Podcasting for business: the good, the bad and the ugly

Lady With Phone and headphone listening in town

That woman in your brainstorming meeting the other day was so right; your company does need a podcast. I’ll leave it to you whether you tell her or not.

Podcasting for business is an effective way for brands to communicate their value proposition to an engaged and captive audience. The very nature of podcasting – as an on-demand format – lets brands tell their story anywhere anytime. This helps them establish authority in their industry and deepen relationships with current and potential customers.

But what should a branded podcast sound like? What kind of content will people actually listen to when it has been created by a brand as part of their marketing strategy?

It’s certainly possible that they won’t be as captivated by your five year strategy as you are. The woman in the brainstorm certainly wasn’t, that’s for sure.

In general, people download podcasts that are interesting, funny, and engaging – or offering them access to an insight or perspective they wouldn’t normally be able to hear. With that in mind, podcasts from brands work best when their goal is to raise brand awareness, or to position the business within a certain area of interest or expertise.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Branded podcasts: the good

Our favourite brand podcast at the moment comes from The Charles Schwab Corporation, an American bank and brokerage firm based in California. Their podcast, Choiceology, explores whether or not we as humans can learn to make smarter choices in life, by looking at stories of irrational decision making – from major historical blunders to everyday errors. Choiceology uses the lessons of behavioural economics to expose the psychological traps that lead to expensive mistakes, and it works so well because the subject matter is relevant to Schwab’s area of expertise (investment banking), but it’s not knock-you-over-the-head obvious. The content is genuinely fascinating, and this is more than enough to keep listeners coming back again and again.

Other brands who’ve taken a similar approach include eBay’s Open for Business podcast which looks at the process of building a business from the ground up. In each episode, experienced small business owners share the important lessons they’ve learned along the way. Meanwhile, NatWest’s Women in Business podcast, hosted by June Sarpong, is aimed at aspiring female entrepreneurs (who coincidentally, may need a business bank account in the not-so-distant future).

A big budget example

For a really high-budget example, listen to the Land RoverDiscovery Adventures’ podcast. Having identified the car as the perfect environment to experiment with immersive podcasts (with 35% of UK podcast listeners doing so whilst driving), they produced a family-friendly series to help spread their brand ethos to fans and potential Land Rover owners.

This story-driven series blends car adventures with educational sections; listeners can also hear sounds from locations such as the Natural History Museum and Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. Each episode features intro and outro stings for the Land Rover Discovery, but more importantly, features the Discovery range as the star of the show; the vehicle which allows the cast to traverse various landscapes in order to unravel a captivating mystery. Well-known names who have joined the production include Natalie Dormer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and BBC journalist Kate Silverton.

This format and content of the Discovery Adventures podcast touches on many of Land Rover‘s key messages without sounding like a ten-part infomercial. It’s also generous in its approach; you certainly don’t need to own a Discovery to be able to enjoy it; this is high quality, free content that anyone can access, helping to build brand advocacy among people who are not even customers…yet.

Branded podcasts: the bad

If a brand’s only goal when starting a podcast is to tell the world how awesome they and their products are; you know it’s going to be a tough listen. Very few people will voluntarily listen to an infomercial, and that’s essentially what this kind of production will sound like – albeit a long and segmented one.  

A well-known and trusted British brand recently launched a branded podcast that was meant to showcase their commitment to sustainability. Sadly, it’s ended up sounding like the equivalent of a company presentation on CSR. Rather than telling the story of sustainability through human interest, third party insight or inspiring investigations, they have essentially created a dull series of unappealing adverts.

Branded podcasts: the ugly

If no budget or resource has been set aside to create the podcast, the quality can really suffer. Not only does this feel unprofessional, it risks the brand responsible becoming associated with cheap, low quality content. And without being unfair and naming names, there have been a few branded podcasts in the last few years that have made me take a sharp intake of breath. This is mainly down to bad audio, which can result in a very unpleasant listening experience, with erratic sound levels and distracting background noise becoming hugely irritating. This is especially the case for headphone listeners, who have the badly-edited audio streaming directly into their ears.

So, what can you do to avoid the pitfalls?

5 top tips for creating a successful podcast for your business / brand

  1. Don’t risk alienating your audience by simply giving them a sales pitch. Think about what your audience may be interested in, not what you want to tell them. You could try creating profiles of your typical listeners to inform your podcast content and help you stay focussed.
  2. Think about other ways to tell listeners what you stand for. For instance, if your brand is a stationery company, you could create a podcast all about artistic creativity, enticing your target audience of stationery buyers to tune-in.
  3. Check out the competition and make sure you differ from other podcasts in the same sector. Think of ways you can improve on the others in your field and give listeners a unique point of view.
  4. Share your knowledge and enthusiasm for your topic, be generous in your distribution of information and advice. Be sure to provide real value in every episode you publish; make listening to your podcast worth people’s investment.  
  5. Have a plan for how you will promote the podcast, both internally and externally. Make sure people can find out about it, and easily listen and subscribe.

Keen to start podcasting for your business? We still have spaces left on our Podcast 101 workshop in March – click here to find out more. 

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