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Episode 3: Starting a Podcast

December 7, 2020
Mandy Sinclair - Heidi Roland Photography

In Season 2 Episode 3 of Content Conversations, Lucy Mowatt speaks to Mandy Sinclair about starting a podcast. They discuss getting started, where she finds inspiration and how she found sponsors.

Scroll down for the transcript.

LM: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Content Conversations podcast. In this episode, I speak to Mandy Sinclair, a PR professional and podcaster based in Marrakech.

She tells me how she got started with audio content, how she finds sponsors and how she stays inspired, even in the time of Covid.

We also discuss some of the surprising professional opportunities that have come her way as a result of the Why Morocco? podcast – and the benefits of giving your brand a voice.

So if you’re ready to be inspired, let’s get started!

MS: Hi I’m doing well, thanks.

LM: I’m over here in the UK, you’re over in Canada, right?

MS: Normally I would be in Marrakech at this time. It would be our high season and the temperature would be 30 degrees in the sunshine every day, but I decided to come back to Canada in July, given the circumstances. So I’m enjoying the beautiful autumn colours, red, orange, green, red, orange yellows, as I drive to the countryside in rural Ontario.

LM: Sounds lovely. I’m very jealous.

MS: We never know where we’re going to end up in 2020 right. No, let’s look too far into that…

LM: Before we get into discussing podcasts, can you give listeners a bit of an idea about who you are and what it is that you do.

MS: Absolutely. So my name is Mandy Sinclair. My Instagram handle is Mandy in Morocco. Whilst I am Canadian, back in 2010, I went on holiday to Morocco. I did a two-and-a-half week tour and, on the fourth day, I decided that I was going to live in Morocco.

So I went back to Canada and I finished up my contract (I was working in the Canadian public sector) and I moved to Marrakech.

In January of 2011, I started working in PR, because that’s what I trained in in Canada. I went on to work in events. I managed a collection of guesthouses and eventually I started my own PR consultancy working with small and medium-sized businesses in Marrakech, providing everything including social media content creation, as well as press office management, and event planning and that type of thing.

In 2015, I launched a business called Tasting Marrakech, and that’s really my huge passion at the moment. We do food tours, not only in Marrakech. We’re launching one in the countryside as well.

We take a dinner-with-friends approach. We food-stall hop to some of our favourite little holes-in-the-wall that people may not otherwise know about or even try. And it’s just a great evening or morning or afternoon depending on the tour that’s booked.

Then, in 2018, I turned to my blog, which is called ‘Why Morocco?’. I started it in 2010 when I was planning to move to Morocco. I turned that into a podcast. It became the first travel podcast dedicated to Morocco.

I interview everyone from my favourite photographers and interior designers to artists. Basically, it’s interviews and conversations with the inspiring and creative people I meet while living in Morocco.

LM: It’s great. Why did you move on to the podcasting platform? What was the push that made you think to record the audio?

MS: At the time, I just felt that travel blogs weren’t that inspiring anymore. They’ve become a lot of listicles, and a lot of paid content and I wanted to dive deeper into a different media. There’s no shortage of travel blogs and influencers who travel to a destination and write a blog post about it. I wanted to provide a friendly conversation with people; the inspiring and creative personalities. I go deeper into it in the interview and bring it to life through an audio platform.

It just felt like a natural shift to move from the blog to the podcast because there was no one like podcasting at that moment about Morocco.

LM: How has your podcast developed over time? Have there been changes to the way you record or the types of content and formats that you use?

MS: I’ve maintained my interviews with the creative inspiring personalities and the goal is always to leave listeners inspired to start planning or actually plan their trip to Morocco.

I have been able to develop sponsorships, so my company, Tasting Marrakech, is the sponsor. As the sponsor, I do see a direct correlation between listeners getting in touch with us to book a tour because they’ve heard the podcast and whatnot.

I don’t know that there’s really been like any changes, necessarily, to how I report. We have had more sponsors and more interest in it in our second year because we were then on Spotify, which opened up for podcasts and Audible has now opened up for podcasters to submit their podcast so there’s really been an opportunity to expand our reach as well.

LM: Do you use any particular tech? Has this developed in any way? Or the platforms that you’re?

MS: I started really basic with one microphone sitting on my sofa with the people that I was interviewing. I wanted it to be a really friendly conversation; people were listening in on friends having a chat.

I’ve upgraded our technology since. And, of course, I have a producer who puts the final touches on it.

Actually, it’s pretty easy to get going with a podcast, I find, once you’ve developed and fleshed it out; the voice the tone, what you want to achieve with it.

LM: I think a lot of people think there’s a lot of tech involved, or necessarily that they don’t have the budgets or the time to learn how to do it. The people I’ve spoken to have said it’s completely not like that. From my experience, it’s not either.

It’s actually incredibly simple.

MS: I just upload it to my WordPress site and it’s distributed automatically to all the channels where people can tune into it. It doesn’t take a lot of time at all.

But that said, I think that it’s incredibly important to take into consideration how much effort and time goes into producing a podcast. It might be easy tech-wise to, you know, plug in a microphone and press record but the actual production side of it is harder.

Preparing the interviews and all that, that can take time, but I’ve seen the payoff for my sponsors and for Tasting Marrakech and also for my own personal brand.

LM: How do you track success?

MS: Certainly in the number of sales; there’s a direct correlation between listeners and sales. And not only individual sales but groups – corporate retreats and that sort of thing – getting in touch with us.

And then there are new opportunities for me personally. As a PR consultant based in Marrakech, it just increases my visibility to markets that I may not have access to previously.

We’ve been included in the Wall Street Journal. Also, I wrote a piece for the Sunday Times Travel magazine’s November issue. It was mentioned in there as well, so, again multiple opportunities to get mentions and the word out there too.

LM: And have there been any unexpected term benefits to podcasting for your business? I know some people have had been invited to guest speak at events and things like that. Have you had anything like that?

MS: Absolutely. I’ve been invited on press trips that I might not have otherwise been invited to. Unfortunately, because of Covid, they were cancelled.

I was invited to teach a course in a very prestigious Canadian university, taking a segment of a course, through my podcast, so there have definitely been opportunities to expand what I do.

LM: I’ve been hearing from otther people that I’ve spoken to that it’s just quite common to branch out because you’re better known.

MS: Exactly.

LM: You just mentioned Covid. Obviously, we can’t get away from it, but I saw on your blog that you recorded something like 33 episodes during lockdown. Is that right?

MS: I recorded 33 episodes in total. I stopped recording at the beginning of the coronavirus because I had so much to manage with Tasting Marrakech, and other PR clients in those crazy two weeks in March when everything just shut down and everyone was in a panic.

I was bit sad about the press trips that were cancelled and the opportunities that were put on hold, so I haven’t been recording since. It’s in the works to start recording another season though, to inspire people to travel again when it is safe to do so; when the time is right.

LM: Do you have any tips or advice for someone who might be feeling the same way? Someone who might be feeling demotivated about podcasting? Do you have any tips about getting stuck back in?

MS: I’m continuously inspired by what people are doing in Morocco. I’m still reading about what people are doing, about inspiring stories, so that we are ready to launch our season three.

I do have a lineup of people I would like to speak to. There’s always interesting stuff going on in Morocco, regardless of whether it’s coronavirus or not.

Just being aware – reading other blogs, news sources, the press… Reading the travel press, even though it’s taking a hit, they’re still covering areas of Morocco.

Just staying aware of what’s out there at the moment.

In the creative sector, I think people are still producing. The artisans are still working. I know some of my friends in the design field, they’re still producing collections, so things are still going on, even though it may have been a bit harder to travel to Morocco in recent months.

LM: It’s about finding that inspiration and the angle on what you’re doing it for.

MS: Exactly, exactly. We were never breaking news. I think we were just trying to tell some of the stories that people might not otherwise hear. We had a female storyteller from Café Cloth on Wednesday and she actually told a story that’s centuries-old that her grandmother used to tell and

People might not hear those types of stories but you can still sit at home and, like, armchair travel. So, I’m just trying to carry on those types of things.

And if I look back on the statistics that also keeps me motivated because people are dreaming of travel again. Thinking of going to Morocco and keen to get there, so it gives them a way to, to kind of think about that when the time is right.

LM: It gives them something to look forward to in these strange times.

MS: Exactly. Last week I had somebody on Twitter, a listener who was preparing Moroccan food at home and listening to my podcast, in hopes of you know travelling there one day. So, those types of things keep me inspired; listener comments and feedback definitely keep me going.

LM: Exactly, we will get to a point when hopefully this goes away and we’ll return to some sense of normality – whatever that looks like.

MS: Exactly. So we’re still maintaining it and we’re gonna be back in the studio soon.

LM: Thinking about the angle, do you think that there’s still room for B2B businesses to get involved with podcasting, as opposed to B2C? Yours is very much focused on travel and consumer travel. Do you think there are opportunities in the B2B space for businesses to get on the podcasting wagon?

MS: Absolutely. So, as I was mentioning, I do some PR consulting and that’s definitely something I highly recommend. If you were working in B2B marketing and you decided to not focus on trade magazines or trade publications you’re missing that whole target, so get on the podcast because there are so many new podcasts coming up all the time. If somebody like Audible is thinking ‘hey we need to start including podcasts on our channel’, it’s not going away anytime soon.

LM: The numbers are rocketing. I read a report that something like a third of all Americans have listened to a podcast across age groups, which is pretty stunning.

MS: We have a sponsor who has even said to us that if it weren’t for this podcast, they wouldn’t have reached some of the clients that they attracted to their company so it is certainly effective.

By getting into a more bespoke podcast, even if it’s a smaller podcast with a very niche audience, you can see some incredible results for your advertising dollar.

LM: On the advertising front, how did you get started with sponsorship and finding those sponsors?

MS: I just asked my friends if they wanted to sponsor it. To be honest, because it’s a first podcast and I’m quite into the arts in the creative sector, people were very receptive to sponsorship. They were open to hearing about it – even the interviewees.

The press offices were very keen to work with me and help me get the interviews that I wanted so I’ve been very fortunate in that regard.

Marrakech is a bit of a small town and I know quite a few people but the response has been incredible.

LM: All businesses have networks. And you have an element of trial and error; I guess someone will want to take the plunge first.

MS: Yeah, exactly.

LM: And do you have any podcasts that you really love listening to? Have you got any recommendations for people?

MS: Yes, so the podcast I’m listening to at the moment is Being Boss. It’s one of my favourite ones.

And then there’s a podcast out of the UK called Is This Working? It’s Anna Codrea-Rado and Tiffany Phillipou. The season’s just finished.

And then there’s a podcast that just came out called Driving the Green Book. It’s a really interesting one. The host travels basically the route that people would have taken with the Green Book during segregation in the US. It’s super fascinating.

I love getting into some of the series where they produce six or eight-part series. I listened to Dolly Parton’s America and that was like really interesting stuff.

It’s a mix of weekly podcasts versus series

LM: It sounds like we have quite similar tastes so I think I’m going to follow up on The Green Book One.

I listen to both the first two – Being Boss and Is This Working – so I’ll check out the third one.

MS: Podcasts really have an opportunity to create a community, I think. When I listen to Being Boss, even though I’ve never met Emily Thompson who hosts that podcast, I feel like I want to check in every week. I bought her book and joined her community and that type of thing.

I think there’s a real opportunity. Podcasting is just one part of an overall marketing plan, but an incredibly important aspect of reaching that audience and really becoming familiar and establishing a rapport with your listeners, or your audience or whoever however you want to define what it is that you’re targeting.

LM: It literally brings your tone of voice to life because you’re speaking to them. They can hear you or what it’s like to work with you.

MS: Exactly.

LM: I think it comes back to that community thing that you were saying about. There are Facebook groups connected to these podcasts, as well as blogs connected to the social media channels; that makes it really powerful. You have like advocates for your business.

MS: Depending on the podcast, I think, when it can be like so niche and really attract a certain audience, it’s a dedicated following as well.

That again goes back to the advertisers and making it super interesting, so businesses want to advertise to those people. It might only be 1000 listens per episode, but those 1000 people are coming to every episode and wanting to find out what that person is talking about. And that, I think, is more interesting than some of the massive podcasts there.

LM: People will listen when they can’t read as well so it gives you an opportunity to get to people when they’re going for a run, or driving to the office.

MS: Yeah, exactly. That was one thing I did notice is that the first couple of weeks of lockdown; people weren’t thinking about travel to Morocco. And I noticed also, that there weren’t the commuters anymore. So there was a slight drop in numbers at the beginning of the lockdown. Once people settled into the ‘new normal’ (I hate that term) but there was a return to podcasts.

LM: I didn’t realise. I know that a lot of traffic sort of went down. I’m guessing it’s the same – people not thinking about business or commuting – and it’s interesting it’s been repeated across media.

MS: That’s what I noticed that and those were the conclusions I came to. People probably aren’t listening to you on their commute to work anymore and whatnot. It’s back now. People are tuning in and checking out, even though there haven’t been new episodes.

LM: I think there’s that armchair traveller thing. It was definitely something for me, when I listening to your podcast earlier. I need a holiday!

MS: I need a holiday, I need sunshine and I need warmth.

LM: Finally, where can people find out more about you?

MS: I have a website. it’s called MandyinMorocco.com. I’m on Instagram and Twitter at MandyinMorocco, and the podcast is called ‘Why Morocco?With Mandy Sinclair’. It’s on iTunes, Spotify, Acast, Stitcher and all the usual outlets and – hopefully soon – Audible.

LM: Thank you so much for coming and speaking to me. It’s been really inspiring and I’m looking forward to your season three

MS: Thank you. I hope we’ll be back in the studio very soon. Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me.

LM: It’s been great. It’s been really nice to finally speak to you. Absolutely and let me know you’ll let me know when it comes out. Yeah, on my channel. Awesome, thank you so much cool weekend Yeah, you too. Take care.

Image credit: Heidi Roland Photography

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