Podcasts can be entertaining, educational or a powerful force for change. They can drive debate on key issues, give a voice to minorities and affect legal outcomes. For businesses, they can also be an extremely effective way to engage existing or prospective customers, establish credibility and share brand messaging.
Organisations of all kinds are waking up to the potential of podcasting, with one commentator writing that 2019 was the year “podcasting truly arrived”. The trick is to think brand alignment rather than hard sell. Successful branded podcasts include eBay’s Open for Business, which focuses on entrepreneurs who grew their business from scratch into a successful company, and Johnson & Johnson’s Innovation, which explores new concepts in healthcare. Microsoft’s .future explores how the future may unfold, based on the choices we make as individuals and as a society. Stockbroking and wealth management firm Morgans Financial has a portfolio of podcasts for different audiences, including Morgans Startup Series and Morgans Executive Series.
These sorts of podcasts allow you to share your expertise, establish your credibility as a thought leader in your field and make yourself useful to your target audience. Podcasts are also good for building a relationship with listeners. People usually subscribe to podcasts they like, and listen to them regularly. This helps to build familiarity and trust, which is a key factor in converting leads. Inviting guests on to your show also gives you an excuse to engage with CEOs and other thought leaders who could help your business down the track.
You could also consider podcast advertising. As Seth Greene, author of Market Domination for Podcasting explains, “Podcasts offer the advertiser the ability to hyper target.” Want to promote your wealth management advisory service? There are dozens of podcasts out there targeting cashed-up retirees (and those who would like to be more cashed up). What’s more, up to 63% of Australian podcast listeners will take some type of action based on advertising or sponsorship.
What is a podcast anyway?
Podcasts are digital audio shows that are available online to download on demand to a computer or mobile device. Anyone with a microphone and an internet connection can record a podcast, and users can subscribe to receive the digital files as soon as they are uploaded to the internet.
Podcasting has been around since the 1980s, when it was known as ‘audio blogging’, but it really began to take off around 2004. Apple added podcasts to its iTunes store a year later. However, podcasting went mainstream in 2014 when This American Life launched the first series of its Serial podcast. Serial went on to become the world’s most downloaded podcast, racking up more than 420 million downloads by 2020.
Since then, podcasts have continued to grow in popularity. More than 30% of Aussies listen to a podcast every month. Of these, 68% listen to at least four episodes every week, while almost half (49%) listen to at least four different series weekly. In the United States, 51% of the population have listened to a podcast, while 22% listen to them weekly (up from 17% in 2017). This growth is largely due to listeners’ ability to download podcasts to mobile phones and listen to them whenever and wherever they want.
In Australia and North America, true crime podcasts such as Dirty John and The Clearing are wildly popular. These attract enormous numbers of downloads and inspire listeners to call in with clues or even conduct their own investigations. Australian podcast The Teacher’s Pet, which investigates the disappearance and suspected murder of Sydney woman Lynette Dawson in 1982, was downloaded more than 28 million times in the seven months after its launch. The series earned journalist Hedley Thomas and producer Slade Gibson the Gold Walkley Award for Journalism in 2018, and it has been credited with helping to uncover new evidence that led to the conviction of Lynette’s husband Chris Dawson. Prior to the trial, Dawson’s defence team raised questions about whether he could receive a fair trial given the amount of attention the podcast has drawn to the case.
But it’s not just true crime that captures listeners’ imaginations. There are currently more than 800,000 podcasts to choose from, together offering over 30 million episodes. These cover everything from business (for example, HBR IdeaCast, The Sophisticated Marketer and Business Wars) to sport (Cricket Unfiltered and The 30 for 30 Podcasts), music (Disgraceland, Song Exploder and Cocaine & Rhinestones), conspiracy theories (Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know and The RFK Tapes), politics (Pod Save America and Remainiacs: The Brexit Podcast) and comedy (My Dad Wrote A Porno). Thousands more are uploaded to the internet every week.
What makes a good podcast?
Podcasts can be about anything, but the best ones tend to have a few things in common.
- A niche. Choose something that’s a good fit for your business or brand values, but don’t try to cover too much ground. It’s better to produce high-quality content targeted to a specific audience that wants that content. While you’re at it, you’ll need a catchy name that connects to your subject and will help people find you when searching for podcasts about that subject.
- Compelling content. Think about the problems your audience might have, or questions they want answered. Then decide on a format that allows you to explore the subject matter. Podcasts can be scripted, ad-libbed from an outline, or interview-style. Consider inviting guests to discuss industry trends or share their stories. As well as providing a rich vein of content, featured guests are also likely to share your podcast with their networks, expanding your reach to new audiences. Aim to publish new episodes on a regular schedule, so listeners know when to look for each new episode.
- A professional introduction. Podcasting is a great leveller but a professional-sounding intro with appropriate music helps establish your show’s credentials. Use it to sell listeners on your show, introduce the host as an expert in your field and share disclaimers. Wrap up each episode with a voiceover that has a clear call to action – for example, encouraging listeners to visit your website to learn more about the topic discussed in that episode.
- Show notes. These are written notes relating to the content of each podcast episode. They might include a synopsis of the episode and links to help listeners find more information on the subject. They may also include a call to action – for example, “Join our mailing list to receive more information on Editor Group’s services”. This might seem like more work, but show notes encourage listeners to visit your website. They’re also great for SEO, because they allow you to use all the keywords you use in your podcast somewhere where Google can find them. You could also have each episode transcribed and uploaded to your website. This not only makes episodes accessible to people with a hearing impairment or those who have no experience of podcast technology, but also gives you a head start in reusing some of the ideas in a blog, white paper or other piece of content.
- Hosting. Podcast hosting platforms such as Libsyn, Whooshkaa and Blubrry store your show online and syndicate it to directories like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and Pandora.
- A promotional plan. Once you have published your podcast online, you need to let your target audience know. This could be via a combination of email newsletter, electronic direct mail (EDM), blog post, or Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Instagram posts. Consider amplifying organic posts with paid content for maximum impact. Send a link to guests featured on the show and ask them to share it with their networks. Then think about how else you can use the episodes – for example, emailing specific episodes to prospects who express interest in a related product or topic. If an episode proves to be particularly popular with listeners, think about creating more educational content on the same topic.
Of course, if you just want the ‘talent’ to turn up and talk on the day, you can outsource any or all of the activities associated in creating the podcast.
Editor Group’s team of writers can help you to write an audio script from scratch or edit an existing draft. We can also help craft complementary materials for podcasts, including show outlines, show notes, media releases, EDMs, blogs and social media posts.
With ‘voice’ tipped to be the next big thing for content marketing, accessing podcasts is poised to become even easier and more mainstream. Wouldn’t you like to be able to say, “Alexa, play the latest episode of our podcast”?
Need help getting started with a podcast project? Let us know how we can help.