Brands tell stories in different ways—video, social media, blog posts, infographics, image galleries, and long-form text (such as white papers). All of these mediums can be excellent ways for brands to not simply talk about their products and services but engage with customers in a meaningful way.
Although they’ve been around for a while, podcasts are still considered a fairly new brand storytelling medium. I will argue that, although the format is newer, audio remains one of the most impactful ways for brands to engage audiences.
The power to go off-screen
Here is one piece that we often forget: podcasting is not a screen-based medium. Although you might use a screen to select a show (most podcasts are consumed on mobile phones) the listening experience is completely off-screen. (And of course, with voice assistance technology, “playing a podcast,” does not involve a screen at all.) It is my belief that the growth of podcasting is partly due to the fact that we don’t need a screen to enjoy it. Many of us are spending countless hours a day in front of screens and are looking for ways to give ourselves a break.
Podcasts allow brands to connect with people in places where they previously could not: on the go (driving, public transit, walking), doing chores, or during recreational activities. This makes podcasting unique: you are not competing with the same kind of distractions that other types of mediums contend with. You are only competing with other podcasts.
The off-screen experience of podcasting has some wonderful side benefits for all brand storytellers, namely listener retention rates, which are amazingly high. We often see completion rates of 80-95% for shows we have produced. What we have learned is that most listeners will put their phone down once they have selected a show, and if they are drawn in, will not turn it off. This allows brands to reach a level of depth that is unparalleled. Text or video retention rates are typically much lower.
Our very own Dan Misener taught me that podcasting is an engagement medium, not a reach medium. It’s awesome at getting people to engage with your brand and building a devoted audience that is interested in what you have to say.
Podcasts should not be the first choice for brands that simply want to reach as many people as possible in the shortest period of time.
The power to stir emotions
In a study published in Scientific Reports Journal, in July 2020, contrasting video and audio narratives, researchers found that “ stories were more cognitively and emotionally engaging at a physiological level when presented in an auditory format.”
Podcasts are an amazing way to tell a story. Without a screen, listeners use their imaginations to visualize what they hear, co-creating a theatre-of-the-mind kind of experience. This makes audio stories (when told well) a far more resonating form of content than other modes of brand storytelling.
Podcasts are extremely intimate—very often heard through headphones, playing directly into the listener's ear. Combined with the fact that research suggests that 92% of all podcasts are listened to alone, pressing play on a podcast is like being transported to the same room as the voices you hear in an episode. This type of immersive storytelling can be a benefit to brands who care about building an emotional connection with an audience, a connection that will be hard to replicate through other types of content such as social and video.
The power to build an audience
To find real success in podcasting, we encourage all our clients to adopt a long-term mentality. We see the investment in a brand creating its own series pay off in the long run through growth in subscribers (or what we now call followers) over the course of a season, and we very often see the listenership increase over multiple seasons.
Social media and video platforms often control how your content will be distributed. Its algorithm will determine who sees your content. In podcasting, delivering content to your audience is far more direct. When you publish a new episode it will show up in the podcast apps of all your followers. And, those followers are, in fact, your very own listeners.
We are a podcast strategy and services company, and admittedly I might be somewhat biased towards audio content. But in reality, we recommend brands use all types of media to tell their stories. A podcast can be used to edify your brand’s values and mission, it can be linked to a rebrand, organizational initiative, or campaign. It could also be part of your top-of-funnel marketing strategy. In this context, I often talk about ‘flagship shows’ with wide appeal that then lead audiences to other types of content, such as blog posts and articles (or even other podcasts), continuing the journey of exploration into your brand services, products, or cause.
If you are at all curious about producing a series, talk to us. We make original podcasts with brands like Dell Technologies, Charles Schwab, Rocket Mortgage, Red Hat, Adobe, and Ford.
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