Content marketers and podcast production agencies have been conceiving and creating branded podcasts for several years now. But much of it has been done in silos, relying on trial and error and creative instincts to move their craft forward.
That’s what made the Brand Podcast Virtual Summit on January 24 so powerful.
A total of 1,418 CMOs, content marketers and podcast producers registered for the first-ever conference or summit dedicated specifically to branded podcasts. For the first time, branded podcasters from around the world connected online to learn from the experts – and fill the chat box with their own tips and experiences.
Presented free of charge by the folks at Lower Street, attendees took in sessions from podcast pros, brand marketers as well as content marketing headliners Anne Handley and Rand Fishkin.
Across all the sessions, the podcast audience came first. This should seem an obvious focus for podcast production. However, the impulse to create a branded podcast often comes from an organization’s instinct to put the brand’s objectives ahead of content that will attract their target audience.
Roy Sexton, Director of Marketing at Clark Hill Law, tackled this head on, advising attendees, “Podcasts should not just exist to placate someone’s ego… If it’s not bringing in a lead or awareness or audience growth, you need to pull the plug or re-tool.”
Keeping the focus on compelling content, Lynn Teo, CMO at Northwestern Mutual emphasized the key ingredients of “The 4 Es: Expertise, Engagement, Education, Entertainment.” Similarly, Nick Howard, Podcast Architect & Manager for BCG said, “I want to know how I can make the airport book for podcasts.”
This same audience-centered approach applies when putting diversity, equity and inclusion in focus.
“If you have a brand that doesn’t have members from the community and you also have a production team that doesn’t have members from the community, you don’t have those gatekeepers to say ‘wait… maybe we’re doing something wrong here,’” said Chris Colbert, Founder and CEO, DCP Entertainment. “You don’t have that authentic connection… you could actually be offensive, spending money and hurting your brand.”
As you grow your audience, branded podcasts can benefit from in-house evangelists. “A lot of brands overlook their employees. It’s a missed opportunity,” observed Lower Street’s Shannon Martin. “A couple of tips on how you can engage them: Ask them for their contributions, their feedback and get them to send you advice notes. You can also build the podcast into their learning and development.”
Podcast audiences listen, a key skill when it comes to the interview that lies at the core of many branded podcasts. As Lower Street’s Executive Producer Erin MacIndoe Sproule put it, “We can’t talk about the art of the interview without talking about the art of listening.”
A big part of listening is leaving plenty of space for the interview subject to open up. Business journalist and host Sonari Rhodes Glinton said, “The best question is usually less than four words… a one-word question like ‘Why’?”
Marketing guru Ann Handley brought her content marketing expertise to the branded podcast table. That included the top 3 priorities for 2024 from a recent survey of content marketers, every bit as relevant to anyone building a branded podcast. One, stand apart ( especially within a sea of AI-generated mediocrity). Two, emphasize thought leadership. Three, be a trusted resource.
Ann’s starting point for a brand’s podcast comes down to two simple questions: Why is the brand making a podcast? And, so what (why will listeners care)?
Closing out the day, SparkToro Founder and CEO Rand Fishkin left the audience with tactics for defining the audience of your branded podcast.
First, find a unique value proposition.Then, be specific in your audience target.
Use online audience research tools that can give you a demographic, geographic, and social profile of your target audience based on keywords. Brandwatch, Audiense as well as Rand’s own SparkToro are some of those tools. Think not just about who will listen, but who will recommend your podcast and amplify your message?
Understanding podcast audiences is our mission at Signal Hill Insights – whether it’s discovering the demographics of a show or network, or evaluating how listeners respond to content and message. So it was educational and energizing to hear so many experts pass on their hard won experiences and wisdom. We encourage you to dig deeper. You can get full replays of each session for free here.
The Brand Podcast Virtual Summit will be back on April 24, sharing more insights on podcasts for brands. Register here. Having had the privilege to conduct dozens of brand lift studies for branded podcasts since 2016, Signal Hill is a proud sponsor. And we’ll be among the presenters in April. See you there!