A form of active entertainment, podcasts make us laugh, educate us, distract us and relax us. They can be about almost any subject, and – crucially for any brand that is considering starting a podcast – can be relatively straightforward to produce. Shows that now reach millions of people started with little more than a microphone, an idea, and a submission to a podcast directory.
Given all of this, it’s little wonder that according to a study by PwC, 37% of UK businesses surveyed had produced a podcast in 2020, with the most common reason being to increase brand awareness. Maintaining a branded podcast is increasingly being recognised as an excellent and cost-effective way to build a loyal audience, who are tuned in to what your organisation is all about.
The caveat here is that podcast audiences are also very discerning. They know when they’re being sold to, and recognise a cynical and poorly dressed-up marketing attempt when they see one.
Podcast Index estimates that there are between three and four million podcasts in existence, giving people plenty of options should a show they’ve chosen sound off-puttingly like a sales pitch. This makes it crucial that branded podcasts come across less like an advert, and more like a piece of organic content. They need to add value, feel genuine, and engage the listener in a way that compels them to keep listening.
We’ve put together a guide below to help you achieve this. Before we get into the ways to make sure your corporate podcast doesn’t sound like a corporate podcast, however, it’s important to start with a very fundamental question.
What are corporate or branded podcasts?
Corporate (or branded) podcasts can be – and should be – exactly the same as non-branded ones. The primary difference is that branded podcasts are created by a brand, often for marketing purposes.
This doesn’t mean that a podcast should be treated as an advert for your products or services, however. Instead, a good branded podcast should be a celebration of the sector in which your brand exists, leveraging your position, expertise and resources to create compelling and unique content.
Take The Penguin Podcast as an example. It was created by Penguin Books, a publisher based in the UK. Yet instead of constituting an hour of adverts for Penguin products, it celebrates its audience’s love of literature by interviewing authors who they might be interested in.
What makes it successful – earning it several awards – is its subtlety and authenticity. Hosts Malorie Blackman with Nihal Arthanayake aren’t there to sell books, even if that’s a secondary outcome. They’re there to create genuinely compelling content that listeners want to hear.
The podcast has boosted Penguin Books’ reputation, provided the brand with a more personable face, and contributed towards its position as the world’s highest earning publisher. Its branded podcast helps to make it a credible thought leader.
How have they done that, and what lessons from this case study can you apply to your own business? Here are our tips to make sure your branded podcasts don’t sound like branded podcasts.
Have a vision
Podcasts are popular, but they’re also a dime a dozen. If you opt to make one, do it with a clear vision in mind, taking time to carefully plan what it is you want to achieve, and what your audience are likely to want to listen to.
A good start to that planning process is to draft a value statement. This should find an intersection between both your organisation’s values and those of your audience. By identifying your branded podcast’s vision, you can come up with a long-term strategy to establish and grow your listenership, and create content that will continue to find an audience long after its publication date.
You might be starting a branded podcast to build up your audience and reach new customers, but that objective doesn’t add value beyond company profits. If that’s the case, don’t expect your listenership to stick around.
Any successful podcast should give its audience a reason to tune in. This could be making them laugh, providing valuable insight, or fostering a sense of community around a certain subject.
Say you’re a legal firm specialising in criminal law. Your podcast could answer questions that may interest a general audience – why do judges and barristers wear wigs when in court? How easy is it to represent yourself in a courtroom scenario?
If you want to go down the path of making your audience laugh, don’t try too hard, but do make sure the topic you’re discussing is suited to comedy. Brands often get nervous when associating themselves with comedy in the fear that they might appear unprofessional. Done right, this kind of levity can be extremely endearing, and put a more human face on the business.
People skip adverts, and podcasters know it. A study conducted by the University of Florida and Futuri Media found that 46% of podcast listeners skip podcast ads, and both podcast players and producers empower this. Many advert breaks are timed around 30 seconds or 1 minute so that people can use the 30 second skip button.
Sometimes this is because the product or service doesn’t fit with the podcast’s theme, or that the advert feels out of place. In other cases, there are simply too many of them, or they break up the flow of the episode. Much also falls on the reading of the advert, which is often done by the hosts, and where the sentiment can feel fake.
We also skip adverts because they’re everywhere. They’re on social media, news websites, TV, the radio, and at the side of the road. Adverts elbow in on the things we actually enjoy, and putting lots of them in your podcast can make listeners liable to skip them.
If your whole episode is one big advert, your intended listener might just skip you. The higher the quality of the podcast, and the less of it people feel compelled to skip through, the more positively they will look upon you.
Having regular guests on your podcast is a great way to keep content fresh. While listeners attach themselves to hosts, sustaining creative momentum with just one can be tricky. Guest appearances spark new ideas and provide different perspectives, adding value to the listening experience with a spectrum of viewpoints.
This is reflected in the popularity of interview-driven podcasts, where a central host interviews a different guest each episode. Each new guest attracts a new audience to your branded podcast, whether that’s fans of a particular band listening to your interview with the lead singer, or fans of an author looking for titbits about their next novel. If you’ve got a great host and a quality guestlist, some of those listeners are likely to stick around.
Of course, finding and booking these high-quality guests to appear on your podcast can take time. It’s often best left to professionals who can help with your branded podcast creation.
Acknowledge your audience
Your branded podcast shouldn’t exist in a vacuum, isolated from its audience. Instead, consider taking questions from your listenership, and lay out a roadmap for doing a live event on stage.
Successful podcasts are those that feel personal. An effective way of achieving this is to create a two-way dialogue with your audience, involving them as much as possible in the idea generation stage of each episode.
This shouldn’t intercede on your creative vision, but should supplement your content. Many podcasts do regular Q&As with their listeners, or source news stories from their listeners around the world to discuss in a segment or episode. Making your audience feel heard and even involved can help your podcast to shed its branded image, making it both more personal and more engaging.
A branded podcast can be a great way to build your audience and expand your brand’s reach, but it is something that should be done with a high level of careful consideration. Your listeners are a discerning bunch, and they want you to be authentic and engaging.
For any question or queries on the topic, feel free to talk to our podcast creation team today, and start laying out a path to podcasting success.