Why brands should treat podcasts as a long-term strategy, not a one-off campaign
‘Everyone has a podcast’ could end up being my most-heard phrase of 2021. It’s one I hear all the time. One of the UK’s best and most prominent journalists covering podcasts, Fiona Sturges, wrote a piece recently about how many celebrities have their own podcasts these days.
If you’re an entrepreneur, a sports fan, a brand or someone who simply thinks that their conversations with friends are particularly funny, chances are that you’ve either started your own podcast, or considered it. And why not? The beauty of the medium is the low barrier to entry. Much like YouTube or Soundcloud, there is no issue with there being tonnes of content out there, so long as you’re mindful of how difficult it is to find an audience and have a plan of how to get into that top 1%.
Podcasts are different: don’t get it wrong
That value comes in the form of the podcast audience who are engaged (80% of people who downloaded a podcast listened to it all the way through), tech-savvy (podcast listeners are more likely to own a smart speaker) and potential customers (podcast listeners are more likely to follow companies and brands on social media and 81% of listeners have taken action after hearing audio ads during a podcast).
Some brands have dipped their toe in the water by sponsoring a podcast or taking out spot ads (pre/mid/post roll slots). Others have gone one step further and created their own original series.
It might feel like the brands with their own original podcast series are the most ambitious in the space, but that ambition will only prove successful if it’s coupled with a long-term strategy. And this is where I often see brands going wrong.
A podcast should not be approached like a TV ad. This isn’t the place to throw your budget into a 1-month period and stop, because you won’t get the impact or ROI you’re looking for. If you want that big brand recognition piece with high impressions and talkability across a short period of time, that’s what the ITV Saturday night ad slots are for.
Podcasts only work when they stick around and have a chance to grow. That doesn’t mean to say every podcast series needs to be 52 episodes a year. However, it does mean that if you’re planning on releasing 6 episodes and hoping to stay in the charts and be remembered beyond those 6 weeks, you’re likely to be mistaken.
Look at the most popular podcasts globally and check how many episodes they have done (Joe Rogan, No Such Thing As A Fish, Stuff You Should Know, How I Built This etc). Unless you’re sat on the next Winds of Change or Missing Cryptoqueen, (with the production and promotional budget required), take a leaf out of the books of those who have honed their craft and their show over the long-haul.
Conversation formats do not turn into overnight hits… unless you’re Barack Obama. And if you are, thanks for reading.
Having worked with Fiverr since day one on their branded podcast, ‘Ninetwentynine’, the strategy was clear from the start. Liron Smadja, Senior Director of Global Marketing, recognised that ‘brands are constantly asking things of their customers. We wanted to focus on providing value without asking for anything back. The goal is to drive brand awareness to a new potential audience and boost Fiverr’s sentiment, but most importantly — to provide value.’
A year’s worth of content, a million downloads and a Lovie Award later, and clearly that value has been created.
Why ‘always on’ is key’
If ‘Ninetwentynine’ had stopped after 6 episodes, would it be able to boast the global impact it’s had? Of course not. The long-term approach worked, and this didn’t rely on finding a shedload more budget.
It came from thinking long-term and acting smart, by originating a format that could run and run without crippling production costs, working with a presenter who was invested in the project and didn’t just see it as a paid gig and a marketing strategy that constantly evolved and optimised. ‘We view our podcast as another content channel to reach our current and new customers. We invest in it in a similar way we do with our organic social content. In that regard, it can be an always-on channel.’
Fiverr aren’t the only brand using a podcast as part of their long-term editorial strategy. We’re working with the likes of BMW, Vodafone, Sky Bet, Wiley and others on how to get the most of their podcast content long term.
By all means start with Series 1, but go in with the aim of it evolving into Series 2, 3 and 4. Once you’ve built an audience (and got people to actively press ‘subscribe or follow’,) you have them in your pocket ready to serve content to. I mean this literally — once someone has subscribed, they will be notified when a new episode drops (even if it’s 6 months later).
This is a sentiment echoed by Dave Roberts, ex- Chief Content Officer of Engine: ‘The idea of ‘always-on’ branded content is all too often confined to contract publishing and social media (often with little or no connection between the two). However, once a format has been developed and set, podcasting not only offers a very cost-effective platform, it’s also a highly effective means of regularly engaging a brand’s community around key narratives (and even integrating them into the content itself).’
Always-on might sound scary, but it doesn’t need to. It’s the difference between making a short-lived splash and making a long-lasting impact. All of your social media channels are always-on, and every brand should consider a podcast as a channel within their marketing mix. Not everyone needs a podcast, but if you’re a brand that warrants one, please don’t be one of the 60+% who don’t make the most of the opportunity and the budget they are spending. Because there is absolutely no need to do that.
This article first featured in Shots