Marketing has a funny way of picking up things that are declared dead — dusting them off and suddenly making the old new again. Beyond the inexplicable resurgence of bucket hats and Marky Mark Wahlberg solidifying himself as a Hollywood leading man, nothing has been entrenched in popular culture during the last decade quite like radio’s evolution into a podcasting and digital-media monolith.
The numbers behind the meteoric rise of podcasts are staggering. There are currently 2 million podcasts floating around on the internet (more than double from just three years ago), with 50 million different episodes to choose from. More important: Nearly 60% of Americans reported listening to at least one podcast in the last year.
If we’re being honest, though, the market is huge but also crowded. Podcasts may offer another medium for you to tell your brand story, but how do you reach and retain that audience so you can actually have your story heard?
10 Words and a Reason to Care.
The easiest way to sink a podcast before it even launches is to weigh it down with a broad formless concept. Often, the core concept for a podcast gets cast aside in favor of smaller details: Who should host? What’s the tone? When do we record? How should we script segments? While all of these vary in degrees of importance, they’re all functionally useless without an unimpeachable North Star to guide your vision. Author and podcast producer Eric Nuzum has a great solution for finding that core concept: Using 10 words or less, describe your podcast in a way that describes nothing else in the world. Throw away the fluff and empty modifiers. Get to the essence of what your podcast is going to be and what will make it special. Keep refining your concept until you get down to something that feels fresh and evocative so you can attract new listeners and have enough substance to keep them around.
Be a Storyteller. Not a Billboard.
One of the things that makes podcasts so unique is that they are passive media. We listen to podcasts while driving to work, filling out spreadsheets and Googling a better chili recipe (a little cocoa powder will really cut the acidity, by the way). People are never just listening to a podcast. This means the cardinal rule of podcasting is simple: You can’t be boring. With 2 million different options, average listeners won’t give you a second chance to win them over. Your show should always offer a potential listener something, whether it’s a good laugh or a fresh perspective, presented in an authentic way. That element of authenticity is crucial. The more your podcast begins to sound like an infomercial instead of a frank and honest conversation, the more likely you are to hemorrhage listeners. Instead of focusing your show on sales conversions, center the podcast on what you can offer by tapping into what makes your brand special and endearing.
The most important thing to remember is that podcasting is a marathon, not a sprint. Take the time to craft impactful stories and insightful commentary with a killer concept, and you’ll be rewarded with an engaged audience with an affinity for your brand. I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite podcasts for inspiration:
Imagine having an opportunity to change a moment from your past or find clarity on a longstanding unresolved issue. One part investigative journalism and one part therapy, host Jonathan Goldstein uses his dry, self-deprecating humor to make stories of redemption feel light and fun.
Meticulously researched, this podcast is dedicated to exploring the secret and forgotten histories of old Hollywood. It deftly balances education with entertainment by using reenactments and creative production for each episode.
If the internet seems as vast and insurmountable as Mount Everest, consider Reply All your Sherpa. There are plenty of podcasts about technology, but Reply All stands out by focusing on the real human stories that shape our online experiences and, in turn, describing how the internet impacts popular culture.
Interested in exploring more ways to harness the power of podcasts? We share more on sourcing the right podcast hosts, telling impactive stories and the importance of promotion in this two-part series:
About the Author
With nearly a decade of marketing experience under his belt, Steve Cuff has helped clients in a wide variety of industries, from footwear to food service and agriculture. He’s committed to helping clients find unique ways to build their brand through digital storytelling. Prior to his work in advertising, you may have heard Steve’s voice over the airways as a radio DJ and producer in scenic Kalamazoo, Michigan. When he’s not honing his craft as a PR pro at Bader Rutter, you can find him teaching the next generation of podcasters at Carroll University, expressing his strong opinions on Hong Kong action films and encouraging his cats to dance with him to 1980s new wave music (despite their reservations).