I’ve written about finding podcasts to partner with to promote your own — what I call podcast “friends.” But what do you do with your friends once you make them? There are tons of options, and once you talk to your friends, you might cook up some ways to get creative. But I want to teach you about one of the easiest, most seamless, time-friendly, and effective ways to partner that you should use on every single one of your episodes, if possible. That’s a promo swap.
Grow your podcast with promo swaps — here's how
What’s a promo swap?
If you listen to podcasts you’ve heard promo swaps before. They’re 30-second (sometimes longer) promos for another show. Usually if you hear a promo for a show (say, podcast A) on podcast B, you’ll be able to find a promo for podcast B on podcast A. It’s one way that podcasts can advertise to their target audiences for free.
I have a little bit of fun homework for you: as you start to listen to podcasts, make note of promos that stand out to you. What made it stand out? Was it the copy or the music? Was there something surprising about it? Funny? One cool fact? Make note of the promos you don’t like, too. This will help you craft your own copy once you’re ready to write a promo for your show.
Choose your swap partners
If you haven’t read up on how to find your podcast friends, do that first. Now look back at the list you made to find shows that you think are about the same size as you. That can be a guess — you might be able to tell by seeing how long they’ve been running, how many ratings and reviews they have, or whether or not they’re recommended by a major network. It’s okay if you reach out to shows larger or smaller than you, but you might be able to save some time by crossing some shows with a huge difference in size off your list.
Once you have that list, you’ll want to get prepared to reach out to the shows you’d like to work with. That starts with a letter. Make sure the letter is short (100–300 words), includes the show artwork and maybe a picture of the show’s host (you?), and gives a brief description of the show. You can just copy and paste the show description that you see on Apple Podcasts.
The letter should begin with a friendly note, hopefully something personal. Don’t write to a brand; write to a creator. Pick out three things you like about a particular episode to prove you’ve listened. You could also point out why you like the show in general, why you think your shows should be friends, or something about your audience that makes you think they’ll like the show you’re pitching and vice versa.
Then make sure to let them know you want to work with them to grow both shows. You aren’t asking these people for a favor, you’re doing them a favor by indicating there’s a potential for growth for everyone. Promo swaps help both shows, plus listeners who want to listen to more things. Win, win, win. Steal that language: I’d like to partner with you in a way that grows both of our shows.
Note on the note: Your initial pitch doesn’t have to explain everything, you just need your potential podcast friend to open the door and let you inside. Get the conversation started, get them intrigued.
Note on the pre-pitch: Pre-pitching usually means emailing journalists you hope to pitch one day with a note saying: How do you like to be pitched? There’s a version of that for emailing about promo swaps. Before you reach out, make sure you subscribe to the show, follow it on social media, and email the host letting them know you appreciate their work. Then, when you go to them later with a request to work together, they’ll know who you are.
How to create your promo
Promos usually take one of two forms:
- Host Read: That means the host of the show you’re partnering with reads a promo for your show, and vice versa.
- Digital File: You make a recording of yourself reading a promo for your own show in the first person, and send this file to your partner. They’ll upload the file onto their show.
If you’re doing this with a digital file, just make it nice and send it over to them. It can include music or not. It should be friendly, short (try 30 seconds) and clear about why the listeners of your partner show will like your show. Maybe you could mention something specific about that show. (You could also just record a generic 30 second file to send to everyone. But make it good.)
If you’re doing a host read promo, you’ll need to send your partner copy for them to read. This can be similar to what you read in your digital file, but keep in mind the host of the other show will be reading it. Send them something that takes about 30 seconds to read. Or better yet, send them a bullet list of talking points. That way, they’ll be forced to read it in their own voice, which can make it sound more natural.
TIP: You can easily make these promos for 60 seconds or more, just make sure you agree upon the length with your podcast friend.
There are also two main ways to upload these promos:
- Baked in: Baked-in ads live on the podcast just like the rest of the content. Hosts read them while they’re recording the show, and they live on the episode forever — or more accurately, until they’re cut out. (Which could be never.) If you use baked in, find shows that are similar to yours and agree to run the promo in one or two episodes, and you’ll get about the same amount of downloads in return.
- Dynamic ad insertion (DAI): Dynamic ad insertion is when a file is recorded separately and uploaded to the podcast in a way that it can be swapped in and out from the backend. This is similar to the way TV commercials work, and it’s why you don’t see commercials from the 1990s on old reruns of Friends or Seinfeld. See if your hosting site has the ability to do this. If so, you can set the promo to run for a specific amount of downloads. That means you can literally swap with any show, even one much bigger than yours. If you get 1,000 downloads per episode and are swapping with a show that gets 10,000 downloads per episode and you both use dynamic ad insertion, you can decide upon a number for your promo (say 10,000 downloads) and that’s fine, it will just take you more time to get to that 10,000. The other show will hit it in a week. You, longer.
Whether you’re doing host-read or digital, baked-in or dynamic, make sure the copy you have stands out. Podcast listeners sometimes hear dozens of podcast promos a day. This copy is really important copy. Don’t phone it in!
NOTE: If you head over to tinkmedia.co and click “Swap Database,” you’ll find the database we built at Tink Media to make it easy for you to find podcast friends to work with. Fill out the form to enter your show in the database (podcast name, link, and optional tags and size) and browse the database to see if you can find a show you’d like to work with. You can filter to search for shows that have the same tags or size as you. Reaching out to people in the database cuts out a step in the partnership process because these people have opted in to be considered for a swap. They’re literally waiting for people to reach out to them. You won't have to email them explaining what a promo swap is, or convince them that podcast partnerships are effective. You just have to email them and say, “Saw you in the database! Do you want to work together?”
Do the thing, then assess the results
Once you’ve exchanged files and/or copy, set a date, and decide how many downloads you’re going to be swapping for, run the promo, and follow up afterward once the episode is live or once you’ve hit your downloads. Some people use Chartable to track this, but if you don’t have Chartable, use your hosting platform’s analytics to report on the promo yourself. Let your partner know if anything stood out about it, how you think it did, if you received any comments. And if you liked how everything went, schedule another one! If something works, repeat until it stops working. Sometimes people need to hear things multiple times for it to catch.
Try to schedule a promo for every single one of your episodes if you can. Hold a spot in your episode where you will drop your promo, so listeners will get used to hearing it and will know to expect one. I recommend reading a promo for a podcast you like even if you haven’t set up a partnership. It’s a nice thing to do for the industry, your listeners will appreciate the recommendation, and you can reach out to the podcast you promoted after the episode has aired and tell them that you mentioned their show. Maybe they’ll do the same for you, invite you to be a guest, or initiate some other kind of partnership.
In order for promo swaps to work, you need to do them consistently. And if you do them consistently, they will grow your show. Think broadly about the kind of shows to swap with, and feel free to test and track to find out what works. When you find a winning partner in these promo swaps, go back to that show and see if there’s a deeper way to partner.
Podcasting is all about collaboration
These promo swaps are fun and will make you a valuable member of the podcasting community. You’re helping the industry and your listeners at the same time. And don’t worry about sending people to another podcast and losing those listeners. If you have a good show, they’ll stay. Most people are excited to discover a new show and have room for another one. If you’re nervous about partnering with similar shows, I think you’re in the wrong industry. Podcasting is all about collaborating and that’s what makes it so wonderful.
So go out to your podcast friends, set up a promo swap, and watch your numbers grow. Have fun!
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