Elsie Escobar: How Podcasts Saved My Life
Elsie Escobar is a Hall-of-Fame podcaster, actress, advocate, one of the most significant voices in podcasting today, co-Founder of She Podcasts, manager of all things community at Libsyn, and an all around amazing woman who I am honored to know.
If you listen to Elsie on She Podcasts or Libsyn’s podcast, The Feed, you’ll know that she is creative, fun, and a die-hard podcaster who is all about empowerment, intentionality, and vision. Born in El Salvador, she’s also a proud Latina influencer who advocates for social and cultural change through her work. She challenges podcasters to go deeper with their shows and their messages and to get really clear on how they want to show up in this world.
On Podcasting Step by Step, we talk about what it takes to make it as a podcaster; why downloads are not the best way to gauge your podcast’s success — and what is; the conversation she wants to be having right now. And she shares how podcasting saved her life. I’ve heard her mention this fact on other shows before, but she dives deeper into the specifics here, and I thank her for sharing such a personal story that I know can help others escape a bad situation.
Subscribe to Podcasting Step by Step for free to listen to the whole conversation. Here are some highlights.
I've heard you say before that podcasting helped save your life. Could you speak a little bit about that?
Elsie: I was in a very negative relationship...I felt like I was isolated and I had lied to so many different people in my life that they didn't really know what was really happening in my life...I was not happy and I didn't quite know how to get out of the situation that I was in and I didn't have anybody to talk to about any of this stuff because you inherently isolate yourself whenever you're in a situation like this. There's so much shame around it. There's so much stigma.
I started listening to podcasts and I started to recognize that the world was so much bigger than what I felt. And here's the interesting thing — it wasn't that I was listening to, like, women's empowerment podcasts and podcasts that would get me out of my situation. I was listening primarily to the podcasts that were coming out of Los Angeles at that time, which is when I became part of the original L.A. podcasters. It was just these group of guys who were primarily storytellers and they would get behind the microphone and they would tell stories about their life and some of them were very off-the-cuff and some of them were very, very finely tuned performers that were just telling the stories in their life, and in doing so, they not only inspired me to be a better performer, but it also helped me see that the world was so much bigger than I thought, that experiences were so vast, that there was the possibility for more for me. And I got to know them and got to listen to them.
And I very distinctly remember one specific podcast...his show was called Cush: Things I Say And he would kind of pontificate on men and life in Los Angeles and he would occasionally give advice to women out there...something like, “You know ladies, if the guy is doing this, he is not a good guy. So you need to get yourself together.” And I remember a point where he he was pontificating, you know, he was actually mansplaining, and I'm sitting there hearing him and he was, like, “Well if the dude does this and this and this, this is not a good situation.” He was almost exactly talking about the person that I was with. And I remember I got really pissed off. I was really mad at him because I was like, “How dare he? He doesn't know.” Because you always stand up for whatever negativity is going on in your life. For whatever reason, that's what you do. But he planted a seed in my mind.
It was listening to these voices that really helped me eventually make the choice to leave. To get out and to literally just pick up and go…The other thing is that because I was so in love with podcasting, I ended up being hired into a podcast company. This is essentially right after I left my situation I was hired [at Libsyn].
What is the conversation that you want to have right now about podcasting?
Elsie: That podcasting is a tool for self-transformation. That podcasting is a tool to shift social change. Those are two of the biggest things that I feel are super important because if you start to think about the conversations out there that are often not heard…The way the media is at this moment is very headline-driven and very disingenuous, is what I feel...It is driven primarily by misleading information or misleading headlines where we only get a crumb of the total story about things. If we can start to listen to each other, have conversations that need to be had in whatever your niche is, whether it’s political, whether it's religious, whether it's social activism, or whether it's parenting and all of those different things — we might want more of that. Its that nuanced back-and-forth conversation that I feel has the legs to be able to change the world, the way that we see society, and get away from the way that media has positioned itself lately.
When you're giving podcasters direction, what are some core questions that you tell them they should ask themselves before they get really deep into podcasting?
Elsie: I think one of the best questions that I would have for somebody that’s starting out is to know what they're getting into. Not even in terms of workload, but to actually know how the technology works. I'm often floored by how many people. want to start a podcast but they don't know what a podcast is, or how it's delivered.
And I think the other thing is: There is no magic bullet for building an audience. There are some people who are better prepared to build an audience, like if you already have an existing platform and you know how to market...The skills that it takes to get the word out, to really actively market something, is very important.
There's a lot of obsession with download numbers.
Elsie: We have a misunderstanding as podcasters that the only way that your show is worthy of anything is if you have thousands of downloads. There are very few podcasts out there that have the types of numbers that the industry websites are reporting on numbers…The reflection of your impact or growth has to be very unique to what your goals are for your show. It’s interesting to me that there are a lot of podcasts out there that are successful that have very little download numbers in comparison to these larger numbers, but they have a very engaged audience. They have a very potent dialogue back and forth with people. They are having a real massive impact on some part of society, whichever part it is that they are speaking to at that moment. Or they are having a really incredible conversion rate for their business, whether it be a product-based business or whether it's a consulting-based business, where they have set up systems so that there is this wonderful entry-level approach to hiring them or in some way making their business money.
Want to hear more from Elsie? Subscribe to Podcasting Step by Step for free to listen to the whole conversation.