Matt Priest, president and CEO of Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, would attend events throughout the world and have entertaining, informative, off-the-cuff talks with cool people in the industry. It made him think.
“If we can just take these conversations we’re having with executives and bring them to other people who aren’t CEOs, we would have something special.”
Thus the Shoe-In
podcast came to be. More than 100 episodes later, and the weekly "shoe" is going stronger than ever. Described as “covering the ins and outs of all things footwear, from sneakers to heels, loafers to slippers and every type of shoe in between," it’s hosted by Priest and a longtime friend. “My host is a little off the walls,” Priest said. “Who knew two suits from D.C. could be so funny?”
Though he admits to it being “a little out of my comfort zone,” Priest also said it’s “a huge creative outlet” for him. “It’s surprising the legs it has had with our community.” So far it has allowed him to meet William Shatner and a couple famous rock 'n rollers, and admitted him to the White House to interview Obama’s U.S. trade ambassador. After all, who doesn’t wear shoes?
Despite the success he’s had in this soul endeavor—sorry, can’t help it—Priest advises others stepping into podcasts to “check your expectations at the door. What’s the universe of people you’re trying to reach? We average about 700 listeners and get up to 1,500, or as low as 300. It’s a lot of work but we’re in like 60 countries including China, Vietnam, India, and other places.
“Our goal is branding,” Priest continued. He knows that footwear is a competitive field, so he “was surprised that no one else in the market was doing podcasts. It keeps our name out there constantly, Then we’ll take it on the road. Organizers will give us space. Las Vegas has been great for us.” He said it’s strange to hear the audiences cheer. “I usually had a Powerpoint slide that stayed up when I spoke [at these events]. Now I have a podcast."
Priest has had a coach—the talented and humble Blake Althen from Human Factor Media. “Blake coaches us on keeping it evergreen whenever possible”—so no Trump barbs or yesterday’s sports news or stuff like that unless necessary. That way people can tune in anytime and it will feel fresh. Althen also encourages them to sell signage and wall space for ads at these events (for the live crowd).
When another podcaster said they do two a month, Priest said, “If you’re going to do it bimonthly, you might as well do weekly. Just go in one day a month and knock [4 or 5] out. We did a tour of the footwear factory near Portland, Oregon, and dropped that episode during Labor Day week.
“Anything you can capture on audio you can do a podcast on. I’m just back from china where I did interviews, and we’re splicing them into other shows. The cool thing about podcasts is you can use just about anything you capture.
But be honest about the quality, Althen added. If it’s a tough connection, say that. “We picked up a [lapel] mic and the audio was great,” Priest said. “Communication is totally democratized now. Over-production is kind of outdated.
And now people are requesting to come on. “These shows will be around for a long time,” Althen said. Some evergreen shows in Shoe-In include the top 10 shoe movies, shoe songs, a back-to-school special. “Nothing is scripted,” Priest said.
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…