Chris Ekimoff (a forensic accountant) and Kurt Wolfe (a securities regulatory attorney) are great examples of business professionals who really understand the value of marketing.
They have been co-hosting PLI’s successful inSecurities podcast, an in-depth biweekly podcast showcasing practitioner perspectives on changes within the securities field. Chris and Kurt discuss how changes to the rules and regulations will affect businesses or clients while providing background from two separate but overlapping perspectives. I asked them to share their tips for creating a successful podcast and why they think podcasts are an effective way to communicate with target audiences.
Why did you decide to do a podcast?
Chris: After meeting via a conference hashtag on Twitter back in 2016, Kurt and I had always looked for ways to collaborate together, both on client service as well as business development efforts. When I was approached by PLI after joining RSM on potentially helping with new content development, I suggested to Kurt that a podcast would be an interesting way to continue our shared interest in securities enforcement and regulatory topics on a platform that would benefit PLI. Plus, we are both big podcast listeners and were excited to try our hand at producing episodes that our colleagues might listen to and appreciate.
Kurt: I’ve long been interested in exploring new ways—new media—to engage with clients and colleagues, share thought leadership and raise my profile. For me, it started with practice-area focused blogging and segued into Twitter and social media. As Chris mentioned, we actually met at a conference through social media. When he came to me with an idea about doing a podcast for PLI, I was all in—it felt like a natural progression to a new and increasingly popular media.
Why do you think a podcast is an effective way to market/communicate information?
Chris: Our initial goal at the outset was to discuss legal cases, regulatory developments and fraud news in “commuter” segments, focused on the time spent on the subway, in the car or walking to the office for our potential listeners. That blossomed into deeper discussions on key topics in the securities space, and the inclusion of experts and guests.
Not only do we get to share our thoughts with more than 300,000 register PLI members, but with our personal and professional networks at large through regular podcast avenues like Apple and Spotify. Further, in planning and executing recording with our guests, we benefit from forging strong relationships with experts in their fields, such as whistleblower law or digital assets, and become hubs in the securities knowledge wheel with connections across a variety of topics and areas of focus.
Kurt: I completely agree with Chris. Picking up one point he made: I think podcasts can be a very effective tool to share thought leadership because you can reach people at places and times where you couldn’t reach them before, when it’s convenient for them—on their commute, at the gym or on a walk. You’re also reaching listeners through a different channel. We all tire of reading client alerts and bulletins. Podcasts are easily digestible and available on the go.
What are your tips for a successful podcast?
Chris: Planning, planning, planning. We began recording together in the spring of 2019, but didn’t release our first episode until January 2020. It took a lot of time working together, recording and discussing between us as co-hosts and the production staff at PLI to nail down a format, cadence and frequency that fit our schedules and provided value to potential listeners.
We spend 10-15 hours of planning, recording, review, editing and production on each episode of our podcast. Especially as we talk about unique and nuanced issues in securities law, the importance of being accurate and concise present challenges in the delivery of that content to the audience. We err on the side of caution and conservatism, as practitioners in the securities space, we don’t want to send a message that conflicts with our work or could be misconstrued in the future.
Kurt: There are a couple things for me. First, Chris is spot on. It’s all about the prep and planning. Good episodes require meticulous preparation: agreeing on topics and questions, planning the flow of each episode, researching aspects of a conversation that might be unfamiliar, and making sure guests are comfortable. People have limited time, and a lot can go wrong. The better prepared we are, the better each episode will be.
Second, are less tangible elements, like chemistry and comfort levels. Chris and I have a great relationship, and we are lucky that—I think—that translates into good chemistry on the air; and we’re getting better all the time as a team. But we also try to build a rapport with our guests before they come on the show. That requires some prep, but it’s worth it to avoid episodes that sound more like uncomfortable interviews than conversations.
Any advice for others who are looking to start a podcast?
Chris: Be thoughtful, be realistic and be authentic. If you are looking to start out small and record for a close group of colleagues and professionals, attune your effort and resources to that level of potential listenership.
If you are interested in broadcasting widely to hundreds if not thousands of listeners, consider the level of resources, budget, and time commitment to meet the standard you’d be proud to produce (and to listen to yourself). Also don’t be afraid to pivot from your original format or planned structure—you never know how it’s going to sound or go until you turn that microphone on and start recording. When we planned our episode framework out during the early days of our production, we realized part way through that deviating from that plan and providing more conversational episodes was more our style, which only took a few episodes to discover.
Kurt: Yes! Be flexible. Like Chris said, our podcast hasn’t taken the exact shape we anticipated. We’ve found our own unique flow, and we’ve tried to meet our guests and our listeners where they are. We’ve also had to adapt considerably in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It changed our whole setup and style! Podcasting is a learning experience, and you have to go with it. I have no doubt inSecurities will continue to evolve, and may feel different in three months or a year.
Any lessons learned from when you first started out?
Kurt: I’m sure there is a laundry list of lessons learned. One important lesson is that you cannot survive without good equipment. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but if you want to get good sound, you have to invest in the project.
Chris: I agree. I also think the co-host model of our podcast has lent itself to some early successes. As client practitioners in the securities space, our schedules are often in flux based on client demands, scheduled events and personal commitments as well. Having two hosts has helped lighten the load for both of us during stressful periods in our working lives.
We’ve also learned that being concise is just as important as being thorough, and maybe even more so. Presenting complex legal and accounting topics in a limited time can be tough, as we’ve grown in our careers to demonstrate our expertise and know-how through lots of buzzwords and canned speeches. Each episode we do helps refine that approach to provide our listeners with a more focused, fulsome discussion than just reading from a textbook. And that takes time to figure out.
Kurt: Just to close, another important lesson is that you need a strong supporting cast. We couldn’t do inSecurities without the amazing team at PLI and the help and support we’ve received from folks at Troutman and RSM. Whether its technical support and production, marketing or just honest feedback on our style or topics, our success is due in no small part to the folks you don’t hear on the podcast who support us.