“We want to make podcasts but we don’t know where to start…”
This is by far the most common phrase I hear when we start talking to brands about making their own show. With that in mind, I wanted to write a blog post which sums up my usual answer to this tentative first step.
*Deep breath*… OK, here we go…
Statistics show that if you get it right, podcasts can go measurably further in growing your brand and your brand’s reputation than traditional advertising. Listeners literally subscribe to what you make. They choose to spend their valuable time with you, what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Just think about that for a second?! Out of all the Netflix shows, HBO series, radio stations and the myriad of digital distractions, they have picked what you have to offer. As a result, the connection between you – the brand – and the listener goes much deeper than traditional radio or digital advertising. It’s incredibly intimate and almost invaluable. The rewards are great.
But get it wrong and the opposite is true. You run the risk of ruining those relationships – existing and potential. A listener’s time is precious and if they choose to spend time with you and it’s (*ahem*) crap then that’s (almost) unforgivable. Your reputation almost certainly ruined. With such high risks, you’d expect that this occurrence is rare. Quite the opposite. It happens time and time again. Often, the biggest mistake we see in this space happens when brands (or people without any prior knowledge of programme making) jump head first into to making a podcast without thinking about these questions first.
The low barriers to the podcast market is a double-edged sword. The ease in which people can create and release podcasts makes it a crowded marketplace. Simply, if you don’t make a podcast that can stand out from the crowd, it will disappear into the ether, lost admist the vast amount of content. “If we build it, they will come” has never been more incorrect when it comes to building a successful podcast series. It takes laser-focus and a great deal of effort.
That’s usually where Stabl comes in. We understand what’s makes compelling audio, how to make it – and just as importantly – where to place it. We’ll often spend a long time discussing the basics with brands before a single bit of audio is recorded because it is that important.
Right, so down to the nitty-gritty. “How do I approach this podcast thing in the first place?” Well, I would say there are 5 points to consider. Here’s what we go through in our initial chats with clients…
1. Focus on who you’re making it for.
Literally, draw up a description of the character (or characters) you’d like to listen to your show. How old are they? What hobbies do they have? What about your series will appeal to them? When and in what context will they listen?
Example: How I Built This by NPR is aimed at budding entrepreneurs who look up to successful business people interviewed on the show. They love hearing about the travails of how they got to the position they are now in. They listen to be inspired. They live and breathe their business and the audience ranges from college students to seasoned professionals looking to try something new.
2. What is your message?
There has to be a reason to listen. Frankly, there are a lot of self-indulgent (*insert expletive*) podcasts out there where the creators are scratching their head as to why no-one’s listens. The reality is people don’t actually care that much about your opinion. It cannot be an exercise in “look at us, aren’t we great!” No one likes a show off, even if you are a multi-national company with “just the best employees”. Rather, the podcast space should be an opportunity for you to show that you understand the listener. You understand that they love to hear beautifully crafted stories that your target audience (see point 1) enjoy in their everyday lives. Do not make spam that clutters their already cluttered life. Make something that actually adds enjoyment to their week… and for that, you will be rewarded. Also, make the message genuine. If it’s not, you’ll be sussed out in no time.
Example: Face 2 Face by Facebook isn’t a show about how great Facebook is. Instead, Facebook have understood that reason people use their platform is to connect and share experiences of everyday life. This podcast is all about this underlying principal, telling stories about this factor and opening up dialogue.
3. Create a format
Now that you understand the underlying basics of who you’re making it for and why they will listen, start to put the flesh on the bones and craft the show’s running order. This factor has ambition vs resources at its heart. Look, you have to be realistic. Yes, it be wonderful to create an amazing documentary type of show that is released weekly featuring the incredible journalism, original music and big-hitting names. But is this realistic?
Please (pretty please) don’t underestimate the costs and time it will take to make a quality show and build up an audience (see points 4 & 5). However, that’s not to say that you have to make a sub-par show if you haven’t got a 6-figure budget. Be smart with your strengths (contacts, equipment, existing platforms) and consistent with your delivery and quality. Which leads to…
Podcasts are only for those who are in it for the medium-to-long-term. The example I usually give is this: the worst possible reason for making a podcast (if you’re a brand) is to advertise a deal that has a limited shelf-life. Black Friday giveaway? Do not make a podcast. Limited time free membership offer? Stay clear of podcasts. One-off event to promote? Don’t even think about making a podcast to promote it. Why? Because it takes time to grow an audience.
Look at making at least 2-3 series that have at least 6-10 episodes because that’s what podcast listeners want. Why would they subscribe to something that only has 3 episodes and will never again release any new material? They wouldn’t. If you’re going to go down the podcasting road, commit… or risk no one listening at all.
5. Have a marketing strategy
I can’t emphasis this point enough. You must set aside time and money to shout and scream about your show. Even if you have absolutely nailed points 1, 2, 3 and 4, the marketplace is a crowded one and if you don’t make an effort to let your potential audience know about it, no one will. Don’t worry if you haven’t got millions in the bank, the good news is that there are cheap(er) ways to do this. Liaise with Apple and get featured in Apple podcasts, have a social media strategy and connect with those who this show may appeal to and use your existing platforms, such as your website, to put the show front and centre of your existing users.
Also, do you have any contacts with other podcasters? Cross-promotion (the act of featuring your show on another podcast) is a great way of reaching new (podcast savvy) podcast audiences. For this, try Podcross. However, if you do have the resources, I would always recommend traditional advertising. Yes, podcasts is a media offering like TV, radio, movies and social media. They have needs and wants to! So, if you can get your show on a billboard or in a magazine or on TV, do it!
That, then, is the basics in a nutshell. If you’re going to go down the podcast route, be bold and go all-in. Otherwise, you’ll regret it.
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