How to make a branded podcast work

Integrating a podcast into your marketing strategy
As the digital landscape evolves, we’ve gone from reading stories to hearing stories. Podcasts have grown exponentially across the globe, with more people listening. With a 56 per cent increase in claimed podcast listening in Australia (ABC, 2018), there’s a sure-fire love for audio and reconnection with speech, and it’s changing the way we consume content.

Podcast adopters are loyal and highly engaged, with 44 per cent of weekly podcast listeners claiming to listen at least five hours per week, up from 37 per cent in a 2016 survey by the ABC. Based on the YoY growth of podcast listeners and the rapid growth of smart speakers and voice technology, brands can no longer disregard the podcasting medium and the potential exposure to audiences it comes with.

Traditionally, brands have not been strangers to podcasts. Their involvement is frequently limited to sponsorship of the podcast – you’ll hear one or more ads from them during the show. But today, brands are starting to produce their own podcasts, utilising a new way of connecting with a captured audience.

Branded storytelling within the podcast medium is a far cry from sub-par content with product placement stuffed in. Some of the largest podcasts right now, from Rise & Grind to Slack Variety pack, are stellar podcasts and have raised the bar for the genre.

Both brands and publishers should be working towards developing a clear audio strategy. When listeners hit play on a podcast, you have a captured audience, engaging in a way that is otherwise difficult in today’s multi-screen environments.

It starts with a compelling story
Storytelling will not only make your podcast more memorable, but it also activates various areas of the listener’s brain. For brands testing the water in podcasting, or even those diving head-first into podcasts, engagement is key. It is crucial that your podcast series uses compelling storytelling to get the message across.

Heralding the movement of branded podcasts in Australia is GE, with Decoding Genius, a six-part podcast series on child geniuses and innovators. Not only has it been a successful step change for GE,  it has also been critically well received, winning an International News Media Association Award earlier this year.

Joanne Woo, VP Communications of GE Australia, says audiences’ relationships with brands are changing. “People really want to connect on a deeper level and they want to hear stories that resonate with their families and their own aspirations. For GE, podcasting allowed us to be ahead of the marketing curve plus engage GE customers and attract new ones.”

Promoting your podcast
Already have a podcast? Chances are, you’re engaging industry press, producing social media content and even running podcast ads, promoting your own channel.

Adam Jeffery, Strategy director at Wavelength Creative, believes that these aforementioned steps are crucial to a podcast. However, the biggest barrier podcast creators face is that people don’t know how or where to listen.

Brands need to be strategic about their podcasting offerings. If they have a clear strategy for onboarding potential listeners, the ease at which listeners can engage increases. Brands should have easier on-ramps for listeners such as a dedicated landing page for your podcast. It may seem simple enough, however many podcast creators only consider this as an afterthought. Having a call out with “listen to our show at” can create a loyal listener just from ease of access. Moving away from words like “subscribe” or “follow”, can garner a stronger and more connected audience, rather than an audience that feels marketed to. This can also assist as a workaround for metric issues. Creating landing pages with embedded podcasts means that marketers can look at stats including page views and time spent on the site.

“To a new listener we’re asking them to marry us on the first date,” says Jeffery. Instead, lead your copy with “listen to our show”.

Measuring success
If you are a podcast listener, it is likely that you already use apps like iTunes or Google Play to download, store, and listen to your preferred podcasts. For this very reason, measuring podcast performance is fundamentally different from other forms of online media. Once the podcast has been downloaded, the host has no way of knowing just how much of the podcast has been listened to – or whether it’s been listened to at all.

Tracking downloads is one metric, but brands should also track brand awareness and brand favourability. Brands should be looking at how meaningful the content is and how much conversation and engagement there is with their audience. To measure the success of Decoding Genius, GE placed a lens over their social channels where they could see the number of people engaging with and talking about the content from the podcast.

Shifting perception is the cornerstone of measuring the return on investment for GE. They believe if they can seed their brand in the hearts and minds of many, the sales will naturally follow.

What’s old is new again in marketing. Nowhere has this been truer than with radio and podcasts. The podcast arena has matured into a serious business over the past 18 months in Australia, with big brands throwing their weight behind the medium. Anna Bager, IAB’s Executive Vice President of Industry Initiatives thinks branded podcasts are onto a good thing. “When you listen to something, it’s much harder to block it out than when you’re looking at a number of different things. Your brain kind of picks it up quicker,” she told CNBC. Brands have an audience immersed with the content in the podcasting medium. If media analysis and patterns can be trusted, podcasts aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s likely that we’ve only just begun to stumble upon the power of podcasts for brands.

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