As a podcaster, your voice has a lot of power to build trust with your listening audience. You can take that trust to a different level with a code of conduct. In this episode, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard discuss crafting a code of conduct to foster trust with your podcast audience. They break down what it does to your show and credibility and who can best benefit from it (Is it self-serving? Is it for your audience? Is it for both?). Tom and Tracy then share the steps on how to build it yourself, covering crucial aspects from ownership to ethics to fact-checking and more. A code of conduct covers important bases on your show, helping you be transparent and trustworthy to your audience. Explore the many ways you can benefit from having one as Tom and Tracy discuss more in this conversation!
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Creating A Code Of Conduct: Fostering Trust With Your Podcast Audience
In this episode, we’re going to talk about crafting a code of conduct to cultivate trust with your podcast audience. Tracy, new podcasters may not realize this, and this is something we all learn if you start a show. Your voice has a lot of power with your listening audience, and there is an inherent amount of trust that your audience gives you. It does tend to build trust quickly. However, you can cultivate that trust and build it to a different level. That’s what we’re going to talk about and share.
We’re going to go a little bit deeper into that as to why you might want to code of conduct. Why do you need it? What benefit does it have for you? If you’re not going to have a website, it doesn’t matter because there’s no place to put your code of conduct. If you’re not serious about podcasting and you’re using your page over on your hosting platform, there’s no place for you to put this information. There’s no way for you to do this because this isn’t something you verbally say on the show. This is a written code of conduct that you’re going to put in.
If you want to get registered with social media platforms, there are only two that do it. That’s Meta and Instagram. LinkedIn used to do it, but it seems all shutdown. The last time I went to it, it was completely closed off and giving error messages, so I don’t think they’re offering it anymore. X is controversial as to whether or not a blue check mark or you want to be notified. You want to notify everyone who’s doing Twitter X with you that you’re part of the media because it could tank your Twitter. You may not want to do it there at all, but there is a way to do that there as well. Looking at this, you’re thinking about, “Do you want to do it? Is it worth it?”
If you don’t have a website, I’m going to tell you that you can tune out now, skip this episode, and come back another time when you decide you want a home base for your podcast that’s truly yours where you’re going to make a statement, you might put a shop on it, and the things that you’re going to sell or affiliations you’re going to make have linking and systems for that because the code of conduct matters when you’re doing that. This is one of those things that you need to have a more business focus on what you’re doing. Whether or not you want to be considered a real news media journalist or a news media type or you’re doing true crime and other things like that, that has to do with more of a trust level that you want to engender with your audience.
Having a base code of conduct is a necessity. If you want to register for events where you’re going to be the podcaster and you want to get free tickets to the event, you can do that, but you got to have a real registration as a media. You’ve got to have a code of conduct or some of these things because they check the boxes and ask for it when you’re filling out a media pass. Over on Facebook or Meta, they have the Facebook news and subscriber updates that you’re able to opt-in to.
There are benefits to doing it over on Meta that don’t come to any podcast or who happen to post their content you have to register. Those things are reasons why you might want to craft a code of conduct for your website and your podcast. At the end of the day, it’s about making sure that code of conduct fits how you plan to act on your show.
I’m glad you said that Tracy because, so far, everything you were talking about was the benefits for the podcaster of having a code of conduct on your website. You can get media passes for events. We’ve done that because our podcast has been registered as media and gotten into certain events we might not have been able to get into otherwise. Isn’t it self-serving if this doesn’t come down to something that you practice and what you put into that written policy on your website?
Keep in mind that no matter where you’re putting it, if you’re stating your policy, then it gives somebody a reason to get you shut down. They could report you to Facebook or the event. You do not want to put something in that code of conduct that you can’t live with that isn’t in keeping with how you plan to act. In a way, Tom, to answer your question, it is self-serving but it is also being transparent and trustworthy. You have to do both at the same time. It is for the listeners too.
The title of cultivating trust with your podcast audience probably has very little to do with this policy written on your website because they’re rarely going to go read it.
They’re going to go read it, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not complying with this or that this isn’t how you plan to act. Let’s talk quickly about it and I’m going to share it with you. You can go to TheBingeFactor.com because that’s where I register as a journalist. I don’t do it because Feed Your Brand, the show that we’re recording here, is for our business. That’s covered under our normal terms and conditions, but I have the code of conduct assigned for The Binge Factor because The Binge Factor is only a media show. It is only a podcast. It’s not a business in and of itself. Its purpose is to be part of the media. Whenever I show up at an event, do anything on Facebook, or any of those things, I’m showing up as the host of The Binge Factor.
That’s where I built it and I was able to register it. I received a notification within 72 hours from Facebook and was approved by using the code that I’ve put here. Now I wrote this code myself. I am not a lawyer and I’m not advising you to copy my code although I am allowing you to use it as an example. You have to build it yourself. You have to decide what it is the way you want to act. What do you care about? What’s important to you, and what’s going to build trust with your audience? Let’s make sure that we do those things. The first thing you have to do is disclose ownership. You know how we listen to the news all the time, Tom, and it might say, “X news channel is owned by the parent company Paramount and this story that we’re telling has to do with Paramount.”
You have to disclose the relationships and ownership so it requires disclosure. In my ownership disclosure, I have the Podetize. Brandcasters, Inc. is the owner of The Binge Factor because Brandcasters pays for it. Podetize publishes it. I disclosed that right there in the ownership. I also disclosed that the host is the CEO of that so that makes sense to everyone. It’s right there. You’d be surprised how many people guest on my show, The Binge Factor, and have no idea there’s any relationship to Podetize.
It’s because the vast majority of them don’t look at anything to research it. They’re like, “I get to be guests on the show.” They look at the show maybe and that’s about it. They don’t they don’t go deep and look into relationships.
They only look at the first two senses of the description because if you read down, you’d also see that that’s there. It’s just that they’re not looking for the disclosures. They don’t care but it’s there. The second thing is that when they look at you to screen you, they want to know that you’re an organization, a team of writers, a team of podcasters, or a team there. The way that I do it is because I have a staff. We have a staff who does publish articles for us. I have a ghostwriter who writes some of those articles in there. I disclose it as me as the main host of it and then the staff writers. I kept it simple. That’s all I have to say and whenever I have someone who published the article and I didn’t personally write it, we put it under the Binge Factor staff.
That’s how you distinguish who did the writing or who spoke it. If Tom were on my show and/or substituting for me, he would be named on there so we would have Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard. We would have both of us as writers technically because it’s a blog and as hosts of the show. That would be disclosed there as well. They like to know that you have a team. They want to see a staff. That’s a sign of an organization. You do want to put something there. As I said, you can simplify it by calling it staff but they could be independent and not paid.
To be perfectly transparent for all those independent solo podcasters that don’t have a staff, you often can still get away with being classified as media for an event having a podcast.
It’s having an event. It doesn’t always work or approve over on the Meta side of things. I forgot to mention this. Instagram is picky so even if you get approved over on Meta, you don’t always get approved for what they consider news media or badge verification for that on Instagram. It’s not the same. They have a different set of criteria. The next section on it is ethics. Here’s what you have to think about your show and your audience. Are you an opinion show? Are you a news show? Are there conflicts of interest? Are you featuring clients on your show? Are you using paid guests for your show? That’s something that’s going to need to be disclosed. You might disclose it further down but this is a point of ethics.
It is saying that I’m disclosing this, I’m being transparent about this, and this is what is happening. You do want to think carefully about your show. I want to say something to all of you out there who are doing much more of an opinion-style show. That might be a little more heated than others like controversial topics or covering politics, religion, and science because you still have issues about health and science warnings and other things like that. There are issues with the types of shows and in some of those areas in order to even post on social media, you have to comply with some ethics rules. Some more disclosure and marking rules are usually required there.
You might want to know that in this section, you’re complying with those rules if there are any in your industry or area. Tom, remember when we had Maria Speth on the show and she was talking about all the trouble you can get as a podcaster? Remember that free speech doesn’t allow you to disparage someone to say some of those things. You do want to be very careful about your legal requirements. Putting something here doesn’t give you free rein.
I agree with that. We’ve had Maria a couple of times talking about copyright once and then there was a free speech discussion.
That’s because a couple of podcasters were in hot water over what they said on their show and what they said about other companies, especially a true crime show where you could tip the balance of fairness. You could be not being truthful about things on your show or you could not be fully researching it. This is a good place to disclose what you’re doing and be straightforward about it. This is a good area to do that. The next place is fact-checking and here’s where you want to state your fact-checking rules.
Sidebar for a moment to use Maria’s legal lingo in the free speech thing. It deserves a mention and I know it’s not the point of this episode, but the US Constitution grants all American citizens the right to free speech. Let’s be pretty specific here like to speak out against their government because that’s what the founding fathers were worried about in forming a new government. They were in love to speak out against the King of England as British subjects. That was the point. Freedom of speech to speak out against the government and not be worried about the government retaliating against you. That is what free speech means. That doesn’t mean you can say anything you want about anybody anywhere without any repercussions or consequences.
There are limitations to what freedom of speech means. I love podcasting because it is a safe haven of free speech. That is one of the things about this whole ecosystem. That is fantastic. We don’t have to worry about airing something on a network and that network doesn’t want you to speak about something controversial so you can’t do it on your own show. That’s one of the things about podcasting but to be clear, we’re not lawyers and I’m not giving legal advice. Understand what freedom of speech means in the United States and what it doesn’t. You should do some homework.
It’s because it can trip over into cyberbullying and defamation and you can get yourself in some hot water. Be careful here and what I like is the fact-checking section. I think this is an important section because it says what you are and aren’t capable of. I simply said, “I don’t have time to fact-check. These are the opinions of my guest. If you find a fault with what they say, tell me and I will remove it.” That’s it. You have takedown rules or I’ll say, “I’ll consider removing it.” This is a policy of, “Give me some proof and if I find my guests violated your copyright or your rights, they said that. It’s on them. Not on me.” That’s what I’m saying here. I don’t have time to fact-check the truth. This is an opinion show. It’s my experience that these things happen.At the end of the day, it's about making sure that that code of conduct fits how you plan to act on your show. Click To Tweet
The whole show is framed that way but if they state a fact that is not true, let us know. We have takedown rules. We’ll comply if we think that it falls under that realm. Those are some of the things we do. I don’t leave in my show because I edit my show. I wouldn’t leave something that I thought was truly bashing a company because they had a bad experience and not necessarily a truthful account of what that company was like. If we have a bad experience when we were reviewing a product on a 3D Print show, we would say, “We only did one test and I’m proving to you because there’s a video that shows you how it fails but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get better results.” We almost always used to say it that way.
It gives it that broadness to make sure that you’re not influencing your audience in a negative way that could come back to harm another company. That was never our intention. Our intention is to promote the community not harm the community. That’s our purpose. Your purpose might be something totally different. Just be careful. Give some payments if you’re taking payments for guests or sponsors or if you’re doing sponsored episodes that are truly paid for. When Hewlett Packard sponsored our show, we disclosed it everywhere. That’s all we’re saying. We’re not saying we’re not going to take money. It’s saying if we do take money, we’re disclosing it.
It’s required because if you then post that article, you post that podcast out on social media and you fail to disclose that it was a paid-for-spot and paid-for-content, you’re violating their rules and you can get yourself in some serious hot water there. You must disclose that that’s an ad. It’s sponsored content. It’s paid for. That’s all I meant disclosing in the gifts and payment section. However, I do distinguish gifts and payments separate from speaking fees and I did this because I get invited to speak in a lot of places. I do not personally take a speaking fee. You might take one. You can disclose that there and say that you take one. In fact, you might even want to put your link to your speaking calendar where they can book with you if they’d like to invite you to speak.
That’s a great way to promote that, but I allow expenses and nominal gifts. Sometimes, when I speak, somebody gives me a mug, a T-shirt, or something like that. I say I accept those and I don’t have to report them. They’re not a big deal. I will accept speaking events where people pay me to come to speak there. I’ve done that many times but I usually do not allow speaking fees because I want to be able to sell my stuff from the stage. That’s my own rule. You’ll see that in the code but you might have a different code.
I agree with those rules. I can’t tell you how many T-shirts I have from different events that I never wear, and it has not influenced me to do one thing or another.
It doesn’t influence you to take a nominal gift, the paid VIP meal, or something like that. I stated right there that they don’t count and they’re allowed but these are the same rules that I used to have when I was an Inc Magazine columnist. I followed those same rules here. The next thing is clients advertisers and this is where I would lump in your guests if your guests are paying for spots like an advertiser is. If you’re using your guests, you could discuss that you occasionally take rush fees here. I don’t think that one is such a disclosure but you might want to be super transparent and honest about that.
Basically, coverage of those who pay you and how you’re marketing that transparently for your audience. That’s what matters here, making a difference in distinguishment between advertiser versus editorial content. If it’s advertising or sponsored content versus that, and there is a separation of those two, they’re clearly distinguished. How are you going to mark them? What are you doing? How are you documenting that? You don’t have to disclose how much you make anywhere. There’s no requirement to do that.
Tracy, how do some of this code of ethics and disclosure transparency rules apply differently to a nonprofit organization as we do have several podcasters we support that aren’t nonprofit organizations? I think there’s nothing wrong with using the fact that you are a nonprofit and that, “If you love the show, please consider supporting us by going to our website and making a donation.” That can be a helpful thing to do for a nonprofit, but at the same time, you’re also being very transparent. 1) You’re a nonprofit. 2) You do accept donations to help fund continuing to bring this content to your listener.
GoFundMe, Buy Me a Coffee, and all of those have their own policies about how they release them and they’re governing that. You can stay here if you’ve got that but that’s not exactly what I was thinking of in terms of what was being asked for the nonprofit side of things. Amnesty International, Amnesty.org, has an About Us that says their policies are put right up front. They call it How We’re Run. It’s great because they’re stating, “This is how we use your donations. This is what we do with it.”
If you’re going to be a nonprofit, part of building trust to get donors is making sure that you have a code of ethics of some kind. The one that I’m proposing here that works for journalists could be adapted to work because those same sections are equally important. Instead of how you’re taking advertisers, it’s how you’re using sponsor’s and donors’ money, what you’re going to do with that, how it’s being spent, what’s happening with that, and how it’s marked in earmarked for its percentages and breakdowns. You might want to disclose that amount.
I wanted to draw a distinction between the average podcast that’s trying to recoup a little of their expenses by having a Buy Me a Coffee, Patreon, or something. I’ve never seen anybody make a heck of a lot of money or even cover their costs using Patreon. I’m sure some do so don’t write in me and say, “I know someone who does.”
I’ve only heard one and I can’t verify it.
My point here is for those of you that are legitimate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. You’re being transparent but it gives you more credibility and might very well build trust with the audience to the point where they’re willing to donate more than for the typical independent podcast that says, “Do you want to give me some money?” It’s a different thing. I encourage that.
It is. It starts with this code of ethics, a code of conduct, thinking about how you’re going to operate, how you want to show up in the world, and how you want to build trust with your listeners, donors, or guests, audience, or whoever they might be and whatever the purpose is of your show and your business that it goes along with. This must be contained on a website. As I said before, its purpose is to be put there. You will not have a place to put it anywhere else. I guess you could put it in your show description and somebody could click out to it. Very often, there are no dynamic links in many of those descriptions, so it won’t work for you there.
A little example that might give some help to our audience. As I remember back in our 3D Printing Show days, Tracey, which is going back quite a while. I can’t believe how long ago that was now, but it was our very first show. We would review 3D printers. We got to be such authorities in the space. People would say, “Can I send you a 3D printer? Would you try it out and do a review of it?” We were happy to do that. We had people give us many thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment.
Some of them were $4,000 or $5,000 on one machine but we were very transparent with our audience saying, “We’re testing these. We checked them out. We’re not accepting this as payment for a review. We’re not accepting payment for a review. If the manufacturer who sent it to us did not want us to ship it back and they weren’t willing to provide a prepaid shipping label to pay for the shipping back, we would donate it to an organization, a school, or some other organization that could use that 3D printer.” We weren’t taking value but there was one time when I reviewed one that I was so blown away with it. I was like, “I’m making arrangements to keep this one.”
I told the audience, “This one, I really like it. It’s so good. I’m not sending it back. I’m not giving it to a school. I am paying for it and keeping it.” As long as you’re transparent with the audience in these ways, not only about your code of conduct but when you’re doing something maybe a little unexpected with it, it’s going to build that trust with your audience even more. It’s through your actions, your behaviors, and how you speak with your audience. You don’t have to. It’s not like you have to read some legal disclaimer in every episode. I wouldn’t suggest that but you mention naturally the things that are worth mentioning and are important about your organization.
We did something slightly different there. We didn’t have a code of conduct at the bottom of our website. It was called 3DStartPoint.com. You can go check it out. We used to have a form submission because we no longer publish that show. We removed that so it’s not there. We would have a Submit For A Review if you want to have your thing reviewed and then there was Above The Form. It was our conduct information about what we did. It was disclosed and then Tom would state in any review if it deviated from that such as if he decided to buy it at the end. We would verbally state that and of course, it would end up in the blog as well.
That’s how we handled the policies on that. We did it on a case-by-case basis because we found it to be so different. Everyone knew when they were submitting for that, we were getting materials that they were being provided to us. If we were using filament and someone was providing it, it was going to get consumed and we weren’t going to return it right. The same thing with books. If you get book reviews, it happens all the time, they send them to you. They’re free and you review the book or whatever it is. That’s very common for how it would work.
I’m sure it’s a rare extreme situation. Whatever your unique situation is, there are going to be nuances. Common sense goes a long way in this of being transparent and having integrity with your audience. If you’re making money on something, that’s okay. I don’t think anybody is going to hold that against you. Just be clear about it.
That’s the point of this. Be transparent and do what you say you’re going to do. Tell everyone about it so that you can get some benefit for it. That’s it. For all I’ve got for the code of conduct side of things and thinking about whether or not this is something you want to try and do, hopefully, we’d give you a little model to go off of. Thanks, everyone, for reading. We’ll be back next time with another Feed Your Brand and a topic for all of you podcasters out there.