Michael Smith joined National Public Radio as chief marketing officer at a time when the nation — and the world — had just entered crisis mode. In addition to adapting to his new job he’s needed to shift the company’s marketing message, outreach and the very stance the brand has taken over the past years. Part of that shift was motivated by more digital audio listening given more at-home workers during our pandemic. The parallel motivation was to amplify more multicultural voices and drive greater diversity within the halls of the company itself.
In Episode 15, Michael shares his observations, his approach and some insider scoop from his winged-back chair in New Jersey. For example, he explains how different audiences respond to NPR’s content. Michael tells us that “among regular users when we look at people of color versus white listeners, their satisfaction levels are actually higher. So it’s an exciting thing in the sense that if we can get more people to know that we’re there and to get us into their consideration set, when they come, I think they’re going to love it.”
Michael had primarily been focused on network video, developing strategies to reach younger and more diverse audiences on streaming platforms for Cooking Channel, and Food Network — where he and I worked together during the last big crisis for the country, 9/11! He has quickly learned to apply his know-how to linear radio and on demand audio.
“When they start to know some of these shows where there are young, diverse hosts, a Sam Sanders or [they get to know the] hosts of Pop Culture Happy Hour, that creates so much more engagement than when they just see the three block letters, NPR.”
The fast 35-minute discussion includes suggestions all brands can appreciate from a world-class marketer like Michael Smith. We talked about:
- The challenges most media companies are facing right now
- How to move from linear to on demand streaming digital platforms
- Balancing linear, podcasting and the NPR One app
- How has Coronavirus Daily evolved as a show…and the ongoing need for that content?
- How NPR itself has evolved since its origins in the 60s, and why its signature audio style is intentionally like a mental “exhale”
- Working with the sponsorship team, NPM
- Michael’s optimism — and any pessimism — for the future.