Amping Up the Volume with Podcasts

One could argue that the podcast renaissance came with the massive popularity of Serial back in 2014, though monthly podcast listenership has been steadily increasing since 2013 according to Pew Research. Over 67 million Americans listen to a podcast every month. And, there was a 45 percent increase in monthly listenership between 2015 and 2017.

Despite the medium’s booming popularity, podcasts are still new territory for most brands. Keeping that in mind, and in no particular order, here’s a look at the podcast basics through a PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) lens.

Owned: Should My Brand Start a Podcast?
Let’s start with the basic question: why should brands consider podcasting? Back in January, Digiday predicted that branded podcasting could potentially double in 2017, due, in large part, to the engagement level of the audience.

If your brand is considering building something fully-owned, it’s worth exploring exactly what goes into building a podcast from the ground up. Major considerations include editing prowess, subject matter expertise and, of course, the time commitment.

I recently spoke with Dan Calabrese, pop culture savant and co-host of the podcast Come Thru Queen, about his recording process. “We pretty much set aside an entire night,” Dan said. “Between actually watching the shows that we cover, reading the news, preparing the outline/script, and setting up the equipment it definitely takes hours.” That’s excluding the promotional elements, which take additional hours of work maintaining Come Thru Queen’s social presence.

Work aside, Dan believes that podcasts as a medium fits the type of content they want to create better than other mediums. “The podcast format is much more conducive to a conversation that lets people get even more enjoyment out of television shows that they love,” he said.

There’s no doubt that building your own podcast from the ground up is a heavy lift. Depending on your goals and resources, it might make sense to partner with a seasoned expert.

Shared: Exploring Podcast Partnerships
When it comes to podcasts, the selection of subjects to be explored is both expansive and specific. No matter how niche your product or key offering may be, chances are that there’s an existing podcast (or podcast host) that would make a good partner for your brand.

Podcast partnership options are threefold:

  • Partner with a podcast network. With a podcast network, your brand can build a new podcast from soup to nuts while borrowing equity and valuable experience from an established brand. However, this option can be expensive in the long-term.
  • Partner with a specific podcast. If your brand, industry or area of expertise is frequently discussed by an established podcast, a more strategic partnership might mean an episode or short series of episodes that focus on your brand.
  • Partner with a podcast host. If you know your brand is in it for the long haul, a partnership with a podcast host is the best balance of ownership and established voice.

Partnerships can be mixed and matched depending on your goals, but as with all major content initiatives, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. If your brand is looking to stay in the podcasting space long-term, your approach will likely be very different from a brand pursuing a quick one-off opportunity. Regardless of your approach, an amplification strategy is key to success.

Given the novelty of podcasts as a branded medium, you’ve likely seen mentions of branded podcasts in the ad trades. In order to get folks outside the marketing mix interested, simply revisit the fundamentals of what makes something media-friendly in the first place. If the subject matter won’t get you there, consider inviting a buzz-worthy guest to chat with your host.

If you’re looking for earned coverage within an established podcast, have your spokesperson brush up on his or her broadcast interview chops. Podcasts as a medium lend themselves to editing, but heavy-handed changes lead to awkward audio. And of course, coverage is never a guarantee. If you want to ensure your brand gets a shout-out on a podcast, podcast advertising is your best bet.

Paid: Amping Up the Volume:
Podcast advertising and promotion is a subject we’ve discussed at length here at Ketchum. As Rachel Winer, Director of Paid Media, will tell you, the best way to promote a podcast is through another podcast. According to Rachel, podcasting offers a level of engagement that is incomparable with many other forms of digital media.

“Unlike reaching an audience when they are scrolling through their social media feeds and consuming short bits of snackable content, with podcasting you have the attention of someone who is already immersed in long-form content and fully engaged in the message,” Rachel said.

Ad placements include targeted host reads, announcer-read spots and brand stories, all of which connect targeted listeners, podcast creators and advertisers in a fully-integrated, already engaged one-stop shop.

Interstitial podcast ads are a great content medium to explore, even if your brand does not have a podcast of its own. Last year, Slate discovered (through its reputable podcast network, Panoply) that podcast ad units were more than twice as successful than banner ads in driving statistically significant lifts in brand awareness and ad recall.

Measuring Success:
Many podcast listeners subscribe to multiple podcasts and end up with a backlog of content that they may not get around to listening to. In the past, brands have been forced to rely upon traditional metrics such as followership (subscribers) and impressions (downloads), which can be are unreliable when listeners may not get around to listening to every episode. Thankfully, as podcasting has grown in popularity, so has the desire for clear metrics. When Apple’s podcast analytics service emerges from beta, we’ll be able to see even more data, such as time listened and time per device. For now, several measurement partners offer insights that can dig a little deeper than surface-level data.

Branded podcasts are a big undertaking, but they can generate phenomenal results. If you’re considering launching your own, email me, or check out more insights on our audio offerings here.