Imagine you're Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tons of journalists, media, celebrities... shoot, even Facebook founders want to talk to you. You could be on mic, or on camera, all day every day. Your schedule is so full, you have to turn down dozens of requests for every one you are able to accept.
So with all that exposure -- and opportunities to share your thoughts, views, perspective, etc. -- the last thing you're likely to do is start your own podcast.
Dale's Dirty Mo Radio: Dale JR Download podcast airs every Tuesday, consistently ranking high on the iTunes Sports charts. That's hardly a surprise, since fans have voted Dale NASCAR's most popular driver for fourteen consecutive years, but what's more surprising is that he and his co-host (and road manager) Tyler Overstreet do a podcast at all.
"The podcast gives us the ability to have more control over the content," Dale told me. "It's a chance for us to talk about what is important to us. It's a chance for the fans to get content they can't get anywhere else. We can talk about what's going on in our personal lives. We can promote things we want to promote, like charities.
"And it's a great place to give value to our partners," he said. "Obviously, for years and years it was get them (sponsors) on the side of the race car, on the side of the hauler, on the uniform, and get them on TV by trying to win races. Delivering content through social media adds value to those partnerships as well, and it's a great way to support those relationships."
It's also a great way for Dale to give fans an inside look. Post-race interviews allow for no more than thirty seconds of analysis or insight. On the podcast, Dale can dive deeper into what he was thinking -- not just as a racer, but as a person. Like after Ryan Blaney spun him out at Martinsville, in an episode titled Maybe I'm Still Pissed Off And I Spin Him Out...Or Maybe I Don't.
The podcast allows him to put aside interview-speak and just talk -- which, since most people aren't professional announcers, makes the podcast sound like a conversation and not a formal presentation.
"I just try to be myself," Dale said, "and be conversational. We work really hard to stay away from interview-style conversations. I just make it about me and the other person in the room. Although it sounds odd to say 'try,' we do try to make it real -- like you're sitting down having a beer."
But of course making a podcast sound effortless... is anything but.
"Before we started, we did some pilot episodes," Dale said, "where we just practiced. We did full episodes that we never aired. It was pretty painful, but I'm glad we did them. That way we could hear ourselves, start to understand what works and what doesn't work, what sounds good, what's funny and not funny..."
"Creating a podcast isn't a super challenging thing to do," he said, "but the first few times you do it, you will stub your toe. Getting through stuff that without making people listen to it... that's a good thing. We want to provide an entertaining forty or fifty minutes and cut down on editing behind the scenes. Our goal is to put together a podcast that needs very little editing, not because we're lazy, but because not having to do a lot of editing means we had good conversations that didn't need to be edited."
If you're worried that your topics and conversations won't always strike a chord with listeners, you're not alone. Even someone like Dale, who benefits from a 36-race season that creates natural content, is surprised by what resonates with fans.
"The storytelling seems to be what people like the most," Dale said. "But even so, we're still surprised by what people respond to and what they don't. Sometimes we'll have an idea for a topic and we'll be sure it will be a hit... and no one talks about it at all. Then other times we'll talk about a subject that will get tons of comments and feedback and we'll think, 'Wow, I didn't see that coming.'"
So if you want to start a podcast, what is Dale's best advice?
"You have to try things, and then listen to how people respond," Dale said. "Our job is to entertain the people listening, not ourselves.That's the most important thing. You may have stuff you want to say... but what people want to hear is what matters.
"It's not about you. It's about the audience."