She’s bold, she’s a big deal, and she’s a blast to be around and, today, Mel Sargeant is known as the Hunter’s podcast queen.
“I’m a boot strapper. I’ve never had a business loan. I just had one podcast and then two. Then I bought better mics, then my friend sponsored me and built the fit out to the station for me,” says Mel Sargeant of Newcastle Podcast Station.
Sargeant has worked in radio since she was 17. She started out on Melbourne’s Student News Network while doing a law degree on the side. She worked in television and had gigs with comedians Hamish and Andy. She’s worked for Chanel 31 and Nova.
It was a position on 1053 NEW FM Austereo's breakfast radio that brough Mel to Newcastle. She then had babies, took a break and came back.
“I wanted to do a mums’ radio show. Austerio didn’t want it, and then my boss was like ‘why don’t you start a podcast?’,” Sargeant says.
She decided to do it. A few years ago, she paired up with Bec Tansey who started Newcastle Hunter Mums, a local Facebook group with more than 19,000 members.
Mel was blown away at how much she loved podcasting. She was stoked about not having a boss and when she was able to monetise it, it became her bread and butter. She reckons it was successful because of her networks and community.
“It’s not just the podcast, it’s the brand. You can’t just start a podcast and be like I’ve got no Instagram and no community,” Sargeant says.
And she still loves radio and she still works with NEW FM. Her radio work has made it easier for her to start the Newcastle Podcast Station, and now she is passionate about helping other people do what she’s done.
Since launching her own podcast, she’s witnessed how useful they can be for your business. She reckons podcasts are like the latest version of a business card, it’s informing your brand and also entertaining listeners.
“Your real estate agent can ring you and say ‘hey, oh my god, it's so nice to meet you, can you go and listen to my podcast on how to buy a house?’ That evergreen content is great. Plus you have people engaging with your brand without you having to do anything,” Sergeant says.
She thinks podcasters often fail to give audiences what they want.
“Audiences are not stupid these days. They know when you’re trying to sell things. You need to honour their time and make it about educating and enriching their experience,” she says.
She recommends podcasts which do everything from increasing visibility to answering FAQ.
She thinks collaborations are great, and she loves seeing people show up for one another.
“It’s sharing between tribes, and it’s better than TV ads where it all becomes white noise,” she says.
A podcast she’s particularly proud of producing is the Let’s Talkfor Anglican Care, an Apple featured podcast that she came up with the idea for. She’s witnessed the amazing work it’s done for their brand.
“I’m so proud of them; they’ve done such great content. They’ve opened up podcasting to thousands of older people,” she says.
She thinks a podcast isn’t for everyone though. If you don’t do it right, you can even do damage to your brand. Most people can’t be a legend at any craft without experience.
“Just because you buy a Ferrari doesn’t mean you know how to drive it,” Sergeant says. “Some business owners have no clear understanding of the goals of the podcast or what they’re seeking to achieve. Maybe they’re doing it in a place where the acoustics aren't right. And if you’re inviting these guests to a place that's not professional, it’s just creepy. If you're a big brand, you want to invite people to a studio where there's a kitchen, a toilet, that’s ideal.”
She’s felt great launching her podcasts and studio in Newcastle. When it comes to startups and being an entrepreneur, she thinks the key takeaway is being not afraid to fail.
“You can have a business that might not go so well, but you learn and create a different business. It’s all about learning,” she says.