At Pacific Content, our goal is to help brands think and act like media companies. You may have heard us say this before in many past blog posts, but it bears repeating — generally, this entails helping companies create their own original, audience-first podcasts. This has also meant railing against the traditional, interruptive advertising model. Rather than interrupting the content that people really want to engage with by buying an ad, why not create the content that people are choosing to engage with? Thinking like a media company means understanding the power of owning your audience rather than borrowing one.
What if building your own audience from the ground up is not the solution that meets your business goals? For example, creating an original podcast is hugely powerful for reaching a niche audience, but doesn’t always make sense for brands looking to quickly reach a large, general audience. Creating a successful original podcast requires commitment. Money spent producing a podcast that no one listens to is really just money wasted. So how can brands still think like a media company if committing to creating an original podcast is not the right business solution for them right now?
Partnering with an existing, successful podcast does not have to mean making a 30-second, interruptive, annoying ad. If brands are willing to put their ‘media company’ hats on, there are opportunities to collaborate with podcasters to produce authentic, creatively brave content integrations that resonate with their target audience. Pacific Content’s Audience Development team leverages our domain expertise and industry relationships to help brands find the right podcasts to collaborate with and execute authentic, creatively brave integrations.
To illustrate how brands can successfully collaborate with existing podcasters, I reached out to our friends at The Big Story, Canada’s first daily news podcast, to learn more about how brands have been able to authentically leverage their existing audience with creatively brave integrations.
There are three main opportunities for brands looking to integrate seamlessly with an existing podcast:
Dynamically inserted micro-casts or segments
This type of integration is inserted into an episode during a standard ad break, but rather than typical 30-second brand messaging, this segment feels like a natural part of the podcast. It’s a custom short audio story that feels authentic to listeners and is brought to life by the host of a podcast with a built-in audience.
The Big Story refers to this type of integration as ‘The Little Story,’ with segments inserted as both mid-rolls and post-rolls. The segments include a very light brand touch, with a simple brand mention at the end, and feature short interviews or interesting stories from the host, Jordan Heath-Rawlings. Here’s an example of The Little Story produced in collaboration with CBC’s War of the Worlds:
Special themed episodes
For brands looking for an opportunity to spend more time with their target audience, partnering with an existing show on an entire custom episode can be a great opportunity to integrate into the framework of a hit podcast. For example, Mazda was looking for an opportunity to spotlight the concerns of small business owners as part of their Local Legends initiative. Their target audience aligned with The Big Story’s highly educated, Millennial, civically-minded listeners, and this issue fit The Big Story’s editorial strategy. So, out of this partnership, a custom bonus episode of The Big Story was born:
Special themed mini-series or seasons
If your brand is almost ready to take the plunge on producing an original podcast, but not quite ready to commit, the next best thing might be collaborating with a hit podcast on a custom mini-series or special themed season of their podcast. This type of collaboration, if done well, can be wildly successful for both the brand and the podcast. A new themed mini-series or season presents new marketing opportunities for the podcast (it’s a new story to tell when promoting the show, and a new excuse to send out pitches for promotion with Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, etc). It also allows the podcast an opportunity to dive deeper into a topic they might have only scratched the surface on in the past, presenting a new editorial opportunity for podcasters. The Big Story recently collaborated with Telus Online Security to produce a special four-part series about fraud:
These stories were selected by The Big Story team and produced just like any other Big Story episode, but the content directly met the business goals for Telus by highlighting the risks of fraud (a risk that could be mitigated by using their services) and reached the existing audience of The Big Story, which happens to coincide with Telus’ target audience. And, for what it’s worth, these four episodes of The Big Story did exceptionally well, even by typical episode standards.
For the week of July 5th, The Big Story will be releasing a special five-part series called Interconnected about the way technology is changing how we think, love, vote and play. While the motivations for this week are primarily editorial, this mini-series demonstrates the huge potential for brands interested in exploring this space. The Big Story has an audience of dedicated listeners who are eager to engage with this deeper-dive mini-series, which means there’s real potential for brands to collaborate on mini-series and engage with built-in audiences authentically.
Pacific Content’s paid media approach relies on three ingredients: the right message, the right audience, and the right measurement. If applying these three principles to a podcast integration feels daunting, reach out to us — this is our bread and butter. By applying these three ingredients smartly, there can be limitless opportunities for brands to tap into a hit podcast’s listener base.
Special thank you to the team at The Big Story — Diana Keay, Joseph Fish and Jordan Heath-Rawlings — for their contributions to this piece. Shout out to the Rogers Sports & Media sales team, and especially Amanda Ramondino, for coming up with many of the concepts and integrations outlined in this piece.
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