Picture: Davis Sanchez/Pexels
Picture: Davis Sanchez/Pexels

A few weeks back I spoke to one of our early and most supportive podcast clients. She commented that I must be so pleased that the podcast boom I long predicted in SA has finally happened, and that I wasn’t a madman. 

I dispute the last bit, but yes - the “podboom” has happened, and listeners, producers and brands are finally all ears. 

But now we have to keep everyone happy. If we thought kick-starting this podcast industry was tough, it’s nothing compared to how tough making it viable will be. 

With brands on board, bigger budgets come, and budgets mean expectations — so how can you as a brand ride this wave and get long-term benefits?

Treat it as long term

The plus side is that podcasts are affordable compared with other media; the downside is that it takes a long time to see results — first in listenership, then in return on investment.

You need a long-term view and you have to keep producing even when it looks like nothing is happening. That’s not to say keep wasting money. Make sure that whoever your podcast partner is brings you a sensible growth and audience-building strategy - not just a few mics, a music library and an Anchor account. 

Maximise your content 

There are not many people who want to listen to more than 40 minutes of a podcast, let alone a branded one. That’s just reality. Done well, people will never even pick up that there is a brand involved - but there is one, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably a marketer who has to justify spend at some point. 

Building an audience for a long-form piece takes time, and results will be iffy to start, but there are audiences for shorter-form content that can be attracted quickly. Make sure your podcast is being cut into smaller pieces, converted into video posts and shared on social media. 

Have key points cut into tweets and sent out to your base, and promote pieces internally with staff, clients and suppliers. They are your first audience and these little pieces of content and the momentum they build will eventually get people into the main event.  

Don’t count listeners, count your community 

Radio stations must worry about listeners. You with a branded podcast don’t have to be obsessed with them. 

You’re doing this to build a connection with customers, staff and suppliers. They need to engage with you, and that’s why you are giving them lots of content to engage with. 

When you’re tracking your performance, the person who liked and shared your four 30-second promo pieces about the show are just as important as the person who spent 40 minutes listening. 

The people who follow your podcast’s page on Facebook are as much a part of your community as the person who rates and reviews your weekly show. 

You’re a brand, right? You understand products - is the person who buys your six-pack less important than the one who buys a case?  

Support the podcast through the whole business 

Fifteen times out of 10 when a branded podcast has flopped it’s because it lived in isolation. We poor mic jockeys in our cramped studios can do a lot, but there is a point where the brand needs to support the show. 

Internal promotion, internal incentive to listen, sharing with stakeholders and then using budget to promote to the public is the difference between a vanity exercise and a really powerful tool. 

There is nothing wrong with vanity exercises, but then accept that’s where it ends. If you want to see the power of this tool, it needs to be as important as your company’s website or Facebook/Twitter presence.   

Know your place in the podcast world and accept it - it’s a great place 

I’ve seen loads of branded podcasts and I can count on one hand those that have gone mainstream. People will listen to them, they will be successful, but they will never be The Joe Rogan Experience. 

This is a communication tool for your business and not your way of getting rich and famous.  

It gives your brand a real voice, not one from a hired actor but from the people in your business. 

This tool needs to create a pattern of people returning weekly for your brand’s message. It will earn you some hipster points on the way, but smart people listen to podcasts and know the deal. 

It’s a business transaction. They’re fine for you to be in their ears on that proviso. We all get it, and we can be fine with it too.

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