It seems nothing can stop the rise of podcasts. I bet somewhere on your LinkedIn feed you’ve seen some sort of podcast promoted to you (it’s probably mine), or at least two of your friends will have recommended a great series you should listen too.
What I want to discuss with you is why you should (and maybe why you shouldn’t) start a podcast for your brand.
To be clear, podcasts are not a new phenomenon. They predate the big social networks; Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The question is when exactly did podcasts become popular? Well, take a look at this Google Trends chart:
You can see the word “podcast” actually took off in 2005. This was the year Apple launched iTunes 4.9, which allowed for users to easily download podcasts onto their mobile phone or, more likely back then, their iPod. This made getting access to this type of content far easier.
The second spike you can see came in 2015, thanks to shows such as Serial, Freakanomics and my personal favourite, My Dad Wrote A Porno. With podcasts like these producing regular episodes, the demand for more audio content became explosive.
But despite this history – an eternity in the fast-paced digital age – the podcast has always been the quiet younger sibling of the technological era, biding its time as social media and streaming giants desperately fight against each other for attention. Slowly but surely, the industry has built up its following. Now, podcasts are everywhere. It’ll soon be normal that everyone has a podcast show, just like how everyone has an Instagram account. Even my Grandma has Instagram, #truth.
So as a business, why should you consider having one?
Well, for one thing, business podcasts are ranked as one of the top 5 most popular genres. And not only that, they make brands more ubiquitous. Suddenly you have someone who is carrying around a bit of your branding in their pockets at all times. It’s an advertiser’s dream to be able to target someone offline so thoroughly. In fact, 49% of podcast listening is done at home, whilst 22% happens while people are driving. The rise in voice assistants at home makes it much easier for people to stick on their favourite podcast while cooking dinner, relaxing on the sofa or even as a bedtime story! This is a much more intimate engagement, a connection that’s far more personal than a generic Facebook ad which probably cost you £2 to serve in the first place.
Now, unless you plan on becoming a serial killer in the name of business, what you need to bear in mind is that brand or corporate podcasts typically have smaller audience than those entertainment podcasts like Serial. However, while the audience may be smaller, the quality of that audience is much higher, provided your business podcast has a clear focus. They should be themed to correspond with an overarching subject matter. For example, Sephora’s podcast revolves around cosmetics, whereas Social Chain’s discuss the variety of topics around social media marketing, etc. What makes both these podcasts successful is the fact they have a theme, and they’re true to why they exist as a brand.
Podcasts are an untapped, creative way for you to build relationships with your audience and spread content, points of view, thought leadership and influence in a more interesting way.
We have morphed into an on-demand society. Netflix, Prime, Spotify, iTunes, the list goes on. The days of putting something on record are far behind us. We’ve grown accustomed to wanting content when we feel like it. To quote Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “don’t care how, I want it now” couldn’t be more true.
Podcasts effectively offer consumers the audio version of “binge watching”. We’re a generation of bingers, and listeners will actively seek out your podcast and reward you for earning their undivided attention with downloads, star ratings, binging episodes, and overall growth in popularity.
For the majority of the day, your audience is preoccupied with varying screen time priorities and other tasks that require their visual attention. Competing against the millions of advertisers on Facebook or trying to be more visible in search to get your blog seen can be a losing battle.
So, rather than competing for more of their screen time, ask for their audio attention instead. Like I said earlier, 49% of listeners listen at home. If I’m cooking, my hands aren’t necessarily free to hold a phone or tablet. But my ears? They’re totally free!
Don’t get me wrong, doing a podcast isn’t easy to just knock out. Thinking about what you want to talk about that is interesting to your audience, getting the equipment, recording and then promoting the damn thing is all pretty time consuming (and sometimes stressful). Which is why if you’re going to do it, you need to have a think about why you’re doing it, but also, who is going to do it? Will it be your CEO? Your Head of Marketing? The intern who is super popular around the office?
Why you shouldn’t do a podcast
If you’re a business that doesn’t have the resource available to produce regular episodes, it may not be the right thing for you to do.
There’s a term out there called Podfade, which basically means you’re not putting out enough regular content, so therefore your podcast starts to fade into the distance.
But even if you do have the resource, who’s going to be leading the podcast? You may be one of the most senior people in your company, but if you don’t have a radio show host personality, your podcast is going to be a drag. You have to want to be that person to make it work. If you find it a chore, people will hear it in your voice. You also have to be fairly real about yourself. What I’m about to say will sound quite harsh, but are you engaging? Are you interesting? Are you influential?
It sounds super obvious, but it’s really hard to criticise yourself like that, and even when you have and you don’t think you’re “the voice of the brand”, finding the right person who is, is tough.
But most importantly, if you haven’t got an angle, don’t start yet. People start to put out a podcast because they feel the pressure to do so, but after episode 1 and 2, they become stuck. You need to ask yourself why are you doing this? What’s your story? What can you share with your audience? Is it free advice? A comical inner monologue, etc?
Is the podcast boom going to die down?
No. Was Facebook just a fad? Was WhatsApp just a fad? These were both different ways of communicating with people and brands, and both are very much still alive and kicking.
While streaming services such as Netflix spurring on an insatiable appetite for on-demand content, new technology has also boosted the resurgence of audio. So much so that even car manufacturers like Ford have started teaming up with podcast platforms to promote shows you should listen to based on the length of your journey!
Podcasting is an industry that experienced an initial boom, and then took some time to find its feet as that first burst settled down. But now, almost 15 years after the podcast came into existence, it is experiencing a renaissance. So what are you waiting for?
I also host Pull's own podcast, Hear Me Raw, so if all this talk about podcasts has whetted your appetite, give it a listen?
of podcast listening is done at home