Podcast Marketing in Public Safety

According to a report by MediaRadar, nearly one-third of Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month. There are now more than 29 million episodes available for download, and this huge audience and abundant content has attracted advertisers. According to the IAB, advertisers will spend $659 million on podcasts in 2020, an increase of 855% from 2015.

Podcasting is hugely popular among first responders too. While the precise numbers are unknown, there are hundreds of podcasts currently aimed at this audience, and it’s growing. Public safety has also been an early adopter of the format.

“It goes back a decade or more,” says paramedic Greg Friese, editorial director at Lexipol, who himself has hosted several podcasts. “The early adopters in public safety that I knew had an interest in technology coupled with a desire to learn from practitioners outside their agency. There tends to be an insularity in a lot of public safety departments. These podcasters were bucking that trend, trying to learn best practices from their neighbors and from around the world. That’s still a big driver of interest.”

Podcasting Perks

From a marketer’s perspective, there’s a lot to recommend podcast marketing, especially for those brands selling to public safety.

  • Trust: Trust is everything in first response. People tune into podcasts foremost because they like and respect the host. The topic matters too, but trust is paramount.
  • Focus: Podcast listeners tend to pay attention. “Folks in public safety are listening during a long commute, in an ambulance or squad car, or during exercise,” says Friese. “These are times when you might otherwise listen to the radio or have a conversation. There’s a lot of focus and attention given.”
  • Intimacy: “A podcast subscriber is basically giving you entrance to their smartphone, which is their world,” says Friese. “That’s powerful. They develop a relationship with the host and the podcast over time.”
  • Popularity: While public safety-focused podcasts will never compete with ESPN or This American Life, they aren’t necessarily tiny audiences either. For example, firefighter James Geering’s Behind the Shield has nearly 1 million downloads. That’s extraordinary. But again, this platform favors focus over breadth. Size alone doesn’t reflect influence.
  • Audience: Listening to a podcast is often an act of self-improvement and investment—a form of informal education. “Being a good cop requires rapidly gaining experience,” says Sgt. Brian Casey, host of CopThink. But we probably can’t learn all we need to know from direct experience, some must come vicariously. Meaning we must get some of our deepest questions answered by sharing stories.”
  • Opportunity: There aren’t many public safety marketers sponsoring podcasts. Many podcasts are minimally supported by advertising or not at all.

How Should You Market

Given the loyalty and trust inherent in first response and podcasting, underwriting a quality podcast can be very powerful in building brand awareness, trust and, ultimately, sales.

One of the first challenges I hear from public safety marketers is: There are so many podcasts, how do I pick which to advertise with? You don’t answer that question by going with what’s most popular! That might be a fast ticket to sullying your brand. Instead, ask yourself two questions:

  • What are the values inherent in my brand?
  • Who do we serve?

Having a firm sense of these answers in mind, it’s often fruitful to ask your social media followers or trusted clients what their favorite podcasts are. Have a listen yourself and see if the values and audience overlap.

Tight Alignment

Podcast advertising has grown more sophisticated with time. Whereas podcasters used to read scripted messages for products they themselves probably don’t use, increasingly we see sophisticated campaigns in which the advertiser’s product aligns almost seamlessly with the podcaster’s interest. Product placements and casual allusions connect the brand with the audience.

Given the loyalty and trust inherent in first response and podcasting, underwriting a quality podcast can be very powerful in building brand awareness, trust and, ultimately, sales.

Just as podcast durations vary, so too do advertising distributions. Joe Rogan’s very popular podcast clocks in at three or more hours per episode. He reads a few ads at the beginning and end of his program, most of which align with his distinct persona. On the other hand, Stephen A. Smith’s popular ESPN show runs about half an hour and features as many as 10 short ads spread throughout, almost like television commercials. What works best depends on the flow, format, size and personality of the podcast.

Ensure there’s a good and genuine fit between you and the host. “I would never accept an advertisement from a product I don’t use and couldn’t recommend myself,” says Geering. “It would be an insult to the audience and my guests.” Casey agrees: “A podcast for first responders is all about building and maintaining trust.”

The idea here is, put simply, to create a tribe. Hosts often are, or become, brand advocates. Take the time to educate and support them: free product, detailed product demos, charitable donations, discounts, and so forth go a long way in public safety.

Quantifying Success

The nature of podcasts doesn’t lend itself to direct lead generation. This is for a few reasons. First, podcasts are typically hosted on third-party apps such as Spotify and iTunes, which either don’t collect or won’t share demographic information. Second—and perhaps more poignantly—sponsoring a podcast is essentially underwriting a service for the community you serve, building brand awareness and nurturing a relationship.

There’s good reason B2C businesses value college students: a smart investment in the future. Same goes for public safety-themed podcasts and their listeners. Many marketers therefore approach podcasting like TV or radio ads, incorporating memorable, unique URLs into their placements to judge effectiveness of their campaigns—even, in some cases, driving listeners to gated content or other landing pages that capture listener information.

A good way to enhance loyalty is to offer benefits to the audience. By offering discounts (via promo codes), you provide a value to your core demographic, but you also get a simple (blunt) quantification of your campaign’s effectiveness. Put another way: If you get a lot of promo code responses, you might be on to something: Worthy of further investigation.


Podcasts, particularly among first responders, coalesce a community and provide companionship as well as, in many cases, informal education. They are an unfamiliar marketing product to many, and certainly they would recommend certain products and brands over others. But if you’re looking for an effective way to increase brand awareness and, as Seth Godin puts it, create a tribe, podcast sponsorship might be worth trying. Check out the podcasts mentioned above or one of Lexipol’s excellent podcasts to get a sense of what this platform can do: Inside EMS, Side Alpha, Policing Matters and Tier Talk.

As always, reach out if you have a question or comment: ccoates@lexipol.com.

Crawford Coates

CRAWFORD COATES is the content marketing manager Lexipol. Prior to this role, he was publisher at Calibre Press, a publisher and trainer for law enforcement, and an editor at PennWell Public Safety, publisher of Law Officer, FireRescue and JEMS. He is a co-founder of Below 100 and author of the book Mindful Responder: The first responder's field guide to improved resilience, fulfillment, presence, & fitness--on and off the job. He holds a master's degree in public policy and administration.

More Posts

The Largest Network of First Responders,
The Experience to Get Your Message Heard

Related Posts

Back to Top