The rising popularity of podcasting means that at last marketers and brands can stop talking about discovering the medium and start worrying about being left behind. In fact, growth is so rapid that no doubt somewhere a thought-leader is already drafting a keynote address announcing ‘The Death of the Podcast’.

For now, though, we can all savour a golden age in which Spotify is investing heavily in promoting podcasting, the BBC works a reference to BBC Sounds into almost every paragraph, and both marketers and brands are ready to go beyond mere dabbling.

Podcast Labs

Two Bournemouth producers recently set up a dedicated studio for those who do want to get ahead of the podcasting phenomenon. Kelly Butler and Andy James launched Podcast Labs in October 2019, giving clients the opportunity to start from scratch and leave with a professionally produced, finished show or series.

“We take care of everything,” says Kelly. “People come to us with an idea and we help them plan the format, identify the audience, record it in studio or on location, edit, manage distribution, create the essential content required for release and provide ongoing strategies to market the podcast.” 

Of course, you can do it yourself with a microphone, laptop and a kitchen table, but it’s still a relatively expensive exercise. That’s not the main reason why customers come to Podcast Labs, however.

“There were two main things wrong with podcasting,” according to Kelly. “The sound quality was often very poor. You could have great content, but if it’s uncomfortable to listen people switch off. The other problem was finding an audience.  “You can’t just put it on iTunes and expect to people to find it. In fact, only 5% will ever find it that way. All the things we know from content marketing strategies still apply – SEO, using call to actions, promoting it on social media, capturing data.”

A question of trust

“The kind of engagement numbers achieved by podcasts are, in marketing terms, unheard of. Around 80% of subscribers listen all to all or most of the episode, while 76% react to or engage with the ads”

Compare that to display ads, where just 4% are seen for more than a second, and social media content, where over half fail to get a single share.

“That’s a huge engagement compared to social media,” says Kelly, “and it’s because you trust the host. It’s audio. It’s raw, and people see through anything that’s inauthentic.”

Set realistic expectations

One of the biggest mistakes brands make, according to Andy, is making the content too much about their business. “If you’ve got a really interesting business, that’s great,” he says, “but you need the people aspect.” He cites the example of a recruitment podcast the lab produces that is sponsored by a recruitment company but focused on powerful human stories, often without a CV or vacancy in sight.

The other area where brands can go wrong – and end up disappointed – is starting with unrealistic goals. While podcasts can accomplish all the lead and revenue generation objectives of other online content, it’s rarely just about making money. “It’s better to focus on loyalty and relationship building,” says Kelly. “If you’re after a customer it’s important to understand that it may take a while. You’ve got to let your audience talk back to you, not just expect them to listen. Find out who they are, bring them onto your social media channels and email, and talk to them. When they are ready to make a decision, they will know a lot about who you are.”

Quality trumps quantity, too. Podcasts deliver loyal, engaged and specialist listeners, who will respond to a sponsored message or referral discount. “It’s better to have 100 listeners who love you rather than a thousand Instagram bots,” says Kelly. “One business we produced a podcast for told us ‘I just want one client from this’ to see value in the exercise.”

A podcast for every subject

Look at the iTunes and Spotify charts and the top spots are dominated by familiar entertainment names partnered with established publishers, especially the BBC. But the quality and variety of content even among the niches (ie. marketing and advertising) is astonishing.

“The medium is changing,” says Kelly. “A lot of people think podcasts are educational. That might be how they started, but now it’s also about having a laugh and relaxing. Those are the things we have less time to do now.”

Crucially, podcasts give niche subjects the room to breathe. Few of us would wade through a marketing blog that took over 5 minutes to read unless it was by an industry leader, but 45 minutes fly by when you’re listening to mere marketing mortals break a particular topic apart. Whereas brevity is the rule for blog content, it’s a weakness on podcasts.

“People want a podcast that will last the length of a commute, dog walk or gym session,” says Kelly. “They don’t want to be changing and switching.”

TOP TIPS

3 hot tips straight from podcasting professionals

  1. Get the right kit.

    You can get a ‘Starter kit’ off Amazon, but make sure you order a dynamic microphone for clarity – not a condenser, which picks up sound on each channel.

  2. Think through timings

    Allow 2X to 3X the length of your recording for editing (dropping in the intro/outro, balancing the levels and cutting any flubs).

  3. Repurpose your existing content.

    Blogs can be turned into debates, panel discussions or just recorded audio version.

PODCASTS TO LISTEN TO

The Curry Queen – listen to Sarah Ali Chodhury prepare recipes in real time,

You Are the Media – A third of Mark’s email subscribers now listen to his weekly email instead of reading, 

Evolve to Succeed Podcast – Insightful conversations with founders entrepreneurs & business leaders.