This is the second article in our Field Guide to Podcasting series. These posts by Wanyee Li will profile the people and roles that come together to create a podcast. In the case of Pacific Content that includes making a podcast with a brand partner. Read the first article on the Showrunner role.
Producers find stories and guests to feature on the podcast.
Stories and interviews are at the heart of a good podcast and producers are responsible for bringing the best ones to the table.
Let’s break it down.
Producers report to a showrunner, who is heading one production at a time.
Producers are responsible for researching story ideas, finding and vetting guests for the show, and interviewing them. Unlike showrunners, a producer’s involvement with a show is usually limited to the production phase. Once that is completed, producers will move on to another show.
At Pacific Content, producers are the ones who interact with the widest range of people outside of the production and client team. Producers reach out to authors, subject matter experts — someone with a good story — and invite them onto the podcast.
Sometimes, producers also conduct the interviews. Other times, producers will craft a line of questioning, based on their research and previous conversations with the guest, to help the showrunner or host conduct the interviews. Producers are essentially in charge of ensuring the interviews run smoothly, regardless of who is asking the questions. Producers line up multiple schedules to make interviews happen, ensure the guest knows what to expect from the interview, and mail the necessary audio equipment to the guest.
When a producer is not chasing and booking guests, they are deep in research mode. Producers at Pacific Content are not assigned beats and are instead generalists, meaning they are assigned a wide variety of shows throughout the year that require knowledge in a range of topics. The best producers know how to quickly familiarize themselves with a business community or academic topic in order to find guests who are a good fit for the podcast.
But what is working as a producer at Pacific Content really like?
Pacific Content producer Annie Rueter shares her experience.
What does a typical work day look like?
Annie starts her mornings with her fingers crossed.
“I start the mornings by opening up my email and hoping that I get some emails back from people that I want to feature on the show I’m working on.”
If Annie gets a ‘yes’ email, she starts coordinating the interview logistics — things like setting up a pre-interview if the situation calls for it, working with the guest to find an available time for the recorded interview, and assessing their familiarity with audio equipment.
Annie also checks in with the showrunner, usually once a day, to provide a chase update and to talk story. A producer and showrunner work very closely and it is often during these conversations that the foundational blocks of the story are shaped.
“As producers, I think that we often know the most detail about a guest and their story. But it’s helpful to have conversations about story with a showrunner, who often has the bigger picture of the episode in mind,” said Annie.
Producers can play an important role in being a sounding board for script ideas.
“Sometimes it’s about confirming the way that guests are portrayed in an episode is true to what you think is the essence of what they were really trying to communicate,” she said.
The rest of Annie’s day is spent on a mix of the following: pre-interviews, recorded interviews, question lines, research for future episodes, and reaching out to more potential guests.
Like showrunners, producers are generally working on a few episodes simultaneously. So even if the morning starts with a successful interview, Annie will often spend the afternoon doing independent work, researching or crafting a question line for another episode.
“That work takes a fair bit of time, but it’s a bit more of a solitary activity. So I find I can do it in the afternoon when the rest of my teammates who are on Eastern Time have signed off.”
Pacific Content team members work remotely and are spread out across Canada.
Who do you work with most of the time?
- Podcast guests
- By myself
What is your favorite part of the job?
“I get to talk with a lot of interesting people who otherwise I would never have a reason to talk to,” said Annie.
“I’ve interviewed a professional lumberjack, an astronaut, a former secret intelligence service agent, several internet pioneers, Olympians, a professional bridesmaid, and food truck operators — the list truly goes on!”
Sharing people’s stories through podcasts that reach millions of people is a highlight of the job, she said.
“I feel pretty fortunate.”
What is your least favorite part of the job?
Many people don’t agree to an interview. And even the people who do, sometimes don’t say yes right away.
“One of my least favorite parts is the stress of waiting for people to get back to you, about whether or not they want to come on the podcast that you’re producing, especially when there’s a tighter deadline,” said Annie.
The stress increases exponentially when a deadline starts to creep up on you.
“There’s only so much you can do sometimes, and that’s a hard feeling to sit with.”
What’s something you found surprising about the job?
“I don’t think I appreciated how much time goes into managing logistics of recording interviews, especially remotely,” said Annie.
Sometimes it means ensuring that the microphone USB cable we send to a guest is compatible with their laptop. Sometimes it means working with a guest’s executive assistant to find a 30-minute window to conduct the interview.
“Before I started at Pacific Content, I knew that as a producer, you generally needed to be organized and you kind of ‘make things happen.’ But there is so much more scheduling and juggling, often across multiple different time zones, than I anticipated.”
Producers need to be detail oriented for the sake of story and guest research, but that eye for detail comes in handy for logistical matters too. This makes it possible to interview guests from all over the world, where technical and scheduling issues often pose a challenge.