Sometimes the hardest part for brands when creating a podcast is getting that initial internal buy-in. Podcasts might still be seen as ‘new’ or ‘experimental’ by the decision-makers. I will argue that we are well past this stage. Many established brands are using podcasts successfully as part of their content marketing strategy and over the last several years, audio storytelling has become a standard tool for marketers that want to make meaningful connections with new and existing customers.
But not everyone is there yet. Some decision-makers might still be hesitant to prioritize podcasts because they assume the impact on the business is hard to measure. This is not the case anymore.
These are five things you can do if you are passionate about podcasting but still need to convince your boss that it’s worth the investment.
1 Make your boss a podcast playlist
Many of us that are fans of the on-demand audio medium assume that everyone else likes podcasts too. Even though podcasting has been growing in popularity over the last few years, not everyone is listening on a regular basis. You can’t expect someone to get excited about something they don’t understand.
That’s why creating a podcast playlist for your boss is a great starting point. Feel free to share your favourite shows but don’t forget to include a sample of amazing episodes produced by brands. It’s easy to get swept up in the captivating and most talked-about shows of the top ten lists. But what’s not as obvious is how a brand could create something entertaining. You want to make sure your boss can imagine making this show.
2 Explain what success looks like
The business model behind most podcasts is simple: generate a large audience and ‘rent’ that audience to an advertiser or sponsor. Like with all advertising-supported business models, the audience becomes the product. A larger audience typically means more dollars so audience growth is the key goal for most podcast creators.
The goal for a podcast created by a brand tends to be very different. Most branded podcasts are not being directly monetized. Instead, a podcast is a tool that helps a brand solve a business problem. Many podcasts by brands have the goal of improving or strengthening brand affinity. This could be part of a larger brand positioning strategy to change a perception or increase awareness. These are some of the typical business goals that brands are looking to achieve with their podcasts.
For brands in podcasting, gaining an audience is not a goal in itself. It’s a means to achieving business goals.
To make an impact, a podcast needs to reach the right audience. And, in turn, you want that audience to be listening. An engaged audience makes a successful podcast. We can measure that.
Audience retention rates
Podcasting is an opt-in medium. Anyone can turn off your podcast at any time and select a different one. Given the number of choices listeners have, we apply the following logic: if people listen to a podcast all the way through they likely enjoyed it. Additionally, for brands, this counts as a positive brand experience.
By analyzing the very detailed data from the big podcast platforms, we know how long people listen to each episode and which episodes listeners enjoyed most. We can tell where in each episode people started tuning out, which gives us great insight into what editorial changes we might want to make. Audience retention rates are the metrics we pay attention to the most when evaluating the success of a podcast.
We don’t know exactly what every listener is thinking after they listen to an episode by looking at metrics alone. Do they remember what brand is behind the podcast? Did it change their impression of that brand? Did it influence future purchase decisions?
Fortunately, there are expert researchers who can find the answers to these questions by conducting what we call a brand lift study. This involves assembling a panel of people who have listened to the podcast (as well as a control group) and asking them a number of questions about their experience of the podcast. Signal Hill is our trusted partner for conducting studies like this. A brand lift study is an investment but the data you receive is invaluable.
The number of listens is not the first number we look at. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the audience size completely. We can make the best show in the world that every listener loves but if there are only a dozen fans it might not make the desired business impact a brand is setting out to achieve. Successful podcasting requires real investment, and with that, we are always looking for a certain level of scale to see that return.
3 Share some creative ideas
You certainly don’t need to figure out what the podcast is about before getting the approval to make one. But it’s a lot easier for someone to get on board with something that they can picture (and hear).
Maybe you can share podcasts that feel similar to what you want to create (“it’s going to be like Radiolab meets Modern Love”) so people can get an idea of what you have in mind. Maybe there is a host that you love that you can give as a reference? Maybe an example episode that will highlight what the show could be like? Suggest a guest or topic that you know will get the full attention of your boss.
This is also a great opportunity to make sure everyone is thinking past a traditional Q&A format. Many people think of an interview show when they think about podcasting. Those who might not be very familiar with the medium might assume that all podcasts are two people chatting. It’s very useful to make your boss aware of the fact that podcasts are much more than that and that there are many different formats that serve different purposes and solve different problems.
Whatever creative direction you share in advance, make sure that everyone understands that they are just thought-starters. The final podcast will likely evolve while you are developing and producing it.
4 Start a promotional plan
Again, you don’t have to have this figured out beforehand. But you need to make sure that everyone is aware that this is a big part of creating podcast success.
Making a podcast is hard. Getting it in front of the right audience is even harder. You’ll need a thoughtful approach, a solid audience development strategy, time and effort, and even a budget to create a successful show.
You’ll want to make sure that everyone is aware that the production expenses are only part of the overall cost. And most importantly, you want to show your boss that you have a comprehensive plan to create a successful branded podcast.
5 Propose a process
Explain to your boss how you want to get this done. There are multiple ways to launch a podcast, each comes with benefits and drawbacks.
Producing a podcast in-house is very cost-effective but without prior podcast experience, it’s very difficult to make and promote a show that meets its business goals. And if the first season of your new podcast isn’t successful it is very hard to find support to create more episodes.
Hiring podcast producers to join the team is a great way of building internal capabilities but this only works for companies that have a long-term vision for podcasting and are willing to make that investment. We see this as a great path for companies that have made successful shows and are seeing podcasting as an integral part of their multi-year marketing strategy. In other words, your company has to be all in on podcasting before we would recommend hiring a full team.
Working with an external agency is not the cheapest option but gives you the quickest results and (when working with a great partner) you can benefit from their experience and expertise. There are many great production agencies out there and many are specialized in different types of stories. However, we encourage you to think about who will be able to help you with your audience development strategy — some agencies will just produce the audio and send it to you.
Bonus: Start with baby steps
So you might not be able to get the budget approved for a full podcast season. You might still be facing some hesitation and reservations. If your company isn’t fully engaged in brand storytelling, a podcast might be perceived as a risk. This is not unusual and happens in many companies. We see it all the time.
There’s an awesome first step into your branded podcast journey and it doesn’t require a huge investment: start with just a pilot. Create the strategy for your podcast as well as the first episode. Alternatively, you can create multiple shorter audio prototypes that you can review and discuss internally.
It’s always easier for everyone to approve something that they can hear for themselves.
Creating a pilot before committing to a show is a very popular option for our clients and we love the work of figuring out what the show might be. In a way, that’s the best part of the job.
Sign up for the Pacific Content Newsletter: audio strategy, analysis, and insight in your inbox. Once a week.