by Brandon Burton, Chamber Chat Podcast
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you and all of the other Chambers across the country have been working overtime to meet the needs of your members and often have extended service to their entire business community in this great time of need. We all know that Chambers are getting back to their roots and rediscovering their purpose through these trials. It is through these challenges that Chambers of Commerce are finding new ways to engage with their members.
Some have adopted regular Zoom meetings to have some sense of connection. Some are servicing their members on a very individual basis through phone calls and in some cases, socially distant visits. While the Chambers that are leading the way have discovered what I like to call the Podcast Pivot. These Chambers have realized the great value that podcasting provides to their organizations, their membership, and to their community at large.
As the host of the Chamber Chat Podcast, I recently interviewed Angie Whitcomb, now former President & CEO of the Shakopee Chamber (now Executive Vice-President of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber) to have her share the story of how and why they started the Shakopee Chamber Podcast as a result of this pivot. If you choose to listen to this interview, you will learn the reasons why Angie thought it was a good idea to start a podcast at her Chamber, but I will go ahead and share with you, 10 reasons why your Chamber should podcast:
#1 To engage your membership & community at large.
As a Chamber, it is important to provide some level of involvement for every member of your organization.
This type of engagement helps inform your members of ways that your organization can best serve them. I have heard of some Chambers who do the “yellow highlighter exercise” where they print out their membership list and literally use a yellow highlighter to mark each member that has engaged with the Chamber in one way or another.
Providing non-involvement engagement opportunities is ideal for many small business owners as they are busy running their businesses and often can’t take the time out on a consistent basis to attend Chamber events, even if it is as easy to access as a webinar or Zoom call. A podcast allows for them to listen when they are ready and even while they are being productive doing other activities. Listening to a podcast requires no extra time from the listener. They can while they drive, walk the dog, work out, fold laundry, or many other regular everyday activities.
The other part of this is the ability to connect with the community at large. If you ask most people in any given town to tell you what a Chamber of Commerce is, you will find some pretty unique answers with probably the most common answer being, “I don’t know”. By providing relevant content for your community, they can become more engaged with the Chamber’s mission and purpose while becoming better informed about topics that are relevant to them as well as opportunities to serve in their community.
#2 To spread the mission & purpose of your chamber.
By referring to my previous point, it isn’t just the average member of your community that doesn’t know what the Chamber does, but it is likely many of your members too!
Every business who joins the Chamber does so for their own reasons and they each have different expectations of what they hope to achieve through their membership. As new members join your Chamber, if you help enroll them as a subscriber to your podcast, they will gain a better understanding of your mission and purpose.
This can help when it comes time to renew their membership and they have seen or “heard” what the Chamber does and how it benefits their business.
#3 To Promote and share your advocacy efforts.
Chambers of Commerce are huge champions for the businesses in their community! Some of these champion efforts involve being and advocate for their business community through local, state and national legislative issues.
Unfortunately, the hard work, collaboration, and oftentimes, wins that the Chamber has on some of these advocacy issues go largely unnoticed.
A Chamber podcast is a platform where you can tell the story of your Chamber and what you are doing on behalf of your community and the businesses within it. This can help to build support of social media campaigns or petitions that need to be collected to see certain actions take place.
#4 To showcase your business community.
Imagine the perceived value to one of your member businesses if they hear the name of their business mentioned on your Chamber podcast.
It is likely not feasible to do this for every member right away, but you could share member testimonials on your podcast with a mention of the members business. You could also welcome new members or shine a light on those member businesses who go above and beyond to support your community which is full of examples through the COVID pandemic.
Izzy’s note: you could also sell ad space. Try having them write a 1-2 sentence for your intro or outro that you will announce on the podcast and charge your sponsor a monthly fee. See #7 for more ideas.
By showcasing your business community, it will help to create a network effect for these businesses to share your podcast with others in the community.
#5 To introduce your community to their Chamber leaders.
Depending on the size of your community and your Chamber, it may be hard for the leadership (especially the President & CEO) to interact with every member. Through your Chamber podcast, you can open a window into the world of your organization’s leadership.
You can share some details about yourself so you are more relatable to the general audience. You can mention your favorite sports teams, or college affiliation, hobbies or interests. The more your audience and membership knows about you, the easier it will be for them to find something in common with you.
As I have a background in sales, one of the first things I try to do when meeting with a new prospect is I try to build a relationship of trust. This will often come by getting to know what is important to the prospect and find some kind of a common ground that we can build that relationship on.
#6 To encourage discussions for good in your community.
Your Chamber podcast can be a platform where you can draw more attention to ideas or community topics that are deserving of more community wide discussions.
You can do this by interviewing community leaders or the people behind a certain cause in your community. You can then leverage these conversations onto your social media platforms or anywhere else you would like to drive the discussion to. It may be to a page of your guest or community leader to gain feedback from the community.
Your podcast is a way to keep your community engaged in a way that they may not have been in the past.
#7 To introduce a new source of non-dues revenue.
You Chamber podcast can very easily become a new source of non-dues revenue. Who doesn’t like the idea of more revenue?
There are many ways to monetize your podcast from sponsorships and advertising to affiliate programs and so much more.
The idea is to create a real asset for your organization that not only pays for the time to produce the show, but also to be cash flow positive month after month, year after year.
Many Chambers have an annual Chamber Directory or a Map that members purchase advertising space in, your podcast can work in a similar way but you can provide more data that advertisers are always looking for to justify their ad spend.
#8 To leverage existing chamber programs & events.
In addition to non-dues revenue, your Chamber podcast will generate more income by leveraging your existing Chamber programs and events.
Think of using this platform to inform your community about a 4th of July event or a Business Expo that you are already doing but you are able to spread the word broader and sell more tickets, and in turn get more for sponsorships, etc., and the ratchet takes your programs and events up to the next level.
Again, these are things you are already doing but you will be able to capitalize on your efforts at a higher level.
#9 To introduce a new offering to your tiered dues model.
This reason is totally optional, depending on your membership structure and what offerings you want to provide if you are on a tiered dues model. For example, for some of your higher level tiers you could offer the opportunity to be interviewed on your Chamber podcast to showcase their business.
You can get creative with this offering, but again, the idea is to create the asset (your podcast) that you can then use as a tool to bring in more revenue to your organization.
#10 To be a resource for educating your membership.
#10 Finally, the tenth reason why your Chamber should start a podcast is it can be a great resource for educating your members.
Many people are already turning to podcasts for education to learn anything from fitness to business to investing in real estate and Bitcoin. Your Chamber can use this platform to teach elements of marketing, social media, human resources, employee engagement/morale and the list can go on and on.
The nice thing is that you don’t have to be the expert on any of these topics. You can find members or people in your community who would be more than happy to hop on your podcast with you to share their knowledge in return for mentioning their name and business on the podcast. They will often pick up referrals too. Most if not all of these “experts” will be willing to provide this information on your podcast for free to gain the exposure and referrals that may come from it. Their appearance on your podcast also helps to position them as an expert in their field.
Izzy’s note: 100% why I was a guest on Brandon’s podcast…
You can also record “lunch and learn” events and repurpose these in-person events into a podcast episode to reach those who could not attend.
Just in case 10 reasons were not enough for you to start your own podcast, here are a few more bonus reasons…
#11 A Chamber podcast can position your organization as the go-to source for information in your community. You can essentially become a news and/or media organization if that is the direction you decide to go with.
#12 You will create an archive of valuable information that you can refer to Chamber members and people in your community to help answer questions.
#13 You can create “show notes” on your website to highlight each episode. These would essentially be blog posts with each episode embedded. This will help by highlighting the topics you discuss on your podcast through SEO and in turn landing more visitors to your website.
Izzy: Reduce, reuse, recycle!
#14 Your Chamber podcast can be produced in batches by recording several episodes in a day, editing, and scheduling the automated release for each episode which can drastically decrease the time that it takes to release new content on a regular basis.
#15 Podcasting is a growing medium with a listener audience that grows every year. By carving out your segment in this space now, you can grow a strong following for a long time.
#16 There are no rules! You get to decide how you want your podcast to work. You get to decide your format, purpose, and desired outcome.
As you can tell, I am passionate about podcasting. I am also passionate about Chambers of Commerce and the good that you do in your communities. At times I have found myself frustrated when I see the work of Chambers across the country getting very little acknowledgement or credit for the work that they do. I know that is not why one goes into Chamber work, but I also feel that this important work would be so much more effective if Chambers were noticed more in their communities.
I believe that podcasting is a wonderful resource to get your messaging, mission, and work out in your community. I would like to help you get started. I have created a FREE Chamber Podcasting Guide to walk you through how to start. It goes over equipment, software, and outlines your first several episodes. I am always excited to hear about Chambers who make this pivot into podcasting.