Perhaps due to progressive technology easing the barrier to entry or just the sheer volume of podcasts that exist today, but whatever the reason, it is undeniable that podcasts have re-shaped the media landscape.
This isn’t new though, transformation has happened before, from printing presses to news wires, and online publications that gave way to listicles and newsletters – technology continually evolves media.
And with a little help from the pandemic, podcasts exploded over the past few years.
At the start of this year, there were more than 5 million podcasts with over 70 million episodes available, according to Forbes.
Much like YouTube before, podcasts have become an accessible medium that lets anyone, from major news companies to independent creators, express their own views and tell their stories in a slightly longer format. They are the perfect platform for more nuanced conversations that require more time than a traditional media interview may afford.
Increasingly we have had clients ask us to research podcast opportunities for their spokespeople – sometimes as frequently as they request broadcast opportunities.
So not surprisingly, the U.S. is the largest market with 100 million active listeners, up from 82 million in 2021. With a desirable target audience for marketers, the U.S. podcast ad dollars are projected to increase from $1.4 billion in 2021 to $4 billion by 2024, according to the same article.
So, if it feels like everyone has a podcast, they practically do – and we do too.
Today we’re relaunching Cogcast; each month, myself and cohost Vanja Lakic – two former journalists turned PR professionals – will explore the latest trends that are shaping media and redefining the world of PR, Digital Marketing, and Communications.
Transcript for podcast
Vanja Lakic 0:05
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Cogcast our new monthly podcast that will feature the views of journalists and various media experts. We'll talk about the latest trends that are shaping media and redefining the world of PR, Digital Marketing, and Communications. I'm Vanya Lakic, one of the co-hosts, and with me today, I have our other co-host Larissa Padden. We are both former journalists based in New York and now help global financial services and technology clients on how to land commentary and thought leadership and top-tier and trade media. And we advise them on how to execute the most effective PR and communication strategies.
Larissa Padden 0:43
Today, we have a very special guest, Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Cognito's New York office, Andrew Marshall. Andrew is a former banker turned PR leader with extensive experience advising clients on how best to manage their public relations. Andrew, welcome. Thank you for joining us today. So can we start by asking you to give us a brief overview of who you are, what you do at Cognito, and how you came to be here?
Andrew Marshall 1:07
I run our US business and try to look after clients and coach our staff and come up with ideas about what organizations and financial services will need in their communications and marketing.
Larissa Padden 1:21
So you're a former banker turned PR Pro, how did that transition come about?
Andrew Marshall 1:26
Well, it's basically an ancient history. In other words, 1993- 94, I enjoyed banking, but I came to be more interested in the media and in words rather than basis points. And after failing to be elected to the European Parliament in 1994, I got into the PR agency world.
Vanja Lakic 1:46
Andrew, Larissa and I are both former journalists who made a transition to PR, curious to know from you, what are the pros and cons of coming from a PR background or coming from a journalism background into PR?
Andrew Marshall 2:00
Well, there are a huge pros, first of all, in understanding what makes a story in understanding how newsrooms work in understanding how limited time reporters have and how difficult it is to get their attention. So there are huge pros, inevitably there is a buck coming. And there are a couple of cons and I would say. One is that PR is a client relationship business. Just like being a lawyer as a client relationship business, it's not enough to be an expert and to do the work, the client also has to be happy. So that's a big difference. For some reporters, clearly reporters have clients, ultimately in terms of the readers, but they're pretty removed. Frankly, if you are on some publications, maybe the digital side is changing that. But the client says reporters are really quite removed from you at major publications and in particular, on trades where you may be a bit closer to the advertising and the events, the commercial side maybe feels a bit closer to that. I think the other final difference is that to some extent, unless you're a investigative reporter, as a reporter, you start with a clean sheet of paper every day, or every couple of days, you're going to do this, you're going to find a story. Whereas most of the work we do at Cognito is long term relationships to try and shift positioning to shift profile of clients. And therefore in terms of the work we're doing, it's more long, long term in nature.
Larissa Padden 3:34
So over the years technology, and the media has dictated how the news is reported. And that has changed over the years a little bit. But in on the PR side, can you talk about how things have changed over the course of your career, and maybe given an example of something that's not so positive, maybe should be reversed?
Andrew Marshall 3:54
lunches have disappeared to some extent. So that's definitely a change for the worse. I think what hasn't changed? Definitely is client's interest in good writing, good advice, and some understanding of the channels whether media, social media, or events, there is more change come in, we're now getting quite active in looking at AI in media relations, because we know newsrooms are doing this. And hopefully, our pictures are not all going to be written by AI tomorrow. But we clearly need to be on top of all of that. I think one change for the worse is that in the past when more documents were printed out, if you were editing, improving, giving feedback on a piece of work, you would sit down with somebody with a bit of paper with some scribbles on it. And hopefully, the other person learned a bit from that there's no right or wrong way and a lot of these things but hopefully you're able to give some advice. I do think that if everything becomes a digital document that You just send for somebody else to update, I think it's a little bit harder sometimes to learn lessons from maybe a way in which a press release or a briefing document might be improved.
Vanja Lakic 5:11
You've worked with a lot of different clients over the course of your career, what's changed in the last 10 years? What are they asking more often less off,
Andrew Marshall 5:20
I think people want value, they measure that in different ways, measurements got better and got to get better. But when it comes to reputation and value, it's not always going to be possible to measure the most important things. So I think all of those things have changed along with a shift to more interest in multi channel communication. But it's still the case that most of the people we work with would love to be in the Financial Times, or The Wall Street Journal, or the economist, even if the measurement of that is poorer than a paid LinkedIn campaign.
Larissa Padden 5:58
So you came from the UK, you're in the US now you've worked in both markets? Can you give us an idea of what are some of the differences in those media landscapes?
Andrew Marshall 6:08
This gets debated a lot. And I'm not sure there is a simple answer. I think in some ways, British journalists are more aggressive. But at the same time, a traditionally have been willing to form relationships with important companies in their sectors go out for a drink, go out for lunch, whereas in the US my observation, and it's partly about distance and the size of the country, but I think it's also a little bit the Woodward and Bernstein style. I think reporters are keener to keep a certain distance, to ask questions, but to not feel they're too much in the pocket of anybody, which is reasonable enough.
Vanja Lakic 6:50
And what's some memorable advice or strategy you've given to a client that's made an impact?
Andrew Marshall 6:56
Well, this is a small example. But it's one that comes to mind. In the policy world, there's a very popular phrase at present called the Overton window, which is just a fancy way of saying, only some options are within the window and perceive to be good. But actually, there are options outside it. And you may think, what on earth is Andrew talking about? Now? The example was a FinTech that lost its founder, its founder, resigned, and this was going to have an impact on clients and on funders. And the question that was posed to us on Thursday was, should we put out the press release on Friday, tomorrow? Or can we afford to wait until Monday? So the Overton window was basically the options are Friday or Monday? And for what it's worth, my advice was your private company? Are you really sure you need to tell the world about your bump in the road? Before the world finds out in other ways? Why don't you just know put out a press release, inform staff informed clients be ready if the media do hear about this, but frankly, you're not that well known. They may not for a week or two. And at that point, you can update your website and you can gain some time.
Larissa Padden 8:16
On the topic of advice. The number one question I get since joining PR from journalism is, what's the most surprising thing and it is how hard it is to get a reporter to respond to a pitch sometimes. So what is your advice for getting a reporter to respond?
Andrew Marshall 8:34
Well, I don't know how my hit rate compares to others. And I'm mainly now dealing with reporters of my generation in their 50s. I would say if you are active on Twitter, which I am, and journalists follow you on Twitter, they are more likely to respond to a direct message if you do that once every six months than if you are so called spamming them every five minutes with something on email. I think other than that, the subject box is very important. I've heard former reporters say no pitch should be more than four sentences long. Get to the point. I think that's actually probably the most important thing is I see lots of draft pictures where the first paragraph and the first sentence of the second paragraph actually could be quite botched. And you go straight to the nub sentence.
Vanja Lakic 9:27
Alright, well, you don't have to name names here. But what's a bad mistake you made in PR and how did you go about remedying that relationship?
Andrew Marshall 9:35
Well, I once was proposing a speaker for a client's event and I muddled up two people with the same name. I also realized that I didn't know whether Haig Simonian FT correspondent in Turik at the time was a man or a woman and I got that wrong. So you have to fess up. I think the other thing is that when other people make a mistake, ultimately, if you're in charge, you need to take some responsibility for that. And sometimes, that just diffuses the situation.
Larissa Padden 10:09
So if you had one piece of advice for entering a career in PR, regardless of skill level, what would that be?
Andrew Marshall 10:17
One piece of advice would be to read the Economist cover to cover every week. And if you do that, for 20 or 30 years, you will know a lot. And I say that only partly tongue and cheek, social media is fine. But I do think whether you're reading in print, or more likely on an app, reading publications is really important. And to some extent, I observe people in their 20s, who are used to paying a lot more for coffee, and a lot less for what we would have called newspapers and getting those free. And so that's one thing. I would say also that the level of technology knowledge, both about marketing and media technology, but also about the technology that our clients use, that has gone up. And if you get the opportunity to do a day's coding, just so you break the ice of how do you actually code. That's the kind of thing that I think people starting now we'll need more.
Larissa Padden 11:14
Well, this has been great. Andrew, thank you for joining us. I hope it was fun, and hopefully, you'll come back sometime.
Andrew Marshall 11:20
I'm sure you'll have a lot of fantastic other guests and look forward to following the podcast.