Here's the Thing: Top 10 marketing suggestions for Alec Baldwin’s podcast from a longtime listener & fanboy

Armchair Consulting is a series of articles where I make marketing suggestions for businesses I love. If you’re involved with Here’s the Thing and you want to connect, contact me here.


Here's the Thing: Top 10 marketing suggestions for Alec Baldwin’s podcast from a longtime listener & fanboy

Armchair Consulting is a series of articles where I make marketing suggestions for businesses I love. If you’re involved with Here’s the Thing and you want to connect, contact me here.


“Why don’t you just go sit in the kitchen and make some eggs?” Alec Baldwin said.

I was sitting in the third row of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center—a cold, cavernous room as big as an airport hangar and as packed as a stadium on game day—with 20,000 other marketing nerds at HubSpot’s Inbound conference in 2016.

My seats sucked. Despite being up front, I was perched in some strange side section where all I could make out was the back of Alec’s head.

Twenty minutes into his talk, Alec noticed my area of the auditorium and said, “I feel very bad about the people over here. They really effed you over, didn’t they?”

That’s when he looked straight at me (or so I’ve convinced myself) and said, deadpan…

Here’s a clip of the exact moment. If you crank the audio you can probably hear me laughing.

Fast forward three and a half years to today.

Since seeing Alec on stage, I’ve listened (and relistened) to almost all 150+ episodes of Here’s the Thing, his longform interview show with artists, policy makers, and performers.

It’s my favorite podcast by a mile. Every time the theme song kicks in, I’m teleported to Manhattan—somewhere bright and sunny like Washington Square Park or places dim and jazzy like 54 Below or Bemelmans at The Carlyle Hotel.

Presented by WNYC Studios and produced by Kathie Russo and Emily Botein, Here’s the Thing has a lineup of guests sure to entertain and enlighten, from movie stars and politicians to sewage experts, violinists, environmental scientists, and more.

From movie stars and politicians to sewage experts, violinists, environmental scientists and more, Here’s the Thing features conversations with prominent artists, policy makers, and performers.

Baldwin’s interview style is one of a kind. He’s equal parts prepared, present, and improvisational. He recites stories like memories from a pensieve, and you can tell that every anecdote, tangent, and wisecrack his guests share is stored away in some mental filing cabinet for later. He’s not an interviewer so much as a conversationalist. Picture that uncle you can’t wait to see at family gatherings—the one who’s tough as nails for .03 seconds until he cracks up, pours a drink, and gets the party going.

After seeing Alec on stage and subsequently rushing to subscribe to his podcast in 2016, I’ve been hooked on Here’s the Thing’s signature wit and repartee.

I’m convinced it’s the best interview show out there, so I’ve come up with 10 ideas for growing its audience. Take ’em or leave ’em, WNYC. I won’t be hurt if you tell me to buzz off or go sit in the kitchen and make some eggs.

Top 10 recommendations for Here's the Thing

1. Film the dang thing

Some people like podcasts…

Some people like videos…

Some people like written articles…

Here’s the Thing should be doing all three, especially video.

I know it’s not in the DNA of public radio to record shows visually, but the more types of content you put out, the more likely you’ll be successful.

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, has one of the top 50 podcasts in the world and he never sits down for audio-only recording sessions. He films his content and strips the audio and transcripts for articles, vlogs, podcasts, and more. It’s incredibly efficient.

“The game is based on action,” Vaynerchuk says. “I genuinely believe that if you are not producing written word, audio, AND video you will limit your upside.”

Most episodes of Here’s the Thing aren't captured on video or released as articles. To Gary's point, that’s limiting their upside.

Why do you think the biggest names in satellite radio and podcasting—Howard Stern, Joe Rogan, Jason Ellis—record their shows in-studio?

They don’t do it for kicks.

They do it because they know that video is incredibly valuable for audience growth.

And here’s the thing (pun intended)…video doesn’t need to be expensive.

People waste a ton of money on equipment when the only thing that matters is hitting record. Here’s the Thing already has stellar audio quality, which is the most important factor for video anyway. Get a DSLR and hire an intern or outsource the editing to Upwork or OnlineJobs.ph.

Are they afraid the rooms are ugly? Spruce ’em up. If Youtubers can get simple lighting, foam panels, and drapes for less than $500, so can WNYC.

On the left: Cristina Tzintzun, American labor organizer and writer. On the right: Lang Lang, concert pianist.

Out of curiosity for how much they’re documenting, I scrolled back 5 years on Here’s the Thing’s Twitter account. All I found were five in-studio photos—five!—and zero native videos.

Without visuals, they’re missing out on leveraging photo- and video-based platforms to grow their audience faster than with audio alone.

How much more traction do you think they’d get if they shared pictures of Barbara Streisand sipping miso soup at her home in Malibu instead of just talking about it?

Or showed Billy Joel playing Piano Man?

Or shared videos of Jeff Daniels and Alec cracking up at each other’s jokes?

Daniels and Baldwin mid-interview. There should be more behind-the-scenes clips like this, preferably video.

Even during a pandemic, filming shouldn’t be impossible. Alec is continuing to record podcast episodes from Long Island, which means if he’s not capturing video already via Zoom or some other platform, he could easily do so.

The best part? None of these suggestions take extra effort on Alec’s side.

It’s just documenting the process.

Think BIG, too. Video could be repurposed for Netflix (or Amazon or Apple) since Here’s the Thing is basically a better version of shows like Patriot Act and My Next Guest Needs No Introduction anyway. Rumors have been floating around about a TV version since 2017, but I’m not holding my breath—especially in the current economic climate.

With or without a network or OTT deal, YouTube is still the second-largest search engine in the world. Don’t wait to start recording. Video will accelerate growth, guaranteed.

2. Create show notes & supplements

Show notes come in all shapes and sizes. That said, the ones on WNYC.org could use work.

I recommend adding transcripts, links, tags, and calls to action for each episode.

The benefit of doing so isn’t just for listeners—it’s for Google.

The more structured content you have on a website pointing people in the right direction, the more Google appreciates it. And just like Mama Morton in Chicago

I recommend doing what Hollywood screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels) does for his screenwriting podcast, Scriptnotes. Check it out.

Each episode’s notes include:

  • 300-400 word summaries with strong hooks
  • Links to resources mentioned in the episode
  • Full transcripts of the episode, either below the show notes or on a separate page or blog post (Rev.com can transcribe episodes quickly for only $1 a minute)
  • Tags & related episodes for easy navigation
  • Contact information in case someone needs to get in touch
  • Updates to past episodes or changes that were made
  • Calls to action to capture email addresses for building a newsletter – e.g., “Subscribe now”, “Download the Here’s the Thing Dining Guide”, etc.

If there’s no one on staff who can own this, it can be outsourced to Pro Podcast Solutions or Podcast Fast Track for as low as $40-$70 per episode.

Beyond show notes, Here’s the Thing could publish supplementary content, too.

Specifically, I’m talking about standalone articles and content downloads.

  • Standalone articles – Turn each episode into a blog post or Medium article to generate traffic. You could even combine parts from different episodes. For example: “Where to Go Next with Nuclear: Advice from 14 Physicists, Conservationists, and Alec Baldwin”.
  • Content downloads – Offer free content that people can download in exchange for their email address. That way, Here’s the Thing grows its email list and can market to listeners every time new episodes come out. I’ve been an avid fan for 4 years and they don’t have my email address yet, which is pretty shocking.

Check out Scriptnotes again for a great content download idea: the Listener’s Guide.

The Listener’s Guide is an ebook curated by the community itself. Take a look.

Here’s the Thing could put together a Listener’s Guide quickly with the help of their community

A Listener’s Guide is one thing…but if WNYC is feeling really ambitious, they could create a dedicated website with behind-the-scenes stories, articles, clips, and photos.

CNN did this for Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series before his passing.

It was a beautiful companion piece featuring “Field Notes” from each episode that included recipes, bonus clips, photography, and more. Unfortunately, they took down the site a few years ago. Shame. It was the best version of show notes I’ve ever seen.

Anthony Bourdain’s show, Parts Unknown, had a companion site featuring field notes, recipes, and photography. Unfortunately, CNN took it down after Anthony’s passing—much to the dismay of fans.

Bourdain’s Field Notes were organized by continent and city. Here’s the Thing could categorize their own by “Artists”, “Policy Makers”, and “Performers”.

Personally, I recommend starting small with John-August-style show notes then layering on content downloads before going big with projects like Field Notes. That way, you’ll start seeing immediate email and Google wins with minimal effort.

3. Get better merch

This one’s not complicated. Fans want cool merchandise—make it happen!

WNYC offers tote bags, earbuds, and power bars but nothing branded specifically for the show.

Let’s start with clothing. Sweaters, hats, tank tops, beanies, t-shirts, baby onesies. Do all of it!

A few ideas for Here’s the Thing clothing. The logo and color combos look great.

Logistics-wise, print on demand (POD) companies can help automate fulfillment.

  • Printify > One of the biggest names in the POD space with customizable products.
  • Printful > Allows you to set margins and choose between lower and higher quality clothing—e.g., American Apparel vs. Gildan/Anvil.
  • Neatoshop > Legendary high-quality printing with no minimums, no set-up fees, special orders, and artwork services if you need help creating designs.

Most POD sites have integrations with Shopify, Woocommerce, etc. so ordering, billing, and shipping is easy. Many of them offer merch other than clothing, too, so get creative.

More swag ideas that come to mind…

  • Mugs, cups, water bottles
  • Phone grips, phone cases
  • Pins, stickers, decals
  • Puzzles, cards, other games
  • Face masks, hand sanitizer (timely)
  • Beachwear—e.g., sandals, towels, umbrellas

Get creative. Mugs, phone grips, sandals, towels, pins, umbrellas. Slap that logo on everything.

Here’s the Thing’s branding is cool enough that people will scoop it up fast. You’d probably make enough on merch to fund the other ideas in this article ten times over.

4. Use SparkToro audience suggestions

SparkToro is a revolutionary Audience Intelligence tool from the mind of Rand Fishkin.

It scours billions of web pages to answer questions like…

  • Which publications does an audience read?
  • What shows and videos does an audience watch?
  • Who does an audience listen to and follow?
  • How does an audience describe themselves?

I ran Here’s the Thing’s Twitter account through SparkToro and here’s what it spit out.

SparkToro audience insights for Here’s the Thing’s online presence

This report reveals what percentage of listeners link-to, subscribe-to, share, and engage with related social media accounts, websites, podcasts, and more.

It can be used to decide on new guests for the show, where to advertise, which podcasts to make guest appearances on, and more.

Start by digging into “hidden gems” and pay attention to areas with high overlap %.

For example, you can see that +15% of Here’s the Thing’s followers also subscribe to the podcasts Conversations with Bill Kristol, AM Joy, Do You Know Who Jason Segel Is?, Eugene S. Robinson Show Stomper, The Met: In Focus, and more.

Another feature of SparkToro is Audience Insights, which shows a smörgåsbord of demographic information.

Maybe Here’s the Thing’s producers didn’t know that Toronto and Melbourne have the most international fan potential?

Or that outside of New York, California then Texas then Ohio then Illinois are the next closest States in terms of audience distribution by geography?

Insights like these are helpful when deciding to do things like putting on live events, recording episodes on the road, or targeting digital ads at specific markets.

Lastly, if producers want to attract different types of listeners they could conduct broader searches, such as “People who frequently talk about Alec Baldwin” or “People who follow @HABFoundation” (Alec’s foundation for supporting the Arts). However they search, it’s the first step toward making data-driven decisions.

5. Book Alec on Hot Ones

Here’s a weirdly specific recommendation: get Alec on Hot Ones 🔥🔥🔥

With over 1.4B views and 180+ celebrity guests, Hot Ones is an online force of nature.

In a nutshell, Hot Ones is an interview show on YouTube where celebrities eat progressively hotter and hotter hot wings until their faces melt.

Alec is one of the few podcasters with enough star power to actually get on.

Given stats from past episodes, he’d rack up +10M views on one video alone—and a large percentage of those viewers would turn into podcast subscribers.

Pretty good for a quick and painless (ok, temporarily painful) experience, no?

Plus, it’s clever. Promoting an interview show ON an interview show TO people who like interview shows is a triple whammy. I’m sure his family would love to see him do it, too, so feel free to lay on the pressure if you know him. It’s not like anyone has died doing Hot Ones…yet.

Bonus idea: Get Alec to do Hot Ones and then get Sean Evans, the host of Hot Ones, to come on Here’s the Thing and eat Alec’s food of choice. Might be something viral there.

6. Triple down on social media

Here’s the Thing does a fantastic job posting frequently on social media.

It would be great to see even more behind-the-scenes moments, live recordings, shares from guests, and (as previously mentioned) videos.

Let’s start with visuals. Take posts like these…

All of these could be more engaging with minor tweaks, specifically:

1. Use captions. Social platforms don’t play audio automatically and most people won’t unmute, so use captions to keep them from scrolling.

2. Use faces. Using faces improves ad performance up to 102%. At least show pictures of whoever’s talking—even better if it’s video.

3. Use calls to action. At the end of each clip there should be a clear “ask” from the listener. E.g., “Download the Listener’s Guide” or “Listen to the show here!”

I realize it’s more time consuming, but why post at all if it doesn’t drive results?

Here are five more social media ideas off the top of my head:

  • Host LIVE shows during the pandemic. Virtual parties with friends & guests could be fun. Maybe interviews or maybe just playing games and unwinding. Check out what Seth Rudetsky is doing with Broadway actors on #StarsInTheHouse.
  • Compile career-related advice and interviews with business moguls to share on LinkedIn. Organic reach on LinkedIn is incredibly high, and no other comedian is leaning into it. The show could expand its professional audience dramatically at no cost.
  • Promote the standalone articles & content downloads you developed as part of recommendation #2. E.g., “Stories from the sets of 7 Soap Operas”.
  • Post funny moments from past episodes on TikTok. Ask my wife, TikTok isn’t just for tweens anymore. Funny content does well, so try sharing hilarious clips from past interviews. Like LinkedIn, the organic reach is incredible.
  • Empower guests to share episodes. The combined following of Here’s the Thing’s stars is mind-boggling, and the podcast isn’t tapping into a fraction of it. By putting together templated assets that guests can share, encouraging them, and following up persistently, the sky’s the limit.

Everything here has the power to grow a following without spending a cent. WNYC clearly sees value in social media given how often they’re using it, so it’s time to kick it up a notch.

P.S. Check the About links on Here’s the Thing’s Facebook Page. Looks like they’re broken.

7. Promote posts for $1 a day

The tactics in the previous section were social media “freebies”. They don’t cost anything, but they require extra effort and might take time to pay off.

If faster social media growth is attractive, consider social advertising.

Since money is tight—especially in public radio, and especially now—I highly recommend the “Dollar a Day” strategy.

“Dollar a Day” is the crown-jewel of Dennis Yu’s social marketing strategy.

The idea is to boost a social media post for $1 a day seven days in a row while continuing to layer on new boosted posts every day.

The Dollar a Day strategy works by boosting social media posts for a dollar a day for seven days in a row. You layer on a new post every day, and at the end of the seven days you're able to see which ones are effective.

In the first week of doing this, the most you’ll spend is $28. In the first month, $196.

  • If the results are bad after 7 days, meaning the cost per engagement or watch time is low, let the post die. Do this 90% of the time. Don’t waste money.
  • If the results are promising, add another $30 for 30 days and then review.
  • If the post is a winner, pour gas on the fire. Perhaps 2-3% of the time you’ll find a “unicorn post” (off the charts engagement), which is usually a video that gets 20+ seconds of average watch time or a regular post with over 10% engagement. Promote it as much as possible and test new audiences with higher budgets.

Here are some benchmarks to help decide which posts are good vs. bad.

As far as creative, promote the types of content I suggested in the previous section.

Given the caliber of Here’s the Thing’s guests, it would make sense to start by targeting clips from specific episodes at fans of those guests.

I would hire someone who is good at performance marketing, specifically Facebook ads, and compensate them based on subscriber growth or merchandise sales. Luckily, that’s one area that’s fairly black and white. You can clearly see when someone’s adding value or not.

8. Get creative with giveaways

Giveaways are to podcast listeners what lights are to moths.

Experiment with unique contest ideas and prizes that stand out.

The first thing that comes to mind is a contest where winners are flown into New York for a podcast recording and get to meet Alec (once the pandemic passes, of course).

Maybe they get to visit Here’s the Thing hotspots like restaurants and Broadway shows? Bill it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You could also give away Here’s the Thing “hotspot experiences” without Alec’s time, too. Meals at restaurants, tickets to shows, tours of New York City’s waste management system—anything goes.

Other giveaway ideas are endless. Merch, money, gift cards, food, clothing. And platforms like Woobox, Wishpond, and Rafflecopter make running contests as easy as pie.

9. Mobilize Alec’s larger following

Here’s the Thing’s lowest-hanging fruit is to promote the show to Alec’s larger following.

Only a fraction of his fan base currently pays attention to the podcast. If Twitter followers are anything to go by, less than 10% of his personal fans—and less than 3% of his foundation’s fans—follow the show.

  • Here’s the Thing: 26.7k Twitter followers
  • Alec Baldwin: 281k Twitter followers
  • HABFoundation: 1M Twitter followers

Baldwin’s last Here’s the Thing tweet was two years ago. It seems his activity is tapering off.

If Alec prefers not to post these days, that’s perfectly fine.

Or maybe he would post more if he had help with content?

Whoever’s in charge of Here’s the Thing’s social content should make sure that as part of the process they send concepts directly to Alec to choose from, personalize, and post—like George Lucas picking alien designs for Star Wars.

Ultimately, Baldwin has a lot to be proud of with the podcast, so I don’t imagine he’s embarrassed to share it. I’m guessing it’s mostly an effort thing. That’s why I suggest putting a framework in place that doesn’t require much of his time yet produces posts that feel authentic.

Of course, if Alec is game, you could do all sorts of other promos, too.

A spoof testimonial from Trump…

A Jack-Donaghy-inspired ad…

A series of on-the-spot calls to past guests or SNL alum.

I don’t mean to suggest he should call in favors, but anything he’s comfortable doing would be a coup for the show. As one of the most recognizable guys in show biz, there’s an opportunity to leverage as much of his brand as he’s comfortable with.

10. Promote a public radio campaign

In 2010, Boston’s public radio station WBUR went to war against WGBH for listeners and donors with a full-scale marketing assault spanning print ads, billboards, and TV spots.

The message was simple: “WBUR is supported by you, our listeners.” Sounds similar, eh?

They featured montages of local neighborhoods with phrases like “UR smarter than they think’’ and “UR taking it all in’’ (a play on the UR in WBUR’s name). In the end, they spent $200,000 on the campaign—a steal considering many parts of the campaign were free. The actors and the crew donated their time, and WBUR didn’t have to pay for TV spots after working out cross-promotional deals with local stations.

I’m no public funding expert, but it seems like a similar campaign is possible for WNYC.

Instead of getting WNYC to promote Here’s the Thing, leverage Here’s the Thing to promote WNYC—which in turn creates a growth loop and generates buzz for the show.

Specifically, they could approach the guests from past episodes of Here’s the Thing and other WNYC shows and ask them to say a few words about supporting public radio.

It could work especially well if it was tied to the COVID crisis. E.g., “In a time like this, it’s important we come together as a community. Support public programming.”

For every dollar donated, consider allocating fifty cents or more to fighting COVID-19 in NYC. Not only is it a good look for the brand, but it’s the right thing to do—especially in one of the hardest hit centers of the world.

By launching a campaign to promote public radio with a feel-good message featuring recognizable people who may be willing to spare some time, you’ll increase donations and awareness for all WNYC shows—and rising tides lift all boats.

In Summary

Smart, quick-witted, New York proud. Alec Baldwin is a class-act with a stellar podcast.

As a long-time listener and marketer, I’m impressed by the mise-en-scène he’s able to create in the recording booth and excited about the show’s possibilities for growth.

If I were in charge of marketing the podcast, I would:

  1. Film the dang thing
  2. Create show notes and supplements
  3. Get better merch
  4. Use SparkToro audience suggestions
  5. Book Alec on Hot Ones
  6. Triple down on social media
  7. Promote posts for $1 a day
  8. Get creative with giveaways
  9. Mobilize Alec’s larger following
  10. Promote a public radio campaign

At the end of the day, there’s no reason Here’s the Thing can’t be one of the top podcasts in the world. There’s something for everyone, and conversations with masters of their craft are both timeless and universal. With a few tweaks, the marketing can match the quality of its content.

Are you from WNYC or Here’s the Thing?

Leapin’ lizards! If you’re interested in digging deeper into any of these ideas, I’m happy to hop on a call and discuss. Contact me directly at devonhennig@gmail.com.


About the Author

Devon Hennig is a Here’s the Thing fanboy with 10+ years experience in digital marketing. He is currently VP of Demand Generation at Vendasta, a 400-person software company that provides marketing solutions to agencies and media companies, including Hearst, McClatchy, and 2,000+ others.