.
The same is true for countless other content creators.
Surprising Listening Shifts From COVID-19
We are all being constantly surprised. A Pew Research Center poll finds that the coronavirus outbreak is having profound impacts on the personal lives of Americans. Nearly nine-in-ten U.S. adults say their life has changed in a moderate or major way.
Our listening and viewing habits have changed. A new survey by the podcast research firm, Podsights, says that the big fear among podcast publishers in the early days of the pandemic was, “with fewer people commuting, we would see a massive decrease in people listening to podcasts.” But, “this concern has mostly turned out to be false.” Audiences for news and health/fitness podcasts are up by 30 percent.
In the early days of March, when COVID erupted, I had expected our podcasting clients would trim their sails, shy away from making new commitments, and shelve plans to launch new episodes. As a consolation prize, I thought maybe I’d be able to settle back and make a dent on the tower of books on my bedside shelf.
Instead, we’re busier than ever.
Recording Remotely: We’ve Got This
Our team found new ways to work remotely and learned how to record up to four people on separate audio channels. The challenge was to maintain reasonable audio quality while making it quick and easy for guests to jump on the line and speak with us.
Many companies and causes are in fast forward mode—looking around for new ways to say something of value. Some are launching brand new podcasts, while others are producing them with a greater sense of urgency. Deadlines have gone from weeks to days to hours.
The corporate leadership podcast that we produce needed a 72-hour turnaround on an interview with a prominent CEO.
A cable TV company that we work with is about to turn their weekly podcast into a daily show about the pandemic.
Common Ground Committee, a non-profit group that brings prominent leaders of opposing views together, had to put its well-attended public forums on hold. Instead, Common Ground has put podcasting on the front burner, and is working with us on an urgent new series of shows that address the current crisis.
Podcasts: The Channel For Issues
Politicians and thought leaders are finding new ways to communicate. Andrew Yang has just launched a new issues-based podcast. So has Joe Biden. A month ago, he was the flavor of the day. Now, he’s yesterday’s news. The almost-certain Democratic Presidential nominee faces the daunting prospect of being shunted to the sidelines: ignored and disregarded.
“Here’s The Deal With Joe Biden,” launched at the end of March, promises to add “a voice of clarity during uncertain times.”
“The coronavirus crisis represents an opportunity.”
Whether he succeeds or fails is up for listeners to decide. But “Here’s the Deal” does give Biden the chance to deepen his engagement with supporters and convince skeptics that he’s less of a boring old fogey than they presume him to be.
The Biden campaign said it plans to upload podcast episodes regularly and to expand the conversations beyond the pandemic. The shows are unscripted and allow for the possibility of surprise.
Many brands are in a Biden boat, facing a “WTF happened to my carefully-orchestrated communications strategy” moment.
But for companies and nonprofits alike, the coronavirus crisis represents an opportunity, as well as a gut-wrenching challenge. Producing podcasts allows them to control their own message, while also demonstrating that they are committed to the communities they serve.