We're seeing a rise in branded content, specifically in branded audio. Branded Podcasts are a powerful content strategy for companies if done right. In this guide, we break down how to create a strong and successful branded podcast.
Podcasts have been on the rise and branded podcasts are no exception. In fact, in a recent study by BBC they uncovered that through branded podcasts, the brand actually stands out from the content. Podcasts that mention the brand deliver on average 16% higher engagement and 12% higher memory compared to surrounding content.
The intimacy of podcasts is unlike any other mediums. Brands can create a conversation and connection with their listeners through their podcasts. In the same study by BBC they also found that branded podcasts lift:
As content marketers, finding channels that effectively reach, engage, and convert target audiences is key. Wistia conducted a study that proved only 20% of audiences read an entire blog article, the same study also found that videos around the 2-minute mark receive a 70% engagement rate yet it dramatically drops at the 6-minute mark to 50% and below 50% as you exceed 10-minutes. Although 70% is a good consumption rate, the length of content that you're able to maintain user attention is minimal.
Active client podcasts that Quill conducts the entire production process receive an average consumption rate of 69% with the average length being 28.5 minutes. For close to the same consumption rate, podcasts can hold the listener's attention for 14x longer, an impressive length for and engagement rate for any branded content.
As a brand, the number one thing to consider when starting a podcast is the goal you are trying to accomplish. There’s no use in creating a podcast for the sake of creating a podcast, you want to ensure that your content is geared towards achieving your goals and KPIs whatever those may be. We’ve come to realize that well-produced podcasts can be used in a variety of ways for brands. Below we have broken down four key ways that your brand can use podcasts, all of which achieve different goals.
Let’s dive in:
The most popular goal for a branded podcast is awareness, a.k.a the elevation of brand values in the eyes of consumers. Podcasts give you the opportunity to build a relationship with potential customers by showing off your values and providing industry credibility in your respective space.
It’s important to note that creating a series solely focused on your brand's offering will not work. In today's world, no one likes to be sold to and listeners don’t want to hear a 30 minute sales pitch. Find a sweet spot that lets listeners know what you do while also sharing content that’s of interest to the audience. 74% of listeners are tuning into podcasts to be educated so make sure you’re providing value rather than selling (The Infinite Dial).
Contrary to popular belief, podcasts can also be a gift for your sales team, not just your marketing team. Three key ways sales teams can use podcasts are lead generation, relationship building, and case studies.
If there’s a specific lead that you’ve had your eye on whether it be an individual or brand, invite them onto your podcast as a guest. This will give you an opportunity to organically build a relationship with them.
Make sure the conversations are not overly sales-y and transactional. You want to be creating valuable content that informs your audience, yet speaks to their interest. Priority should be creating a natural conversation, so that the sales magic will happen off the mic.
Strengthen the existing relationships you have with clients, partners, or leads by featuring them on your podcast series. Not only are you able to create a deeper connection with them, but you’re also giving them additional value by marketing them through the series.
Present case studies of your brand to potential customers through engaging and valuable content. However, be careful not to focus on you and your brand. If you’re an ad agency and you’re only presenting your own work to audiences, it will feel inauthentic and like a sales pitch. Whatever topic you’re covering, find a variety of use cases and bring yours into the conversation as well.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual events have skyrocketed. Although very different from in person events, virtual events give you an easy way to repurpose content into branded podcasts. Whether you’re using Zoom or other virtual event platforms, most of them give you the ability to record the audio (and video) of the event.
Whether it’s a solo discussion from one speaker or a panel discussion between many, both of these can be converted into a podcast format.
Once your event is over, save that audio from the session. If you’re an experienced podcast editor you can edit it yourself, or outsource to an agency to assist you. You want to ensure that you don’t just publish the raw audio of the session, make sure to edit it and shape it into an engaging podcast episode for you listeners. If they’re taking the time to listen, show them that you put in effort to deliver valuable content to them.
Benefits of a virtual event podcast:
Creates additional exposure and incentives for your sponsors/speakers by featuring them on the podcast series whether it be through an interview, their session in the event, or an ad slot. Once distributed, brands that were featured on the podcast can now use it as their own piece of marketing.
Podcasts are a great way for attendees to catch up on the content that they missed or didn’t fully comprehend during the virtual event. As an event organizer, if you want to make your podcast only accessible to your attendees, platforms like Storyboard are available to host private content.
Increase your reach amongst attendees for your next event. Gain credibility as an event organizer through the speakers featured on your series. Use the podcast to continue to promote your event by giving potential audiences an example of the type of content they’ll be receiving. Build and grow a community around your event, make listeners feel involved and included, whether they’re past or new attendees.
Podcasts can be a powerful tool when it comes to internal communications. Whether you’re a startup or a corporation of thousands, podcasts have the ability to increase employee engagement and retention.
In a report done by Poppulo on internal communications professionals, it was found that 30% of internal communications professionals still struggle with what channel to use to reach specific audiences.
Ways that brands can use podcasts for internal communications:
74% of employees feel as if they’re missing out on company news. This is where podcasts come in. Podcasts can be used to share either company wide updates or even department updates. It gives employees the opportunity to always be in the know with the organization.
Featuring different employees within an organization helps to build trust, connection, and engagement among your workforce. By allowing them to get comfortable with each other and learn from employees of all roles and titles, it can boost your brand's internal communications. In fact, 69% of managers said that they are not even comfortable communicating with employees in general. Podcasts can help to form that connection.
What’s going on in your industry? It’s important to keep everyone in your organization aware of what’s happening in your respective space. This can assist with how ideas are formed and initiatives are executed if everyone is aware of the current state of your brand.
Similar to developing a customer persona, an ideal listener profile identifies the demographic and psychographic behaviours of your potential audience. Who do you want listening to your content? By understanding their needs and desires, you will be able to effectively develop a relationship between your audience and podcast host.
For example, if your goal is brand elevation, and your target demographic is women 25 to 34, developing a persona will tell you what your demographic cares about so you can conceptualize your podcast series around a subject that hyper-targets their interests.
The goal here is relatability. You want to paint a clear picture of who your listeners are in their everyday life so you can relate to them on a personal level. That way, they will have a positive association with your brand and will be more likely to become engaged listeners.
Before you begin brainstorming different structures and formats for your podcast, you need to be aware of what already exists. Take some time to listen to other podcasts that exist in your category and analyze things like quality, length, format, and overall notes on what you did and did not like about the series.
Once you’ve listened to a variety of podcasts and have a breakdown of around 5-10, write out what your UVP is (unique value proposition). What can you do to set yourself apart from the other podcasts? This could be format, length, guests, host, etc. Find what will make you unique in your category.
Once you have defined your podcast goals, ideal listener profile, and competitive analysis, you can begin conceptualizing your series. Get creative and use the knowledge that you have of potential listeners and current competition to define your subject matter/format. For example, if your ideal listeners are huge supporters of women empowerment and they are heavily based in New York City, it may make sense to interview female leaders currently residing in NYC.
Now it’s time to get creating. Below we’ve listed a number of different formats you can experiment with. Remember that this is all a guideline, based on your UVP, it’s up to you to switch up or get creative with what will set you apart.
Once you have your podcast ready to go, it’s time to look at distribution. At this stage you have multiple decisions that you’ll need to make moving forward:
Podcast distribution platforms are platforms where you upload your series and it distributes your podcast out to all major listening platforms for you (i.e. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts). Pricing can be dependent on hours, storage, number of episodes, and downloads.
Some of the major distribution platforms are:
It’s common that podcasts will launch with 3- 5 episodes. The reasoning for this is that it not only gives your listeners more content to get addicted to until the next episode release, but it also avoids the risk of releasing one episode that doesn’t resonate well with your listeners.
Launching with multiple episodes will also look more attractive for potential listeners since it shows audiences that you are more committed to producing the series. “Podfade” is a term used where after the 7th episode, podcasters tend to lose motivation and slow down production on their series. You don’t need to launch with 7 episodes but if you launch with 3-5, it shows more dedication and motivation for the series which listeners will catch onto.
When it comes to audience growth for a branded podcast, the main question you need to ask yourself is - what channels do I have access to? This will take some time for you and your team to sit down and make a list of every single place your podcast can be promoted on. These channels are unique to you, leverage them by promoting your podcast series across each different outlet.
This includes channels like:
A brand that successfully leveraged the channels that they have access to is Tinder. When Tinder created the series “DTR” in partnership with Gimlet, they added a promotion for the podcast on their app where the series would come up as if it were a match. If people liked it, they would be taken to a page where they could listen to the series.
If you’re looking for a full list of podcast marketing tactics to grow your audience, check out our podcast marketing guide.
Lastly, start building your audience as early as possible before you launch. One way to do this is to tell your audience about the podcast through a series trailer. Your trailer should be short (30 seconds - 2 minutes) and consist of:
In addition to a trailer, you can share teasers and snippets of your series to hook potential listeners through the different communication channels that you have identified. This will help grow your audience and build more awareness around your official series launch.
There are three main elements to discoverability.
Whether or not listeners can find your content.
How compelling your names and descriptions are will convince listeners whether or not to listen.
Some resources include:
Transcribe your episodes and format them into blogs to boost your SEO and add another content point. Repurposing your content helps expand its reach. Remember that not everyone discovers a podcast once it first launches. So if you’re creating a seasonal podcast series, don’t stop all promotion once you have released your last episode, new listeners can still be acquired between seasons.
And finally, experiment with different audience growth tactics to see what works best. Tactics that have worked for other podcasts may not fit with yours and your audience so don’t be afraid to try new growth strategies out and let them go if they are not producing your desired results.
Regardless of how you decide to distribute your podcast, it is vital to capture audience information. Key areas to focus on are listener demographics, behaviour, and interest level. Essentially, who are they, how long were they engaged for, and are you retaining them?
Compare your results to your Ideal Listener Profile to ensure you’re hitting the correct customer base.
Some resources to gather audience data are:
Directly ask your audience to fill out a survey that covers their demographics, behaviours, and interests.
Focus on measuring audience engagement.
iii. Combined metrics from distribution partners such as Podbean, Lisbyn, Simplecast, etc.
Now it’s time to talk about analytics. Compared to other mediums, podcasts provide:
Downloads are an important metric and should be tracked and measured. But one thing to keep in mind is that podcast success isn’t based solely off of the number of downloads your series has, e.g. if your podcast targets a niche audience that’s highly engaged, you probably won’t have a large number of downloads but your sponsors may have higher conversion rates through your show.
Use downloads as a tool to estimate how many subscribers you have. Every week, calculate how many downloads you have on the day of your episode release, if that number is recurring every week on that same day, you can assume it’s reflective of your number of subscribers.
Audiences have two ways of listening to podcasts - either an episode is streamed or it's downloaded. Unique downloads are a useful metric that filters through all the listeners and downloads to only attribute one listener per download even if they downloaded the episode numerous times. This is a much more realistic metric of how many listeners you have.
Information on your podcast doesn’t just come from its direct analytics. Social media is a powerful tool to measure the awareness, engagement, popularity of your podcast, and audience demographics. Use social media listening tools (such as HubSpot, Hootsuite or Buffer) to find who’s talking about your podcast and how often listeners are talking about it. As you post your own content about the series, identify who consistently engages with it. These are either current subscribers or users that you can turn into subscribers.
In your episode give your listeners a call to action. This works when you give your listeners a specific code or link for them to visit. If you can offer your listeners a discount to a product or service that either you/a sponsor offers, track the number of listeners that are driven to the website using that discount code.
These numbers will also help you measure your conversion rates if you are interested in pitching to sponsors down the line.
The second way to use CTAs is by bringing potential listeners to your podcast whether that be through your website, social media channels, newsletter, etc. Give each channel a unique link so you can track where users are coming from. Once you’ve figured out which type of content and channel is best for converting users into listeners, put more marketing behind that tactic to grow your audience.
If your podcast exists on a platform like Apple Podcasts (which it should) that lets users leave ratings and reviews, these are incredibly important to analyze. Not only do ratings and reviews let you know what listeners think of your overall series, they also help you find out which episodes are preferred by your audience. If you see a spike in lower ratings after an episode was published, take note that maybe that’s not the type of content that your audience resonates with.
Today, there are over one million podcast series and 30 million episodes available in feeds (My Podcast Reviews), and the numbers are only growing. As podcasting becomes more saturated, the key to growing an audience is about the niche you are creating for yourself and the quality of content that you are putting out.
As you are distributing your episodes, make sure to check in with your content every 3-6 months. Due to the repetitive nature of podcast content (especially when not released in seasons), it can be easy to get lost in the motions, rather than ensuring that you are creating top notch content for your audience. We define podcast quality in 4 main categories:
The value that listeners receive in return for listening to every minute of your podcast.
Does your episode have a narrative arc? You don’t want your content to be flat and have listeners get bored. Try to create a story around your content with challenges and solutions or rising action and climaxes depending on the structure of your series.
Ensure that your sound is clean and crisp rather than muffled and static. Music is also useful in keeping your listeners attention especially if you produce longer episodes (30+ minutes). Throughout your episode, add short music beds (5-10 seconds of music) that transition to a new segment, question, interview, etc.
Make sure your episodes follow one general theme, topic and format.
As we stated above, some possible formats are:
i. Interview Q&A
v. Scripted Narrative
Don’t forget to add effective signposts into the episode as well. Signposts are short clips in the podcast where the host will either recap sections of the episode, raise questions, give their opinion on a section, or tell listeners what’s coming up.
Signposts can be placed throughout the podcast, usually we’ll hear signposts at the beginning and ending of the podcast and possibly throughout the episode depending on the length and format.
Is the topic you are discussing different from other podcasts on the market? For example, if you run a tech podcast, what is it about yours that is different from the rest? Find out what sets your content apart from other shows in your category to give your listeners a reason to choose to listen to your series.
Creating a great podcast that listeners want to tune into takes planning, strategizing, and expertise. If your brand is planning on launching a podcast this guide is a perfect resource to get you started, but after you're done reading you'll actually need to take action and dedicate time to bringing your series to life.
It's also important to remember that podcasting is a long-term plan. Don't expect to have your podcast produce the results you're hoping for immediately. Be patient with the content and continue to work towards finding the right content and marketing tactics that fit with your audience.
Quill Inc. is your branded podcast marketing and production agency. From working with brands such as RBC, CIBC, TD, Axway, The Globe and Mail, and many more, Quill’s goal is to facilitate connections between brands and trusted resources to better inspire, educate, engage, and of course, entertain audiences everywhere.
If you’re looking for expert help for producing and growing your podcast, get in touch with our team!
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