Starting a podcast? Here are 5 things for brands to consider
Jack Preston is the global head of Acast Creative, with 15 years experience in podcasting, and eight in branded podcasting. For The Drum's Content Marketing in Focus, he shares his insights on the key things brands should consider before making a podcast.
More brands are diversifying their content strategies with podcasting - but is it right for your brand?
15 years have passed since I made my first podcast and eight since I launched my first branded podcast, which, at the time, felt like a bit of a maverick move. In the process of securing the budget I went through a series of meetings, which would usually begin with me spending five minutes explaining what a podcast was.
Oh how things have changed. Or have they? Of course, most people now know what a podcast is, and the last three years in particular have seen a huge number of listeners, talent and money - roughly in that order - flow into the space. The business case for brands investing money into podcasting is no longer a challenge to build, whether you’re wanting to evoke a direct response from a listener or shift key brand metrics, podcasts are a channel (or should that be channels - we’ll get onto that a bit later) that is proven to work.
However, despite the changes which have made the space more brand-friendly, we still face challenges as an industry. It’s still bloody hard to build a listener base for new podcasts, discovery for new content has still not been cracked and there’s still some podcasts out there, (particularly in the branded podcast space) that make you ask, “Who would want to listen to this?”
Three paragraphs in and I’m yet to discuss the actual content. Which means I’ve fallen into the trap which is so often the downfall of an ineffective brand campaign within podcasting. The best brand campaigns in the space aren’t badging exercises, they aren’t reliant on reusing audio from other channels and they aren’t created using a template from elsewhere. There are so many unlikely, brave and joyous podcasts out there which demonstrate the value of being original.
So, if you are working for a brand and considering launching a podcast - what questions should you be asking yourself?
1. Should you actually make a podcast?
There are few brands that won’t find a role for podcasting within their marketing mix, but that doesn’t mean that there are few brands who shouldn’t make their own podcast. For it to work you need a good story to tell, a long-term strategy and investment into production and audience growth. Finding the story is always the hardest part, but luckily, brands don’t have to go it alone.
Partnering with an existing podcast will give you access to a ready-made audience and a creator who knows them better than anyone. Here’s a great example from PayPal, when they wanted to start a conversation about financial empowerment they decided to team up with The Guilty Feminist.
2. What should the format be?
So you’ve decided to make a podcast, but what format should it take? Some of the best formats within podcasting should not attempt to be replicated: reading out chapters of a soft pornographic novel, inviting guests into a dream restaurant or even grieving over loved ones.
Roundtable discussions and one on one interviews formats are popular for obvious reasons, get the right line-up of speakers and topics to discuss and things can click. But what about looking beyond that? Roundabout, from State Farm, is a great example of a podcast which takes a more narrative storytelling approach. What Roundabout also does well is demonstrate how a brand can ensure they have a good story to tell, by providing a platform for creators to lead.
3. What do you need in terms of artwork?
I worked for a brand founded in the 1970s at the time when social media was fundamentally changing the way companies approached marketing, communication and many other aspects of day to day business. Suddenly the very effective, and often intricate, brand logos and identities created in the days before web presence and social became problematic - they simply didn’t translate to use across those mediums.
Suggested newsletters for you
So when creating your podcast artwork, don’t just make the cover art in tile form (although do make sure you do that really well), think beyond a listener viewing it within a podcast app. How will the podcast look onstage, in video, on social, even in the form of merchandise? It’s so much easier to get this right the first time, rather than having to retrofit branding to different channels or ripping the whole thing up and starting again.
4. What should the role of non-audio channels be?
For many the joy of podcasting is that it’s a no screen experience, enjoyed while running, cooking or, increasingly, lying in bed. However, we cannot avoid the fact that for many others, particularly younger listeners, podcasting is also a visual experience, and they prefer it that way.
The difficulty for brands is that there are so many possible channels to take into consideration when devising your growth strategy. TikTok has proven itself to be the place for viral clips from episode recordings to really fly, Twitter is great for building your community, Twitch is smartly used by some creators for live streams that allow for real-time engagement and YouTube is undoubtedly the home of the full episode recording video. There’s also a good argument to be made for utilizing more traditional digital channels, with websites being great for discovery via search and that newsletter with the built-in subscriber base can prove really valuable when it comes to amplification.
Not all podcasts work in visual form, so getting the camera out is by no means a must-do, however gone are the days where consuming a podcast is a single channel experience for listeners - every launch strategy should reflect that.
5. Should you be creating more than ‘just a podcast’?
For most creators, and brands, a podcast used to be ‘just a podcast’. Whether it was a complete failure or a runaway success, it would all happen within the confines of the RSS feed. What we see taking place now, either by design or through organic growth, are podcasts becoming their own brands.
Podcasts are launching their own private communities or membership clubs, providing listeners with exclusive content and first access to experiences, The High Performance Circle is a great example of this in action.
Podcasts are releasing their own books, which might be one of the quickest growing trends in the space, with a personal favorite of mine being this one from the brilliant duo behind Talk Art, Russell Tovey and Robert Diament.
Podcasts are even launching their own merchandise ranges, as with all merch it can get a bit hit and miss, but personally I love seeing the latest collections from The Girls Bathroom drop - hello card games.
So, where do brands fit into all this? By creating a successful podcast you’re no longer just building a subscriber base or effective branded content campaign, brands are developing their own IP. During the pandemic we worked with BMW to launch Play Next, a new music podcast, which started life as an audio experience. As the show found its audience it developed into much more than that, as well as returning for subsequent series BMW also took the Play Next brand name into the live space, hosting stages at festivals and engaging with people in real life. A true sign of success for many podcasts in 2022, is that you realize you’ve created much more than a traditional podcast.
Visit The Drum's Content Marketing in Focus hub for more news, insights, and strategies around content marketing.
Content by The Drum Network member:
Acast was founded in 2014 and is the world’s largest independent podcast company.Find out more